How to Bind a Quilt
Instructions for Making and Attaching Quilt Binding Perfectly
Finishing off the edges and corners is the all-important final step when completing any quilt. It might seem difficult but don't despair! Binding a quilt is easier than it looks.
I'll show you how to make and attach continuous binding strips for neatly mitered corners every time. You'll also learn how to make bias tape binding and cross-grain strips.
The binding is not only important for keeping the quilt together. It can also provide a visual tie-in or become a brightly colored accent piece. Don't shy away from gaudy prints or stripes — these fabrics have a charming effect when cut into narrow pieces.
Today, there are a ton of tools on the market for cutting even strips like ready-made packages, bias tape makers, and all types of gadgets and doodads. However, the method I use requires only the simplest sewing tools.
With these instructions you can make quilt binding in any width and from any fabric — from satin to seersucker. The method I'm showing you is called "continuous strip" because the binding is cut out in one, long spiraling piece.
I almost always make double-fold strips because it is the most durable and also the easiest type to make. There are several steps to learn, but once you have the order mastered, it will give you freedom to experiment with finishes in any width, color, or fabric. How awesome is that! Read on to learn how to bind your quilt.
Materials and Tools
To make binding you will need:
- 1 square piece of fabric
- Marking tool (tailors chalk or pencil)
- Cutting mat (optional)
- Rotary cutter (optional)
- Cardboard for storage (optional)
A lot of these tools are optional, but if you are willing to invest in some professional tools, they will make the process easier and they will come in handy for future projects.
How to Calculate Quilt Binding Length Requirements
To calculate the length of binding required, simply determine the perimeter by adding the short and long sides together and multiplying by two. Then, add 12 inches to compensate for the corners and ends.
Here are a few common sizes.
- One 36-inch square = 575 inches
- A 24-inch square = 240 inches
- An 18-inch square = 144 inches
Instructions for Making Continuous Strip Quilt Binding
1. Mark and measure a square piece of fabric by aligning the edges of the selvage and making a straight cut.
2. Then, fold the fabric in half from corner to corner, like a bandana.
3. Next, fold the tip of the square so it meets the mid-point of the hypotenuse.
4. The folded fabric should look like this.
5. Then, mark the fabric and cut along the line between the tip to the folded edges.
6. This cut creates two equal half-square triangles.
7. Pin and sew the triangles along one of the short, straight sides so the tips hang downward.
8. Next, pull the back tab to the front and guide the front tab to the back of the unit. These tabs will form your spiral seam.
9. Now, for the tricky part. Pin the front tab to the edge of the other triangle, beginning at the seam. Pin along the seam, which wraps around the back of the unit.
10. Leave a 2.5-inch offset to make 2.25-inch strips. This is the most important step. Always add .25 inches more than the desired width of your strips to compensate for the spiral seam allowance. (Don't ask how I know this.)
11. Once you have your spiraling tube, measure and mark parallel lines equal to the binding width (2.25 inches for example.) These lines should be at a slight angle, not straight up and down.
12. Continue marking the back of the unit, so the cutting lines wrap around and meet up.
Tip: When cutting the circular strips, I like to put my arm through the tube and gently lift and twist the fabric as I cut. This prevents me from accidentally sniping the second layer of fabric.
13. Once you have your strip, fold the fabric in half and iron to make your double-fold or French-fold strips. Wrap the fabric around a plastic sheet or a piece of cardboard to keep everything organized and tangle free.
There you have it! Continuous-strip double-fold bias tape binding that you can make in any fabric and any color.
Video Tutorial for Continuous Strip Quilt Binding
Check out my video tutorial to master this technique or see my instructions in action!
Other Types of Binding
Here you'll find instructions for making two other kinds of binding: cross-grain and bias tape. I like cross-grain strips for smaller projects and wall hangings. Bias tape is ideal for all projects, especially those with curved or scalloped edges.
How to Make Cross-Grain Binding
- Start with a half yard of fabric with the selvages on.
- Fold the fabric in half so that the selvages together.
- Make another fold if necessary to ensure that the fabric fits on your cutting mat.
- Going from the folded edge to the selvage edge, cut binding strips to the desired width. I like to use 2.25" strips.
- Cut off the selvage ends.
- Join multiple strips together and trim seam allowances.
