How to bind a quilt by machine. Quilt binding.

Hi There.
Welcome to another “Share it Saturday” post where I will endeavour to share my knowledge on something sewing/quilting related with you every week…

I told you in last weeks purse frame tutorial post that this week would be all about how to do a basic applique, but I tricked you. It’s about binding this week instead…. {Check back next week (or sometime) instead for the one about applique.} Since I finally did some binding this week and I know some of my readers have been waiting a year for this tutorial since I first promised it (sorry!) then I thought I’d share my binding technique instead…

This is one of the ways I do my binding – using the straight grain, straight join, double fold method.
It’s the quickest, easiest and laziest way with only using 2 pins in the entire process.

I also do sometime bind with my joins on the bias (which to be honest is much less bulky to sew through and one day I might show you that way as well), and I do sometimes handsew my binding down when the project calls for it. But realistically this is how I do my binding 90% of the time these days.
{Because I’m impatient and I just want to snuggle under that finished quilt as fast as I can and move on to designing the next project 😉 And because the design part is my favourite.}

So here goes… here is the “straight” machine binding method that I use.

Step 1: Work out how much binding you need…

Sorry to start with some maths, but first up we must work out how much binding we actually need.
To do this start by measuring the sides of your quilt. We want to add up all the sides + 15 inches for a bit of spare.

For example mine measures 94 inches by 94 inches so I add;
94 + 94 + 94 + 94 + 15 = 391 inches {sheesh that’s a lot! That’s why I have been using this quilt unbound for the last 2 months!}

So that is the total length of binding I need to make. But how many strips is that?

The maths is:  Your total length / (divided by) The width of the fabric (WOF)
= how many strips we need to cut.

For example I am using quilters cotton which has a width of fabric of around 42 inches once the selvedges are removed.  So my equation is
391 / 42 = 9.3 strips
We always have to round up, so that means that I need to cut 10 strips to join together to make my binding.

Now we need to work out how much yardage that means we need…

I cut a width of 2.5 inches for my binding strips so
The maths is: Total strips x width of strips = width of yardage required.

In my example that is:  10 strips x 2.5 inches = 25 inches of yardage.

Hopefully that makes sense. Let me know if you need some more help.

Step 2: Cutting and joining the strips…

Next we need to cut our strips. As mentioned above I cut mine to a width of 2.5 inches wide.

Once they are all cut, take the selvedge ends off to neaten them up.

Take 2 of your strips and place them right sides together lining up the short ends.
Piece them together using a generous 1/4 of an inch seam.

Continue until you have joined all of the strips.
the press all of your seams open.

Once your seams are pressed open, then press the binding in half down the entire length, with the wrong sides faced inwards.

Boom there is your binding made.

Since mine is so long I’ve wound it on to a spare overlocker thread spool I had on hand, so that it doesn’t all get in a tangle. But to be perfectly honest usually on my smaller quilts I would just leave it all in a messy pile.
Do as you will…

Step 3: Attaching it to your quilt…

Next we need to attach it to our quilt. I would recommend switching to a walking foot for this if you have one available, because it does make it a lot easier to sew all the layers together.

I also need to note (because I know someone will ask if I don’t say) that yes, you will notice from the photos that I have overlocked (serged) my quilt prior to sewing on the binding.
I wouldn’t usually do this!
Which is why I haven’t said to do it in my notes. I only did it this time to tidy up the edges a bit because I’ve been using this quilt on my bed unbound for the last few months (yes naughty me) and they had got a little frayed etc. I knew my binding would finish better if I tidied up the edges first. So don’t worry about it. Just make sure your edges are cut nice and straight (I do sometimes cut mine with the pinking shears but as long as they are tidy it won’t matter.).

Starting about a 1/3 down one of the sides (don’t start at the top of a side!), pin the raw edges of your binding to the raw edges of your quilt in 2 places about 7-8 inches apart…

This is our “tail” that we don’t want to sew just yet. We need it unsewn for later when we come to joining the two ends of our binding together.

So starting under the lower of the pins, sew your binding to your quilt using a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance.  I usually just keep my needle in the middle of my presser foot so it’s not a specific sized seam allowance to give you I’m afraid.

Continue sewing down the entire side until you get almost to the end.
When you get to the end slow down and stop 1/4 inch (or your seam allowance distance) away from the bottom edge…

Lift your presser foot and turn your quilt as if you were about to sew down the next side

BUT you now need to now sew backwards off the quilt and secure your stitches by reversing a few.

Fold your binding strip up to the top

Then fold it down over itself again

Trapped in there should be a nice tidy mitred pleat.
Try and make sure that your edges are lined up at the top and left hand side, otherwise your corner will not be tidy once it’s all sewn together.

Starting from that top corner you just folded, sew down that entire side and repeat the corner process at the other end.
Repeat for all sides until you get back to the beginning and get to about 4-5 inches from your first pin.

