Many years ago, Jeannie Ivis, a quilt shop owner in Colorado, showed me how to do quilt binding by machine. In 15 years, I have done all but three of my quilt bindings using this method. I love it because it’s neat, it’s fast, it’s sturdy and it comes close to looking like you stitched the binding by hand.
I was finishing up a UFO this week and decided to write a tutorial on what I call “mock hand binding by machine.” So that you don’t overlook the points that are critical, I’m going to use CAPS in some places, but I don’t mean to shout at you.
I start off by trimming the backing and batting even with the quilt top. I cleared the junk off my cabinet and put two cutting mats end to end for this task.
It helps if they match so they are the same thickness but when I took this picture, one of my matching mats was missing. (Messy sewing space.)
I’m left with batting and fabric scraps, which get sorted. Small batting pieces go into my dust rag bag. They work great for dusting and you just throw them away when you’re finished.
For some reason I can’t remember, I cut this binding 1.5″ wide instead of the usual 2.25″ wide, so this will be a single-fold binding. The mock-hand method works the same for double-fold binding and single-fold binding.
First we need to sew the binding strips together end to end with diagonal seams. Above you’ll see that I have put the strips right sides together. The line shows you where I’m going to sew. If you ever have trouble knowing which diagonal to sew across, you can refer back to this photo. I remember it by not sewing from the two short stubby ends across.
Because this is a single-fold binding, the next step is to press under a generous 1/4″ on one raw edge of the entire length.
Here I’m ready to sew the binding to the BACK of the quilt. (This is different from the usual method where you sew the binding to the front of the quilt and then stitch it by hand on the back.) I use a WALKING FOOT to keep the layers feeding evenly through the machine. I set my stitch length to 2mm. Be sure to LEAVE A TAIL of eight to ten inches unsewn.
When you get about six inches from the corner, place a pin as shown above, 1/4″ away from the quilt edge that’s next to your torso. When you come to the pin, stop sewing and backstitch three or four stitches. End the stitching and cut the threads. I used dark thread in the sample below so you could see how it looks.
Next we’ll miter the corner.
As you come to the remaining corners, treat them in the same way. Each corner will look like the photo above when it’s finished.
When you reach the place where you started, stop sewing about 10″ from your first stitches. Leave a generous tail at this end too. Join the binding ends (my next how-to post will be about how to join the ends). Finish sewing the binding to the quilt back.
Now it’s time to set up your machine for the fun part.
- Fill a bobbin with regular cotton thread to match the quilt BACKING.
- Thread the top with INVISIBLE THREAD, whatever kind you prefer.
- Set the machine to a blind hem stitch (a blind hem stitch goes “straight, straight, zig, zag, straight, straight, zig, zag” etc.). Set the stitch width to 1.2mm and the stitch length to 1.0mm.
- Put (or keep) the walking foot on your machine.
- Test sew on a scrap quilt sandwich (fabric, batting, fabric) to see how it looks, and adjust the tension if need be.
Now you’re ready to pull the binding to the front of the quilt and sew it down by machine. Start in the middle of one quilt side. Pull the binding around to the front of the quilt.
In this example, it turned out that I needed to turn under more than the 1/4″ I had originally pressed. I just turned it under more generously as I went along.
Sew the binding to the quilt front. The straight stitches should be on the quilt top. The zig zag stitch will take a tiny bite into the binding.
I’ve Photoshopped the photo above so you can see where the stitches are supposed to go on the quilt front. Of course they’re much smaller in real life.
When you come to a corner, miter it by folding as shown above. It usually wants to fold into a miter because of the way you turned the corners earlier. Start sewing at the inside corner and sew a few stitches in place to secure, then continue along the side, pulling the binding to the front as you go.
When you get to the place where you started, change to a straight stitch and a stitch length of zero. Stitch in place for a few stitches to secure, cut the threads and you’re finished.
Above is what it looks like on the front of the quilt.
And this is how it looks from the back of the quilt. I used darker thread so you could see it, but you should use thread to match the quilt back as mentioned earlier, so it will blend right in.
Here’s my finished UFO. It was my staff challenge from 2011, shown in the Jan/Feb ’12 issue of Quiltmaker.
It uses a block called Infinity from Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 2. The block design is by Victoria Eapen.