Binding a Quilt by Machine

binding by machine

Rob demonstrates how to finish a quilt with machine binding done a home sewing machine. Learn how to make your own binding strips with mitered corners and attach it to a quilt. See several options for machine binding that make use of the binding tool, a lapel stick, wonder clips, and Steam-a-Seam 2.

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Video Transcript (Downloadable PDF here) : 

I have made over a hundred quilts in my lifetime and I have done the binding both start and finish by machine on every single one of them. So I am proud to admit I am slowly getting better and better at my technique. So today I want to really focus on a bunch of different machine binding techniques. A lot of this could actually also be done by hand. I’ve got a bunch of fun things to show you. Let’s get started.

Now before I can walk you through putting the binding on the quilt let’s make some binding. I have done this, like I said, the same way over and over for years. I always start straight of grain so cut with the grain of the fabric, 2 ½ inches wide. And I am now learning to miter my corners so when I’m mitering, excuse me we’ll do mitered corners in a second too. Mitering my binding together or putting the, the binding together on the bias. So one of my 2 ½ inch strips I’m going to take and I’m going to fold the corner here. Let me make sure I show you what I’m doing first. These will be sewn right sides together. And I’ve chosen a fabric today that really shows the wrong and the right sides. And eventually I’m going to be sewing from this top corner down to this bottom corner. And I feel pretty comfortable doing that kind of by eye. But if you’re not comfortable I’m going to teach you to prepare the corner first with your iron so you have a stitch line. And I just lay it out on the binding itself first so I know which direction we’re going. Ok, so it’s always the top corner down to the bottom corner. That becomes my top stitch line basically. As you can see here it’s going to lay in. And I’m coming over to the sewing machine. I have it prepared for a quarter inch seam allowance but I’m not worried about the quarter inch because I’m going to trim the quarter inch into the seam as I finish here. So I want to make sure this is nice and clean. The more square we start the better off we are going to be. And I’m putting the needle right in that crease I created with my iron. As you finish this off you’re going to prepare to trim. Now if you’ve never done this before I strongly recommend you make sure you’ve gotten it correct. So I’m going to open it up and make sure that my binding is correct like that. And then I’m going to come back and I’m going to use my ruler to keep my hands safe. And I’m giving myself basically a quarter inch seam allowance. Setting those aside for later.

And now we are basically ready to go ahead and prepare the binding. The binding will be put onto the quilt, as you see here, starting from the back side. And this particular project was one of my little doodle samples. So I’m calling it the black side. And you’ll remember that as the back side, right? And you can see it’s finished on all sides as we stitch in the raw edges together. So when I prepare my binding I’m going to prepare this with the iron by folding it wrong sides together, right sides out on both sides. And then I’m going to set it with my iron. And I just kind of slide it down. Now in figuring out how much binding you need you’re going to measure the perimeter of your quilt. Most fabrics are 44 inches long. I used the number 40 as my average length so that I’m having that little bit of extra so my bias joining of my binding strips, right? So if I had a quilt that was 40 inches by 40 inches by 40 inches by 40 inches, I would want at least four strips. I might even want a 5th strip just in case because of the overlap. So think about your perimeter, figure out how much binding you need. And make one long continuous strip of that binding. As you’re pressing it along, I like to take and roll it up as I go so that it stays off of the floor. I have a tendency to try to step on the binding when I’m stepping on the gas pedal for the machine. So I want it tidy and out of the way of the floor. So I’m going to do that with my binding as I get ready to stitch it on to the quilt project.

Now let me tell you what I’ve done to prepare it because I’m going to use the wonderful binding tool. I love this thing, to help me join final seams together of the actual binding as I’m putting it onto the quilt. And the instructions on this ask us to leave an opening that is 12 inches. So if you look closely, if I stopped moving it you could look closely of course. And what I’ve got here is I’ve got one pin where I started and it’s exactly 12 inches to the next pin. I got caffeinated today so I started sewing before we started rolling cameras. And I am ready to finish the mitering of the last corner. But I just want to point out, and with a quarter inch seam allowance and by doing this quarter inch you want to keep accurate. I have stitched all the way around with my mitering of my corners. All three. And I’m coming into the fourth corner and that’s where you’re going to join along for this finish.

