Binding a Quilt for the VA Hospital

Over the last few years, I’ve made several quilts to donate to the local VA (Veteran’s Administration) Hospital. This year I’ve made two so far, and likely I’ll make at least one more.

Though I finished the tops and had them quilted before the end of March, I didn’t get the bindings attached. I plan to turn them in at my guild meeting next week, so it’s time to get them bound.

I’ve written about binding before. If you need a primer, you might find it useful to review here. I’ll also add a few tips right here about machine finishing.

For this particular quilt, I chose to finish the binding by machine rather than by hand. I attached it to the back of the quilt and then used a warm iron to press the strip toward the front, across its seam allowance. That makes it easier to bend around the edge.

I increased the stitch length a touch. I also set the machine speed to medium, so the process wouldn’t accidentally get away from me! Using a thread that matches my binding color and a straight stitch, away I went! (Sometimes I use a zig-zag. I think it’s sturdier, but it doesn’t look as neat.)

I rarely use pins or clips when I machine-finish a quilt. When I do use them, I NEVER clip or pin all the way around, whether I’m doing hand-stitching or machine-stitching. That just makes a lot of protrusions that get in the way. I only clip a few inches at a time, and move them as I go.

This border has a stripe that made it easy to wrap the binding consistently all the way around. I think the finish looks neat and clean on the front

and pretty good on the back.

The quilt is finished now. I have three others in the queue for their bindings.

Do you attach your quilt bindings right away? Or do you wait and do them some time later? What’s your favorite thing about binding a quilt? Your least favorite?ย 

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30 thoughts on “Binding a Quilt for the VA Hospital

  1. Cindi Lambert

    I generally do a French Fold Binding and attach to the front of the quilt and hand stitch the back with what quilt jurors have called an unusual but well done stitch. That is because I taught myself to sew. I have never put a binding on by machine. I enjoy the binding process for the most part but will take one tip from you and not pin the entire binding before sewing by hand on the back. I generally use the Wonder Clips but it is difficult on a huge quilt with all those protrusions.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think what I use is called “French fold.” It is what these days we think of as standard, but by historical norms, isn’t necessarily so. I hope you’ll find it easier to maneuver things with fewer clips on at a time. Worth the experiment, anyway!

      Reply
  2. katechiconi

    I always bind right away, so I have a quilt completely finished and ready to give. I use my walking foot to stitch the double fold binding on the front as I find it manages all the layers more easily. I hand stitch the back fold down 95% of the time as I like the stitching to be as invisible as possible, and I use Wonder Clips to hold the binding down only on the side I’m working on. I enjoy the hand stitching a lot, it’s a meditative time when I can think about the making of the quilt, what went into it, who it’s for, and I can say goodbye to it and think how much I enjoyed making it.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I know many people truly enjoy hand-stitching. I really don’t enjoy it, but see it as part of the process for some of my quilts. Your ritual sounds lovely.

      Reply
  3. BJ

    I make the binding right away but, if I have no time pressure, put the binding in a clear bag and pin it to the pressed, folded quilt with the backing and batting. Lately I’ve had to finish against the clock and that’s ok, too. I’m just learning to machine bind my quilts and I must say that I enjoy it more than I expected to. So far they’ve looked pretty good! My favorite part is what I’ve had to give up – sewing to the back by hand. My least favorite is ironing the binding in half – at least for anything larger than a lap quilt. I normally clip about 10 inches in front of my needle and move the clips as needed. I’d rather spend money on fabric than clips!

    Reply
  4. Kerry

    I enjoy the binding part so as soon as I finish (hah! if I finish . . . ) quilting then I’m working on the binding. I did machine sew the front and hand sew the back but since doing some preemie baby quilts I’ve been practicing the way you have just shown. Certainly much faster – still fairly neat and I’m happy with those results too. Your results are very neat.
    Funny that Amy Johnson (Amy’s Quilting Adventures) had a binding post on her blog, but showing a new Janome tool. I think I’ll skip on that – I have enough things to play with that I never use!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      A new tool? I just looked at her post. It wasn’t at all clear to me what the tool was supposed to do. This afternoon I bound my second VA quilt and it took about an hour to attach it, finish the last join, and then finish with machine stitching. That’s quick enough for me. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
      1. Kerry

        It looks like it folds as you sew. I think by the time I’d fixed it onto the machine I could have been be halfway round by the normal method! But then those that are into gadgets may find it a big help. I think I’ll stick to the little clips with the pretty colours! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Reply
        1. Melanie McNeil Post author

          I thought her site looked like it had a big sales focus. Perhaps that’s her thing. I don’t buy many gadgets, and that’s part of why it doesn’t appeal to me.

