Machine Quilt Binding {Tutorial}

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From the time I first discovered modern quilting, one of my favorite elements has been the fun and colorful bindings that quilters use to line the outside of their quilts and ultimately tie the colors of their quilt together. It really amazes me how much of an incredible difference the binding makes on quilts. I take my binding very seriously — as doing a poor job or using the wrong color scheme can make a fantastic quilt become just an “okay” quilt.

Binding my quilts used to be my favorite part of quilting. Well, that was before I learned how to free-motion quilt. Now that I have so much fun quilting my creations together, the lure of binding has diminished. However — binding is a very necessary part of quilting. So, whether you enjoy it or not, it must be done!

I created this tutorial for binding specifically with a sewing machine. Although I think the look and feel of hand-sewn binding is fantastic and classic, I am not the type of girl to pick up a needle and thread. In my world… If it can be done on a machine — that’s where it’s going to be done! 

Before we start this tutorial, I want to say that I am in no shape or form a professional quilter. I use quilting as a means of income for my family, however, it is something that I do simply because I love it. That being said – some of my techniques are just something I came up with to make binding easier for myself. If my information or techniques do not work for you, that’s okay! There are many many different tutorials and videos out there for binding. Do some research, and find what works best for you. I will tell you — I went through A LOT of different tutorials before I found my specific method of binding.

Also – a high quality binding job takes practice. For this tutorial, I am taking you through every step in the binding process. Once you have done this a few times there are a few steps that you can choose to skip out on. However, if my tutorial is what you choose for your FIRST binding experience, I suggest taking the time to do each step. That way, you can get the full experience of my method of binding.

Also, I have created the multi-photo graphics in order to better organize my thoughts here on Wee Share. That being said, if the image is not big enough for you to really see what’s going on, click on it and it will bring up a larger version of the image! 

So – I hope you enjoy, and please please feel free to ask me any questions! I may not necessarily have the answer, but I am happy to try and help you find a solution!

1

This is one of my favorite parts of quilting. Although my favorite element of quilting is free-motioning my quilt sandwich… there is nothing like the feeling I get when all of that hard work and heavy labor of free-motion quilting is finished. So, once you have finished quilting your quilt together – take a moment to spread the quilt out, and marvel at what you have done. Binding is a daunting task — so taking these few moments to enjoy what you’ve accomplished will get you motivated to start the binding process!

Step One bow2

Once you have stared at your beautiful creation for a few moments, it’s time to begin the binding process. The very first thing you’re going to want to do is square up your quilt and trim off any excess batting/fabric. This process really cleans up your quilt. And, you can’t put your binding on your quilt until this portion is done.

I take my sweet time when doing this step. WHY? Because if you rush through squaring up your quilt — you could end up with a very lopsided and non-symmetrical quilt. Figure out EXACTLY what you need to cut off.

HERE’S MY TIP: When I do this, I look for my nearest “block” – whether it be a 9×9, the border, or a t-shirt square. Find something that is uniform throughout the quilt and measure EXACTLY how far away from that seam you want the edge of your quilt to be. Then, using a rotary cutter, washable fabric marker, cutting mat, and ruler, begin trimming off the excess.

Step Two bow

Choosing fabric for your binding:

After you trim up your quilt, you’re going to want to find the perfect fabric for your binding that will really compliment your design. My absolute FAVORITE type of fabric to use for my binding is STRIPES! Bold and fun stripes for the binding really add a sense of dimension to the quilt. However, you can use whatever design you want to for the outside of your quilt! Don’t be afraid to go BOLD and have fun with it! These days, modern quilts are all about taking risks and having fun with your designs.

How much fabric should I buy to make my binding?

After you choose what fabric you want to use for your binding, you’re going to want to figure out how much of that fabric you will want to purchase and cut. {Below}, I am providing a brief list of links to websites that help with this calculation. However — I typically go ahead and buy WAY more binding fabric than I need so that I can use it on future quilts, too!

The quilt that I am binding in all of the photographs is slightly larger than a king size. I purchased two yards of Michael Miller’s Dandy Damask in Charcoal for my binding. PLEASE NOTE: two yards is WAY MORE THAN ENOUGH for a king size quilt! However, since I frequently quilt, I love making my bias tape in “bulk” so that I won’t have to do it EVERY SINGLE TIME I quilt. However — this is just a personal preference. Whether you overstock in bias tape or not is completely up to you.