Ok so we’re working from the back side. We’re going to finish on the front side of this. And the key, if you’ve never done a mitered corner for your binding, is that you want to sew until you’re a quarter inch from this outside edge. A quarter inch from the end. I backstitched so that when I’m monkeying around I don’t undo my seams. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to fold uphill first. Then we’re going to come back down and we’re going to fold downhill. And there’s two things that I’m really looking for to make sure I’m staying really nice and mitered. This edge lining up and as I fold this down the edge of the binding itself off laying on top. That’s going to make a really nice clean binding. Now when I come in I’m going to start basically at the quarter of an inch in mark. So as we’re going to the presser foot I’m going to hold this nice and secure. And I’m going to finish that off with that quarter inch seam allowance down to that second pin we’ve set and then I’ll show you how to use your binding tool to join your binding on the bias while on the quilt. So I’m a quarter of an inch from the very back end here. And I’m going to take a few stitches in again I’m going to backstitch but I’m not going all the way off the quilt. I’m just backstitching to where I started. And now I’m going to sew down to where that pin is. That pin is the end point of my 12 inch that I leave open. And I’ll backstitch there as well. Got it perfect. Ok. Now let’s get this needle up and out of the way. Bring these over here. And now what I would like to do is remove the pins and talk about this binding tool. Starting on the one side over there.  

Ok, as we’re getting ready to use our binding tool. And remember if you need any of the supplies there’s a wonderful link in the description below you can click on that and get everything you need here. The key to this tool is we’re going to use it to cut both sides of our binding. I have a 12 inch opening I’ve left here. And there’s a printed side with the instructions right on the tool. So we always want to make sure we can read this even if it’s slightly upside down. So I take my first end and I’m butting it up to that seam where I started. And then I’m opening up my fabric. And I am using a sharpie because I’m working on the interior. And I’m going to go ahead and make a line right where that black line is, the black line right there on my marking tool. Now I’ve gotten in the habit of cutting as soon as I’ve marked so that I don’t have to try to remember which side was which. So let me bring that in a little bit better spot for you to see. And now what I’m going to do is I’m going to lay the blunt end right there. And what I’m thinking to myself right now as I’m cutting this is that this bottom edge is my longest edge. That’s going to make sense here in a second. Ok, I’m going to slide this back in. If you remember  I had this set just like this and I marked it. So now I’m going to rotate this around like this. So I didn’t flip it I just rotated it. And I’m marking using the same line on the interior. But I used to do an awful lot of construction so I talk about long points and short points and those kinds of things. And I want to make sure I get them right. So think about it, if this line comes over here I’m going to make a little sketch that shows me that line needs to go in that direction. And that way because if I cut this incorrectly I’m going to be disappointed. I’m going to have to add it back on. Now as I come down here I’m going to bring this up and you’ll notice I’m cutting it following kind of that sketch I made. Sorry about the arm in the way there. It’s a little bit upside down for me the way that I have this set up at the moment. And the cool thing about the binding tool is it also includes the little flat edge that will help us line up our bindings when we come back together.

So now I’m grabbing my bindings and I’m making sure they’re right sides together. And I still need to join this seam and it will basically be that quarter inch seam allowance. So I kind of wrestle with the quilt and binding as I head myself towards my sewing machine. But then as I get ready to drop the presser foot and the needle I make sure everything is nice and organized again using those flat edges to really line it up. And that is all you need to know about the binding tool. Oop still struggling a bit. And then we’ll finish putting this on the back side of the quilt with the quarter inch seam allowance. Now I’ll stop talking so we can get it right. Ok, here we go. Make sure I’ve got the end captured so I backstitch. And I just love the way this works out each and every time. It’s just fantastic. So what’s going to happen here as I pull it, you can see that I’ve got a beautiful bias there. It lays nice and flat. A lot of times folks will take the time to press that. You can even press that right on your quilt if you like because your quilt makes a really nice ironing surface. Be careful if you have a cutting mat below, you don’t want to iron your cutting mat. And now we just need to finish fastening the binding to the back side of the quilt. So I’m going back to where we left off when we had that pin up there. And away we go. And I’m coming into where I was sewing before I’m locking that stitch in. This machine has got a thread cutter. So I’m going to cut the thread. And now what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about some of the alternative ways that you can finish this.

