Binding your quilt is one of the most important steps of the process because this is the finishing step. Learning how to finish a quilt binding isn’t difficult once you know the basics. And while you’re learning how to finish a quilt by hand, there are things you can do to make sure the item comes out neat and clean in the end.
If you think binding a quilt is difficult, think again. The truth is, it’s much easier than you think once you learn a few basics, so keep reading if you wish to find out more about this important skill.
What is Quilt Binding?
Quilt binding can mean either finishing your quilt so its edge is nice and clean, or more specifically, taking strips of fabric and binding the edges of the quilt with those. When you’ve completed the quilt, you’ll simply take strips of fabric for your quilt, either ones you made yourself or those bought in a store, and essentially wrap them around the edge of the quilt to close it.
The strips are usually folded over twice and then wrapped around the quilt’s raw edges to close them and give them a nice clean look. When you learn how to finish a quilt binding, you learn that there are different ways to cut these strips of fabric, which include lengthwise and even cross-grain. You can also fold the fabric over just once if you like.
When you’re binding your quilt, you need to consider two important factors. First, what direction does the grain go as compared to the selvage? Your options include diagonal, parallel, or perpendicular. Second, how many times do you intend to fold the fabric before using it to bind your quilt? Most people choose one or two times. Let’s take a look at these things in more detail.
1. Lengthwise Grain Fabric Strips
Learning how to finish a quilt binding involves learning the different options for cutting the fabric strips you’ll use to complete the job. With this type, the fabric’s grain is in the same direction as the fabric’s selvage edge. If you don’t need much flexibility, this is the type of cut recommended. If it’s an item with a curved edge or one that needs to move freely, the lengthwise cut is not recommended.
2. Strips of Bias Binding
This method can be complex and is meant for items that have curves or those where moving freely is important. It’s placed diagonally at 45 degrees to the fabric’s selvage edge. One thing you need to remember about this option is that you have to be very careful with both cutting the strips and placing them where they need to go.
With this type of cutting, planning ahead is crucial so that no mistakes are made. It can be a difficult cut to make and one that typically wastes fabric, which is one of the things people like the least about it.
3. Cross-Grain Fabric Strips
Cross-grain strips of fabric run perpendicular to your fabric’s selvage. The grain looks like it’s going in different directions and provides a tad more stretch than other types of binding. The strips can also be called crosswise grain fabric strips, and the method usually produces less waste than the other binding types.
You also have to decide whether you want to fold the fabric over once or twice. When you fold it once, the strip will go over the edge and be a single layer on each side of the binding. When you fold twice, it is folded in half first. Afterwards, you’ll have two layers of fabric on either side of the binding.
If you can’t decide between one or two folds, think of it this way: if you think the item is going to have more wear and tear than other items you’ve completed in the past, it might be smarter to choose the double fold. If it’s a standard thickness and durability, you can likely get away with a single fold.
How to Finish a Quilt Binding: Easier Than You Think
The binding for your quilt is a very important part of your project, but that doesn’t mean it is complicated. In fact, the first thing you need to do is decide the width of your binding strips. As long as you make sure they can fit around the outer edge of the fabric but still give you room to sew the strip down on either side, it’ll be wide enough.
Keep in mind that most bindings are two- to two-and-a-half inches. Once you decide for sure on the width you want, you’ll have to decide on the direction of the grain. Remember that cross-grain and lengthwise grain bindings are super-easy to cut, even though they do not offer a lot of stretch.
Always measure cross-grain and lengthwise grain bindings either perpendicular or parallel to the fabric’s selvage. Once you measure it out this way, you can start cutting your fabric into the strips you’ll need to complete the project. If you do a bias binding, make sure you know where the 45-degree angle is to the selvage.
Four Easy Steps to Take to Bind Your Quilt
Binding a quilt is basically simple, but there are still tips that are important to remember if you want it done right. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t come out perfect the first time. With a little practice, it should be easy and fast for you in no time. Here are the basic steps to take for successful binding of your quilt:
The main thing you want to do with your quilt before binding it is to make sure it’s nice and neat and doesn’t have any loose threads or fabric sticking out anywhere. Naturally, you should’ve finished your quilt by this point, and go ahead and use a straight-edge ruler to make sure that all of the edges of the quilt are perfectly straight.
