Sunday, March 20, 2011

machine binding tutorial

I have had soooo many questions about machine binding lately, so I will share my method.  I am not a pro at this, but I have figured out what works best for me. 

Prepare your binding as you normally would.  I use this method for continuous crossgrain binding, and this method (basically) for bias binding.  (p.s.--I never roll my binding up like the above image except when I need to take a picture of it.)

I trim off my excess batting and backing fabric before attaching my binding.  I never measure anything to determine how much binding to make.  I know this isn't a good practice to admit, and I have even had to stop in the middle of attaching binding to add more.  But, usually I come out with more than I need (phew), and any extra goes into a box and gets used for bibs or binding on another quilt.  I guess I shouldn't say I don't measure at all.  I usually lay my quilt on the floor, then cut my binding strips and lay them out along the edges of my quilt until I have enough.
I use 2.5 inch strips--when I first started quilting I used 3 inches, then went down to 2.75 in, and finally down to 2.5in, and I believe I will stay with this width.  I'm happy here.  I have done 2.25, but it's just too tight for me to pull around my quilt.

Line up your binding with edge of your quilt, about a third down one side of the BACK of your quilt.  Leave about 6-10 inches of binding unstitched (I actually moved my needle down about 3 inches to leave a longer tail after I took this picture). 

This next part is the part that takes some trial and error.  I know that on my machine I set my needle at a 1, and use a stitch length of 3.5.   Every machine is different, so you will have to try it out for yourself.  I don't think the length of the stitch is as important as where your needle is.  I move mine one notch to the right toward the edge of the quilt. 

I line everything quilt sandwich, my binding (both layers) and the edge of my foot.   I highly recommend a walking foot to do this, it makes it so much more enjoyable and much less frustrating.
 It is important to note that I do not use my quarter inch foot to do attach my binding.  I like the girth of this foot more than my quarter inch.  This foot works better for me to line everything up on the edge (as seen in the picture above this one).  The size of your foot will make a difference on needle placement.

If you like numbers and measures, this is the distance from the edge I sew my binding on, looks like a generous quarter inch. (Am I stressing this distance thing too much?  Trust me, it is important).

So, once everything is lined up and your needle is in place, start sewing.  If it makes you feel better to pin it, then pin away.  I prefer not to pin.  (this quilt happens to have rounded corners, so no mitering happened with it.)  If you need help with mitered corners, check out this tutorial, or this one.  Sew around the entire quilt (mitering if needed) until you come back to the beginning.  

Leave about 8-12 inches unstitched.

next comes the tricky part.  If I successfully close up my binding on the first try, I count it as a win!  Usually there is some unstitching going on.

Trim your binding so that both ends over lap about 6-8 inches.
I lay my quilt across my ironing board with the back facing up.  Open up the right flap and iron it into a right angle (I eyeball it) with a small amount hanging over the top.  

I didn't take a picture when I did it, but this is what the backside will look like.

The left flap will be opened and pinned down. (Be careful to keep your binding even with your quilt, don't let the quilt pucker, you will have to do some adjusting to get the bottom end pinned down, and it will appear that the quilt puckers.  Just make sure the top edges are flush.)

Next, lay the right flap over the left and pin it down.  Try not to stretch the fabric, you want it to lay as naturally as possible.

Using the folded edge as your guide, draw a line on the binding with a disappearing ink marker.

Now, line up the drawn line and the fold line from each flap of binding, and pin.  (I apologize that this image is blurry).  

Use the fold line as your guide, and sew down it.
I always pull my binding tight to see if it "fits" my quilt.  You don't want to have much slack or the binding won't attach well.

If it looks good, trim off the excess (I leave about a quarter inch).

Iron your new seam open, and then iron the binding.

Now that your binding is closed you can finish attaching it to your quilt.

Next we will wrap the binding around the quilt and stitch it down to the top of the quilt.  I still use the stitch length of 3.5 (it's about 9 stitches per inch).  
If you want to pin it or use clips, go for it.  

I straddle the foot and hold down in front and behind the foot until I have the needle in place.  

Put your foot down and start sewing.  I use my fingers to fold the binding over and guide it into my machine.  Take your time on this part, it takes practice.  I sew as close to the edge of the fold as I can.

It should fit around just perfectly and cover your seam line.  This is why measuring when you sew the binding on is important, you don't want it to be too tight, and you don't want it to be too loose. 

Continue around corners.  When mitering, I use my seam ripper to hold down the folds until they are stitched.

This is the back of the quilt.  It's not perfect, but it works.  Once the quilt gets used and washed the fabric shifts and it pretty much disappears.

