Tag Archives: Quilt binding

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? 

Cheshire Cat?

Now you see her, now you don’t? Yes, that’s me! Two weeks ago I opted out of my own 30-day challenge, stopping at 20 days in a row of blogging. And since then was Thanksgiving, with several days of family fun. Besides that, I’ve been trying to finish some projects — don’t know if you know this, but the end of 2017 is rolling right up! (And not a moment too soon, huh? Heckuva a year, and not all in the good way…)

Right now I have three quilts in progress. Two are from my medallion class. Christmas Is Coming! needs binding attached.

The other is the bear’s paw quilt, which is still on the frame. Well, in fact, it is AGAIN on the frame. It is again on the frame because I’m having thread tension trouble on my longarm. Remember this?

This was the worst of it, but not the last of it. After struggling with getting the tension settings improved, I decided to take the quilt off the frame and putting a testing sandwich on. Prior to taking it off, I basted all the way around the edge, and also used great big stitches to baste through the body of the quilt. The basting stabilized the piece, so layers would stay put for returning to the frame later.

My test sandwich got covered with stitching. I managed to get the top and bottom tension adjusted well, but still had intermittent messy looping areas on the back. When the tension is BAD and there is looping, it’s because the tension is bad. When the tension is GOOD and there’s looping, it’s often because the thread is catching somewhere, like a rough spot in the thread path. I’ve done this long enough to know some of the places to look. (I have a long list of them, if you are interested.) I worked through all those things that I could. While it improved, it still wasn’t as good as it should be.

I called the company and spoke with the head technician. He agreed I’d done all the right things and asked me to bring the machine to the factory. Fortunately, that’s only about a half hour away from me, so I took it the same day. After two hours working with a technician, the best we could come up with was replacing an inexpensive part, the last thread guide above the eye of the needle.

Before returning to my bear’s paw project, I wanted to test it again on something small. Son’s fiancee likes seasonal decorating and I hoped to make a table runner for her for Christmas. I figured that would be a good project to test quilt. After all, if there was looping on the back, it wouldn’t matter. When used as intended, no one would see the back!

I tend to make things more, rather than less complicated. So I had to fight my instincts and make this a simple project. I made three puss-in-the-corner blocks with fussy-cut centers. (Yeah, I couldn’t go all the way to simple!) I set them on point and framed them with a border. I had a piece of appropriate fabric for the back. So I loaded it all up and quilted it.

(There is more to the story of how the quilting went and what happened next. That part of the story will come later this week.)

The last step on the table runner was the binding. I had just the right amount of just the right fabric. However, when it came to attaching it, I wasn’t sure how! All my quilts prior to this have had squared 90° corners. This also had 45° angles. Have you used them before, or other angles than 90°?

This morning I watched a video tutorial that explained how.

Here is my finished table runner.

The table runner has the edge of red binding. Underneath it is another quilt on the table.

Taking a couple of extra minutes to fussy cut the centers made these simple blocks look fancy.

Can you see the figure-8 Christmas tree stitched into this setting triangle? Another easy way to make an easy project look more intricate.

I’m off and running again. Thanks for reading! I always read comments and try to respond promptly. If I don’t get back to you soon, it’s because I’m offline. See you soon!

Binding Tips

Yesterday I quilted Stained Glass Too, and today I attached the binding. I was reminded of when I started quilting and had no idea how to do binding the “right” way. For my first three or four quilts, I bought wipe bias tape binding, pinned it down, and stitched with a zigzag. It was not pretty, but it sealed the edges of the quilt. But I didn’t like the limited colors and I didn’t like how expensive it was, so I started making my own. Even with that, though, I pinched the tape around the edge and stitched it in place with a zigzag.

That wasn’t the end of my learning process, of course. I could name a number of different turning points in my binding education. These days I’m pretty happy with my process, especially when I hand-stitch to finish.

But I think binding is tricky for many people. I saw a blog post recently from a popular designer and author. She showed how she does corners. Let’s just say the result wasn’t pretty, and I don’t think it was any easier than a basic mitered corner, so I don’t think there was advantage in doing it her way.

Though I’ve posted much of this before, I thought I’d pass on a few tips that I’ve learned over time, which make the process easier for me.


First, how much binding do you need? And how much yardage?

To get all the way around, take quilt (width + length) x 2. For example, if your quilt is 45″ x 60″, you need (45 + 60) x 2 = 210″. Now add 12″ for the corners and the joint. That makes 210 + 12 = 222″.