So what I want you thinking real quick is remember, this was the back side. We’re going to take this and roll it to the front side of the quilt. And then I’m going to bring it around. And at this point is where all of the options can start for you. So some of you may be hand quilters. And if you’re a hand quilter you would have done this the opposite. You would have started on the front side. You would have brought the binding to the back and you would have secured it and you would have hand stitched it. Now some of us struggle with securing it and keeping it all tidy and organized. So one of the cool things you can use is a lapel stick. This is just a real easy nice fabric adhesive. And you could technically take your lapel stick, and do put it on the binding not on the quilt. And you can even give yourself a little edge and you can still hand needle through the lapel stick very easily. So you could roll this around and you could tack it in place. Now it might take a while for it to set up so what you might want to use is some of your really cool, these little red quilter’s clips, right? So the quilter’s clips as you roll that around, where’s that gluey spot? There it is. You roll that around you can clip it and then you could come down a ways and you could clip it. And that’s going to keep it all organized as you’re ready to hand sew. Now anyone who’s been in a quilt meeting and seen your neighbor with a quilt in their lap, they have these wonderful little metal clips, I think they used to be used for barrettes, I’m not sure. But I did have a ponytail at one time. These, a lot of the hand sewers that don’t like to use glue, love because you can snap these things on around your quilt capturing your binding, capturing the front side of your quilt and the inside of your quilt. And you can lay these around. And I usually see folks space these out. And notice I didn’t say I do it because I don’t hand anything. Some of us think hand is a four-letter word. And they do it about every, I don’t know, five to six inches apart. And I’ve seen them go like halfway around their quilt with the metal clips. That’s why some many come in a package. So those are all ways you could still do the machine to begin and hand to finish. I’m going to show you how to machine the finish, right? So we can pull these out of the way.

Now my good dear friend Jenny Doan loves to start hers with a quarter inch , it’s a Steam a Seam or excuse me Easy Steam II product. So what this is it’s an iron on adhesive. It’s a quarter of an inch wide which is perfect for your binding. This could be laid in here. This would be brought around like this. And then you could come in here with your steam iron and you could really set this. And literally if you’re not going to wash and dry your quilt, you’re done at that point. You could also run a decorative stitch on top of that glue. And the decorative stitches kind of move the fiber around so having a glue or adhesive in there works really nice. Millions of options. I want to show you my personal favorite way though.

My personal favorite way because I’m a machine guy. I love machines. Uses a specialty foot. And the last time I checked almost every brand out there has one of these versions. It’s called a By-Level Topstitching foot. Let me flip it over. We’re looking at the top. And I’m not even sure if you’ll be able to see it, but this side right here is thicker by about the thickness of your binding, than the rest of the foot. So what’s going to happen is this is going to lay right here on the edge of the binding. It helps me keep the binding totally organized. And lay my stitch exactly on the edge as I want to go. Your stitching lines will show up on the back so on the back side of the quilt you’re going to want to use the same color thread in your bobbin for putting the binding onto to finish as you did in the quilt itself. So that it looks like it’s part of the quilting. So I’m going to put this foot on our machine. And a lot of times if you’re not using a quarter inch foot you’ve moved your needle position well over to the right hand side. So I’m going to now move my needle position well to the left hand side. As a matter of fact once I get this thread out of my way I’m going to move it all the way to the far edge. And there’s a nice little marking and a nice little opening on there. And because the foot is a little sideways if you have a drop down presser foot lifter you sometimes need to kind of wiggle it or sometimes folks will put their quilt in first and then lower the foot so that it holds it nice. Doesn’t matter where we start. We’re going all the way around the project.

I don’t start right in a corner but I’m going to show you how to finish the miter so let’s start close enough to a corner so we can get the job done. I’m going to slide this over. And what I like to do is I like to pull it up taut against the side of the quilt. There is a little mark that I can see up on the front edge of the foot and that’s where the binding rolls to. And then I’m going to move that needle position, like I said, all the way over. And then I either pick a place on my stitch plate or a place on the presser foot that I’m looking at. And that’s where the outer edge, the outer edge of the binding right here will be running right along one of my markings here.