When you get to that point, stop, secure your stitches and take it from your machine to a table or the floor…

My finger shows where my sewing stops.

Take your scissors and cut your left over binding off leaving about 1/3 of an inch overlap. (Just slightly over what seam allowance you’ve used).

Join these two ends together with right sides together, and press them open.

Now that they are joined together, sew the last bit of the binding down.
Ok now here is where the secret of my no pinning process lies…
It’s all about the steam from here baby – so go and fill your iron up with water to the max line. You are going to need plenty of steam!!

Yes that’s right, I have weeds in my garden. Shhhh don’t tell but I’d rather be here sewing with you! 😉

Now we need to press our binding over to the top like this…

Flatten those corners right out, we’ll fix those in a minute.
And did I mention the need for steam?
So get steaming it baby!
{Just be careful and don’t burn yourself – we don’t want that!}

Once you’ve pressed the binding out like that around the entire quilt it’s time to flip the quilt over and press the other side.

For this side you really need a lot of steam and you also really need to be careful not to burn yourself.
Because you will be using your other hand more!

Press your binding over flat so that it wraps around the quilt and covers the line of stitching you attached the binding with, like this…

Now, a word to the wise…
Be careful and consistent with your accuracy!
Because the more accurate you are with your pressing, the more accurate your seams will be on the other side.
Also, when folded the binding MUST cover the stitch line, otherwise it won’t get sewn on properly in the next step.
So steam, steam, steam it right over.

When you get to the corners you want to tuck them into a neat little mitred corner like this…

Again, the more accurate you are with your pressing, the nicer your corner will look sewn.

Once you have finished pressing the entire way around we are ready to sew…

To sew on the binding I keep my needle in the centre of my presser foot (it makes it easier to see where you are sewing) and increase my stitch length a little to about 3-3.5.

We want to stitch in the ditch right up next to our binding like this…

The trick is to stay right in that ditch so that you catch the binding on the other side.

This is what the underside should look like.

If you can see your line of stitches on the underside from where you sewed your binding on in the beginning,
it’s not going to work!!!

When you get to the corner it pays to go really slowly.
You want to sew right down to the edge of the binding, lift your presser foot, spin your quilt, then continue sewing.
Important note – when you spin and begin to sew it is really important to push that binding right under with your fingers. I’d probably recommend using a few pins at each corner just so that the underneath doesn’t move out of place.
The corners are where I find I’m the messiest…

Carry on until you’ve reached the beginning again and secure off your stitches.

Now we need to check over the back to see if we missed any places.

When I first started I misssed loads!! If that’s you don’t dispair, you will get better with practice.

This time I only slightly missed two tiny spots and they were both in the corners. So I think I will pin the corners next time and would recommend you do too.

If you’ve missed any spots it’s easy to fix. Just go back over them again…

For example a missed spot before…

Missed spot after going over again…

If you are afraid that going over it again will be too messy you could always handsew that small part down instead.

Yay, we’ve finished. Congratulations if you got this far!!


Here are a few ideas on
Trouble shooting:

If you are finding that you are missing quite a number of spots and it’s just not working out then there are a few things you can try to help eliminate this…

1. It could be that your wadding is a thicker loft than mine… 
My wadding is quite low loft so the 2.5 inch cut binding works well for me. However, if you use a medium to high loft wadding then I would recommend you increase the cut width of your strips by at least half an inch when you make your binding. This should help.

2. It could be that your quilt (or binding) has some bulky seams…. 
I tend to notice that I often miss more over bulky seams. In this quilt example I used straight join binding and it worked ok because my seams on the actual quilt weren’t bulky. But if you have a) used linen or thicker fabrics for your quilt or b) have lots of angles joined at points like triangles, then perhaps in would be better to join your binding on the bias rather than straight across.

3. You might be going too fast…
Sometimes I catch myself going a little too fast and starting to get a little wonky. Easy fix. Slow down there soldier.

4. If you are finding that your stitches are really wonky on the back side…
Then it’s probably inconsistency either a) when you sewed it on the first time or b) when you were pressing it over. The more consistent you can be with those two steps the better your end result will be.

Hope that was of some help!
Let me know if you have any questions.
As always if you’ve used my tutorial I’d love to hear about (and see) your results.


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    1. Thank you!!!

      I’m a lazy sew-er and avoid any hand sewing, but also, all my quilts so far have been for kids so I like to machine-stitch the binding for extra security.

      Your tutorial was easy to follow and best of all……it actually works!!!

  1. Loved your tutorial. Thanks. I use a free app called quilting calculator that you can just add the length and width of your quilt top and it calculates the binding strips that you need. It will also give backing and batting needs. And best of all it’s FREE. So no more math. Again, love your website.

  2. Thank you for the well thought out tut!
    I am going to be putting binding on shortly and I am not quite as nervous with your great instructions- I will let you know how it comes out….

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