Learn how to bind a quilt with ease. If you have spent time putting a quilt together you are going to want to bind it beautifully. Quilts can be wonderful tactile memories of fabrics treasured in the past. Little scraps of material making memories of garments once worn, now treasured and made into a quilt!
How to Bind a Quilt
Initially binding a quilt may seem tedious, but once you see how beautifully a quality binding enhances the quilt, you will want to spend time getting the binding of your quilt absolutely perfect.
Here I will show you two methods of binding. The first is using binding tape and the second is using the backing fabric. Using binding tape is the most common method but takes a little longer.
- Method #1 - Binding Tape
- Method #2 - Backing Fabric
How to Bind a Quilt - Supplies
The materials needed for a perfectly bound quilt are the quilt itself, binding or backing fabric and your sewing machine or hand stitching tools to attach the binding.
Best Foot for Sewing Binding
The best sewing machine foot for sewing binding or doing quilting is the walking foot.
Although it looks a little bulky, it is easy to attach and use. The advantage of using this foot is that you will get the minimum of wrinkles and puckering in your quilt as the foot walks over the fabric.
If you don't have a walking foot then use your all-purpose sewing foot.
Further Reading: How to Use a Walking Foot
How to Bind a Quilt - Best fabrics
Most of the time a quilt will be bound in quilting fabric. This is a fine to medium weight cotton with a tight weave.
Think about whether you want a contrast binding or if you want it to match and blend into the front. Smaller patterns are normally best for binding rather than large scale patterns.
How to Bind a Quilt with Binding Tape
Step 1 - How to Make Quilt Binding
The binding can be self-made, or it can be pre-bought at a fabric shop. Making your own adds another dimension of creativity to the finished quilt.
Quilt binding can be cut on the straight grain or bias of the fabric.
- Bias binding is cut on the diagonal at 45 degrees which results in a small amount of stretch.
- Binding cut on the straight grain will not stretch.
Quilts normally have straight edges with no curves so a straight grain will usually work well and will save fabric consumption.
Making your own Bias Tape
Length of Quilt Binding to Cut
The length of the binding will depend on the size of your quilt.
You can cut strips long enough for each edge or join your binding strips together to form a long strip that will go all the way around the quilt. Most designers use one long strip as it is easier to do the corners.
The length of the binding will be the perimeter of your quilt plus a little extra to spare. So measure the quilt top, bottom and sides and add 10 inches (25cm) just to be safe. This extra will allow for the mitered corners and joins.
Width of Quilt Binding
Most quilt binding strips are cut 2 to 3 inches wide (5 - 7.5cm).
You can make it narrower but it is hard to sew smaller strips. Most quilts bindings are sewn with a ¼ inch (6mm) seam allowance and are cut at 2 ¼ inches (5.7cm)
2 ¼ inch (5.7cm) binding will result in a ½ inch (12mm) edging. For thick quilts cut 2 ½ inches (4cm) to allow for the depth of the quilt.
Single Fold vs Double Fold Binding
Most of the time your sewing pattern will tell you whether to use single fold or double fold bias binding but this decision is also personal preference. Remember that single fold will only show on one side of the quilt whereas double fold will show on both sides of the quilt.
This tutorial will show you how to make a binding that is visible on both sides of the quilt.
How to Join Strips for Quilt Binding
- It is best to sew the joins in your binding on the diagonal to reduce bulk in the joins. You can use this method regardless of whether you have cut your bias strips straight on the grain or on the bias.
- Overlap the ends of the binding at 90 degrees. Sew across on the diagonal from corner to corner as shown. Take careful note of the directions of the diagonal and the strips.
- Trim to ⅛ inch (3mm) from the stitching.
- Press the seam open.
- Trim the ends.
Press in Half
When the strips are made, press the binding in half with the wrong sides together and it is ready to attach to the quilt along the edge.
Step 2 - Prepare the Quilt
A quilt cannot be bound until all the batting is inserted and you have quilted the top to hold all the layers together. It is the final step to hide all the messy edges.
Further Reading - Stitch in the Ditch for Quilting
Prepare the quilt by squaring off the edges and having straight neat edges to attach the binding. Use a rotary cutter and marked cutting board with a firm ruler to guide your cutter. Large quilting rulers will help you get nice straight 90-degree corners.
Squaring the quilt is important even if you started with perfect rectangles as the sewing process may stretch it out of shape slightly. If the edges are neat before you start learning how to bind a quilt, it will make it much easier and the final product neater and without lumps and bumps.
An optional extra for fabrics that fray badly is to zig-zag or serger the edge of the quilt before attaching the binding.
