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Binding Your Quilt – Mama Lisa Monday

Binding Your Quilt – Mama Lisa Monday

Thank you so much for sharing!

Mama Lisa is here today to talk about binding your quilt!  There are several ways to do this so I thought I would have her share her insights.  Take it away Mom!

favorite quilting tools

Binding Your Quilt

When I first started quilting, it was for a children’s charity where we used the turned pillowcase method to finish the edge of their quilts.  When it came time to binding other quilts, I had no clue how to do a traditional binding. So, I did what we all do now days… went to the internet! I watched videos, read blogs, read various descriptions and tried a variety of methods only to find out that there was no one easy all inclusive you must do it this way to have perfect bindings kind of answer!

What’s more is that every fellow quilter I knew told me different tips and methods that worked for them that I was more overwhelmed and confused than ever.

So, I dug in and started making bindings and trying different methods, tools, tips and tricks until I found what works really well for me, my machine and my quilting life. Starting with what I found to be the most common steps and then trying different tips from that foundation. You may find yourself on a similar journey and I hope these posts will help with some tips you find useful.

Game Plan

This will be split into two posts in order to cover it thoroughly and provide as many tips as I can and hopefully some pictures and links along the way to help “see” what I’m talking about. There are numerous types of binding and this will only cover the ones I use that I know many quilters also use for the majority of quilts.

Your quilt is all quilted and trimmed and ready for you to add the binding, now what? While there are a variety of methods for binding a quilt, they all serve the same purpose, to close in the edges of the quilt sandwich, to keep it from fraying, make it more durable, and creating a pleasing finish to the quilt. So, ideally the edge of the quilt that has been trimmed straight and square is at least ¼” wide from what would be the finished edge of the blocks or motifs including points to the raw edge of the quilt.

Some trim leaving an 1/8” or wider beyond the ¼” to “fill” the binding more or you can adjust the width of your strips so that it feels fuller.  Straight grain binding uses strips of fabric cut on the straight grain vs. the bias.

Bias vs Straight Grain Binding


Bias binding is really needed for finishing a project that has a curved edge but most quilts have straight edges, so we will cover the straight grain binding. This type of binding uses strips of fabric cut selvedge to selvedge across the width of the fabric however, they can be cut from the portion that is trimmed off or any other length of fabric as long as it is on the straight of the grain and not across the grain where you would get the stretch of the bias. Fabric strips can be cut from 2 inches up to 3 inches wide depending on how you want the finished edge to look however the most common is 2 ½” strips and is what I use on a regular basis.

width of binding

This pic was a trimmed piece of backing fabric, so I cut a straight edge, lined that straight edge on the 2 ½” mark and trimmed the right edge of the fabric so it was a straight 2 ½’ strip.

How Long to Make your Binding Strip

To determine how much binding you need, measure each edge of the quilt and add them together and then add about 12 to 15 more inches for your joining seams, corners and to join the ends. Example: quilt is 42” x 50”, 42+50+42+50=184 + 15 = 199 total inches of binding. The most common is to use yardage or pre-cut strips which is 42 inches wide. So, we take the total number of inches needed (199) and divide it by 42 as the width of the fabric. If your fabric is not 42” wide, then adjust that number for your width. This results as 4.74 which is the number of 2 ½” strips needed to make 199 total inches of binding.

For this example, I would cut 5 strips at 2 ½” of 42” wide fabric or use whatever strips I have and measure each one, add them together and ensure I have at least 200” of binding..

Straight join vs Mitered (Bias) Join

Joining the strips together can be straight across like a standard seam but this creates a bulge or bump in the binding so I prefer to use the mitered join which reduces bulk and is not as noticeable. To do this join, you take the first strip and place it right side facing up then take the second strip and place it perpendicular right side facing down making a right angle with right sides of fabric together.

layout bias join
Now draw a line from upper left corner where the fabric meets to the lower right corner.

Place the upper left corner where the line begins snug up to your needle and sew on the line stopping just a stitch after the end of the line at the corner.

No need to cut thread, take the tail end of the strip you just sewed making sure it is not twisted and place it right side facing up add the next strip and repeat the process sewing one after the other in a string piecing method.

string piece binding

Once all the strips are joined, cut the strings apart and trim the mitered seams to ¼” and iron or finger press them open.

Next step is to iron the strip in half WRONG sides together being sure to keep your edges aligned as much as possible and not stretch or pull the fabric. I place my binding across my ironing board with the length on the left side of the board and the beginning end on the right side of the board.

Then press the section on my board, then stop and pull that length to the right, press the next section and repeat until the entire length of the binding has gone from left to right of my board.

Test Binding Length

Before we attach the binding to the quilt, I test out how it will fit by “walking” the binding around the quilt. To do this, I start by pinning my binding to the edge of the quilt on the right side about the middle of the quilt and leaving about a 12-15” tail. Align the edge of the binding to the edge of the quilt and guide it down to the corner, fold the corner as shown and then firmly guide the binding walking it along the edge to the next corner and repeat until you get back to the pin where you should have some tail length of binding.

This ensures you have enough binding to go all the way around the quilt and if any of your mitered joins/seams happen to fall across a corner, you need to adjust your starting point accordingly to move that seam so that it will lay on a side of the quilt and not at a corner.

Attach Binding to Quilt

Now it’s time to attach the binding strip to the edge of the quilt… but which side of the quilt? Well that depends how you will finish the quilt. There are probably more ways than I am going to describe but I’ve tried 3 and will explain them and tell you which one I use.
First way and one I try to use as often as I can is to machine stitch to the front of the quilt and use a hand blind stitch to secure the binding to the back of the quilt. The hand stitching is a bit more time consuming but it makes for a different look, a bit puffier, more handmade, more traditional and classic. It’s meditative to spend the time with needle and thread, to think about the recipient, pray for them but it does take more time.

The second method is to machine stitch both sides of the binding to the quilt. If you stitch the binding first to the front of the quilt and then turn to the back and machine stitch it down from the front, it takes practice to stitch in the ditch right next to the binding and catch the binding on the back evenly when you can’t see it.

Machine Binding

Another way to machine stitch both sides is to sew the binding to the back of the quilt first and then flip to the front and machine stitch very close to the edge of the binding. It will have a line of stitching on the back of the quilt very close to the binding but I find this method easier and the extra line of stitching on the back doesn’t bother me. I use a matching bobbin thread to the backing of the quilt so that it blends in and is less noticeable. This machine method is quick and very durable. It has taken practice but now I use this method for all the charity quilts and any others that I need to finish quickly.

My next post will be step by step how to do this type of machine binding.

From my quilting heart to yours!
Mama Lisa…

Thanks Mom!  Stay tuned for part 2 where Mama Lisa will take us through her machine binding method.  I hope you enjoyed this super informative post about binding your quilt!

Want some more from Mama Lisa? Here are her piecing tips!