For many quilters, just the thought of finishing a quilt binding can bring on feelings of frustration and fear. Coming as it does at the end of the project, joining the two ends of the binding at the start and finish is often the trickiest part of the process and the hardest to get right. When done wrong it’s a very visible mistake that can undermine all of your planning, investment, and hard work. Is it any wonder quilters place finishing a binding alongside paying taxes or root canal surgery as some of their least favorite things?
The good news is that process does not have to be so stressful. It just takes practice, patience, and following some basic steps, like those we’ve gathered here. Once you get it right, quilt binding can be enjoyable, rewarding and a real source of pride. It might not become your most favorite thing ever but following these simple steps can help you make your peace with it.
What Is Binding Anyway?
The binding is the long strip of fabric that neatly covers a quilt’s raw edges while holding the “sandwich” parts together. The binding process begins once the quilt is complete and edges are trimmed straight. Before starting, make doubly sure your binding is long enough and then some. There’s nothing worse than coming up short, so plan on an extra 10-12 inches of extra binding, just to be sure.
Then again, if you want to get exact about it, an online binding strip calculator can help you figure it out to a T.
What Will I Need?
Novice quilters will be happy to know that you probably already own the tools needed for this type of project, including these quilting all stars:
- Corners aren’t scary when you’ve got a good binding tool on your side
- Think sharp! Rotary cutters and scissors are no-brainers
- Owning a variety of acrylic rulers is good, as long as one of them is of the 6×24 variety, like this one
- Embrace your mistakes with a trusty seam ripper
Let’s Get Started
Cut your straight binding strips. Our example calls for a 2.5” binding folded in half for a 1 ¼” width, which works well with a standard 3/8” seam. Be sure to allow for extra strip width if your batting is thick.
Next you’ll want to determine where the approximate join point will be. Remember to leave enough of a tail to cover your mark, plus another 2-3”. Be mindful of your mark placement here; make it too close to a corner and you could run out of room to work! Start sewing about 6” away from your join mark.
Sew on your binding with whatever width seam you have chosen for your quilt. Complete a full turn all around the quilt until you return to the final side. Stop sewing about 6” away from your marked join point, making sure you have enough leftover binding to go past that point by another 2-3”. Snip off the extra binding and open it to the full 2 ½’’ width.
Need a refresher course on how to turn corners? Watch the video below!
Video Source: YouTube/Judy Laquidara
Line up the binding over the join point so the binding’s center crease is directly above that point. Note that the top piece of binding should be marked on the side away from the stitching, and the lower piece should be marked on the side opposite to the stitching. In both cases, snip off any extras you might have. At this point, if you overlap the two binding pieces, they should exactly overlap the same width as the binding strip (below).
Fold the quilt in half at the join point. Place the two pieces of binding at a 90-degree angle right side together, squaring up the ends. To secure things in place, go heavy with the sewing pins or clips if you need to.
Now sew from the one corner to the other through both layers. To determine which direction to sew, the join point should be on the right of your needle with the quilt on the left. Check your work and if you’re good with what you find, snip away the excess fabric, leaving a 1/4″ seam.
With the binding folded in half and smoothed even with the edge of your quilt, sew the gap between the two points of stitching. If all goes well, your binding should fit like a glove. Do the same to the other side and you’re done! The excellent results should be smooth and nearly invisible joins and perfectly fitted binds with a pleasing absence of puckers.
That’s a lot to digest, so let’s go to the video to see how all of these steps come together.
Video Source: YouTube/Bluprint
Now that you know how to finish a quilt binding, perhaps you feel better about taking on this complex but necessary quilting technique. We can’t repeat enough the importance of practice and patience, and you’ll need it here. But once you’ve mastered quilt binding, you’ll never again have to watch frustratingly as another promising quilting project goes south at the very end.