Step 3 - Start the Binding
Put the binding on the right side of the quilt with raw edges together.
Start pinning the quilt binding about 6 – 8 inches (15-20cm) before the corner of the quilt. The larger the quilt, the further away you should start from the corner. Just give it some breathing space!
You will also need to leave a tail of binding at least 6 inches (15cm). Do not sew this tail as you will use it later.
Just roughly place the binding all the way around the quilt to check that no joins in the binding tape are in any of the corners. The added bulk of joins makes corners trickier. If you need to, reposition the end or change a join.
Sew ¼ inch (6mm) from the edge and stop ¼ inch (6mm) from the first corner. A walking foot makes it easier to sew with bulky fabrics.
Remove the quilt from your sewing machine.
Step 4 - Quilt Binding Corners
Lift the binding up at right angles and then immediately down to form a tuck at the corner. This is going to be the mitered corner.
Start on the edge of the fabric and continue sewing with your ¼ inch (6mm) seam allowance.
Continue to sew all around the quilt on the binding and tuck the corners as you go until you reach the point where you started with the binding.
Once again leave a tail at the end of the binding and do not sew to the end.
Leave the ends of the binding meet in the middle and mark where they meet. I like to press the ends back as an easy way to mark.
Open up the binding and put the ends right sides together matching the marks.
Stitch across. Do a quick check that the length is correct before trimming the ends and pressing the seam open.
Fold the binding up again and stitch along the gap on the edge with the usual ¼ inch (6mm) seam allowance.
Step 5 - Turn the Binding and Sew
Trim the corners just to improve the tip of each mitered corner.
Turn the binding to the wrong side just covering the stitching. Pin or clip the edges to hold them secure. At the corners, fold the fabric on the diagonal so you have a neat mitered corner.
Sew the wrong side and edges of the binding either by hand or on the machine if you prefer. There are instructions for hand stitching at the end of this tutorial. Hand stitching is the ideal if you have the time and patience.
Here are my mini quilts now all bound neatly.
Shake your large quilt out and admire your success!
How to Bind a Quilt with the Back Fabric
This method is best for smaller quilts like baby quilts and is not quite as neat as using binding tape. It is however really easy and much quicker for beginners so I thought it was worth showing you how.
With this method, the front of the quilt will look very similar but you will see quite a difference on the back.
Step 1 - Attach Batting
After patchworking or finishing the front, baste or pin the batting to the wrong side.
Neaten the edges with a rotary cutter so you have a nice clean and sharp rectangle or square.
Step 2 - Cut Back Fabric
Cut the backing fabric 2 inches (5cm) larger than the front. This means 2 inches (5cm) all the way around the top, bottom and sides.
We only need to end up with 1 inch (2.5cm ) borders but often in the quilting process the top can stretch out. The larger the quilt the more it may stretch.
Step 3 - Quilt
Quilt on the top of the quilt as per normal going through all 3 layers.
It is important to stop at the top raw edge. Do not extend the stitching into the back fabric border. I used a walking foot to eliminate wrinkles and puckers.
Cut the backing fabric all the way around so it is now 1 inch (2.5cm) wider than the top.
Step 4 - Fold Binding
Start on the corners.
Fold the corners over on the diagonal. Trim the excess fabric to ⅜ inch (1cm).
Fold the binding in half.
Then fold again covering the raw edges and creating a binding on the top layer. Pin in place. Neaten the corners if necessary.
Go all the way around the quilt. You will need lots of pins or clips!
Step 5 - Stitching
Now it is time to stitch the binding down. You can use a hand slip stitch (next section) or your sewing machine.
Machine-stitching is normally done with a straight stitch but you could also do a decorative zig-zag or something even fancier. A walking foot will help minimize wrinkles and puckers. If you don't have a walking foot then use your all-purpose foot or a Teflon foot.
Start stitching a couple of inches from a corner. When you get to the corners, make sure the needle is down and then pivot the foot. Put the foot back down and keep sewing.
How to Bind a Quilt - Hand Stitching
If you have spent long hours putting a quilt together in beautiful patchwork configurations then you will want to stitch the binding by hand. This is an invisible way to finish the edges without the risk of any messy stitching.
Use a slip stitch. The binding should be pressed to just cover the stitching line. You will be using a matching color thread and not the bright red contrast I have used on my sample.
Take a long stitch through the fold of the binding. Pull the needle through and then put it through the quilt just above the stitching. This stitch should be really small and only through the top layer.
How to Bind a Quilt - In Conclusion
This quilt could become a family heirloom. Just as every picture tells a story, so every quilt has a history. Fabrics worn for all sorts of occasions stitched together making memories and a piece of fabric art to treasure.