2. Prepare the Fabric Used for Binding
At this point, the next step is to cut your strips of fabric, making sure you have enough to go all the way around the quilt so the entire edge is covered. Make sure you leave a seam allowance so that sewing it in place isn’t a problem, and always keep your cuts very consistent. If you don’t do this, the quilt will look crooked and uneven when you’re done.
3. Attach the Binding to the Quilt
Before you sew the binding to your quilt, it has to be attached and held in place properly. Most people use clamps or pins to do this, keeping in mind that more pins or clamps is better than fewer pins or clamps. Lots of these items mean the binding will remain in place and stay steady until you begin to sew.
4. Sewing the Binding to the Quilt
Always start sewing at the edge of the quilt, and go until you get 1/4 inch from your very first corner. If you fold the binding in an upward direction at a 90-degree angle from your stitches, you can make a perfect corner. The other non-edge sides of the quilt should be easy to sew.
Keep in mind that binding your quilt will always be the very last step you take when you’re creating a quilt. Sometimes, the layers of the quilt shift around somewhat as you work, which may make the final product a little uneven if you don’t wait until the quilt is completed to sew your binding.
How Much Binding Do You Need?
As you work with your binding, you’ll be using more of it than you think, which is why adding a little extra to your measurements is recommended. For instance, if you are working on a quilt that is 60” x 60”, you might assume you only need 240” of binding (60” x 4 = 240”), but that is not the case. In general, you should add 12–24 inches of fabric to your binding, just to make sure you have enough.
Let’s face it, if you run out of binding, you could be in a lot of trouble. Having too much binding is not a problem, but of course you also want to make sure that the extra fabric isn’t too much. Otherwise, you’ll feel like you’re wasting too much fabric.
So, if you’re making a 36” x 52” crib quilt (176 inches total), you’ll want your binding to be a total of 188–200 inches long. A 70” x 90” quilt (320 inches total) would require 332–344 inches of binding. In addition, always keep in mind that thicker quilts usually require binding that is a bit wider, since it has to be able to get around the thick padding of the quilt.
How to Finish a Quilt by Hand
In case you want to know how to finish a quilt by hand, the process is just as easy but a bit different. There are three main ways to learn how to finish a quilt by hand, and they are as follows:
1. Use a Type of Cross Stitch
If you love cross stitch, you might be thinking at this point, what about the back of the cross stitch? The fact is, the opposite side of a cross stitch is not very attractive, but when you use this stitch on a quilt, it’s different because the back side of the cross stitch is going to be on the opposite or inside part of the fabric and therefore won’t show.
You can use this cross stitch pattern in the corner of four pieces of fabric and in other strategic places. If you choose this method, make sure your floss is very thick so the cross stitches stay in place.
2. Use the Hand Tying Method
You see this one a lot, and the main tip to remember is to use thread that plays up the tufting effect, which means ribbon, perle cotton, floss, or just about anything else. When you’re done with the stitches, go over all of them and do a square knot, then trim all of the tails until their lengths are just right. This is a great stitch because you can use nearly any type of thread you like.
3. Use the Satin Stitch
The satin stitch is popular in embroidery, but you can use it for quilting as well. The 12wt thread works especially well, but you can use other weights if you prefer. The satin stitch is very versatile, which is why it is so common for quilters to use it in their creations.
Things to Keep in Mind
Learning how to finish a quilt by hand isn’t as complex as you might think, especially if you already know how to finish a quilt with a sewing machine. Nevertheless, here are some tips to make it even easier:
- Consider treating your quilt like a pillowcase, placing the layers on top of one another and sewing it from the inside out.
- As you sew, use a pin or even a piece of tape to let you know which side is the “right” side.
- Start with a basting stitch so you can test the seam allowance of your piece.
- Always take your time; binding a quilt isn’t a job to be rushed.
- Always iron your seams when they’re open so that bulk is reduced.
As you can see, finishing a quilt involves a lot of basic sewing stitches and embroidery stitches, so it shouldn’t take you long to get the hang of it.
Learning how to finish a quilt binding just takes a little practice, but you certainly don’t have to be an expert at sewing to do it right. With a few helpful tips and a little practice, you’ll be creating quilting masterpieces in no time. Learning how to finish a quilt by hand is easier for some people, but in the end, it’s up to you how you decide to finish your quilt.