Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Binding Tutorial...or at least an attempt thereat...

For six years I chaired the regional quilt show for Q.U.I.L.T. of NWA here in Arkansas. When I took over as chair, I didn't even know how to quilt. Boy have I learned a lot in the last seven years! One of the most important things that I learned was from the quilt show judges - it seems that most of us quilters don't know how to bind quilts "properly." According to our judges, bindings should be about 1/4" on either side of the quilt and the edges should line up with each other when felt through the quilt. The binding should be full and consistent. And I found out at the last show that judges now expect both the front and the back corner miters to be sewn down. So, how are we supposed to accomplish this?

I generally get compliments from judges about my binding (except when I don't sew down the front miters!), so I'm going to show you the way I do my binding.

First, I prefer biased, French fold (also known as double fold) binding. That simply means that I cut my fabric on the diagonal and then fold it in half before sewing it onto the quilt. This same method works on straight-of-grain cuts -- just ignore the folding instructions at the beginning of this tutorial and begin at the cutting instructions.

To begin, I usually use at least a full yard of fabric since I generally make at least queen-sized quilts. You can adjust the amount of fabric for smaller quilts. Iron the fabric to remove wrinkles, then spread it face down on your cutting table. Grasp the upper left corner of the fabric and fold it down towards the right and line up the right selvage edges. This forms a point on the upper right of the fabric. See the photo below.

Then grasp the upper right side of the fabric (the point) and fold it down towards the left. See below.

This will bring the fold on the left side of the fabric down onto itself. Carefully line up this fold since this will be where you make your first cut.

Note:  In order to get my perfect 1/4" on either side of my quilt, I choose to use a 2" binding. Many of my friends use a 2 1/4", 2 3/8", or 2 1/2" binding, but I find that this is too large for the batting that I use. Since I prefer a thinner, cotton batting, I don't need a large size to wrap around.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  Since this first cut is made on a fold, be sure to make it half the size you need for your binding. Since I need 2" strips, my first cut is made 1". Okay, I admit that I have forgotten this rule several times when cutting binding and have wound up with a 4" initial strip. Fortunately, all I have to do to correct the error is cut the 4" strip in half lengthwise. Since this strip is often about 50" long, this is a step that I generally prefer to get right the first time! ; )

You can see the fold in the middle of my first strip. A perfect 2" wide!

Cut each subsequent strip 2". The first cut will produce one long cut. Each subsequent cut will produce TWO slightly shorter strips. Each strip you cut will be slightly shorter than the one before.

Sew the strips together using a mitered seam. You want a mitered seam to distribute the bulk along the edge of the quilt and make it easier to sew down. If you do not know how to miter a seam, leave me a comment, and I will post simple directions. Continue to sew strips together until you have the length you need. You can measure before you begin to determine how many strips you need, or you can fly by the seat of your pants like I do and sew the strips together and measure them against the quilt to determine how much you need. ; ) You need enough to go around the entire quilt plus about a foot.

After your binding strip is complete, iron the entire length in half with wrong sides together. See below. Be careful since it's easy to burn your fingers on this step.

This next photo should explain why the following photos are of a different quilt. Callie got so comfortable that I couldn't bear to make her move. Since I was in the process of binding two quilts, I just picked up the baby quilt to work on instead. Sorry for the switching back and forth! : )

Okay, I had a second quilt to work on, but I didn't have a second chair, so this time I steeled myself against hurt looks and tossed Tessie off . Sometimes these things just have to be done.

If you don't have a walking foot for binding, BUY ONE! They are expensive, but well worth the investment. This foot will "walk" your quilt smoothly as you sew on the binding and keep the fabric from bunching up or getting caught.

The next step is another one that I sometimes forget. Adjust your machine so that you don't have drag on the heavy quilt as you sew. I minimize the pressure on the foot...
adjust the needle position if needed, lengthen the stitch (from a 2.3 to 3 for my projects) and loosen the tension.
All of this will allow the quilt to move more comfortably and evenly as you sew. Make any adjustments that you feel are necessary. And don't forget to change everything back when you're finished!

I tossed in the photo below just to show you the thickness of my quilt sandwich. This thickness is easily spanned by a 2" folded binding hand stitched down to provide the requisite fullness.

Start about halfway down one side of the quilt and lay your binding so that the raw edges of the binding strip are flush with the raw edges of the quilt. Starting about one foot down the length of your binding (you will need this free section later when you join the two ends of your binding), determine your correct needle position. In order to ensure that I get an even amount on both sides of the quilt (the binding should feel full and the back portion should be just wide enough to cover the stitching), I run a short, sample stitch with no back stitching. See below.

