Putting on the binding is the last step in assembling a quilt. Quilt binding is a protective fabric covering that goes over the raw edge of the quilt sandwich. You can buy ready-made quilt binding, but I prefer to make my own binding from quilting fabric. It costs less, and you will find a much wider selection of fabric patterns and colors if you make your own.
Double fold binding, sometimes called French binding, covers the quilt’s edge with two layers of fabric. This makes it the binding of choice for any quilt that will be used regularly.
Three Ways to Cut Quilt Binding Strips
You can cut quilt binding in three different ways:
- Cross grain strips are cut across the width of the fabric from selvage to selvage.
- Lengthwise strips are cut along the length of the fabric, parallel to the selvages.
- Bias strips are cut diagonally across the fabric. For quilts with curved edges, you must use bias strips so the binding will bend around the curves. Cross grain and lengthwise grain strips are not flexible enough for curved edges.
This post shows you how to make binding from cross-cut fabric strips.
- Cotton quilting fabric
- Rotary cutter, cutting ruler and cutting mat
- Sewing machine
- Iron and ironing surface
Step-by-Step Cutting and Sewing Instructions
To be perfectly honest, I skip the calculations you’ll find in the first four steps below and just use the Quilter’s Little Helper app by Robert Kaufman Fabrics. It calculates how many strips you need to cut, based on the size of your quilt and how wide you want your binding strips to be. I highly recommend it. It’s free to download to your iPhone or Android device.
I’ve included the calculations, though, so you can use precisely the amount of fabric you need, without wastage or ending up with too little.
1. Decide How Wide to Make the Binding
The cutting width of your binding strips depends on how wide the finished binding will be. For quilts made without borders, the binding should be ¼” finished width, so the binding’s seam allowance doesn’t cover up the quilt blocks. Here’s the width to cut the strips for finished binding widths from ¼” to ¾”:
These widths are based on this formula:
(Finished binding width x 2 + ¼” seam allowance) x 2
2. Calculate How Long to Make the Binding Strip
Here’s an approximate formula to decide how long a strip of binding you will need to get all the way around the quilt:
(Quilt length in inches x 2) + (Quilt width in inches x 2) + 12”
The extra twelve inches of binding is an allowance for going around corners and attaching the ends of the binding.
3. Calculate How Many Fabric Strips to Cut
Divide the number of inches you got in Step 2 by 42 to get the number of fabric strips you will need for this quilt. 42 is the number of usable inches of fabric in a cross-cut fabric strip after the selvages are removed.
4. See How Much Binding Fabric You Will Need
Once you are armed with the number of strips you need, use this table to see how much yardage you need to cut that many strips of your chosen width.
5. Cut the Binding Strips
Use a rotary cutter and a cutting ruler to cut the fabric strips.
- Fold the fabric in half with wrong sides together and selvages aligned together.
- Fold again so the folded edge aligns with the selvages.
- Trim the edge of the fabric so the cutting edge is squared with the fold, then begin cutting strips. Cut from the folded edge to the selvage edges.
- Every few strips, check to make sure the cutting line is still square with the fold. Trim the edge again if it has gotten out of square.
This cutting method won’t work if your quilt has curved edges. To make binding that will bend around curves, you will need to cut the binding strips along the bias of the fabric.
6. Sew a Continuous Binding Strip
You need to sew the strips you’ve just cut into one long strip of binding that you will then sew all around the edge of the quilt. To do this, lay two strips in an L shape with right sides together, and then sew a diagonal line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner of the overlapping section:
Continue sewing until you’ve joined all the strips, then trim the seam allowances to ½”:
Pres the seams open so they look like this:
Fold the binding strip in half with wrong sides together and the cut edges aligned, and then press:
You will end up with a long strip of binding ready to sew onto the quilt. For easier handling on larger quilts, wind the binding strip into a roll like this.
I like to make a big roll of a binding fabric I like, then wait for a quilt to come along that matches the binding.