Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Machine Binding Tutorial

I have been going to do this for awhile . . . wow . . . quite awhile . . . when I looked at the dates on the photos, these were all taken a about a year ago!
I know there are a lot of binding tutorials out and about online--some of this will be repetitious for all of you-- but this is how I bind 99% of my quilts.

That remaining 1% is when I happen to create a fleece binding  or horror of  horrors: I have to spend 8 hours hand stitching a binding!  I had to do that just last week and still have not recovered!

Thanks to Sarah over at Confessions of a Fabric Addict, I am inspired to finish this post that's been floating around my blog as a draft for months.  I am linking up to her Share Your Favorite Tutorial page.  I have already checked out some of the tutorial links. Of course I zeroed in on Missy's recipe for "Fudgy Brownie Cookies" first!  Imagine that~

Back to work....

The quickest way to sew your 2.5 inch binding strips together is to leave the ends square and lay the strips perpendicular to each other.  I could never see taking the time to cut diagonals, messing with pinning and sewing bias edges?  Not me, I like quick, easy and precise:
...sew from point to point

I applied a set of these little purple QTools Sewing edges on my machine base a few years ago.  I can't imagine sewing without them.

The left one gives me a guide so I know exactly where my needle is and the right one is set at a scant 1/4 inch.

With the guides in place, you can sew much faster and more accurately by watching the fabric feed 2-3 inches in front of your needle.


Using the guides, you will always come out exactly on the corner of the bottom strip (sorry it's a little dark)
Chain stitch all your strips together in this manner and then trim the excess corner triangles off at 1/4 inch.

After sewing it together, I only handle the binding once across the ironing board.

I lay it out on my ironing table, start pressing it in half, working my way down to the first seam, open it up, press and continue on pressing the entire strip in half . . .
 . . . working my way down the strip.  As I move it along, I let it drop into a basket...

When I am done, I move the basket over to the sewing machine.
By letting it fall into the basket from the ironing table, it doesn't twist and feeds perfectly onto your quilt . . .
 . . . and never touches the floor.

As you can see, I am attaching the binding to the back of the quilt.  I always attach to the back and then fold over to the front to top stitch.  Always.  (Well, except for that 1% I mentioned earlier.)
If your binding fabric seems to be pushing in front of your presser foot, you might need to lessen the tension on your presser foot or better yet, use a walking foot.  I have a walking foot attachment that I use on thicker quilts, and lots of newer machines have a built in walking foot. 
Before I get to the corner, I place a pin 1/4 inch from the end so I know where my last stitch should be.
When I get to that pin, I put the needle down, take out the pin, pivot the quilt and lift up the binding strip to peak under to make sure I am exact 1/4 inch from the left edge.
  Then I sew off the edge of the quilt.
When you make your corner fold, you want to make sure you don't forget to consider the thickness of the batting.  Your batting might be only 1/8 inch, but later, you are going to have to bring your binding strip back  over all your layers to miter the corner.  You will know if you didn't leave enough, or conversely: you folded to generously.
See how this fold sticks up just a tiny bit above the edge of the quilt?  This will give me enough fabric to make a nice mitered corner when I am done.  If your mitered corners are skewed and look like a dog ear, you left too much fabric in your fold.  If your mitered corners are tight and puckered you did not leave enough fabric to fold over the width of the batting.


Looking back, I can't believe I didn't take photos of how to make this corner fold, so this morning I threw a couple of scrap pieces together to demonstrate:

After you have sewn off the edge of the quilt, cut thread and bring the binding up . . .
. . . creating your first fold.
Make sure the binding and the quilt are lined up nice and straight.  (ruler is only for illustration purposes.) 
Then, fold binding down . . . 

. . . keeping binding flush with quilt edge. 
You also need to make sure folded edges of binding are lined up with each other squarely. 
Now, we are back at the machine with a nice square folded corner.  Start sewing at the upper edge again with a 1/4 seam and head down the next side of the quilt. Keep the folded binding edges (left) even and square and the raw edges of the binding and quilt (right) even and square.
I like to use gloves to help the quilt feed.  It makes a huge difference as your hand doesn't get tired from trying to hold tension on the quilt to keep it feeding through the machine.  I use gloves all the time.  Its like putting your hands in "4 wheel drive."  You don't have to buy expensive "sewing" gloves either.  These are a $3 pair of gardening gloves I got at the discount store about 5 years ago. 
When you get close to where you started, I like to leave about 12 inches unsewn. When I started attaching the binding, I left about an 8 inch tail.
Take your quilt to the ironing board and fold and press each opposing binding strip back on itself so they  meet snugly in the middle.
Fold each strip down and off the edge of the quilt.

