Binding a quilt can be so exciting — it’s the final step before calling the quilt done! Of course, there’s more than one way to bind a quilt and plenty of options for your quilt binding fabric.
If you’re not sure which type of quilt binding to choose — or even what your options are — you’re in the right place! We’ll walk you through the many types of quilt binding and show you how to choose the best one for you.
Types of quilt binding
Binding can be cut on the straight grain or on the bias; it can be folded over once or twice; it can be made at home or bought pre-made. And all these elements come in all sorts of combinations! With so many options available, you may find yourself asking, “What’s the difference?”
Binding vs. tape
The terms “binding” and “tape” both describe these specially cut and folded strips of fabric. “Binding” typically refers to a quilt binding, and “tape” almost always describes pre-made single- or double-fold bias tape (which is sometimes called single- or double-fold bias binding — a bit confusing!).
Straight-grain binding vs. bias binding
Straight-grain and bias binding describes how the binding fabric is cut. The diagram below shows three different fabric grains — use this as a reference for descriptions of each type below.
Illustration via Thread Riding Hood
Straight grain binding
If the strips of fabric are cut along the crosswise grain of your fabric (from selvage to selvage), or the lengthwise grain (from raw edge to raw edge) they are cut on the straight grain.
You can tell if the binding is cut on the straight grain by looking at the fabric weave — it should run across the strips from side to side, and parallel to the long edge. You can also give your binding the “tug test” by gently pulling the ends of the fabric strip; if it’s cut on the grain, the fabric will not stretch.
Straight grain binding or tape is best used to cover straight edges and should be mitered at each corner. We’ll talk more about mitered corners in a bit.
Bias grain bindings
Binding and tape are cut along the bias grain of the fabric, 45 degrees to the crosswise or lengthwise grain. Woven fabric stretches most in this direction, so the binding can stretch gently around curves and lay flat on rounded edges
The fabric weave on a bias binding should run diagonally. When you give bias binding the “tug test” and gently pull the ends of the fabric strip, the fabric will stretch.
Folding quilt bindings
Both straight-grain bindings and bias bindings can be folded a number of ways to achieve different results with your quilt binding.
French quilt binding or double-fold straight grain binding
French quilt binding is the most common and the simplest to make. This binding is made from strips of fabric, usually 2″ – 2½” wide, which are folded wrong sides together with the raw edges touching to create a double layer of fabric.
The double layer of fabric in a French binding wraps around and protects the quilt’s edge with two layers, creating a very durable finish. This makes it the ideal choice for a quilt that will be well used and washed often.
Single-fold quilt binding
This folding method leaves only one layer of fabric covering the raw edge. It’s best used for quilts that will be hung for display or gently used and not washed often.
As with a French quilt binding, single-fold binding can be cut on the crosswise or lengthwise grain for straight quilts. It can also be cut on the bias grain to provide the needed stretch to tidily finish curved quilt edges.
Bias tape (single-fold or double-fold)
Single-fold (pictured above) and double-fold bias tape are not recommended for finishing quilts that will be washed often, since the single layer is not durable enough to protect a well-used quilt edge. They are best used for quilts that will not be used or washed on a regular basis.
Pre-made binding vs. DIY binding
If you’ve been quilting for a while, you may have an opinion on using pre-made binding vs. making your own. When making the decision for handmade quilt binding or the ready-made variety, your choice often depends on the project and what you have on hand. Read on for some tips to help you pick the best binding for you!
Handmade bindings are durable and a great choice for large quilts and projects that will be used often. Especially after it gets washed, handmade binding is generally crinkly and soft, and perfect for baby quilts, lap quilts and bed quilts that will be snuggled for years to come!
You can also make your own binding for small projects to add pizzazz, like on these quilt-as-you-go pot holder.
Keep in mind how the fabric will look as binding — solids, monochromatic prints and small-scale prints are a good choice. Although it’s not as convenient as having store-bought binding, I often enjoy making my own binding and find the extra time is worth it when I see the finished project.
Pre-made bias tape
Ready-made double-fold bias tape offers an easy way to bind small projects and quilted accents. Pre-made Wright Co Double Fold Bias Tape comes in many shades. Because it’s cut on the bias, you’ll have no trouble going around those curves and it will give you a sharp, finished edge.
Because it is a flexible fabric, it will stretch well over high-pile quilts made from fleece, fur and more. Make sure to grab enough packs of this binding so you don’t run out of the color you need mid-way through.
If the quilt won’t be touched, like a wall quilt, consider saving time by using ready-made binding. The texture of ready-made binding may be a bit rougher and not as “cozy,” but it works great for wall quilts.
How to make straight grain binding
Here’s a tutorial on how to make your own quilt binding from fabric yardage. you’ll need a few supplies in addition to fabric. We recommend a rotary cutter, 24″ long acrylic ruler, cutting mat, iron, and ironing board.
This video from Angela Walters demonstrates how to make straight grain double fold quilt binding (recommended for all quilts without curved edges) from 2¼” width-of-fabric strips.
How to make continuous bias binding
Making bias binding with stripes and other straight prints can lead to a visually intriguing quilt binding with the stripes or print on the diagonal. Rather than sew tons of seams to piece your bias strips together, the method below allows you to sew just two seams to make continuous binding, and then cut your binding along drawn lines.
How much continuous bias binding can you make?
Multiply the length and width of the fabric; then divide that number by the width of your binding strip — that’s how long your continuous bias binding strip will be.
For example, if you have cut a 25″ square of fabric and are making 2” wide binding, multiply 25 x 25 to get 625, then divide by 2″. Your square will make approximately 312½” of continuous bias binding.
Cut a square piece of fabric. Place a pin at the center left and at the center right side of the fabric square. Cut the square on the diagonal once, from corner to corner. Be careful not to stretch or pull the bias edges.
Place the two triangles right sides together, matching the pins from Step 1.
Sew a seam along the edge where the pins are. Press the seam open, again being careful not to stretch or pull the fabric.
Using an acrylic ruler and a fine pencil, mark lines the desired width of your binding on the wrong side of the fabric.
Create a tube by bringing the top and bottom of the piece of fabric together. Match one side of the fabric with the first drawn line of the other side. The tube will be off set along the other edge. Sew the top and bottom of the tube together and press the seam open.
Using a good pair of sharp scissors, start cutting along the drawn lines at the uneven end of the tube. Continue cutting until you reach the end of the line — you should have one continuous strip of bias binding.
Then, beginning at one end, press your continuous binding strip in half, wrong sides together. Be careful when handling your bias binding strip, you don’t want to stretch or pull the strip.