Tuesday, June 21, 2011

binding tips

Let me make something perfectly clear. There are many many quilters who are so much more talented than I am! I love to piece tops but you will notice that most of mine are quite simple. No curves. Occasional matching points.... I'm getting more & more courageous but it's slow. AND I have not yet mastered machine quilting. Generally, I quilt with my checkbook.... there is an awesome longarmer in Arizona who has quilted most of my recent quilts.

That said, when I do complete my quilts, I often get compliments on my bindings. I don't know why, but binding a quilt is my favorite part (maybe because it is the final step? I don't know) and I seem to have mastered it. So I thought I would share some pointers with you here...

There are many awesome tutorials, on the web, in books, in magazines, for how to stitch on a binding so I will not duplicate those here. I do my corners just like all the books recommend. Nothing different. I usually just cut my bindings on the straight of grain, as my quilts (thus far) do not have any curves. If the edge of your quilt is curvy, you will need a bias binding. Otherwise, I find straight bindings to be just fine. I like mine 2 1/2 inches wide (before folding). Others like them narrower. To each his (her?) own I say! Whatever makes you happy.

Recently I have really gotten into scrappy bindings. I buy 3 or 4 fat quarters that coordinate with my quilt top & cut enough 18 inch strips to make a binding for my quilt. I join mine on the diagonal, mixing up the prints. The leftovers from the fat quarters are perfect to make a patchwork back. But I digress.

Tip number 1: Do not cut off the excess batting and backing around your quilt top before stitching on your binding. Stitch your binding on using your walking foot with the excess still attached. I find that this helps to prevent the layers from shifting. Tip number 2: joining the final binding ends. There are tools that help you do this. I have bought them all and mastered none of them. Not bashing the tools or their designers. I'm quite sure it is user error on my part! I typically do things "the old fashioned way", no tools involved. First of all, leave a 12 to 15 inch tail on each end unsewn. Overlap the binding edges.

Now trim the top binding piece so that the overlap equals the original width of your binding strips. So, if your bindings were cut 2 1/2 inches wide, these pieces should overlap 2 1/2 inches. If you cut your bindings a different width, use that measurement now.

Now open up your binding ends and lay them together like this, right sides facing. Make sure you don't twist the binding in the process! Draw a diagonal stitching line, just like you do when you join your original binding pieces.

Tuck your quilt out of the way and stitch your diagonal line. Make sure you have sewn it right and not twisted anything before you cut off the corners (learned this one the hard way!)

Your binding should fit perfectly now & you can stitch down that last bit on the machine.

Tip number 3: NOW you can cut off your excess batting and backing. Be very careful at the corners to tuck the folded edges out of the way. You don't want to cut through those folds!

Tip number 4: press your binding away from the quilt on all four edges.

Tip number 5: I like to use binding clips (the ones that look like hair clips) to hold my binding in place while I hand stitch it down. BUT... I only use four or five. I clip one section of the quilt, placing the clips 4-6 inches apart. As I stitch, when I get to a clip, I remove it and clip it after the last clip. I find if I clip the whole quilt at once a couple of things can go wrong: A) clips fall off and the dog eats them B) I wind up moving them all around & adjusting things as I go. So why bother? Just do it as you go.

Tip number 6:Now stitch the back of your binding down with an invisible hem stitch. This takes practice, but you will get better and better, faster and faster with time. First of all, do not cut your thread too long! 18 inches is plenty. I know it's tempting to make it longer, so you don't have to knot it off as often, but there is much less chance of tangles or knots with a shorter thread. Bury your knot in the batting like you do with hand quilting, take a tiny stitch in the fold of your binding, then a stitch through the batting, about 1/4 inch before taking another tiny stitch in the fold. Be careful not to poke your needle all the way through to the front of the quilt! I usually keep one finger behind the binding so I feel the needle if it goes through too far.

There you go! A lovely binding for your quilt. And just like everything else, practice makes perfect.

What's that? You want to see the finished quilt? Not yet! Soon, I promise.


Maria said...

Great tutorial Ellyn

Ellen said...

Yes, yes, I want to see the finished quilt! :) Your instructions on making the ends of the binding meet are great - I have trouble with that part, but I'll try this out next time. Thanks for the tips! Looking forward to seeing your finish, but no pressure.

Lisa said...

Great tips Ellyn. I love doing the last bit of the binding too, I think it is because it is the end of the project!

PunkiePie (Jen) said...

I do exactly the same thing as your step 5 but I only use 3 clips at a time. :)

SarahB said...

Oooh! Love the scrappy binding! I only use 4 or so clips at a time too. :)