If there is a “right” way to bind a quilt, it is most likely the one described in Heather Bailey’s well-written tutorial: machine stitch a double-fold binding to the front of a quilt, and then hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt, complete with mitered corners. The binding can be cut cross grain or on the bias; this method of binding seems to get the most precise results for the largest number of people.
I don’t think that there is a “wrong” way to finish a quilt, however. Sometimes, I don’t have
(or want to spend) the time to hand stitch the binding. A few weeks ago, I “taught” part 1 of a beginning quilting class and we plan to use the flip & turn method often used for placemats to finish our charity quilts. I made napkins recently that appear from one side to be bound (but aren’t), using this tutorial from the Purl Bee. [Making 12 of these napkins improved my machine binding skills more than anything else. Practics, practice, practice!]
There are multiple ways to bind the quilt entirely by machine, and I think I have tried them all: sewing the binding down on the front of the quilt first, and then the back; using a bias-tape method where you sew down the front and back at once (not my best binding work, but I loved the quilt), using a zig zag stitch–the list goes on and on. I thought I would share a tutorial showing how I machine bind my quilts–machine binding takes time, practice and patience, at least for me, to get the desired result. I still bind some of my quilts by hand, but for most of them, especially quilts I am donating, this is my binding method of choice.
[Note: if you are looking for a tutorial to help you sandwich the top, batting, and back together, this one by Elizabeth of Oh, Frannson is a great one! If you are looking for general instructions, Amy Smart of Diary of a Quilter's series "How to Make a Quilt from Start to Finish" is excellent.)
Step 1: Making continuous binding
A. Cutting Strips: I cut my strips 2.25 inches wide. Usually, I just cut strips until I think I have enough, lay them out on my quilt, and cut more if I need to. Precise, eh? [Instead, you can measure the height and width of your quilt, multiply it by two, and then add any number of inches between, say 12 & 20, to get the desired result]. I almost always include a splice of color somewhere in the binding, or use several fabrics of the same hue, or both–it helps the quilt feel less predictable to me.
B. Joining Strips: Place strip A and strip B with the ends right sides together in a 90 degree angle. Sew strips together diagonally (from top-left to bottom-right). Repeat with remaining strips. Iron seams open, and trim to 1/4 inch seam allowance. Fold binding in half and press.
C. Double Check Your Binding: Lay binding around edge of quilt; make sure that the binding is long enough. Equally important: make sure that none of your seams are within a few inches of the corner. Trust me, it is not fun to miter a corner on a seam.
Step 2: Attaching Binding to the Back of Quilt
Because I care more about what my binding stitches look like on the front of the quilt than the back, I sew the binding to the back of the quilt first. Then, I iron and fold it over to the front. Finally, I pin and stitch along the edge of the binding on the front of the quilt.
A. Stitch binding to back of the quilt: Lay the unfinished edge of the binding against the edge of the BACK of your quilt (I usually start 2/3 the way down on one of the sides of the quilt). Measure 8-12 inches from the start of the binding, and start your stitching at this point. Stitch the binding to the quilt back 1/4 inch from the edge. I use a 1/4 inch foot, I know lots of quilters prefer a walking foot.
When you are 1/4 inch from the corner, stop stitching. Rotate the quilt 90 degrees, and stitch off the side of the quilt.
B. Making Mitered Corners: Turn your quilt so the already sewn binding is at the top of the quilt. Fold binding up 90 degrees. Press and pin.
Repeat for the remaining 3 corners and sides. On the last side, stop stitching 6 inches from the start of the binding, backstitch. You will have a six inch or so space on the quilt where binding is not attached, and should have two “tails” of fabric, which you will now join.
C. Joining Binding: Align the binding against the edge of the quilt. Fold binding edges so that they meet in the middle and press (see picture below).
Open up the binding and re-press crease. Place right sides together (important!), pin on both sides of the crease, and sew a 1/4 inch seam. Press open.
I usually place the binding against the quilt back to make sure it fits snugly. If it is too loose, then sew a larger seam allowance. When it fits well, trim the seam allowance, and sew the remaining binding to the quilt, making sure to back stitch.
Step 3: Stitch Binding To Front of Quilt
A. Press the Binding: I usually use a thread that matches my binding, and a bobbin that matches the back. Press binding from back to front of quilt–if it is helpful, use a ruler to make sure you are folding the binding over evenly. I also press my corners, first on the back of the quilt, and then the front, fiddling with them if I need to.
B. Sew Binding to Quilt! Starting at one of the corners, fold down both edges of the corner, and pin (I use alligator hair clips) along the edge. Start stitching on the corner–if your machine will let you stitch in place, do it here. If not, you can do a small back stitch or bury your knots at the end.
Stitch along the pinned edge. When you get close to the corner, fold down both edges and pin. Pivot your quilt (needle down) at the corner and repeat with remaining sides and corners. When you get to the very last corner, do another stay stitch, and celebrate! You will notice that my stitches aren’t perfect, but I’m happy with the result.
Finally, here are the binding tutorials I have bookmarked over the past few years–everyone does things a little bit differently; hopefully one of the methods will work for you!
Binding Tutorial by Amanda Jean of Crazy Mom Quilts
Fast Machine Quilt Binding 101 by Amy from Diary of a Quilter
Machine Binding by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts
Machine Binding Tutorial by Nettie of A Quilt Is Nice
Pat Sloan’s Machine Binding Tutorial (blanket stitch)
Single Fold Binding by Kerry of Very Kerry Berry