Quilt Machine Binding for New Quilters

Sunday, December 18, 2016

I just finished 44 placemats and 12 potholders for Christmas presents ...

As I was in the midst of the binding ... I realized that I would NEVER have attempted this effort just a few short years ago ... these placemats and potholders require 3,512 lineal inches of binding, 224 corners and 56 mitered finishes in tight spaces.

As a self-taught quilter, I have learned a LOT from blogs and tutorials that people were kind enough to share ... including a number of different blog posts that taught me about binding.  So I decided to take some pictures as I went along with the intent of creating a tutorial that marries much of what I have learned together to help some of the other new quilters out there.  It's a chance to learn some tips and gain some confidence as they tackle binding ...

NOTE:  I am a machine binding person ... I have never learned how to bind by hand.  If you are new, know that you have both options and if you want to enter quilts for judging, you will need to learn the hand binding method.

Before I start, here are two of the tutorials that have been most impactful in getting me to how I bind quilts now.  I use a lot of their technique and have added a few tips in of my own.  You may find perusing them helpful as well as you seek to perfect your binding technique.

ZigZag Binding Tutorial - by Stitched in Color
Mitered & Flanged Binding Tutorial - by Karen's Quilts, Crows and Cardinals (note this one has additional information in it about how to build a flanged binding)

I will use the term "Placemat" though out this tutorial ... as that is what I am binding.  However, you can substitute the word "quilt" in anywhere for placemat as well.


Making the binding

I cut my binding at 2.375" (3/8).  I find that when using a 1/4" allowance when attaching the binding to the placemat, the 2.375" dimension creates a perfect fit.

Each placemat requires ~70" of binding, so I need to connect a few of the cut pieces together. Creating a mitered seam is easy.  Lay one piece right-side up and then lay the next piece perpendicular on top, with right sides together.  As you can see, you don't even need to trim the selvages when doing it this way.

Using the selvage for overlap is an important element here ... by doing so, you are leaving a nice overlap, which allows you to easily match the sides on the strips ... if you don't leave this overlap, you will find that the edges of your strip can be off by up to 1/4".

I use scissors to trim the sewn pieces down to 1/4" and cut off the corners that are left from the overlap.

Press the seam open, this is particularly important for a placemat, where you don't want to create a bump that could accidentally tip a wine glass.  Hmmm ... doesn't look perfectly straight here ... but it's close enough for binding ...

I trim over a small container on my cutting table and even though each placemat only takes ~70" of binding, I know I am about to do a whole bunch of placemats, so I cut about 10 pieces at one time and chain them together so that I don't have to stop and do this each time I finish a placemat.

Attaching the binding to the placemat:

Next, take the end that you are going to start with, fold the fabric down to the left to create a triangle and press in place.


Now, lay your placemat down with the back facing up.  This is important, you are going to be stitching the binding to the back of the placemat.

Note:  for placemats, I always start on one of the shorter sides.  Creating a miter seam where you start and stop can introduce a slight bump and it is less likely to impact a fragile wine glass if that bump is on the side, rather than on the top.  On this placemat, the side is ~13" long.

Take the end you're going to start with and fold it in half lengthwise (there is no need to press the material, you will simply hold it in place as you go around the placemat).  You are going to start stitching about 6" down, leaving the 1st six inches of the binding unstitched before you start stitching. (this will be important for creating the mitered edge at the end).

 Use a 1/4" stitch to attach the binding to the placemat.  Keep stitching towards the corner, stopping 1/4" from the end.

When you get to 1/4" from the end, pivot the placemat by 45°...

Stitch out to corner and then cut threads.

It's easier to see from the front (bottom) how I have pivoted and stitched over the the corner.

Fold the binding back to the right as seen in the picture above to the right.

And then fold the binding back over the top and start it down the next size of the placemat.

Position the placemat at the corner back under the machine and begin stitching from the top edge, retaining a 1/4" allowance as before.  Stitch down to within 1/4" of the next corner and repeat.

When you start your way out of the 4th and last corner ...

Stitch down about 2 to 3", anchor your stitching as you stop.  This leaves about 9 to 10" between the beginning of your stitching on your start piece and the stop of your stitching on your end piece.  You are now going to create the mitered seam between the start and end pieces.

Pull the end piece down the side of the placemat and pin it to the place just before where you started stitching the start.

Lay the end piece over to the right at the pin and place start piece on top of the end piece.

Mark the end piece just a smidge (about 1/8") above the tip of the start piece.  You can see I have used a blue dot to mark it in the picture above.

Now, lay the end piece flat ... you can see my blue dot on the top of the strip about 1/3 of the way across from the left in the picture above.

Place the opened start piece (with the crease) on top of the end piece with the opened tip sitting just on top of the blue dot marked on the end piece.

Another view of the same thing.

Use a pin to hold the top piece the bottom here.  This is a little tight and you will likely need to fold the placemat in half to get good purchase to stitch the two ends together.  Now, stitch down the crease that is in the top piece.  You may find it easier to mark down the crease to make it easier to see when you are stitching.  Before you trim the material off of what you just stitched, lay the placemat flat and see if you are happy with how it lies.  If not, this is super simple to fix by just removing the few stitches you just put it ... once you trim the material, it is very hard to fix ... so I always check it prior to trimming off the ends.

It is important for the mark that you place on the end piece is about 1/8" beyond the point.  It is better for this last side to fit a little snug (it will stretch) rather than to be too long where it will bunch when you stitch it.

You can press the seam open where you have connected the start and end pieces.  Then lay it smooth over the last side and stitch it into place.

Finishing the binding

Now flip your placemat over as you will finish the binding from the front.

I like using a zig zag stitch (instructions further below for a straight stitch).  I set the machine to a fairly small zig zag stitch.

As I top stitch, I pull the edge of the binding so that it lines up exactly on top of the 1/4" stitching from attaching the binding to the batch.  This ensures that I am sitting on top of the edge of the binding on the back and the zig zag covers the stitching on the front ... it basically gives great alignment.  I have a great notch on my presser foot right in the middle that tells me when I am right on top of the edge.

The top-stitching from the front ...

The stitching from the back.

If you prefer  not to use a zig zag stitch (or if your only machine with zig zag on it breaks like mine just did ;-(, you can use a straight stitch.

For the straight top-stitching, I pull the edge of the binding so it just covers up the stitching from the back attachment of the binding and then I stitch just in from that edge, so that it is basically stitching on top of that 1/4" line.  I like to use the inside edge of my presser foot to keep my line straight on the binding ... take it slow as you get the feel for this so that you can keep your line straight.  If you stray, you alway have a seam ripper available.

Front with the straight-line top stitching ...

Back with the straight-line stitching ...

A few of the finished placemats ... ready to send off in the mail for Christmas.

I hope that this is of assistance to some of the newer quilters out there ... good luck and, as always, let me know if you have any questions or feedback for the tutorial!

Merry Christmas!

All the best,


Louise said...

This is a nice tutorial! I also use machine binding almost exclusively. I learned some new things to try from your post, though. I think your method of joining the two ends is less fiddly than mine, so I'll test that theory on my next quilt :)

Happy holidays!

VeeV said...

WOW.... i had never seen the way you have pivoted and stitched over the the corner.
it makes complete sense & (i think) simplifies the process, and i'm going to 'change my ways' now. thank you!!!

i press the binding out - once i've sewn it to the back - then turn the quilt, and press it around and to the front..... it makes it easier that i don't have to tug and wrestle it throughout the 2nd side of sewing. ~it works for me!

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