Monday, January 23, 2012

Binding Tutorial

**After a weekend-long, all-out battle with this post, I've decided to do this tutorial in two parts. Try as I might, I can't get any more pictures to upload to this post. So, there's a second part coming within the next couple days! In the meantime, I hope this is helpful!

Some of you have asked questions about binding. I promised a few of you a tutorial, so here it is! Sorry it's taken a while. It was a lot of pictures to edit! :)

So, let's get started!

The first thing you will do is calculate how much binding fabric you need (if you don't have a pattern that has already done that for you.) You will add the dimensions of your quilt. So, for this example, we'll use a quilt that measures 40" x 50". You will add 40+40+50+50. Equals 180. You need 180 inches of binding.

Quilting fabric is about 42-44 inches wide. But, I always just assume 40 inches since I'll be cutting off the selvedge off and piecing strips. So, divide 180/40. Equals 4.5. You can't cut 1/2 a strip because it won't be wide enough. :) So, you will need at least 5 strips of 40" wide fabric to get 180 inches of binding.

So, how wide do you want your binding? I Salmost always cut my binding 2 1/2 inches. So, 5 strips x 2.5 inches = 12.5 inches of fabric. Always round up. In this case, I would get 1/2 of a yard.

About the binding width. I like 2 1/2" for most quilts. Anything between 2 1/4 inches and 3 is okay. What you have to keep in mind is that the seam on 2 1/2 inches will be 3/8" seam. So, if you have points that would be cut off by a 3/8" seam, then you're forced to go with 2 1/4 inches with which you will use a 1/4" seam.

Here's the break down for strip width and seam allowance. It's a lot of math. :) I'm using the 2 1/2 inch strip as the example. 

You will fold your strip in half, so it will then be 1 1/4 inches. 

Then, you'll sew 3/8 inch (0.375") seam. That leaves you with 7/8 inch (0.875"). 

Then, you'll fold the binding over the 3/8" seam on the front (it's basically doubling over itself) as well as the 3/8" seam on the back so that the seam line is covered. This leaves you with 1/8 inch (0.125"), which is how thick you're quilt sandwich (the quilt top, batting and quilt back) is, so that's just perfect!

Okay. So, you have your fabric. You know how many strips and how wide you want those strips. Go ahead and cut them. In my example, I'm cutting 5 strips that are 2 1/2 inches each.

Lay one strip down, with the right side of the fabric facing up. Then, lay another strip, perpendicular to it with the right side of the fabric facing down. Make sure the corners are lined up.  

Then, draw from corner to corner with a pencil and stitch right on that line.

Then, press the seam flat. It's so important to set seams before they are pressed open or to the side. It pushes the thread down into the fabric so that the seam will lay nice and flat. 

Then, cut 1/4" away from the line you just sewed and discard the triangles you just cut off. You can eye-ball it, like I do and cut with scissors. I have my scissors on my ironing board, so that's convenient for me. Or, you can lay your ruler on the stitched line at the 1/4" mark and cut with a rotary cutter.

Now, press the seam open.

Then, sew another one of your strips onto your long strip. Repeat this process until all the strips are sewn together. You can also sew all the strips together and then take your long strip to the ironing board and set the seam, trim to a 1/4" seam allowance and press open.

Now, you press the long strip in half, lengthwise. I have a little trick for making this normally lengthy step quicker.

Start by pressing the first 10-14 inches in half.

Then, lie the strip down, running the length of your ironing board.

You'll need two corsage pins for this.


Take one pin and take a small bite of the ironing board cover just in front of the folded side of the binding strip.


Then, put the pin over the top of the binding strip.

Then, put the point of the pin in the ironing board cover. This will hold down the binding.


 Put your iron on the binding strip about 1/2" to 1 inch away from the pin. Be very careful not to scorch your fabric! My iron lifts itself up when it's horizontal and I'm not touching it, so I can leave mine here for a while. If your iron is hot while doing this, please be very careful!


 Lie another pin on the binding strip on the other side of your iron.

This may be a better picture.

