Hand Sewn Binding – Make It a Little Easier

Posted by on Sep 14, 2013 in Quilting | Comments


During the process of quilting, the final step is binding. This consists of long strips of fabric that are cut to size, sewn together, and used to cover the unfinished edges on a quilt. Oftentimes, the binding fabric is folded in half and sewn to the top of the quilt by machine. Then it’s folded over the unfinished edges and stitched by hand to the backside of the quilt. Not only does the binding hold together all of the raw edges, it creates the perfect finishing touch by framing the quilt.

Red Bordered Quilt Folded

Most quilters love or hate hand sewing the binding a quilt. I am one of those who absolutely love it! Nothing makes me happier than binding on the couch with a cup of coffee and a good movie. I admit that hand sewing can be a tedious task, but there are a few tricks that can make it go a bit easier.

The raw edges of the unfinished quilt are rather thick, aren’t they? The quilt top, batting and backing are layered, and the edges are squeezed together inside of the binding fabric. This can make hand sewing very difficult.

If you finish the quilt edge after the binding is sewn onto the front, hand sewing is a whole lot easier. This is how I like to do it!

Sewing Binding with Sewing Machine

Step 1:

Begin by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt in the usual manner. Once that is finished, change your machine stitch to a long, wide zigzag.  The settings I use can be seen in the photo above.

Close-up of Binding Close-up of Binding

Step 2:

Zigzag stitch down each side of the quilt, backstitching at the beginning and end of each side. Do not stitch over the folded corners.

Hands Holding Binding

Step 3:

Snip extra threads and check out your finished edges. See how tidy they are? Now they are much easier to work with! From here I like to use my iron to press the binding away from the quilt top, fold it over the raw edge, and then hold in place using Clover Wonder Clips.  Now the binding is ready to be be easily sewn down by hand.

In-Process Quilt Laid out on Table

Step 4:

If you have a serger, feel free to use that to finish the edges in place of a zigzag stitch. Yes, this extra step takes a bit more time, but the ease it creates makes it well worth it.

To learn more about serging, check out the Craftsy classes Beginner Serging: Machine Basics & Techniques and Creative Serging: Beyond the Basics.

Are you ready for fall? Come back to the Craftsy Blog tomorrow for a roundup of fall-themed quilting projects.

Do you like to hand sew the binding of your quilts?  Please share your favorite tips!

Comments

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Finishing the edge is a terrific idea, and I’ll definitely try that soon. The Wonder Clips are so much better than pins, but even better is Elmer’s Washable School Glue! I tack my binding down with glue, hit it with the iron to dry, and I can take the quilt anywhere and stitch without worry about being stuck with pins or losing my wonderful clips. The binding stays in place, and the glue washes out easily. The entire start-to-finish process of making a quilt has been so much easier since I’ve discovered the glue method.

  2. Jonesie Abernathy says:

    Great information and clear pictures. I will try it soon. I am learning to like the slower hand work because of how it contributes to the look of the finished quilt. Your directions will make it even easier. Thanks

  3. Pat Ost says:

    I would like to find an EASY way to join up the ends of the binding- I have a terrible time doing it “right”

    1. Lesley Royce says:

      I used to be quite unhappy with the way that I joined / overlapped the last ends of binding (joining beginning to end). But then I saw a tutorial on how to do this join, and used this method on my last quilt. LOVE this. Goodbye to a large bump where the end of the binding meetings the beginning.

      http://completelyblocked.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/joining-binding-ends/

    2. Bev says:

      Check out one of Jenny Doan’s videos on applying the binding. She has a tip about the overlap being the width of the strip. It works everytime and you lay it over just like you do when you are sewing strips together with the cross seam foldover. Don’t just sew the seams together as if doing a regular seam. Too much bulk and the other method looks nicer. It adds the bulk over two sections this way. Hope that this helps. She has lots of great videos and I have made several of her quilts. She has new one titled…You’ve got mail. I especially like that one because I am a retired postal employee. Katie’s quilt, falling charms, Big Star are a few that make up very nicely. Her trick on HST is also great. Sew the seam down all the sides of two squares placed right sides together and then cut from corner to corner both ways diagonally. This method works with charm packs and layer cakes. It works with any two squares sewn in this manner.

      1. Fran says:

        Fons & Porter have a “Binding Tool” that truly simplifies getting a smooth finish for binding the ends. It works like a charm! I really like the idea of zigzagging the edges of the quilt and binding before hand sewing it. I have tried to use the machine to stitch both sides of the binding, but have never been happy with the results.

    3. June says:

      Go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vCWpxBRs20

      Missouri Quilt Company shows a GREAT way to make corners and finish the binding at the end.

  4. rumi says:

    I don’t use the zig-zag. Like Elmer glue idea – have to try.

  5. Sandi says:

    Pat – check the free Block of the Month – Laura Knownes does a fantastic job explaining how to join the ends of the binding.

  6. Hunny13 says:

    Hi Pat, Check out Sharon Schamber’s site: scharonschamber.com and on YouTube. She has a superb method of applying Elmer’s glue and the result is matchless – I’ve never seen better anywhere. And it is really so easy, you’ll wish you’d discovered her years ago )

  7. Debbie says:

    Genius! Thank you so much :-)

  8. BeeGee says:

    We have a binding wizard right here on Craftsy. Take a look at the free download from Quilt Finger on Continuous Binding. After I read her instructions it all clicked and my last projects have been so easy to finish with beautiful 45 degree corners. While it does take a long time to hand sew the binding to the quilt it is still the method I prefer for a clean neat finish. I use double wide bias quilt binding tape most of the time, if the colors I have set off the quilt; then in the evening I sew the binding down after having sewn it to the back of the quilt. Just purchased a set of the large size Wonder Clips and they are wonderful for holding areas of many layers of fabric. I still think they are a bit pricey, but the little ones are so great when you don’t want to get stuck by pins.