Attach that beautiful binding!

You have made your binding and are ready to tackle attachment.  See my post Binding: How to make binding for your project, if you need a review.  Let's walk thru how to attach binding to a quilt....with pictures...

You can do is not difficult!  It just takes a little patience, time and practice.

There are a few techniques that can be used to attach binding to a quilt or project.

Quilt binding

Options for quilt attachment:

Option #1: Hand sewing required

Option #1 involves machine stitching the once folded (wrong sides together) binding strip onto the front of the quilt and hand sewing the folded edge of binding onto the back side.

This does involve hand sewing and is more time consuming than Option #2.  HOWEVER, in my humble opinion, I think the end product has a nicer finish.

This is the method that will be used in this tutorial.

Option #2: Machine attachment, no hand sewing required

Option #2 involves machine stitching the OPENED binding strip onto the front of the quilt, folding to the back and machine stitching in place.

This option tends to be less time consuming, since no hand sewing is required.  HOWEVER, it takes a fair amount of pinning and PRACTICE to catch the edge of the binding in your machine stitching on the back side of the quilt.

It took me 10+ quilts to really get the hang of catching the back edge in my machine stitching.  Even now, I usually have to do some hand sewing near the corners, as undoubtedly I miss a few spots on the back edge.

By all means, this is a great option for attachment.  But just be aware that it can be tricky on your first few attempts and rarely ends up "perfect".

How to Attach Binding to a Quilt: Option 2 provides details on how to use this method.

I like my binding split evenly on the front and back sides of my quilts, so I make some adjustments...

If you attach binding to the edge of your quilt using a ¼ inch seam allowance, you will only see a small ¼ inch of binding on the front of the quilt and a larger amount on the back (after you attach and fold binding over the edge to attach).

I like to see a more equal distribution of binding on the front and back of my quilts.  I have anal-retentive tendencies….I’m aware!

Marking Quilt top for binding attachment
Marking quilt top with line 1/4 inch from raw edge of quilt sandwich

Set binding back from edge of sandwich...

In order to achieve this, I attach my binding further away from the edge of the quilt, still using a ¼ inch seam allowance.  In this case, I marked the perimeter of the top of my quilt sandwich with a line ¼ inch from the raw edge of the quilt sandwich.

You might be thinking....

Why not attach your binding using a ½ inch seam allowance?

This is a bad idea for a few reasons:

  • A larger seam allowance will reduce the width of your exposed binding.  When you add additional fabric to the seam allowance in this way, it gets "hidden" in the binding seam.
  • This causes you to "lose" fabric that would have been available to fold over the edge and onto the back.  This may result in a shorter binding width on the back of the quilt and may make your hand sewing experience more challenging.

Line up the raw edge of the binding with the marked line we made on the sandwich.  When the binding strip is aligned and pinned in place along this marked line and attached with a ¼ inch seam allowance, a ½ inch width of binding will be visible on the front of the quilt.

Trust me, it works!  It takes a little math and 3-D thinking, but is worth the extra effort.  It will come together in the end....I promise!

Binding strip pinned to quilt sandwich
Binding strip pinned in place along marked attachment line made 1/4 inch from edge of quilt sandwich.

Don't forget to leave a 6 inch tail...

Next, we start to attach the binding strip to the quilt sandwich.  It is important to start your stitch line at least 6 inches below the end of your binding strip, leaving a tail.

You will appreciate this extra space and fabric, when you are doing the “fabric gymnastics” involved in joining the ends and finishing attachment later on.

Another trick I have learned with practice, is to only pin and prepare one side of the quilt at a time.  It is important you fold your corners tightly to get a clean, smooth corner.  It is easiest to do this one corner at a time.

So only pin up to your first corner....

Attach with a straight stitch and mind your seam allowance!

Attaching binding to quilt sandwich
Attaching binding to quilt sandwich with 1/4 seam allowance to binding edge, 1/2 inch to quilt sanwich edge.

Attach binding to the quilt sandwich using a straight stitch.

Remember to use a ¼ inch seam allowance to the raw edge of binding, which is ½ inch from the raw edge of the quilt sandwich.

Continue until you are about 2 inches from the corner.

Tackling the corner...Part 1 of 4...

When you reach your corner, I recommend you “sew off” the edge, at a 45 degree angle.