Ok so we’re going to go ahead and do this and then I’m going to show you how we finish that miter. And away we go. We’re going to tie into that later so you don’t have to backstitch if you don’t want to. And at this point I slow down. I make sure that the quilting is all stuffed into the binding. And as I go around I’m about four inches, now three inches, now two inches and stopping from the corner to the needle. And a lot of times I have a little pair of scissors or a stiletto or an awl or something handy. And what I’m going to do, let me bring you in really close and show you. Now that you’re in nice and close let me point out, there’s the marker on the foot. This is where that thickness of the foot is. And it’s really helping me keep everything square. And I’m coming in to miter this corner so I’ve been kind of organizing it as I got close. Within about that last four to five inches. And as I keep taking a few strokes as I get close enough I’m going to stop. I use a scissor. You can also use a stiletto. And I kind of use my scissor to help crease that edge right there. Then I’m bringing it up and over. And I’m going to use my scissor, let me get my thumb out of the way. I’m going to use my scissor to actually hold that fabric safely so I don’t pierce myself as I feed it under. And then as soon as I feel like the foot is catching, and if you get a little bit of a wad there you can control that, lift, drop it. And as I come in, once I hit that corner, I’m going to take and I’m going to pivot. And even if you feel like you’ve gone a hair too far, that’s ok. Just take a stroke back towards the edge and then line back up on that marker, that marker of your foot. And now you’re just going to go back to business as usual, running that binding underneath that seam allowance. And you can see how the needle is moved far, far to the left hand side of my presser foot as well. So we’ve got four corners to handle and we are done.

So as I’m coming in here to my last two inches I can see that it’s coming together beautifully. And so I’ve got my finger on the reverse button so as I go over where I started, I’m going to backstitch. I’m not going to do a ton of it. I want it to be hidden. I don’t think I mentioned that I actually was using a green thread on the top. I know I told you to use the matching bobbin on the back side. And this I’m going to pull out and I’m going to scissor cut. I’m not going to use my thread cutter because a lot of times our thread cutter will go ahead and cut in the middle of the foot and I have my thread, I had my needle moved way over. So it would make a funky stitch. Now let me flip this over so you can see. Oh and I got it right where I had a little bit of thread hanging. So you can see here, there’s the line. And every now and again it will hit the binding. And you can actually kind of hear that if, once you get comfortable with it. But a lot of times it runs really nice and smooth and clean. It matches nicely. From the top side it absolutely looks terrific. It has a nice little lip. Holds great. It’s incredibly fast. I think about, I don’t know, maybe a week ago I had five quilts to bind for my shoot here at Man Sewing and I sat down, had all my binding ready. And I spent maybe an hour and a half and bound five large quilts. It was very easy.

So the first, let’s go back over the key points here, right? When you’re putting your tips and your tools in your toolbox, let’s get these keys down. You started on the back side with a quarter inch seam allowance and then we rolled to the front. We put on a topstitching style foot. And we moved our needle to the far side so that it was marking right along the edge of our binding. We were still able to miter our corners. We did all of the construction as needed. And it turns out fantastic. And it turns out fast. So that is a bunch of machine binding basics, a couple tips on how to do it by hand if you like. And I am jazzed to get to share with you some of the things I’ve been learning over the last few years. Make sure you’re subscribing here at Man Sewing and we’ll see you next time.

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  • factsplease!

    This is interesting. I still like the final touch of my quilt to be by hand. It’s a personal thing. I wonder what my hand quilting great grandmothers, and my grandmothers and my mother would think about me learning to machine bind a quilt from a MAN!! LOL!! (No offense Rob)!!

  • Cheri Buckley Branca

    This is how I do all my quilt bindings, too. I make lots of charity quilts for kids and I feel the binding will stand up to a lot of use. But Jennie Doan taught me, on one of her tutorials, to do the corners with the bottom edge tucked in/up first, rather than after the side, as you showed. She said it reduced the bulk by having it reversed from the front “miter”…It really makes a difference.