Here's the top...I hope this helps.  Let me know if you have questions, or if anything is unclear.  

p.s. isn't that heart backing fabric the best?  I got it at my new local quilt shop.  It's Robert Kaufman Remix (I think).


  1. Very nice tutorial you put together for folks. And, yes! I love that heart fabric!

  2. awesome tutorial! it's so nice to know that there are others that machine bind. Love the fabrics and all the photos

  3. I have been wanting to try machine binding on some of my projects and this tutorial was very helpful! Thanks!

  4. I have read a LOT of binding tutorials. And while I still prefer to hand-sew my bindings, I wanted to let you know that yours is hands-down the best one I have read on how to attach the two ends of the binding strip with a bias seam. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I always ended up with mine twisted somehow. But I used your tutorial and it came out perfect the first time. Thank you!

  5. That was very helpful from you. I sometimes dislike my work because of this stuff but you pull through it with ease, brilliant. Now I have to overcome my temper and have a hands on of this.

  6. thanks for the tutorial...greetings barbara
    my blog

  7. Thanks for the clear tutorial. This is how I've always done my bindings, and now I have somewhere to point anyone who asks me. The only part I haven't tackled yet is the mitered finishing edge, but I've always known I need to do it. I've just had a hard time wrapping myself around the instructions I've seen, but I'm gonna study your photos and instructions and make it happen!

    After years of cutting my bindings 2.5" wide and finding them a bit big, and then trying 2.25" and finding them too narrow, I finally stumbled upon the brilliant (haha) idea of cutting them 2 3/8" which seems to be the magical number for me!

    Thanks again for the great instructions and lots of photos!

  8. Great tutorial! Love the fabrics you used!
    I think I may like rounded corners better!

  9. Thanks for the tutorial. I tried one time to sew binding to the back first and had disastrous results. I guess I will try again with your seam measurements. What kind of batting did you use? I use 2 1/4 inch binding, but my batting is pretty thin.

  10. i've been looking everywhere for a tutorial on how to match up the last seam on the binding, which you included here. yay! i learned how in the quilt class i took in nov, but couldn't remember exactly. thank you so much! and the idea of doing the front side with the machine is intriguing, too. although i do genuinely love handstitching the binding down. much appreciated.

    your fabrics are taking me right back to my rainbow brite childhood of the 80's!

  11. Thank you so much for assembling this tutorial for your viewers. It is a great help. I am planning to take a machine quilting class.

  12. I started out thinking, "Oh I know how to do this, but I'll look at her pretty photos anyways." And ended up amazed that you showed me a simple thing that I have been missing all of these years. Thank YOU!

  13. This is a great tutorial! I've sent it to a friend of mine, too, who has 3 lap quilts and a baby quilt to do.

  14. I like your method. I've been wanting to try machine stitching the binding on again. I've tried in the past and it hasn't worked out all that great, but this really helps!

  15. Thanks ever so much for this very helpful tutorial! I have seen this method described before but I finally 'got it' with your post. Wonderful!

  16. Excellent tutorial! I am always so amazed by the amount of tricks and tips bloggers are willing to share. I have never been to a class ever, thanks to the internets (not saying thats always good!). And BTW. I never measure how much to do either.
    Why do you sew the binding to the back first? Is that the correct way, or just preference? I attach to the front, then fold over and stitch in the 'ditch' on the front so the stitches show on the back. Is that wrong? Probably!

  17. Wow, this is fantastic. You've explained it so well. I'll be bookmarking this for future quilts. I would also love to link to this if you didn't mind.

  18. How do you determine if you should use continuous binding or bias binding?


  19. Hi beautifulladybird,

    My rule is if I have curves, I use bias. If no curves I use regular straight grain binding.

    I personally don't know about the weave of fabric and what is best. Here's a really good write up about binding that might be helpful.

  20. thank you so much for your machine binding tutorial...tried and test!!

  21. I found this tutorial extremely helpful. Although my binding looked no where as nice as yours it was loads better than I had managed to do in the past. Thanks for sharing and for your inspiring blog!

  22. Nice tutorial - thanks for sharing. Do you recall what fabric you used for that binding?? I love it!

  23. Thank you, Nettie! I ordered some just now for a quilt I'm planning...I'm doing the jaybird quilts "snacktime" and think this will be perfect!

  24. This post was very helpful! Between the rounded corners and machine binding.. I am trying something completely new! I always did mitered corners and I always hand-stitched my binding on the backside. My quilt corners are rounded and tomorrow night I will cut my bias binding and do my best!! Thanks for the tutorial!

  25. very helpful! I love your non-perfectionist ways so so so much. Thanks for being non-perfectionist!

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