Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Perfect Finishing Touch - Binding Your Quilt

I have to admit something . . . although I literally love every step in making a quilt, binding is my FAVORITE part! I have had several people ask me about how I get the binding on my quilt to be so straight and what size I cut my strips and how I sew it on and etc. etc. etc. So, I thought today I would share with you my secret to get the perfect binding on your quilt, everytime.

First, I want to share a little step that helps me prepare my quilt top for binding. It's called "SQUARING UP" your quilt and it is a great way to get those perfect, straight lines on your quilt's edge. Squaring up a quilt is done after your quilting is finished and you are ready to put on your binding. It is pretty much just making sure your quilt top edges are square with one another so that you will not have an edges that curve. It helps create a beautiful, crisp, straight line to bind on. Here is a little video I found on YouTube that demonstrates an example of how to square up a quilt. 

Just as a side note, you do not need to go out and buy a huge ruler like the one shown in the video unless you are using huge borders. I really only use my 2" x 18" ruler for most of my quilts and it works great!  The key is to line up the outermost straight seem with the edge of the quilt so they are parallel. My confession is I don't even have a square ruler, but I'm sure it would make squaring up a lot easier!

How do you figure out how much fabric you need for binding?

Once your quilt top is square, you are ready to figure out how much fabric you need to make your binding. Measure the length (L) and width (W) of your quilt and multiply the sum of those by 2. This will give you the perimeter (P) in inches. 

(L + W) x 2 = P

If you are saying, "Uh oh, math!" right now, just stick with me. 

Once you have the perimeter, you want to divide that number by 42" (a generous guesstimate for the width of the fabric, or WOF). This will tell you how many strips of fabric (SOF) you will need to piece together for a binding. 


I like to add an extra strip of fabric to this total just to make sure I buy enough fabric and to have some left over for a scrappy binding in the future. 

When you have your SOF total, you will multiply this by the width that you are going to cut your strips. I always cut mine 2.5" wide.  This will tell you how many inches by WOF (IBWOF) you will need to have cut. 

SOF x 2.5" = IBWOF

If you divide the IBWOF by 36" you will then have the yardage (Y) amount of fabric that you will need. 

IBWOF/36 = Y

Remember to ALWAYS round up!

Want an example?  Me too!  All these math values are looking like hieroglyphics right now. 

Say you measure the length and width of your quilt and it is 40" x 45". This is what you would do with those numbers to figure out how much fabric to buy for binding:

(40 + 45) x 2 = 170
170/42 = 4.0476 

Round up to 5 and add 1 extra to be safe. So, you will need 6 strips of fabric. 

6 x 2.5" = 15
15/36 = 0.4666667

Round that number up and now you know you need 0.5 or 1/2 yard of fabric. Clear as mud, right!?

Please don't worry about memorizing these equations, I don't. I have them written down and I refer to it EVERYTIME I do a binding!  Write it down, Pin it, bookmark this post, do whatever you need to in order to keep these visual calculations easily accessible!  Even if you can do it in your head like the smarty pants you are, it is always good to have something to check your calculations with. Believe me, there is nothing worse then thinking you bought enough fabric when you really didn't. Been there, done that!

How big should I cut my strips?

Now that you have your beautiful fabric home from the quilt shop with you, you are ready to cut the strips!  Another disclaimer before I show you some pictures . . . as I have been putting together this post, I am realizing that I don't really have pictures of me making and attaching a binding onto a quilt.  So, if the fabrics are different or non-quilty, just realize that I am pooling the pictures from several different projects.  You'll see what I mean and thanks for the understanding, friends!

To cut your strips, put your selvages together and line them up on any horizontal line on your cutting mat.  I prefer to put mine towards the top with the rest of my fabric going towards the bottom, but I know other quilters that do the opposite.  Make sure your fabric is squared up by lining up the left side of your fabric with any vertical line on the cutting mat.  I like to line mine up slightly to the left of my 0" line so I can start cutting my strips without moving my fabric again.  Cut the fabric on the 0" line to square it up.  Then cut your fabric in strips, the entire WOF, every 2 1/2".  Remember to cut the right amount of strips that is needed for your binding (and add 1 extra if you would like!)

