What Is Quilt Binding?
After the quilt sandwich is complete, narrow fabric sewn around the outer edges makes up its binding. This holds together the edges of the quilt top, batting, and quilt backing, keeping them from fraying or coming apart in other ways.
Quilt binding can be sewn to the quilt in several ways, and one method uses continuous double-fold strips of fabric, which are long fabric strips folded in half to create a double layer before sewing. The extra layer adds durability to a quilt's edges.
Prepare the Quilt for Binding
Trim the quilt sandwich to remove excess batting and backing. If the quilt top is skewed, fold back the other two layers and use a rotary ruler to very carefully square up the quilt. Be sure to remove only tiny slices of the quilt so that edges do not become uneven.
- Be very careful when squaring up a quilt edged in quilt blocks, because removing the outer 1/4-inch seam allowance will chop off the edges of those blocks, no matter what type of binding you use.
- Try squaring up the top by simply smoothing it with your fingers, easing corners and edges into a better position.
Begin Sewing the Binding
Create a continuous binding strip that's about 25 inches longer than the distance around all four corners of the quilt.
Starting about one-third of the distance between two corners, align the raw edge of one end of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt top, right sides together. Leave an approximate 3-inch unpinned tail of quilt binding at the beginning, then pin several inches of binding to the quilt, moving toward its corner.
Do a quick alignment around the rest of the quilt, without pinning, to make sure no seam allowances within the quilt binding will end up at a corner of the quilt, where seams would create too much bulk. If you find a seam allowance at a corner, change the starting point of the binding and recheck.
Sew the quilt binding to the side of the quilt, leaving the beginning tail free. Use the seam allowance you chose when you made the quilt binding. Stop sewing before you reach the corner of the quilt, ending the seam the same distance from the approaching quilt edge as the width of the seam allowance. (Many instructions tell you to end the seam 1/4 inch from the edge, which is fine if you are sewing with a 1/4-inch seam allowance but isn't correct for narrower or wider seams that are appropriate for quilts with borders. Following that rule is the most important thing you can do to create perfect mitered corners.)
Sew a few backstitches, cut threads and remove the quilt from the machine.
Miter the Binding at a Corner of the Quilt
Fold the unsewn tail of quilt binding straight up, positioning it so that its right edge is parallel with the next side of the quilt to be bound. Coax the lower edge of the strip to form a 45-degree angle.
Fold the binding down, leaving the top of the fold flush with the edge of the quilt top behind it and its raw edge aligned with the next side of the quilt. The 45-degree angle should be intact under the fold.
Pin the quilt binding to the side of the quilt or align it as you sew. Sew two to four stitches where the first seam ended, and then sew a backstitch to the beginning of that seam. Continue sewing the binding to the side of the quilt.
End the seam the same distance from the next corner as you did for the first. Backstitch. Miter the second corner as you did the first and continue sewing along the third side of the quilt. Treat remaining corners in the same way.
Some sewing machine presser feet have markings that help you know when you are a specific distance from an approaching edge, which is helpful.
Join the Unsewn Ends
When you're sewing quilt binding to the last side, end the seam four to six inches from the original starting point, less for miniatures, and then backstitch.
Trim excess binding, leaving a tail that's long enough to overlap the first unsewn tail by about four inches. Unfold and make a 45-degree cut at the end of the beginning tail of quilt binding.
Lay the unfolded ending tail under the angled beginning tail. Mark a line on the ending tail alongside the angled cut, then add a 1/2-inch seam allowance past the line and trim on the line.
Place the angled tails right sides together, offsetting their angled ends by 1/4 inch. Sew the binding ends together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Refold the quilt binding, then pin and sew the remainder to the quilt.
Alternative Binding Method With a Tucked Start and Finish
Here's a tidy way to start and finish your double-fold quilt binding:
- Unfold one end of the double-fold quilt binding before sewing it to the quilt. Fold the fabric diagonally, as shown, the wrong sides together. Press to secure the fold.
- Trim excess fabric, leaving about 1/4 inch past the diagonal fold.
The third strip on the right in the photo shows you how the strip looks when re-folded. The strip is narrow since it's for a miniature quilt with thin batting. Wider strips will look slightly different when folded.
Sew Tucked Quilt Binding Strip to the Quilt
Align the right edge of the opened binding strip along one side of the quilt, as explained in the previous instructions.
Fold the strip lengthwise again and pin-mark it one inch or so beyond the point where it becomes two layers again. Unfold, and sew to the quilt, beginning at the angled tip and sewing through only one layer of the strip. Stop at the pin mark, take a few backstitches and cut the threads.
Lift the presser foot and refold the binding lengthwise again, aligning both edges of the strip evenly with the edge of the quilt. Check the initial seam to make sure it extends well underneath the folded, angled binding edge that now rests on top.
Start sewing where the first seam ended. Continue sewing the quilt binding to the quilt, stopping to miter each corner, as explained earlier.
When you've worked your way around the quilt and are nearing the starting point, stop the sewing machine, needle down. Trim away the excess ending tail, leaving enough length to tuck into the opening created by the starting tail.
Realign the quilt binding with the quilt and sew through all layers to finish attaching it, ending the seam just past the beginning of the first seam. Use a blindstitch and matching thread to secure the angled fold to the tucked-in strip. Sew the quilt binding to the back of the quilt.
This method produces a little bulk where binding strips are joined, but the bulk is not excessive and the method is quick and easy to accomplish.
Finish Sewing the Quilt Binding
Carefully remove excess batting and backing by trimming those layers to meet the raw edge created by the quilt binding and quilt top. Take care not to distort the seam allowance.
Starting along the side, take the folded edge of the double-fold binding to the reverse side of the quilt. It should cover the seam you used to attach the binding.
Use a sharp needle or something similar to sew the folded edge of the quilt binding to the quilt backing with a blind-stitch (such as you would use in needle turn applique). Use a matching thread or any thread that blends with your fabric. Do not let the stitches travel through all layers, as they would be visible on the front of the quilt.
Sew all the way around the quilt. Fold the corners into neat miters on the front and back as you reach them—the miters will form almost automatically. Some quilters go back and take a few invisible stitches in the front of each mitered corner after the quilt is finished.