The proof of a good quilter is in the quilt binding, I’ve been told. But what are the elements of good binding? Opinions differ on all kinds of things, but especially width, and method of attachment. Let’s take a little tour of quilt bindings around the office, and then we’ll learn Eileen’s recipe for perfectly plump bindings.
At Fons & Porter, we recently made a switch in our instructions, and are now advising quilters to cut binding strips 2-1/2”, rather than 2-1/4”. Given how it’s generally easier to see the 2-1/2” mark on most rulers, and how prevalent pre-cut strip rolls are these days, it seemed like a reasonable step.
I feel obliged to report that the decision was met with a mixed reaction in the office.
The pre-cutters cheered, the die-cutters cheered, those with poor eyesight cheered.
The perfectionists, however, did not cheer. One co-worker, possibly named Eileen, may have said, “I’ll write it that way, but when I bind my quilts, I’m using 2-1/4” strips!”
To which another—a show quilter—nodded emphatically.
And one office mate simply confessed, “I just have my mom bind my quilts, so it’s her call, really.”
And that’s fine. If you prefer the thinner strip of binding, you’ll have the yardage in your instructions to achieve that.
When machine stitching 2-1/2” binding, you won’t be able to stitch in the ditch quite as perfectly as with 2-1/4”. The 2-1/4” binding tends to fold over perfectly and allows you to sew along the fold and catch the edges neatly.
That’s the theory anyway. It takes some precision and practice to land the perfect machine-binding stitch.
Using a zig-zag stitch to machine-stitch your binding ensures that you’ll catch the edges easily, but it can be visible.
Faux-piped binding is actually somewhat perfect for machine stitching. Once you have created and pressed your two-fabric binding, you stitch the binding to the back (that’s important), flip it to the front, and can stitch directly along the seam. The excess flap, in this case, is exactly what you want, and it looks wonderful.
It’s far more common for quilters to machine-stitch the binding to the front of the quilt, and secure it to the back by hand, using a whipstitch.
I’ve found that one of the side benefits to hand-stitching the binding in place, is that, in a craft that was once done all by hand, the only hand-work I actually do is sewing the binding to the back. As the last step of the quilt, this feels right, like it helps connect me to the project.
Could I hand-sew other parts of my patchwork? Sure! Am I going to? No.
And that’s OK, too!
Eileen’s Recipe for Perfectly Plump Quilt Binding
Some of us quilters just love a well-filled binding. Not only does the binding provide a visual frame, but it gives it a textural frame, too!
First, before trimming the batting and backing, machine-stitch the binding to the quilt front, making sure the raw edges are flush. When the stitching is complete, trim the batting and backing, making sure you leave exactly ¼” of batting and backing extending beyond the quilt top’s edge.
As an extra tip, Eileen also recommends that when mitering your corners, instead of stopping ¼” from the edge and backstitching, sew off at a diagonal. This method reliably gives Eileen a perfect little mitered fold, she says.
Fold your binding over and temporarily secure using clips (sometimes a quick press will help, too). The quilt binding should just cover the stitching line.
Your next step is to whipstitch that binding into place. That extra ¼” of batting and backing will fill out the binding, providing a nice, firm edge.
Regardless of your method, or the tools you use, relish the last stitches as you put your binding into place. You’ve accomplished something wonderful, which is making a quilt!
With these additional products, become a master of binding…or just pick up a few more quick tips!