Leave the second pin on the ironing board, but move the iron away. So you don't burn yourself. I'm speaking from experience, here! :)


 Now, put that pin in the same way as the first. Now, there are two corsage pins that are one to two inches further apart than the width of your iron. You can see in my picture where I have scorched my ironing board cover from previous bindings.WARNING: This will scorch your ironing board cover, but you'll be pulling your binding through, so you won't scorch your binding fabric.


Now, set the iron down on the binding, between the corsage pins. Pull the binding through using one hand. I use my left because that's the way my ironing board faces.

The pins will help the binding to fold in half, but you'll want to use your free hand to line up those raw edges nicely. Pull the long strip of fabric all the way through and then your binding is ready to be sewn on to the quilt!

But, first, we need to square up that quilt! This is one of those steps that I dread, but it's really necessary to get a quilt that will fold and lie nicely. I know, it's a little annoying, but just do it! Also, you don't want to do this step until you are ready to sew the binding on. If the quilt is stored or moved around a lot, it will get askew and not be square anymore. So, after you square the quilt, immediately sew the binding on.

Here we go! Pick a corner. Any corner.


Put your ruler (I use my 6 x 24 for this) on the corner.  Notice how my quilt is not straight like the ruler. I've never seen a quilt that is as straight as the ruler. Since quilts are made by humans, that's just how it's gonna be. :) And exactly why we do this step! We're going to make it nice and straight!


 One more angle so you can see. In this one you can really see the little bit of fabric I'll be cutting off.

 I frequently use my borders as a guide when I'm trimming a quilt. I know how big my border is supposed to be (in this case, 4 1/2 inches), so I line that up on the edge of the border and it will help me to know where to put my ruler.Keep in mind that the border may not be perfectly straight, so use it as a guide, but you still have to take a look at the whole side of that quilt to make sure that you are happy with what will be cut off.

Once you have the ruler placed where you think it should be, go ahead and trim on the right side of the ruler. When you get an inch or two from the top of the ruler, stop. 


Then scoot the ruler up. Line up the first 8 inches of the ruler with the edge you just cut. You can see in this picture where I stopped cutting. See how much of my ruler is lined up with the edge I just cut?

As you get to the end of that side of the quilt, cut just beyond the edge of the quilt top.

Turn the quilt so that the edge you just cut is closes to you. Line the bottom of your ruler up on the edge you just trimmed. This will help you keep it square. Just a note. Sometimes, when you line up the ruler, you'll realize that the quilt is way off. That's okay. Just adjust the ruler so that you aren't cutting off more of the quilt than you're comfortable with.

Also, if the quilt top is smaller than the batting in some areas, it's okay. Just as long as there isn't more than 1/4" of batting showing. You want to make sure that when you sew that binding on, that batting will be covered. Here's an example of what I'm talking about.

It's a little hard to see on this quilt. But, if you look at the edge near the white bike and the aqua bike, you can see a white edge. That's the batting. In order to keep the top square on that edge, I had to cut an 1/8" or so away from the top. That's okay. My binding will cover that right up and you and I are the only ones that will ever know. :)

Okay. So, now, you're square. It's time to sew the binding on! Grab yourself some pins. And use them! Anytime someone tells me their piecing is off or not square, I tell them they aren't pinning. If you want nice quilts, pin. That's all there is to it. If you're going to spend the time and energy making a quilt, you might as well make it nice! So, pin everything. Including the binding. Okay, here we go.

Lie that binding strip on the bottom of the quilt with the raw edge lined up with the raw edge of the quilt. You'll want the start of your binding to be just left of the middle of the quilt. Then, pin the binding to the quilt about 8 to 10 inches away from the beginning of the binding strip. Like this. So, you'll have a 10 inch tail flapping around for a little bit.

Can you see that tiny pin right there. I use Swiss Superfines because I can sew right over them and my needle won't break, even if it hits them. They are so fine (hence the name) that the needle just rolls off of them. But, it makes them a little difficult to see in pictures.
Pin every five or six inches until you get the the corner. Then, pin the binding to the quilt 3/8" (or 1/4" if you are using a 1/4" seam allowance) from the corner. This is where you will stop when you are sewing the binding on this side.

Start sewing at the first pin. You'll want to back stitch to secure those stitches. This is the only place in quilting where back stitching is necessary.


Then, sew to the last pin you put in (3/8" from the corner) and back stitch. Then, take the quilt to where you can pin the binding on the next side.

