How to Bind a Quilt — The Secret to Perfect Corners!

Binding a quilt can be hit-or miss…at least it was for me.  I seemed to get “lucky” on 3 corners–the binding would fold over beautifully and make the perfect miter–except for one!  No matter how hard I tried, I would ultimately have to “unsew” (rip out) at least one of the corners to re-do it correctly.

…until I discovered a secret!  (thanks to Mary & Marianne Fons)

HOW TO BIND YOUR QUILT

I start by trimming the backing and batting to match the pieced top.

I like to use a large square ruler to square up the corners and a straight ruler in between.  If I have a border on my quilt, I use it to keep the size as even as possible by measuring from the seam to the edge.  For example, the narrow white border on my Bungle Jungle quilt measured 1-3/4″ from the seam to the edge–so I used that measurement to trim the quilt all the way around.

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As long as your quilt has straight edges–and almost all of mine do–there’s no need to cut bias binding.  Bias is only needed to go around curves.  Instead, cut strips on the straight of grain from selvage to selvage (width of fabric–WOF).  I cut most of my quilt bindings 2-1/2″ wide.  When I’m finished, the binding ends up to be about 1/2″.  If you want them narrower, you can cut the strips a bit narrower…2-1/4″, but I wouldn’t cut them smaller than 2″.  When making your decision, take into consideration the thickness of your batting. I like to use a low-loft (thin) batting like Hobbs Heirloom 80/20 cotton.  So 2-1/4 to 2-1/2″ strips work best for me.

HINT:  You can guesstimate the size of the finished binding by starting with the width of your cut strip (2-1/2″)  subtract 1/2″ for two quarter-inch seams (2″) and divide that number by 4 because we’ll fold it twice (equals 1/2″).

How many strips do you need?  Simple.  Just measure the perimeter of your quilt, divide the number by 40 (the width of the fabric less a little wiggle room), and that will tell you how many strips you need.  Then multiply the number of strips by the width you’re cutting to figure out how much fabric to buy.

For example, my quilt is 38 x 44″

38 + 38 + 44 + 44 = 164″

Divide 164 by 40 = 4.1 strips–round up to 5 strips

5 strips x 2-1/2″ width = 12-1/2″ of fabric (a little over 1/3 of a yard).

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After they’re cut, you’ll need to join the strips together into one long strip.

Put two edges right sides together at a 45 degree angle (see photo below)…

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And sew diagonally from where they intersect at the top, to where they intersect at the bottom…

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Then trim and press the seam open…

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At the ironing board, press the long strip in half, wrong sides together…

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Pin the strip with the raw edges to the raw edges of the quilt top.  I like to start sewing somewhere towards the middle of the quilt…be sure to leave an unattached “tail” roughly 6-8″ long.

Bindingsew1

HINT:  I like to do a “dry run” –roughly go around the entire quilt with the binding to (1) be sure I there’s enough binding and I figured correctly, and (2) to I don’t want an area that I joined together in the binding to end up at a corner–it’s too “bulky”.

Then start sewing, using your walking foot and a quarter-inch seam allowance…

Bindingsew2

SEWING THE CORNERS

Continue sewing along the edge until you get to the end of one edge–the corner.  Stop sewing one-quarter inch from the end…and take the quilt out of the machine…I like to clip my threads too.

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Then, on a flat surface, turn the quilt counter clockwise so the next edge is facing the way it should be when you being sewing again…and pull the free end of the binding strip straight up so it’s in line with the next edge…

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Now–here’s the secret!  Use anything you have that has a 45 degree angle.  It can be an old credit card, a ruler, some card stock–it doesn’t matter as long as it has a nice crisp 45 degree angled edge.  I just happened to have a ruler handy.  Line the top and right side with the corner of your quilt.

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Holding the ruler(card/whatever you use) firmly, fold the binding strip straight down and line it up with the edge of the quilt…

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Slip the ruler (card/whatever) out & pin it to hold it in place…

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Put it back under the pressure foot of your machine and start sewing (starting at the very top edge), continuing down the edge of the quilt until you get to the next corner–then repeat the process.

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Do this at every corner, and when you’re done they’ll look like this…

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And fold over to the back nicely…

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So you’ll be ready to hand sew them

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with a beautiful mitered corner every time!

WHAT TO DO AT THE END OF YOUR BINDING

I like to use a little plastic tool I purchased by Fons & Porter (we love our tools!)…you can purchase it from JoAnn Fabrics (be sure to use a 40% off coupon!), or from several sources online.

When you’ve sewn the binding to all four sides of the quilt, and you’re almost to where you began–stop sewing about 8-12 inches…

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Cut the beginning binding (on your right in the photo) to half the length of the bare area in between the two bindings…

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Using the tool, just line it up with the left cut edge of the beginning binding that you just cut…

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Then put your binding end (the one on the left) over the tool and cut it at the mark that measures the same as your cut binding.  My binding was 2-1/2″ wide, so I cut it at the 2-1/2 inch line.

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Then just match the cut edges, right sides together at a 45 degree angle

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And sew from corner to corner (like the way we joined our binding pieces together)…

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And after the seam is trimmed and finger-pressed open…you can lay it back on the quilt and it will fit perfectly, and you can continue to sew across and finish the binding.

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All that’s left is to fold the binding to the back, just covering the seam, and hand sew into place.

I love to use these little clips to hold the binding as I hand sew it to the back…

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And you’re done!  Easy-peasy!

Happy Quilting!

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