Thursday, June 17, 2010

Quilting How-To: Binding, Part 1

I was chatting online with a friend a couple weeks ago, talking about my most recent quilting project, and mentioned that I was on the finishing step: the binding."Oh, I get confused about that part," she wrote, and I responded that it was actually pretty simple, the key was to sew the corners properly. I started to detail the steps, then said, "wait, this would probably make more sense if I take pictures and put it on my blog." She agree that would be a good idea, and so I present a new and ongoing feature: quilting how-tos. Of course I'm going backwards by starting with the final step of making a quilt, but that's what I happened to be working on, so that's what you get. As I work on other quilts, I'll create other entries for the feature.

The first step to finishing up your quilt is to create your binding fabric. Most patterns I've used start with strips that are 2¼ inches wide; you need to have enough length to equal the quilt's perimeter, plus another four to twelve inches, depending on whether you sew the strips with straight or bias (diagonal) seams. Although the picture shows a bias seam, I've also made bindings joined with straight seams, especially if I'm low on binding fabric or I'm using more than one color. You create bias seams by placing two ends at a 90-degree angle, so that the area where the fabric overlaps forms a square; then you sew diagonally from one corner of the overlap square to another, in the direction that leaves a trimmable triangle on the outside. In any case, once you have your total length, you fold the binding fabric in half, keeping the edges even, and iron the fold in. Also iron a half-inch fold on end of the binding strip.

The next step is attaching the binding to the quilt. This, like most piecing done on quilts, is done using a ¼-inch seam. (This is much easier if you have a special ¼-inch sewing machine foot, like you can see in the picture to the right.) I always start a couple inches away from the corner, where the join will be less noticeable. I pin the first few inches of the binding to the quilt, and then start sewing a couple inches down from the start of the binding. It's very important to leave those top couple inches free, or you won't have a place to hide the end!

You keep sewing a plain old ¼-inch seam until you're exactly ¼ inch away from the bottom edge of the quilt. You back up a few stitches to reinforce the seam, then cut the threads and take the quilt out from the sewing machine. Rotate the quilt so that the next side is ready to sew, and flip the binding up and away from the quilt, like you see in the picture. You should end up with a 45-degree fold, as in the picture, and the edge of the binding should be lined up with the edge of the quilt.

The next step is key: fold the binding strip back down, so that it aligns with the side of the quilt. You should still feel the angle fold underneath the strip, and the top fold of the binding strip should be even with the corner of the quilt. So you'll have three layers of binding in the corner: the bottom layer is the end of the previous side; the middle layer is the fold up; and the top layer is the fold down. Pin the layers together and start sewing ¼ inch from the top of the quilt—this should be even with the stitching on the previous side. It's important to leave that ¼ inch free on both sides of the corner, or you won't be able to turn the binding over to the other side.

When you get back to where you started, you'll need to have one to two inches of overlap for a smooth join. Cut any extra binding off the ending edge, then open up the starting edge of the binding. (If you forgot to iron a fold in the starting edge, you'll want to make sure you add it, so your join doesn't have any rough edges.) Insert the ending edge of the binding inside the two layers of the starting edge. I find this is easier if I pin the bottom layer of the starting edge to the quilt, to keep it from wrinkling when I push the ending edge inside. Then I pin the whole thing tightly, as in the photo, and finish sewing the remainder of the binding to the quilt.

Now you're done attaching the binding and you just need to finish the edge ... but since that's done by hand and this entry is already packed with pictures, I'll leave that until tomorrow. (Click here to continue.)

1 comment:

  1. Good clear explanation, as usual. I usually make the final connection with a diagonal seam, too, if I used diagonal seams in the rest. A little trickier to get the final measurement right, but then all the connections look the same.