Notice how I stopped my needle right before that last pin. I'll back stitch here and then pin the binding to the next side.

 Remove the pins from the side you have just sewn. Or, if you have cute, little helping hands (like I do) that really like to take pins out and put them on the magnetic pin cushion, then let them do the work while you are pinning the next side!

Oh, those little hands are so yummy! I just want to nibble on them!
 Fold the binding away from the quilt so that it's perpendicular to the quilt. This is how you will get a nicely mitered corner. You should get a nice 45 degree angle.

Hold that firmly in place.

Fold the binding back over and line it up with the edge of the quilt. Keep holding that binding down so it stays at a perfect 45 degree angle. Pin in place. Now you'll pin the binding to the quilt all the way to the other corner, until you get 3/8" away and you'll put the pin in at 3/8" from the corner.

Here is what it looks like from the other side.
Start stitching at the very corner and back stitch to secure those stitches. Stitch all the way until you get to the pin that marks where you should stop (3/8" from the corner). Back stitch at that point and then repeat the mitered corner folding for the next three corners.

When you turn that last corner, you will want to pin your binding until you are about 8 to 10 inches from the beginning of your binding. Then, sew that side on and stop at that last pin.
Those tiny pins are hard to see. I'm sorry! But, that last pin is right where that binding fabric turns and goes up a little. As you can see, there is about 8 inches there where I'm not going to sew binding on.
So, now you should have a couple of binding tails that aren't sewn to the quilt. Here's how to put those pieces together so that you won't be able to tell where your binding started or stopped. This makes it continuous.

Lie that first tail (the beginning of the binding) straight on the quilt.

Then, lie the last tail (the end of your binding) flat on the quilt up to the point where it meets the first binding tail. Then, fold it backward, creasing it where it meets the first tail.

Then, you will measure the width of your binding (in this case 2 1/2 inches) from the crease.

Using your pencil, mark 2 1/2 inches from the crease.You can make a tiny mark at the edge of the binding and then use your rotary cutter to cut a straight line. When cutting with the rotary cutter, make sure to line up a horizontal line on the ruler along the folded edge of the binding so that your cut will be square with the binding. Or, you can draw a straight line with the ruler and pencil and cut on that line with scissors.

Cut the binding where you have marked.

Lie the binding tail you just cut over the first binding tail.

Okay. This is where it gets a little complicated.

Open the binding tail you just cut so that that wrong side of the fabric is facing up.

Open the first binding tail so that the wrong side of the fabric is facing up.

Then, twist that binding fabric so that the right side of the fabric is facing up. I grab the edge that is closest to the raw edge of the quilt and then flip that edge so that it's on the inside. If you twist this the wrong way, the binding won't work correctly. So, test it before you sew and cut! I'm totally a "measure twice, cut once" kind of gal! I'll show you in just a few steps how to test.

Line up those binding tails just like you did when you were sewing your binding strips together. Make sure those corners are lined up nicely. 

Draw a line from corner to corner with a ruler and pencil. Notice which corners my ruler is lined up with.

Draw the line on the fabric.

This is how I test to make sure my binding is going to line up nicely. It's difficult to see those tiny pins, but I have put two pins right on the line I've drawn. After I do this, I can lie the binding fabric on the quilt to make sure it's going to line up and not be twisted the wrong way.

You can see in this picture that my binding will line up with the quilt. After I sew the seam, remove the pins and trim the excess fabric, it will be perfect. If you have twisted the fabric wrong of drawn the line on the wrong diagonal, you'll have a twist in your binding fabric. Here's how it looks when I've done it right.

So, now open the binding back up. Put pins in perpendicular to the line you just drew so that you can sew over them. Here's a hint. I put a little ruler under the binding to keep me from pinning to the quilt top. Again, experience! :)

Sew on the line you drew.

Press that seam to set it.

Trim off the excess (1/4" away from the seam line) and discard the triangles.

Press the seam open.

Fold the binding in half and press.

Line it up with the quilt and pin in place.

Sew it on and make sure to back stitch when you start and when you stop!

Ta da! Ready to be hand-stitched to the back. I'm always so happy when I'm done sewing the binding on! The quilt is almost finished!