I know many people love to sew by hand, but I am not one of those people. I’ve noticed that my sewing machine is faster, more accurate, and, with all of its clever decorative stitches, more inventive than my fingers. It’s machine quilting all the way for me, baby! That’s why I was so pleased when I stumbled on this clever way of attaching quilt binding to the body of the quilt entirely by machine.
Most of us are taught to bind a quilt by machine-sewing the binding to the front side of the quilt sandwich, then folding the binding to the back and whip-stitching it down by hand. On a large quilt, this method can take quite a lot of time. And who has that kind of time?
To Machine Bind a Quilt, Just Sew the Binding to the Quilt’s Back Side
Make just one little change in this technique, and you can bind a quilt without any hand sewing at all. Instead of sewing the binding to the front of the quilt sandwich, stitch it to the back side instead. Then you fold the binding from the back to the front and use your sewing machine to stitch it down on the front side with a blanket stitch, a satin stitch, or one of the decorative stitches that imitates hand quilting. The end result looks great, and it takes a lot less time than hand sewing.
Here’s how to use the back-to-front method of binding a quilt:
1. Decide How Wide to Make the Binding
If your quilt is made of blocks without borders or has a pieced border, use a narrow ¼” finished binding width. A 1/4″ binding will just cover the ¼” seam allowance built into the blocks. This leaves the whole block visible, while a wider binding would cover up some of the block.
If your quilt doesn’t have pieced sections in its borders, I’d recommend using a wider binding strip. Wider binding is easier to work with and more forgiving of mistakes. I also like the contrast a wider binding gives to the quilt. If you want to use a decorative stitch to secure the binding, it’s definitely easier to go wider. It can be hard to fit a decorative stitch onto a narrow strip of binding.
These widths are based on this formula:
(Finished binding width x 2 + ¼” seam allowance) x 2
2. Cut and Sew a Continuous Binding Strip
Click here for a photo tutorial on making continuous quilt binding. When you are finished, you should have a binding strip that looks more or less like this:
3. Sew the Binding to the Back Side of the Quilt
- First, trim off extra batting and backing and square up the quilt, if needed.
- Lay the binding strip on the outside edge of the quilt’s back side, aligning its raw edges with the quilt edge. Start in an inconspicuous place on the side or bottom of the quilt. Leave a tail of about six inches at the beginning.
- Stitch the binding to the quilt, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Use a 1/4″ quilting foot and a seam guide if you have one. Start sewing at about the six-inch mark, leaving the tail at the beginning unstitched for now.
- Whenever you reach a corner, stop stitching 1/4″ from the corner. With the needle down, turn the quilt 90 degrees and back stitch off the quilt’s edge. Your stitches should look like this:
- Fold the binding up, then down again to make a fold that looks like this:
- This will make a mitered corner when you fold the binding to the front of the quilt in the next step.
- Keep sewing around the quilt, following the steps above at each corner. When you get back to the beginning, attach the tails of the binding together and sew them down. I cheat by inserting the tail end of the binding inside the starting end, aligning the joined ends with the edge of the quilt, and stitching them down. There are more elegant ways to join the tail ends, but they are also much more of a fuss, so I usually just take the shortcut.
4. Fold the Binding to the Front
- Take the quilt to your ironing board and lay it down with the back of the quilt facing up. Press the binding away from the quilt:
- Then fold the binding to the front of the quilt.
5. Create Mitered Corners and Pin Binding in Place
- Pick one corner of the quilt and fold the binding into a mitered corner, then pin the miter in place: Make sure the top fold points in the same direction as your sewing direction.
- Pin the binding to the front of the quilt along one side, making sure to maintain a consistent binding width. You can pin all along the side or use just a few pins and move them as you sew. I also often use the red Wonder clips from Clover, although I stick with pins for the corner itself, because they hold the corner together more tightly than the clips do.
6. Sew the Binding to the Quilt’s Front Side
- Start at the corner you pinned and use your sewing machine to sew the edge of the binding to the front of the quilt. I try to catch the mitered fold so I secure it with my first stitches. When you get close to the next corner, a corner, fold the binding into another mitered corner and pin or clip in place.
I like to use my sewing machine’s decorative stitches for this step. This stitch that imitates hand quilting is my favorite. With the binding in place, the quilt is all finished except for trimming stray threads and adding a quilt label.
Post photo by Gina Pina, Flickr.com.