How much yardage do you need for that? It depends on how WIDE you want your binding. Most references recommend cutting 2.5″ strips selvage to selvage (WOF).

Assume you have 40″ selvage to selvage. If you need 222″, you need 6 cut strips to make the binding. (222/40 = 5.6. Round up to 6.) This is 6 x 40″ = 240″. If you only cut 5 strips, you would have 200″, not enough. Better to have too much than not enough.

(If you’re not cutting selvage to selvage, use the length of strips you’ll actually have. If your strips will be 53″, use 222/53 = 4.19, and round up to 5 strips. I often cut my binding along the selvage instead of edge to edge. It works fine.)

If you cut strips 2.5″ wide, you need 6 strips x 2.5″, or 15″ of fabric. If you’re buying new fabric, buy a half yard (18″). Again, better to have a little too much.

My preference is a narrow, tight binding, so I cut mine at 2.25″. You get to decide your own binding width, which may depend on how you finish it.

If you have leftover binding, save leftover strips in one place. You can piece mismatched binding together to finish scrap quilts with a playful edge, or finish utility quilts and mats without regard to coloring.


Before I stitch the binding to the quilt, I check that the binding seams do not fall at the quilt’s corners. This prevents extra bulk that makes it hard to get a nice, mitered corner.

If you’re going to do a hand-stitched finish, it’s typical (but not a law!) to attach the binding to the top of the quilt, and do your hand-stitching on the back. If you’re going to machine-finish it, you’ll choose depending on your preferred method for that process.

Increase your stitch length a little. I use a stitch setting of 3. Some people find a walking foot helpful. My machine’s feed dogs work fine and I don’t use the walking foot.

Cut a 45 degree angle on one end of the binding, as shown in the video and in my photos below. Starting at the end you cut at 45 degrees, leave a tail of about 10″ unstitched. Use a 1/4″ seam allowance, or slightly more. Sew with raw edges of binding to raw edges of quilt.

When you miter your corners, most instructions say to stop at EXACTLY 1/4″ from the corner, prior to making your turn. NO. Stop at whatever your seam allowance is. If you’re using a scant 1/4″, use that. If you’re using a fat 1/4″, use that. If you’re worried about getting it right, stitch too far and then back-stitch several stitches. You can check the corner after taking it out from under the needle. If you need to rip a stitch or two, you can do that with no harm.

Continue all the way around, mitering the corners as you go, and stopping with a tail of about 10″ or more.

Now you need to figure out how to join those two ends. My sister sent me this video link from McCalls Quilting, which shows the easy process. It makes a great, smooth joint that is just as invisible as every other joint in your binding.

Here are pictures to show it in more detail. First, I open up the fold on both sides to flatten it completely. That’s why about 10″ of tail on each side works well. With less than that, it’s hard to open it flat. With pinning, the two ends won’t shift and you can mark your line. Use a pencil with a faint line on light-colored fabric. With darker fabrics you can use a faint line of pigma or other permanent pen, or a white marking pencil. Test it first, if you’re concerned the color will show through.

Attach the binding, leaving about 10″ unstitched from each end.

After pinning the binding smoothly and open along the quilt edge, draw a line on the finishing end, using the beginning angle as your template.

Once you have the first line drawn, measure a half inch from it closer to the cut end and draw another line. This is your cut line, and it gives you the extra you need for your seam allowance. 


The nicest finish, if you are able, is to turn the binding to the back of the quilt and stitch by hand, using a blind or hemming stitch. Julie at Jaybirds.com has a video to give tips on this. She has a strong preference for using bias binding, which I think isn’t necessary for most of our quilts. But she also reviews how to do corners.

Here is a photo below of me working on binding by hand. You can see the needle travels underneath, so there is only a small stitch on the top. The thread should match the binding color to disappear most completely.

I hope these tips help you make a neat, attractive finish. After all, you’ve put so much time and effort and love into your quilt, it deserves it.

Tutorial: Straight-Grain Binding

When I started quilting in 2003, I had no idea what I was doing! All I knew was that a quilt was a couple of layers of fabric with some soft stuffing between. Over the next couple of years I made a few more quilts, and I figured out some things like how to use a rotary cutter, how to make a 1/4″ seam, and some design principles.

But for a long time I found the last step mysterious: how to finish a quilt by making and applying binding. A beautiful quilt deserves a well-made binding.

There are many ways to edge your quilt, but I will focus on the double-fold, straight-grain binding that is used on most quilts with straight edges.

To find out how, click here!