          Reply
          1. Kerry

            Yes, sadly she started as a normal quilting lady filming her quilting with all the little handy things to know like tension and how to check it. Recently she took on a shop that specialises in Janomes – which she had for her tutorials. I’m glad her shop is taking off, and that she tests the products but tutorials on quilting are few and far between now. She made very interesting reviews on some things and some gadgets she said aren’t worth changing to. I did like her quilting with rulers lessons. I just thought it was funny that she had made a binding post at the same time as you (albeit with a slight variation).
            Yes I also tried fancy stitching for the preemie quilts! I had stars for one and snowflakes for another. Very pleased with the snowflakes one! ๐Ÿ˜€

  5. My Sewful Retirement

    I bind as soon as I finish (if I finish ๐Ÿ™‚ ) I prefer to machine stitch my bindings on. I sew the binding on the front, turn and press to the back, then stitch in the ditch from the front. Most times I am happy with the results โ€” occasionally I will need to stitch again in certain areas especially if I havenโ€™t used my wonder clips.
    Cutting and piecing are my favorite steps, I truly hate basting and quilting which is why I have so many UFOโ€™s! Before I moved to Florida I would donate my quilt tops to a nursing home where my friend worked and the ladies would hand quilt them to use for craft fairs – I tend to make mostly table runners, placemats and lap quilts. Now that I am retired and not buying fabric everyday I will probably look to have my quilts finished professionally.
    I really enjoy reading your posts!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Sometimes I do just what you said, with attaching to the front and then SID next to the edge. I’m not as successful with that, but when it works, it looks great. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  6. jmn111

    I do bindings completely on the machine using the same technique you have used on this quilt – attaching the binding on the back, folding to the front. The difference is I use a decorative stitch with a blendable thread that coordinates with the quilt top to stitch the binding to the front – the stitch I most frequently use stitches a short stitch to the right and back, a stitch forward, a slightly longer stitch to the right and back, stitch forward, and a third shorter stitch to the right and back, then two stitches forward spacing out the group of stitches to the right. The straight stitches align at the edge of the binding and don’t show much – what you see are the decorative stitches to the right. Goes quickly, holds the binding securely, and looks interesting.

    Reply
  7. tierneycreates

    I do the bindings right away or at least hang a quilt back from the long-arm quilter, in a place the quilt can glare at me and remind me it needs to get it’s binding. I have one like that right now staring at me! I love the machine stitching job you did on the binding – looks great!

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      This one did turn out very well, thanks. I did the second one this afternoon and it is not quite as neat. I went slightly faster… But also the specific fabrics used seems to make a difference, too.

      Reply
  8. snarkyquilter

    Now I’m depressed after reading that all your other readers bind a quilt right after quilting it. I need to take a break and often will wait…a while before finishing the edges, unless I have a hard deadline. If a quilt is to be a working quilt I machine sew the binding completely to ensure it stays together well after numerous washings. No, I’ve not had a hand sewn binding come loose, but you never know. I’ve been using My Sewful Retirement’s method, but will try yours next time. I couldn’t do a binding without my walking foot, and I clip the binding only about a foot ahead of where I’m sewing, and move the clips as I go.

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I think we all find our own ways of doing things. And sometimes I do it like My Sewful Retirement does, too. It depends some on the colors of border and binding, whether I have thread that will match, … you know. It depends. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  9. allisonreidnem

    I’ve got in the habit of making and pressing the binding when I finish piecing – before I change my machine set up for quilting. It’s really good to have that neat roll of binding waiting for me when the quilting’s done! Whether I stitch the binding first to the front or the back depends on how well the border and backing fabrics will hide the stitches.

    Reply
  10. Pingback: Binding A Quilt | jmn

  11. zippyquilts

    I usually make the binding when I make the quilt, too. It saves having to hunt up the fabric again later. Most of my quilts are bound by machine because they are meant to be used

    Reply
    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I did two quilts this weekend. One looks great from the front, not as good from the back. The other is … fine. It seems to matter just as much what fabrics are used (both on the binding itself, and the nearest on top and bottom,) as it does what technique. Some just look great and others not so much.

      Reply
  12. TextileRanger

    I was binding a quilt just as you were writing this — it must have been a cosmic connection.
    In this instance, I machine sewed to the front, then hand-sewed to the back, but I applied your tips about ironing the binding around the edge, and not pinning any great distance, and those really helped.
    And then I went to my quilt group, and several people said that when they turn their binding to the back, they use Elmer’s Glue and just glue it down to hold it in place for the machine stitching. No pins, no clips. It dries quickly, doesn’t clog the needle, and washes out.
    I am really sad I didn’t hear this tip before I did the binding on my latest quilt, and I am almost looking forward to binding another quilt so I can try it!

    Reply
  13. Cindy Anderson

    I usually make the binding when I make the quilt backing. I roll it up on a tube to wait until Iโ€™m ready to attach it to the finished quilt. My bindings are cut 2 1/2โ€ winde then folded in half. I stitch the binding to the front of the quilt using my sewing machine and a 3/8โ€ seam. Itโ€™s then folded to the back and pressed in place. I always hand stitch the binding on the back. I find the process to be relaxing and therapeutic. Often I will save up my quilts and attach bindings to several at a time. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

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