Cutting the strips for the binding: 

After you have picked out and purchased your fabric for your binding, WASH AND DRY it! This is so so SO  important!

always cut my binding strips at 2 1/2 inches wide. I use my rotary cutter, rotary cutting mat, and rotary cutting ruler, to cut these strips. This makes my strips precise and even.

I do want to make a quick interjection and say to be careful when using your rotary cutter to make your strips for your binding. A few months ago, I was in a hurry to finish a quilt for a client. I got sloppy with my rotary cutting because I was trying to rush through. I went to cut a strip {with a brand new rotary cutting blade} and the ruler slipped. The cutter ran RIGHT over my left hand pointer finger. I cut off about half of my finger, spend a lot of time at the doctor, and had to push back all quilting for a few weeks while it healed. SO — take your TIME using your rotary cutter. Take it from someone who has experienced the awful side effects of trying to rush through it! 

Step Three 2

After you have made your strips, you are going to sew them together to make one continuous strip.

To do this, put two strips right-sides-together {as shown in the picture on the left}. Make a diagonal stitch from the upper left hand corner of where the fabrics overlap all the way to the bottom right hand corner.

Straighten out the two strips to be sure that you have attached them correctly. If so, take your scissors and snip the excess fabric from the corner of the connected strips. Refer to the picture on the right for an example of this.

Repeat this process until you have connected all of the strips you cut for your quilt.

STEP FOUR

Before I begin this step — I want to apologize for my HORRIBLE awful really gross ironing board. This is the ironing board that I do ALL of my crafting on. It has become very multi-colored from the many many t-shirts I put backing on. Sometimes, the color from the t-shirts gets transferred onto my ironing board! Although this does not harm the t-shirts in any way shape or form… my ironing board takes the heat. SO — ignore how gross it looks! :)

Once you are finished piecing ALL of your strips together into one continuous chain, you are going to iron the strip in half. The photo on the left shows what you should be doing. I typically spray starch on my strips to ensure that they will STAY folded and crisp. Keeping the bias tape crisply and neatly folded is important for later!

Step Five

This next part is completely optional. It is one of those steps that I suggest doing if you’re a first time quilt binder. However, you are completely free to opt out of doing this step if you please. As I said earlier, I like to make my binding in bulk. Therefore, I always {always} do this step.

After you have ironed your bias tape in half, it makes a HUGE pile on the floor. Although this is completely fine — it can get jumbled and tangled during later steps. So, to avoid that, I always roll mine into a gigantic jelly roll. To do this, find one end of your bias tape. Simply start rolling it {as pictured on the right hand side}. Continue this process until all of your tape is neatly rolled and off the floor.

Just a tip

This picture is TWO YARDS of bias tape rolled up into a jelly roll. As I said before, this is completely optional. I have a fabric basket that I use to store my pre-made “bulk” bias tape. Having it rolled into this neat little jelly roll helps me easily store it and find it in the midst of a big variety of other fabric colors and patterns.

Rolling up your bias tape like this also helps make things easier when you are actually attaching your binding to your quilt. For example – I always keep the bulk of my quilt on my sewing table to the LEFT of my sewing machine. Then, I put my bias tape jelly roll on the floor to the right of my sewing machine. That way, when I am attaching the binding, the quilt and the bias tape do not get tangled up in each other. And — I don’t even have to think about “untangling” the bias tape as I need it for the quilt. It unravels exactly as I need it to as I stitch it on the quilt.

Step Six

Now that our bias tape has been prepped, cut, and organized – we are ready to start putting it on the quilt! To do this, you want to start on the BACK SIDE of your quilt! Line the RAW EDGES of both the quilt and the bias tape together. As you can see in this picture, the edge of my quilt is on the right side – or, by my sewing machine needle. Then, the raw edges of the bias tape are also on the right side – or, by my sewing machine needle. This leaves the folded part of the bias tape away from the needle.

In order to be able to successfully bind the quilt, you are going to want to leave at least 12 inches of your bias tape free. As you can see in the picture, I have not begun sewing yet. However, the place that my needle is about to be scooted over is where I am going to begin my sewing. Notice that there is PLENTY of bias tape BEHIND the needle. I do that on purpose so that I can successfully attach the two ends of my bias tape in later steps.

Turning Corners

There are many “tricky” parts to binding quilts. The second trickiest part is turning corners. I have made this into a picture tutorial to show you step by step what needs to be done. The explanations to each of the steps corresponds to the numbers under the picture. As I said earlier in the tutorial — if the photos are not large enough on Wee Share for you to see what is going on, click on the picture and it will bring it up in “zoomed” form! 

