Binding A Quilt

A couple of days ago Melanie McNeil described in her blog how she was binding her latest quilt – “For this particular quilt, I chose to finish the binding by machine rather than by hand.”… I wrote her that I always machine finish the binding (for a host of reasons I won’t go into here), except I use a decorative stitch with variegated thread when I attach the binding on the front.

Let me back up here a bit: many quilters machine stitch the binding to the front of the quilt, then blind stitch the turned binding on the back by hand. However, if you’re going to machine stitch the turned binding edge, then you have to sew the binding to the back of the quilt, turn the binding under on the front (I pin the turned binding, then lightly press it), then machine stitch to secure it to the front.

I’m assuming you already know how to apply a quilt binding. If you don’t, Melanie has very clear instructions with videos, etc. explaining and showing you how to bind a quilt. What I’m offering here, is an alternative for the final stitching to secure the binding to the top of the quilt.

Graduated Stitch – Edited

Here’s a stitched binding on one of my quilts (notice the diagonal fabric join in the binding). What I want you to observe is the stitching I’ve used to attach the binding to the top of the quilt – a stitch that stitches adjacent the edge of the binding and incorporates jump stitches to the right and back which permanently attach the binding edge to the quilt (remember, the binding is already machine sewn to the back using a standard 2.5mm straight stitch – Melanie prefers a longer 3.0mm stitch).

This is what the stitch looks like on my machine screen:

Double Graduated Stitch – Edited

This is my modification of a more complex built-in stitch on my embroidery machine. Here’s the original stitch:

Double Graduated Stitch

I wanted the stitching down the centre to be just to the side of the binding with the cross-over stitches just securing the binding so I used the stitch editor built into my embroidery machine to get rid of the stitches on the left and keep just two forward stitches between the grouping of stitches to the right. It attaches the binding securely and I’m not having to worry about whether I’m getting my straight stitch a consistent needle width from the binding edge. (The decorative stitch also is forgiving on the back of the quilt if it doesn’t align perfectly with the binding edge.)

Here’s another decorative stitch I use frequently:

Honeycomb Stitch – Edited

Below is the “honeycomb” stitch on my machine – I’ve reduced the width quite a bit, and extended the length so the stitch doesn’t extend very far on either side from the binding edge on the quilt front.

Honeycomb Stitch

Here are two other decorative stitches that could work:

Graduated Stitch

My point is it doesn’t take long to machine stitch a binding to the front of a quilt with a decorative stitch and it’s visually a lot more forgiving than trying to stitch the binding with a straight stitch!

A Note on Binding My Quilts

I bind my quilts using 2 1/4″ strips cut from the width of fabric to provide a bit of give as I attach the binding (given the large lap quilt size of my quilts I need six strips). I join the strips using a mitre – the reason is the angled seams don’t attract the eye and often they are nearly invisible.

Sometimes I press the long strip in half lengthwise, but lots of times I don’t bother. I attach the binding first to the back of the quilt starting 10 inches or so from one end (to allow me to create a mitre join when I get all the way around) – no pinning, just stitching in short sections, aligning the binding against the quilt edge (with a hint of stretch), and stitching a smidgeon more than 1/2″ from the edge. When I get near to the join I stop sewing, lay the quilt flat on the cutting table, cut one end of the binding then overlap the second end, measure 2 1/4″ from the end of the first binding edge, and cut. Now I create a mitre to join the two overlapping ends of the binding – I make sure the binding is the tiniest bit short (1/8″ – 3/16″) so I can stretch the joined binding to fit the quilt (that way I don’t get a bubble in the binding). (I haven’t said anything about creating mitred corners – click here to get more or less an idea for how  I do it.)

Now I turn to the front of the quilt, fold over the binding, turn it under and pin so the turned under edge just meets my stitching from the back. I have used a number of decorative machine stitches to attach the binding on the front. Here’s the one I use most often:

Binding From The Front

It’s a modification of one of my machine stitches – I am careful to keep the straight stitches along the edge, the stitching to the right and back overlaps the binding and holds it securely.

Binding On The Back

And because I’ve been careful to make my fold align with the stitching, the stitching is pretty much aligned on the back of the quilt (although my stitch tension isn’t always perfect – I don’t worry about that, it is the back of the quilt, after all.)

I’ve done this so many times that it doesn’t take long to bind a quilt.