Quilt Bindings - Framing Your Quilt

By Sherri McConnell

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Bindings not only finish the edges of quilts, but they also provide a wonderful frame that can accentuate colors within the quilt. Bindings can be a bold contrast or can blend in with border fabrics such that the outer border becomes the final frame of the quilt. With bindings the choices are many, and each choice creates a different mood for the finished quilt.

binding edge of quilt

There are two types of binding: straight edge binding is cut on the straight of grain, and bias binding is cut on the bias. Straight edge binding is simple to make and works well for most quilts. If the quilt has any curved edges, a bias binding will need to be used; however, bias binding may also be used when a certain look is desired which results from cutting the fabric on the diagonal. For example a stripe or plaid cut on the bias can give a completely different effect from when these fabrics are cut on the straight of grain. Solid bindings are trending today, and even a solid white fabric might prove to be the perfect binding for a quilt.

Another option for binding is to use a scrappy binding composed of left-over strips sewn together. These scrappy bindings can be made of straight of grain cut strips or bias cut strips.

scrappy binding

Whether using straight grain binding or bias binding, a double-fold binding is preferred for strength. A double fold binding will last longer and protect the edges of the quilt for many years to come, even through repeated washings and use. The first step in binding your quilt is to determine how much binding your quilt requires. Add the measurements of all four sides of the quilt plus 12" for turning corners and seaming. To create a double fold binding you first cut strips to the desired width. Most binding strips are cut at 2 1/4" to 2 1/2", although some quilters prefer to cut their binding strips at 2", creating a very thin finished binding. After cutting binding strips, piece for length using a diagonal seam.

diagonal seam

Press the diagonal joining seams open, then press the entire bias strip in half, wrong sides together. The result will be a folded piece of binding with the two raw edges on one side and the finished folded edge on the other.

finishing binding rolls

Before attaching binding to a quilt, trim the outer edges if necessary. If your quilt has been professionally quilted this trimming may or may not have been done by the quilter. It's best to leave about 1/4" of the batting and backing extending beyond the front of the quilt top. This way, when you bind the quilt the binding will have a little "filling" and won't be thin or flat. Begin sewing about halfway across the bottom edge of the quilt. Line up the raw edges of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt top on the front of the quilt. Leave about 10" of binding fabric at the beginning and then sew using a 1/4" seam. When you get to the corner of the quilt stop sewing 1/4" from the edge, bring the binding up to create a 45 degree angle, then fold it back down along the next side.

corner binding

Begin stitching again, continuing around the edges of the quilt and folding the binding fabric as described at each corner.

turning the corner

When you get to the starting position you'll need to join the beginning and ending edges using a bias seam. To do this, overlap the ending binding strip over the beginning edges of the binding by the width of the binding strip minus 1/4". So if your binding strip was originally cut 2 1/2" wide, you will overlap the strips by 2 1/4". Cut the end of the binding strip if it extends beyond this overlap. Next, you'll join the ends of the binding using a diagonal seam. Press this seam open. Then, finish up sewing any parts of the binding to the quilt that need to be stitched.

Pressing your binding away from the front of the quilt is the next step. Some quilters skip this step, but this is a mistake. By pressing your binding outward you make it easier to later fold over the binding and stitch to the other side. Also, you can be sure that all of the edges of your quilt front were caught in the binding as you go around the edges of the quilt pressing in this way. Pressing also creates a finished, crisp look for the edges of your binding.

After you have pressed your binding, fold the binding over to the back side of the quilt. At this time you will need to secure the binding to the quilt so that it can be securely stitched along the back side. Pins or binding clips may be used to secure the binding to the quilt during this step. Binding clips have many advantages and are the preferred way to secure the edges. For one thing, binding clips won't stick you with sharp points, and they stay in place easily.

binding clips

Stitch around the back of the quilt in a counter-clockwise direction (if you are right-handed) using a thread that matches the binding fabric and sewing with a blind stitch. A heavier weight quilting thread may be used for this to make the stitches sturdier; however, sometimes you might not be able to match the binding fabric color well enough to be able to use a quilting thread. Any 100% cotton thread that matches will be a good thread choice for binding. Miter the corners as you come to them, and continue around the edges of the quilt until your binding is completely hand-stitched down along the finished binding edges on the back of the quilt.

Some quilters prefer to machine stitch the binding to the back of the quilt by folding the binding over then stitching "in the ditch" in the binding seam on the front of the quilt. The back edges of binding are then caught in the seam allowance using this method. This method has the advantage of being faster; however, the stitching will show, giving the quilt edges a more "commercial" look rather than the invisible appearance of the stitches in a hand stitched binding.

Binding a quilt can be an enjoyable process, as the choice of binding fabric truly finishes the quilt. When the last stitches of a binding are sewn, the quilt is ready to use! Some quilters even feel that binding is their favorite part of the quilting process. Do you enjoy binding your quilts?

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