When you have cut all your strips, you will want to piece them together to make one long, continuous binding strip. You can do this one of two ways:

1.  Match up the strips right sides together and sew using a 1/4" seam allowance

2. Match the strips with right sides together at a 45 degree angle so that one strip is going to the left and one is going down. Then sew them together from one corner to the other diagonally.

The real difference here is that when you use method #1 the seam can become a little bulky and thick. Other than that, it's really just personal preference. 

After piecing those strips together, fold the binding strip in half with the wrong sides together and press. 

How do I attach my binding strip to my quilt top?

Now you are ready to attach your binding to the front of your quilt top. Find the middle of one the sides of your quilt and pin one of the ends of your binding strip to it, with the raw edges matching up.

Starting about 8 inches below that, sew the binding strip on, using a 1/4" seam allowance. 

To get a nice mittered corner on your binding:  

Stop sewing and backstitch exactly 1/4" from the bottom of the edge of your quilt top. I usually put a pin here beforehand so I know where to stop. 

Clip your thread and turn the quilt counterclockwise once, so the strip you just attached is at the top horizontally.  Pull the binding strip upwards at a 90 degree angle so the raw edge is in a straight line with the edge of the quilt. 

Then fold it directly downwards, creating a crease that lines up with the top edge. The raw edges of the binding strip and quilt should now be lined up on top of each other. 

Pin in place. 

Start sewing again, making sure to backstitch, using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Repeat until you get to the last corner. 

Once you have pinned the last corner in place, DO NOT SEW YET, you need to match up the "tails" of your binding.  Pin the rest of your binding to the edge until you get back to the beginning on the binding.  Make a fold directly next to the start of the binding and fold backwards. 

Then measure from the fold backwards on the end tail the width of the binding you cut (in this case 2 1/2") and mark with a pin. Use sewing scissors to clip the binding right at this 2 1/2" mark. 

Unpin the tails from the quilt top and sew together using the method below and it will match up perfectly!

Now, sew down your remaining edge of the quilt top until you come back to where you started. Make sure to backstitch. 

Now is the fun part!  Put in a movie, relax, and get ready to hand stitch the binding to the back of your quilt. Pull some thread through the eye of your needle until you have two equal lengths of thread. Tie a square knot at the bottom. 

I like to start binding in the middle of one of the sides, but really, you can start anywhere you want. I hide this knot by starting my stitch in the seam allowance ABOVE the stitch line on the backside of the quilt. 

Then I stitch through the fold on the binding, just at the very edge, grabbing just a couple threads of fabric. 

I then pull the thread through and put the needle back through the backing fabric directly below the stitch line and the place I stitched in the binding fabric. 

I then "travel" about 1/4" to the left making sure I am only going through to the batting layer of my quilt and not through to the quilt top. 

Make sure that your needle emerges right below the stitch line. Then stitch through the binding fold again, just picking up the very bottom of the fabric. Continue until you reach a corner. 

Stitch all the way to the end of that edge and now you will miter you corners here on the back. 

Pull the binding straight to the left and pinch the fabric at the edge. 

Now, pull that corner over to where the stitch lines cross each other and firmly hold the fabric in place. 

Continue stitching making sure to secure that nice corner in place. 

Continue until you have almost used all the thread on your needle. To hide an ending knot, instead of picking up the binding fabric after traveling your stitch, have your needle emerge above the stitch line and tie a square knot. 

Clip the excess thread. Once you have loaded up your needle with new thread, hide your knot close to the knot you just tied and start again. 

Okay, I know this was a marathon post, but I wanted to give you lots of details and pictures!  If you follow the tips that I shared in this post, you too can have a perfect binding everytime!  

I also want to invite everyone that isn't already, to come follow me on Instagram!  I love to post pictures of my projects in process.  Feel free to comment below with any questions/remarks regarding this tutorial or quilting in general!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such great detail on the hand sewing part! Ready to finish my quilt now!