  1. Stitch until about 1/4 inch away from the corner. Do a couple back stitches, and remove your quilt from under your needle. Snip all threads. 
  2. Turn the quilt so that you can sew the next side of the quilt. {See picture #2}
  3. Flip the bias tape up towards your needle. {See picture #3}
  4. Holding the part you just folded, fold the bias tape back towards the raw edge of your quilt. {See picture #4}. Once you have done this, begin stitching (with a backstitch) about 1/4 inch away from the corner.

Continue this for all four sides of your quilt. Remember, practice makes perfect!

Step Eight

Once you are on the side of your quilt that you began attaching your bias tape to, you are going to want to STOP stitching at least 12 inches from where you BEGAN your stitches. Sometimes, I stop WAY before that to give myself extra space to work.

Overlap your two bias tape ends. Using a ruler, measure 2 1/8 inches from the end of the bottom layer. For the purposes of this tutorial, I used a washable fabric pen to mark where the 2 1/8 inches came to on the top layer. After you measure/mark the top layer, take your scissors and cut across the line that you drew.

STEP NINE

Earlier, I mentioned that there are some very tricky parts to binding a quilt. THIS STEP – is by far – the trickiest. Although I am much quicker and more efficient about it now… it took me many {many} tries to get this step right.

  1. Pick up the left side end of the bias tape and open it to where the outer side is facing you. 
  2. Pick up the right side end of the bias tape and open it to where the inside is facing you. Put the two ends RIGHT SIDES TOGETHER. You’re going to want to line the edges of the two ends up.
  3. Sew diagonally from left to right. NOTE: When I sew these two pieces together, I NEVER backstitch. I also typically use a very loose stitch setting on my sewing machine. Why? Because it makes it MUCH easier to undo the stitches if you accidentally do something wrong.
  4. After you make your stitch, unfold your binding to check to see if everything is correct.

step ten

After you check to make sure your binding lays correctly in step 9, use your scissors to trim the edge of the bias strips. {See photo for example}. I have left mine long before and my binding still worked just fine. HOWEVER – trimming the excess fabric off of this will help your binding lay and fold better on your quilt.

Step Eleven

Now that your bias tape has been beautifully connected, you are going to want to go back and finish the stitches on the back of the quilt.

Step Twelve

Before going to the next section of this tutorial, take a moment to pat yourself on the back and celebrate how far you’ve come in binding your quilt — you’re almost done!!! After you have done this, turn your quilt over. The picture on the left is the front side of my quilt with my bias tape hanging to the right.

Now — this is the trick that I use to get a good stitch on the front and the back of the quilt at the same time. Read carefully! 

Refer to the photo on the right when reading about this portion. When you fold the binding over to the front of the quilt, line the edge of the folded bias tape to the stitches on the front of your quilt. You may be wondering, where did these stitches come from? Well — these came from you sewing your bias tape on the BACK side of the quilt!

After you line the folded edge of the bias tape to the stitches on the front, you are going to sew very closely to the edge of the folded bias tape. If you line up your edge right beside the stitches on the front, and sew closely to the edge of the folded part of the bias tape… you will have beautiful stitches on the back side of your quilt. Again, this takes practice!

Step thirteen

Step thirteen is dedicated to getting beautiful corners on the front {and back} of your binding. So, when you get to the corners of your quilt, just follow these two steps:

  1. Continue sewing until you are 1/4 inch away from the edge of your quilt. Backstitch and turn your quilt. 
  2. {Refer to the picture on the right for this next step} Fold over the edge of the binding and begin sewing about 1/4 inch away from the top of the quilt. Remember to line the edge of your bias tape to the stitches!

Continue sewing around your quilt and turning corners until you have gone all the way around your quilt…

Last Step

Now – give yourself a HUGE pat on the back ~ you have FINISHED binding your quilt! I included the {above} picture to show you the effect that lining up your bias tape to your stitches has on the back of the quilt. As you can see, the stitches are far enough from the fold but not too far up the bias tape!

Remember — I am here to answer questions! So, feel free to comment on this post and I will do my best to respond with a helpful answer! If you don’t want to comment on this post, send me an email: angela{at}weeshare{dot}net

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3 comments

  1. Janet Sumpter says:

    I just retired as a Kindergarten teacher having been with 5 year olds for thirty years. I have always wanted to quilt so my first one will be a tshirt quilt. Your website was the best for easy to understand directions. My retirement gift from my husband is a Singer XL- 400. It does quilting plus embroidery and I am super excited to get it humming. Wish me luck!
    Janet Sumpter

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