I can then fold this short segment over to the back and check to see if it will cover the stitches. You can see that the binding is full and folds over the stitches so that they will be hidden when I hand sew the back down. If I need to make adjustments, I either adjust my needle position or adjust how I line up the quilt under the walking foot. Consistency is vital! I usualy keep the quilt moving along the same line and just adjust the needle position if I need to.

If this sample section is the wrong size - the binding folds too far over the stitches or does not completely cover them, I move my needle position and try again. When I get the setting just right, I start again with a backstitch to secure my stitches.

Sew down the length of the quilt until you get near the end of the first side. About 1/4" from the end of the first side, turn your needle into the corner and sew off of the sandwich. See below.

With your quilt removed from your machine, fold your binding up (the sewn binding is under my left hand) and line it up with the edge of the second side of the quilt. Finger press this fold. See below.

Fold the binding back down along the second side. This will form a mitered corner. You can just see the faint line that reaches from the lower left corner of the binding up to the upper right corner in the photo below. Slide this corner under your sewing machine foot and position your needle about 1/4" past the corner. Sew a few stitches then backstitch all the way off the sandwich. Release the backstitch and sew forward back onto the quilt and continue sewing along this side. Stop 1/4" from the end of this side and sew off the corner again. Repeat the mitered fold you did on the last corner. Repeat this procedure until you have sewn all four sides. Stop about 10" to 12" from your beginning seam. You should have a substantial gap between your beginning seam and your ending seam with loose ends at both the beginning and end.

Okay, my kitties switched quilts; therefore, so did I. Back to the Christmas quilt. In the next two photos, I simply want to show you what you want to avoid. I try to lay out the binding along my quilt before I begin sewing it down to ensure that I do not end up with a join at the corner. However, no matter how hard I try, I often have at least one "problem" corner per quilt. I narrowly avoided disaster with this corner. The second photo shows you just how close I came to having a corner and a joining coincide. This is not an impossible situation, but it does create a lot of bulk in the corner to deal with as you try to miter your corner on the back.

Now that you've sewn all four sides, it's time to join the two ends. Join your seams, using your favorite method.

Okay, here is where I admit that I'm a coward. Before I bound my first quilt, I was watching QNN one day and learned about The Binding Gizmo. I bought it. I love it. I have never bound a quilt without it.

This book explains, much better than I could, exactly how to bind a quilt. It covers multiple types of binding, including single fold, double fold, and scalloped. Below is a photo of the actual "gizmo."

To use this tool, you must first cut off the point on the end of your starting strip so that you have a straight edge.

Back at the cutting table, lay both ends along the quilt with the starting strip under the ending strip. Sorry, you really can't see the ends in the photo below.

There, is that better?

Here is where my instructions require you to have the tool. Sorry. I could actually measure the distance from the line on my tool to the line I mark, but I don't want to step on the copyright of The Binding Gizmo. Anyway, I place the top line of the Gizmo even with the cut end of the beginning strip. I then draw a line in the appropriate slot. Since my binding is 2" wide, I draw the line in the slot marked 2". See below. This line is drawn on the ending strip.

You can see my white line on the ending strip in the photo below (far upper right). The end of the beginning strip is in the center of the photo. To reduce bulk and make this next step easier, I fold a small section of the quilt between the two seams and place a pin in it to shorten the distance between my two strips. This make joining the strips easier.

I flatten my ending strip so that the right side is up and I can see the mark I made using the Gizmo. Opening my starting strip to expose the wrong side, I place the starting side face down to the LEFT of the mark and place a pin at the top to hold it in place.

With the top pin in place, I draw a line from the upper left corner to the lower right.

I now place a pin below the line to hold the strips steady.

Sewing ON the line, I join the strips. Sorry for the really poor lighting in this photo. Before you cut the excess binding off, test this joining to ensure that you have sewn the correct sides together with no twists. You don't want to have to take this apart and try again with shorter ends. Ask me how I know! : (

Yep, this works perfectly. Cut off the excess fabric about 1/4" to 1/2" past the seam. 

Line the joined seam up along the edge of your quilt, and sew this final section down, remembering to back stitch at the beginning and end of this seam.

Whew, the hard part's done. Now, iron around the entire quilt to set the seam.

And once around again to open the seam. This step makes it easier to wrap the binding around to the back when you are ready to hand sew it.

The one drawback with using a biased binding is that when you're done, you have a very oddly shaped piece of fabric left. In fact, you actually have TWO oddly shaped pieces. These are great to use in scrap quilts later.

I hope this makes some sense to those of you who bind your quilts differently. When I sew the back down on these quilts later this week (I hope), I'll try to remember to take some photos of the corners and show you how to miter them and sew them down in a way that will make any quilt show judge smile!

Oh, I almost forgot -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM! I LOVE YOU!
Until later,

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