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Machine Stitched Binding

Binding is the last step, the final hurdle to finishing any quilting project. The way you choose to do it is completely up to you, but this is my method for binding a quilt using machine stitching to finish it off.

First cut your strips. I cut mine 2 1/4 inches wide. I like a nice tight fitting binding so that the edges of my quilt are plump and rounded. This also is important if you plan on entering a quilt into a show. Some judges look at binding in particular because a nice plump binding means that the edge won’t form a sharp crease and wear out faster from being drug around.

So how many strips should you cut? Well, I employ the very scientific and mathematical process of hold it up and guess. I cut a strip or two and hold them against the side of the quilt. If you can pretty much eye ball how many strips you need to cover two sides (ex: 2 strips along the top and 1 strip along the side) then just double that number and add one and you have the amount of strips to cut (7 strips). I always like to add one so that way I’m sure to have a lot of room at the end to play with.

So once the strips are cut, they need to be sewn together. Honestly I seam my binding together with a mitered seam, but I don’t see what is wrong with a straight seam if that’s what you’re comfortable with. I’m not sure that they will wear any different at least. Fold the binding in half lengthwise and press so that the seams are to the inside.

Here’s the fun part. Put on a walking foot and let’s stitch on this binding. Now for hand stitched binding you need to attach the raw sides of the binding to the right side of the quilt. This way, when you fold over the fabric it will be on the back of the quilt. This way you will have a nice smooth look on the front and the hand stitches will face the back. When you start, leave about a 10 – 12 inch tail of binding above your starting place. Also try to start in the middle of the quilt. You want to try to avoid having a seam fall right over a corner.

Stitch on the binding, sewing through all layers to 1/4″ before the corner. Take the quilt off the machine and finger press the binding up into a 45 degree angle.

Now fold the binding strip down along the next side. It took so long for me to get my brain around all this folding! You want these edges to match up perfectly, with the fabric straight and crisp. If the miter is sewn sloppy then it will only come out crooked.

Start stitching again 1/4″ from the edge. Repeat again for each corner. You are going to have a triangular flap of fabric that seams to wave in the wind after you sew each corner. This is correct! The folded triangle will open up and fold over the rough edges to form the mitered binding. When you get 10″ from the binding tail you left at the beginning stop sewing and reverse to lock. Take the quilt off the machine.

Now this is the tricky part and I still get a bit turned around with it sometimes. Lay the two ends of binding over each other and smooth it flat so that they are straight with the edge and even. Gently take the right hand piece and open it up on top of the left hand side so that the two pieces are open and right sides together. Run a pin through the middle where these two pieces cross. Now hold this carefully in place and move the right hand piece so that it is perpendicular to the left hand piece (like and upside-down ‘L’). Stitch a miter seam across this binding. Finger press the seam open and then fold binding back into place along side.

Reattach your walking foot and sew through all layers to finish.

At this point you would ordinarily take the quilt off the machine and hand stitch on the binding. I like to machine stitch it sometimes though if I’m in a hurry or can’t find my needles or there isn’t anything good on TV to watch while I stitch. To get started you need to fold over the binding to encase the raw quilt edge. I finger press and pin the binding down so that when I stitch over it the seam will be straight and clean looking.

Set up your walking foot and a zigzag stitch. For normal thread I have the width set at 2.0 mm and the length at 0.25 mm or whatever width you use for making buttonholes. Sometimes I use invisible thread and in that case I use a normal stitch length. Start stitching in the middle of the side of the quilt. As you stitch you want to make sure your needle is falling right along the edge of the binding. Go slow and maintain an even stitch all the way to the corner.

At the corner, fold the miter and stitch right up to where the fabric overlaps. Reverse to lock and cut your threads. Reposition your quilt so that the next side is ready to go and start stitching over the previous end. Stitch all around the quilt in this way slowly and carefully. If you make any mistakes or start to get off then just cut the threads and pick it back out. Machine stitched binding takes skill to look good, but with practice and patience you can achieve the look you want. If you ever get frustrated with using the machine you can always try hand stitching the binding on. It’s slower, but safer!

Leah Day

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