Continue your straight stitch until ½ inch from the edge of the quilt sandwich.

Stop with your needle down, into the fabric.  Lift up your presser foot and turn/pivot the quilt 45 degrees toward the corner of the quilt.

Begin stitching again towards and off the corner of the quilt.  Remove from the machine and lay on a flat work surface.

Attaching binding, nearing corner
Attach binding with straight stitch until about 2 inches aware from corner.

Part 2...

Folding the corner for attachment
Fold binding back and align with the bottom edge of quilt.

Fold binding back over itself, to the right of the seam you just sewed.

Remember that line we drew around the perimeter of the quilt? Align the raw edge of the binding strip with the marked line along the bottom edge of the quilt.

The picture to the left, depicts using a rotary ruler as a straight edge to line up your binding.  This is important in preparing for your next fold.

Part 3...

Fold the binding back over on itself, aligning the raw edge of strip with our marked attachment line along the bottom edge.

The folded edge at the corner should be squared with the raw edge of binding on the quilt edge above, and the attachment line on the bottom edge of quilt sandwich.

If both of those alignments occur, you will have a nice 90 degree angle at the corner.  And that's what we're going for!

Folding corner of binding
Fold binding back over and lay along attachment line.
Corner of binding
3 dimensional view of corner fold
Continuing onto next side, after corner
Pin the next side in the same manner after folding the corner.

Starting attachment of next side....Part 4...

Pin your binding on the next side of the quilt to prepare for attachment (above right).

Take your folded and prepared corner (and quilt!) to your machine to prepare for sewing.  Orient your fabric so that the folded edge of your corner is along the top and start your stitch line at the top edge of the quilt sandwich.  Make sure to keep the same 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Sewing this straight line over the angled stitch we just made in the corner, secures the corner and prevents it from coming undone or having an open pocket.  My kids used to slide their little fingers into that corner pocket and wiggle apart quilt bindings when they were toddlers.  Securing the corner in this way makes this much less likely....

Corner of binding
Close up view of corner stitching and attachment
Attaching binding to quilt
Continue attaching binding using a straight stitch 1/4 inch from the raw edge of binding.

Proceed sewing down the next side of the quilt, keeping a 1/4 inch seam allowance along the raw edge of binding.

Repeat the same previous steps for the remaining 3 corners.

Mark your "end of stitching line" after attaching your last corner...

After you sew and turn the 4th corner on your quilt, take note of where the seam line should end.  It is important to leave at least 12 inches of space between the starting and stopping points of your stitch line.

I usually measure this out and mark with pins. I tend to mark my starting and stopping points with double pins.  I recommend you do the same before you start attaching your fourth side.

You have a seam ripper, but don't want to use it!

Process for joining the binding tails (or ends)...


You have now attached your binding on all 4 sides and have 2 free "tails" of binding with about 12 inches of unsewn space in between.

Since you added 12 to 18 inches of length to the perimeter of quilt when making your binding, you also have an "extra" length of 12-18 inches of binding with which to work with here.  More length is better than not enough!!!

Mark and cut off excess binding length...

What is the width of your binding strips?

In this case, my strips are 3 inches wide.  Take the raw edge and fold over on itself by the width of your strip, in this case 3 inches.

This will be used to "overlap" the opposing binding tail and where you will sew the joining seam.

Always leave the width of your binding strip as the overlap when joining your binding tails.

Plan to join binding ends
Fold over the raw binding edge, the width of the fabric strip.
Joining binding ends

Create and check tail overlap...

Next, trim the end of the other binding strip flush up to the fold created (as shown above left).

When this is done, you will have a perfect 3 inch overlap in your binding ends (as shown above right).

Orient & align binding tails, right sides together

This is the trickiest part of the whole take a deep breath and read this a few times before starting.

Open one binding strip tail, and place against the other strip rights sides together.

Align the short cut edge of the open strip with the edge of the other tail, found along the quilt edge (shown to the right).

Joining ends of binding

Mark your seam line across the 45 degree angle and sew....


Open up the other binding strip and pin right sides together (as shown to the left).

Mark a diagonal line from corner to corner, across the 45 degree angle.  This will be your sew line.

Carefully take to the machine and sew a straight stitch seam along this drawn line.