Give this a little press with your iron too.
Cut the strips off right at the quilt edge.
At this point, I like to pin the gap in the quilt together with a large pin, this acts as a 3rd hand when I am trying to sew the strips together.
Open the strips and place them perpendicular, right sides together, just like you did when you were sewing all the binding strips together in the very beginning.
Following your fold lines, sew from the top to bottom. . . 

 . . . corner to corner.


Unpin the quilt and lay out the binding to check and make sure you have connected them accurately.
THEN and only then (ask me how I know!) trim the corner triangle at 1/4 inch.
Press open.
Press your binding at your new junction and finish sewing the closed binding onto the quilt.
At this point, I like fold back the binding and take the tip of my iron and run it lightly down the ditch. Ignore the folded binding corners, you don't want to shove them around with your iron.
For clarification this little quilt had an outer border that matched the backing.

I fold the binding to the front of the quilt matching the folded edge exactly on top of the seam-line where it was sewn to the back
This is the front of the quilt.
I line up the left interior edge of my presser foot with this fold and move my needle over one notch to the right.  This makes your top stitching exactly one stitch inside the edge of the binding seam on the quilt back. Thus, making the binding on the back look top-stitched also!
Here we go...
I like to keep my seam ripper flat on the binding to guide it smoothly, keeping the folded edge on top of the stitching line all while keeping my eye on the left interior edge of the presser foot where is is touching the fold.

As I approach the first corner, I stop and turn the horizontal edge up and line it up exactly on the seam line.

Make sure you completely fold out the corner (horizontally) nice and flat.  See where I am holding the corner out with the seam ripper?
Then fold the vertical edge over the top.

Always fold in this order.

Why?  By design, the reverse side was sewn with the folds the opposite way. This makes the miter corner less bulky.

This should be the rule even if you used the conventional binding method: sewing the binding to the front and hand stitching to the back.
When you get to the corner put one stitch into the horizontal fold and stop with the needle down
When you pivot the quilt, you are in perfect alignment to head down the other side of your quilt.


Here is the corner I just stitched . . . 
 . . . and here is the back side of the same corner.

When the entire quilt binding is stitched down, I always hand stitch the mitered corners closed.

Make a tidy little knot and bring your needle down through the center of the miter fold--hiding the knot.
After you pull this through and snug, I like to use a ladder stitch weaving the needle in between the two layers.
One pass with the needle and this side is sewn, I push the needle through the miter point to the other side and repeat the ladder stitch going down from the tip of the miter point down to the seam.  Knot and bury your thread tail.
In seconds, it is sewn shut--secure and invisible.

Each machine is different and each 1/4 presser foot is a bit different, but if you experiment, as I did, you will no doubt find that "sweet spot" to make this basic method work if you want to machine bind your quilts.

The overall trick to tidy machine quilt binding is total accuracy in each step.

Did you notice that I only used one pin for the entire process?

I have to say that it took some practice and a lot of unpicking of wobbly seam lines, but practice long enough and you will find it can turn an 8 hour binding job into one hour and one pin!

11 comments:

Nancy said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I've bookmarked it.

Debbie said...

I learned a new trick! Thank you.

Sheila said...

This is a most excellent tutorial. Good pictures, well written, clear instructions .
I pull my binding to the front also. Well 99% of the time.
I have issues with the corners sometimes and sewing the binding together to finish. I should be about to improve in both those areas now. Thank you so much.

Cindy said...

Great tutorial Ann. My mom normally does my binding but with her under the weather, I guess I better learn to do my own binding. I'm going to give it a try on my next quilt. Thanks!

Kath Garvey said...

Thank you for a great very clear and easy to understand tutorial. I have used this method, but you have shown me somethings that I know will improve my binding.

Debbi said...

I have struggled with how to mitre corners since I started quilting 5 years ago. I have DVD's, have watched youtube videos, you name it. This tutorial is the easiest method I have ever seen. GREAT pictures and instructions! Very clear and easy to understand. Thank You and you now have a new follower as well. If this was easy, I can't wait to see other projects you do!

Amanda said...

Thanks for posting this! I just used it and it was great.

Heather M said...

Thank you for the awesome tutorial! I have always hand bound my quilts, but I started having problems when I sew by hand (my whole arm/hand falls asleep). I'm so glad to finally be able to do it all by machine!!!

Loris said...

Nice tutorial! I'm going to try this :-)

LRD said...

Excellent tutorial! Well done.

BunkHouseQuilts said...

Thanks to all the "no reply" comments. Regretably, I can't email them a personal reply.

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