Last October I wrote a blog post called Batty Bindings, which had tips for making quilt binding. In the nine months that have passed since then, I have learned a LOT more about binding – in particular, binding by machine. In fact, I’ve learned enough to know that my previous post was wrong in one respect.
Today, in celebration of all the learning that has occurred, I am happy to be revisiting the topic to correct my mistake.
But first, I want to tell you where I went wrong before. All the binding tips I gave in that old post are still good, except for the second tip. Said tip reads as follows:
Second tip: Make sure you use binding strips that are at least 2½ inches wide. I’ve tried making them 2¼” but ended up tugging and stretching the fabric to make them cover the edge of the quilt. This is a bad thing, because they won’t hold or wear well. I’ve seen other quilters recommend wider strips – but I’ve not tried that. Why? Sometimes I use pre-cut jelly rolls which are exactly 2 ½” wide and save me some time and effort when I’m in giddy-up mode. Also, many of those other quilters recommend strips that are 2 ⅞ or 2 ⅝, and at this point in my quilting life, I refuse to use eighth inch measurements. You may remember this from a previous blog – it’s against Stacey’s Rules for Preventing UFOs. 😊
I can’t believe how wimpy I was about using wider strips, particularly those measured in eighths. But I know why, and it goes beyond the extra squinting I have to do to see the eighth-inch marking on my ruler. I just prefer the look of the narrower strips – that is, the 2 ½” strips. They look nice and round – the edge batting fills up the fabric and they have the appearance of cording along the edge of the quilt.
If you are finishing your binding by hand, I’ll admit that the 2 1/2″ width is best – there is enough fabric to get around the corners well (can’t say that about 2 ¼” strips) and enough fabric to pull around and sew flat by hand, using a blind stitch. (Here’s a great set of instructions for hand sewing quilt binding, by Connecting Threads, if you need it).
Finishing your binding by hand absolutely looks best, if you want my opinion.
But – and it’s a big but, I cannot lie (LOL) – binding by machine is absolutely faster. If you do a lot of quilting, and/or you just plain want to “get finished, already” you can’t beat sewing your binding on with the machine.
Since both those conditions apply to me, I’ve been testing and practicing for several months to find the right width strip and the best method to consistently get good results with machine binding. I’ve found that the only way to do that is to use wider strips. Here’s a scary example of what happens if you machine finish your binding with narrower, 2 ½” strips:
If your stitch in the ditch isn’t exact, your seam is a little too big, or you didn’t stretch the binding enough when you turned it, you’ll miss a lot of spots. (Note all spots marked with pins, above). Particularly in the corners, where you need extra give in the binding to make the miter. All this will make you cry. And even worse – you’ll have to re-do it.
Re-doing things is not fast. It’s just irritating.
In order to save time, stress, and tears, I’ve learned to use wider strips. Yes, I even use strips with the dreaded eighth-inch measurements. I just remember to grab my reading glasses. Here’s my process:
- Cut your batting strips either 2 ¾” or 2 ⅞” wide. Which to choose? It comes down to the batting. Use 2 ¾” strips for low loft, flatter battings like cotton and cotton/poly blends. For higher loft wool and polyester battings, use 2 ⅞” strips. Here’s a finished example:
- Fold and press your strips in half lengthwise and sew onto the front of your quilt using a ¼” seam allowance. (Follow the usual binding instructions for this, i.e. leave a 10” tail loose at the start of your seam and stop sewing about 10” before you come back to that starting point. For more resources on this, see my previous blog post).
- To close the binding, follow this terrific video I found on Facebook. Super Duper Easy! Great find.
- Open and steam PRESS your binding strip from the front of the quilt.
- Fold your binding strip around to the back of the quilt. Use pins or binding clips to secure the fabric in place. The edge of the binding should come down just past the line of stitches made from sewing the binding to the front of the quilt. Carefully fold corners into a tidy miter.
- Turn the quilt over and carefully stitch in the ditch along the edge of the batting on the front of the quilt. Use matching or invisible thread for best results. Be careful at the corners so you don’t miss the mitered fold.
- Check the stitches on the back of the quilt. Because of the extra width of the binding strip, you should have caught the edge of your binding all the way around. If not – take notes! With practice it gets easier.
And there you have it. An easier, faster way to get your quilt binding done quickly and with as little stress as possible. I’ve no doubt that one day, I’ll need to update this post again with even better ideas. Such is life – live and learn! But I hope you’ve found something useful here for your quilting, today. Good luck!