Friday, June 18, 2010

Quilting How-To: Binding, Part 2

Yesterday I detailed the steps you need to follow to attach a binding to your quilt. Today I'll finish the lesson on binding by showing you how to tack down and finish the binding edge.

This step is best done by hand, using a blind stitch. Choose a thread color closest to the color of your binding fabric and put a single strand through a needle, knotting one end. I always start sewing the binding on the front side of the quilt, right where the two ends of the binding are joined together. I insert the needle so it comes out at the base of the binding, then blind stitch the layers together until I get to the edge. This finishes the joining on the front and gets the thread to the edge, ready to fold over to the back. In the photo to the right, you can just make out the join in the center of the photo, where there's a faint loop of thread just above the very visible extra loop (which is probably a frayed edge). If you click on the photo, you can blow it up for a better view.

The next step is to fold the edge over to the back and start tacking the edge of the binding to the back, using a blind stitch. To keep the binding from slipping, I pin down at least six inches ahead of where I'm working. Then I'm ready for the blind stitch. I start with the thread coming out of the edge of the binding; I insert the needle into the quilt backing at the same spot, or a little bit underneath, and then angle the needle up until it comes out of the binding edge a little less than ¼-inch away. (I probably space about 5 or 6 stitches per every inch.) You can see in the photo how I angle the needle, so I end up with something similar to a whip stitch. You have to be careful, however, not to let the needle slip through to the front layer of the quilt, or you'll end up with some not-so-beautiful stitches showing through.

Corners are no major problem: you fold over the side you're working on, pin it, then fold over the second side. You'll have an angle you need to finish off, but you just blind stitch to the outside corner, then insert the needle in that same corner and maneuver it between the layers until it emerges on the inner corner, ready to start the blind stitch on the next side. You can see how it looks when it's finished: in this photo, the solid red corner is the front side of the quilt, and there are no bubbles or big folds in the corner. The red binding on the purple is how it looks on the back; there's a tiny overlap in the corner that you can't really see because I've tacked it down so solidly.

So there you go! A few relatively easy steps, and you get a nice and neat finished edge for your quilt. Putting the binding on is always one of my favorite parts of making a quilt: partly because I know I'm almost finished, but partly because I'm finally eliminating all the rough edges and seeing if the result matches what I envisioned.

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.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Photo of the Week--6/14/10

Although it was nice and sunny, Madrid in February is still a bit chilly. Perhaps that explains why neither Boy nor the pigeons were moving too fast ... because it couldn't be that Boy was tiring of performing his pigeon pursuits for posterity, could it? On the other hand, winter sun in Madrid still feels like sun, which is probably why there were so many pigeons there in the first place.