This is were you will need to do some "fabric gymnastics" to be able to arrange your fabric to sew this seam.  It is annoying and requires some playing with fabric placement and positioning...but you can do it!


PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE and do NOT CUT anything until you check the orientation of your binding and the seam you just sewed!

If you inadvertently twisted a binding strip, did not have right sides together, or the seam was sewn along the wrong 45 degree angle, your binding will not lay nice and flat along the edge of the quilt.  If you haven't cut anything yet, you merely rip out this one seam and try again! No Big Deal....if you didn't cut anything yet!


As you can see in the pictures (above right), when you let the binding go it should fall into place along the edge of the quilt.  The seam should fall to the inside of the binding and lay nicely.

You will know if it's not quite right....

I had to rip out this seam attempt and re-orient and sew the first 6 binding projects that I least!

It's ok...and it happens to all of us!  Any seamstress who denies making mistakes, clearly has not been sewing for long or is blessed to have someone else around who fixes all their mistakes!  Moms and Grandmas are notorious for doing that...

If it does not lay nicely with right sides out and the seam allowance inside the binding....get out your seam ripper!  Take out the  joining seam and try again.

If you're anything like me you may need a beverage break before starting again...and that's ok...

Cut excess tail fabric to 1/4 inch....


After you confirm your binding lays nicely and in the correct orientation....cut off the extra fabric to a 1/4 inch.  Finger press if you are so inclined (aka push the seam open using the fingers instead of an iron).

This seam allowance is now inside your binding, and not visible on the exposed/right side of the fabric.

Attach remaining section (joined binding tails) to quilt top

You are in the home stretch!!!

At this point, continue to attach the binding to the quilt top as you have done for the rest of the quilt.  Sew a straight stitch to complete attaching the binding strip to the quilt front.

Now the entire binding strip should be sewn tightly to the quilt top.


Prepare for hand stitching!

Quilt binding attached to front and folded over the edge, in preparation for hand sewing

Once that is done, flip the edge of the binding over the raw edge of quilt sandwich and envision what the finished binding will look like!

Now it's time to hand stitch the binding to the back of the quilt : )

I typically use a combination of ladder stitch and a lock stitch, sewing a knot every few stitches.  That way if the thread breaks or the binding starts to come undone, the damage should be minimized (vs. the stitches coming undone and the binding falling off the back edge).

Hand stitching Resources...

I am not going to go into detail regarding how to hand stitch.  I provided a basic overview in my post Handwarmers: A Quick & Easy Tutorial.

There are also several good tutorials available from my fellow sewing bloggers that have been done well.  I will share those with you.  No need to reinvent the wheel when not necessary...

  • Apartment Therapy has a good article with helpful pictures and descriptions of several stitches, with the Slip Stitch or Ladder Stitch description being helpful for our use here.
  • Treasurie blog also has a nice post reviewing several basic hand stitches, including the ladder stitch.
Finished binding on quilt

In the above pictures you can see how the corners are folded for a "faux-mitered" corner finish, and hand stitched in place.

If you want extra security and added durability in the corners, you can stitch your folded "faux-mitered" corners closed as well.  I usually do this when the quilt is for a young child....remember those little fingers that destroyed my quilt bindings?!?  But this is a personal preference and certainly not necessary...

Now admire your beautifully attached quilt binding! may not be perfect the first few times.  BUT....if we wanted perfect we would buy "machine made" right?!?

This IS a skill that gets easier and looks better every time you do it.  Be patient with yourself and practice, practice, practice!

Binding on finished quilt
How to attach binding to a quilt
Modern Masculine Tumbler Quilt for E.J.

Modern Masculine Tumbler Crib Quilt for E.J.

Isn't this quilt dreamy? I just love how it turned out for our sweet baby nephew, E. J.

I used two blue-toned Kona charm packs and a Small Tumbler Template from Missouri Quilt Company, to cut the front pieces.  I chose to piece them into color blocks for a more masculine look and just love the result!

A linen/cotton blend in "natural" was used for the backing.  It is "big-stitch" hand quilted, using perle cotton in shades of blue, green and natural.  This type of quilting is kind of my new obsession....I love the rustic, retro look it provides.  I think it's a cool addition to modern quilts.

Overall, I was very pleased with the end result and can't wait to experiment with more "tumbler" block quilts!

I would love to see your bound projects...please share!

Be safe & stay well,

Jen J