- Take binding strips to your ironing board, fold in half and press.
How to Make Bias Tape Binding
1. Measure a cut a square of fabric that's at least 18 inches on a side.
2. Fold the square in half with two tips together.
3. Fold the square in quarters by folding opposite tips together.
4. Make your first cut along the folded edge. Note: Since the fabric is already doubled, your first cut will be half the width. All of the other cuts should equal the full width of your binding.
5. Join multiple strips together and trim seam allowances.
6. Take binding strips to your ironing board, fold in half and press.
Cross-Grain and Bias Tape Binding Video Tutorial
Learn how to cut and make bias and cross-grain strips in my quick video tutorial.
How confident are you with your quilt binding skills?
Other Binding Options: Joining Binding Strips
Sometimes you don't need a mile and a half of binding to complete your project and it's more practical to cut and join single strips.
- To do this, cut out a series of 2.25-inch strips or your desired width. Join the strips by overlapping the tails so they are perpendicular.
- Mark the diagonal line between the corners of the intersection, and stitch. Make sure your diagonal line goes in the right direction, otherwise your strips won't lay out flat. (Don't ask me how I know this.)
- Once your strips are joined, trim the excess fabric and press the seam open. If you're binding an oval, round, or curved project, use true bias strips to provide the give necessary to round the corners easily.
Binding Calculation Tips
Here is the formula for determining how much binding you can make with a given amount of fabric. Divide the width of your square by the desired width of the strips. Then, multiply that number by the width of the square.
- 44" square. Divided by 2" binding = 22 strips.
- 22 strips each 44" long = 968 inches or 26.8 yards of binding.
Attaching Your Quilt Binding
How to Make Mitered Corners
For me, attaching binding by machine is the most practical and durable method. To create a nice clean finish, I attach the binding strips to the back of the quilt first, pull the binding around to the front, and top stitch the edges.
- To do this, attach one side at a time, leaving a 6-inch tail at the beginning. If desired, pin the binding in place. Skip this step if you're comfortable.
- Stitch the binding in place using a 1/4 inch seam allowance and stopping 1/4 inch from the corner on a diagonal. I like to mark this spot this a pin.
- To make a clean mitered fold, bring the tail upward and create a 45-degree fold. Pin this fold in place.
- Then, bring the tail back down, aligning the binding with the edge of the quilt.
- Start sewing at the edge of the quilt, back stitch and continue sewing until you reach the next corner.
- Complete the process shown in the two preceding steps.
Tips for Creating a Perfect Finish and Connecting the Ends of Your Binding
Connecting the raw ends is one of the trickiest steps. This is the method that I use.
- Bring the two tails together to estimate the perfect meeting point.
- Bring the left-hand tail upward to form a slightly diagonal crease.
- At the same time, fold the left-hand tail downward, so it forms a crease parallel to the other folded edge.
- Press these creases or mark the folded edge if desired.
- Pinch the tails together, flatten down the fold. and use pins to keep the creases lined up.
- Stitch across the binding strip on the established crease or seam line.
- Use a small stitch to create a durable finish.
Tip: If you aren't comfortable with your seam placement, use a larger stitch. Smooth the binding down to check the length for extra bulk or tugging. Once your binding lays flat, sew over the seam again with a smaller 1.8 mm stitch.
Some people insist on sewing their binding by hand, while others prefer sewing by machine. If you'd like to hand-sew your binding, attach the strips to the front first and blind stitch the edge on the back.
If you're using a machine, sew the fabric on the back, bring the edge around the front, and topstitch down.
Topstitch Your Binding
Instructions for a Machine Finish: The Fold Over
Once your binding is attached to the back and your ends are joined, it's time to bring the binding to the front.
Pin down the edges, if desired, and crease the corners by folding the top edge down and creating a small 45-degree fold.
While maintaining the previous crease, fold the other corner back to create a neat miter.
Top stitch as close as possible to the edge of the binding. Sew all the way around the perimeter, taking extra care when stitching down the seam that joins the raw edges.
Now, your quilt is done! Enjoy and admire all of your hard work!
Quilt Binding Video Tutorial
In this video, I'll cover all the basics of attaching the strips to your quilt. This segment includes sewing by machine, folding perfectly mitered corners, joining the ends, folding the binding over, and finishing by machine or by hand.
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