You are ready to attach binding to your quilt. If that is not the case, refer to Binding: How to make binding for your project.
Let's walk through how to attach binding to a quilt....with pictures...
You can do this...it 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. Let's review two of the more common options...
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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 with the hand stitching. AND unless you have a lot of experience with option #2....less frustrating.
You can find a detailed tutorial for this method in the post How to Attach Binding to a Quilt: Option 1.
Option #2: Machine attachment, no hand sewing required
Option #2 involves machine stitching double folded binding strips, OPENED, onto the front of the quilt, folding to the back and machine stitching in place. To accomplish this, there is one additional step in preparing the binding strips for attachment.
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 8+ quilts to consistently catch the back edge in my machine stitching (to my liking). Even now, I almost always have to do A LITTLE hand sewing, as I usually find a few areas that did not sufficiently catch the back edge.
This is a great option for attachment, but be aware that it can be tricky on your first few attempts and rarely ends up "perfect". However, if you never try it and "practice", then you will not master it!
This is the method that will be used in this tutorial.
Double fold binding preparation
Let's start where the post Binding: How to make binding for your Project left off.
The picture to the left, shows your single fold binding strip, 2 1/2 inches wide, folded and pressed in half, wrong sides together. We need to take this one step further, and create double fold binding.
Take your binding strip and open it up. Fold and press both outer edges in towards the middle of the strip. Use the previously pressed center crease as your guide.
Here is a handy trick that I learned from a member of my sewing posse, that has REALLY helped me master this skill.
Press one edge of the binding all the way to the middle of the strip. The other edge should be a little shy of reaching the center.
You can see in the picture (below, right) that the folded raw edges of the binding do not quite meet each other in the middle.
Don't underestimate the importance of this step...it is very intentional!!! This allows the binding that wraps around the back of the quilt, to be SLIGHTLY wider than the front, allowing you to more easily catch the back edge when topstitching in place.
Now you have what feels like miles of prepared binding ready for attachment. Remember, the extra time used to prepare here, will save you lots of time in the end...
No hand stitching is needed for this attachment option, since we will be machine stitching the binding onto the quilt front & back!
Start attaching to quilt top
Make sure to leave a 6 inch tail and only pin to your first corner!
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.
Ensure your binding is aligned correctly so our handy tip works...
Look at your binding strip. Determine which side is pressed to the center, and make sure that side is lined up along the quilt edge. This is the side that you want to initially attach to the quilt top!
Align your OPENED binding strip (the side pressed to center), with the edge of the quilt top. Pin or clip starting at the mid-point of one of your ends. Proceed to the first corner.
Attach using a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
Sew a straight stitch using a 5/8 inch seam allowance. When using 2 1/2 inch wide binding strips, this stitch line will fall right into that first crease.
As you can see to the left, managing the LONG binding strip is one of the hardest parts of this job!
I use a lot of pins and/or clips and try to keep the binding piled neatly (who am I kidding!) in my lap.
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 5/8 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.
The picture to the right, shows what this looks like up close.
The stitch line runs straight down the edge of the quilt, 5/8 inch from the raw edge and then angles off at the corner.
Fold binding to the right of the seam you just sewed and off the edge of the quilt. Fabric will be right side up.
Align the raw edge of the binding strip with the bottom edge (or next side) of the quilt.
Fold the binding back over on itself, aligning the raw edge of strip with the bottom edge (or next side) of the quilt.
The folded edge at the corner should be squared with the quilt edge before and after the corner. If both of those alignments occur, you will have a nice 90 degree angle at the corner. And that is what we want!
Pin or clip your binding to the next side of the quilt.
Starting attachment of next side....Part 4...
Take the folded and prepared corner (and quilt!) to your machine.
Orient the 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. Attach using your straight stitch with a 5/8 inch seam allowance.
Proceed sewing down the next side of the quilt, keeping a 5/8 inch seam allowance. Repeat the same previous steps for the remaining 3 corners.
Secure those corners against little finger monsters!
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 would 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....
They certainly can't be the only children in the world to do this? Secure those 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 measure this out and mark it with 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 ends...
You have now attached the binding on all 4 sides, all 4 corners, and have 2 free "tails" 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 to work with.
Mark and cut off excess binding length...
Take the raw edge and fold over on itself by the width of your strip, in this case 2 1/2 inches.
This will be used to "overlap" the opposing binding tail and where we will sew the joining seam.
Always leave the width of your binding strip as the overlap when joining your binding tails.
Next, trim the tail of the remaining binding strip, flush up to the fold you just created (shown right).
When this is done, you will have a perfect 2 1/2 inch overlap in your binding ends.
Orient & align binding tails, right sides together
Open up both tails, so that they lay right sides together.
Leave the bottom binding tail (as shown to the right) oriented straight along quilt edge.
Turn the top tail, to align the short raw edge with the quilt edge.
Pin in place and double check.
Mark a diagonal line from the top left corner to the bottom right corner, across the 45 degree angle.
This is your sew line.
When using this method of attachment, it is easier to check the orientation and verify that it is correct.
You can see (to the right), that when you allow the pinned binding to fall back into place along the quilt edge, it lays naturally.
There are no twists, it is right sides together and ready to be sewn.
Carefully take to the machine and sew a straight stitch along this line.
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!
As you can see in the pictures below, 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 made...at 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 & finish front attachment
After you confirm your binding lays nicely and in the correct orientation....cut off the extra fabric to a 5/8 inch. Finger press if you are so inclined (push the seam open using your fingers).
This seam allowance is inside your binding, and not visible on the exposed/right side of the fabric.
Continue attaching the binding to the quilt top as you have done, using a 5/8 inch allowance. 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.
Binding is now attached to the quilt top
Nice work! Your binding is now securely attached to the front of your quilt.
Now it's time to fold the binding strip over the edge in preparation for topstitching in place.
I used small wonder clips for the first time on this quilt binding, and they worked really well for this task! I highly recommend them if you plan to use this attachment option on a project.
Preparing to topstitch
This step sounds like it would be easy and quick, however, it is one of the most crucial of the project! It is very important that the binding is pulled tight & taunt around the back side of the quilt and secured in place.
It is also important to check where your stitch line will fall on the back of the binding before you start sewing! Take a straight pin and stick it through the quilt front (where you want your topstitching to be), to the back of the quilt. Where the pin comes out on the back is where your stitch line will fall on your binding.
I like to stitch-in-the-ditch, the natural "ditch" created where the binding strip meets the quilt top. This is a personal preference, but I think it makes the front stitching less intrusive on the finished quilt top.
Adjust the binding placement and tightness, until you get the pin to fall where you want your stitching to be on the back side.
Secure well with pins/clips...
Once you have the binding aligned, you can start topstitching. As you can see to the left, I stitch-in-the-ditch, where the binding meets the quilt top.
Remember that handy dandy tip that we used when creating the binding strips? That is going to save you many headaches, curse words and alcoholic beverages during this stage of attachment.
The slight offset that we created when pressing our double fold binding, results in the back edge being a tad bid wider. It is not visible to the naked eye, BUT makes ALL the difference in the world when you are trying to catch the edge of binding blindly!
Check your stitching regularly and GO SLOW!
It is still very important that you proceed only a few inches at a time, and check your stitching frequently to ensure you are catching the back edge.
Make adjustments to your pins & clips as needed.
Keep your binding pinned/clipped tightly in place and go SLOW!
This is the glory that results when you follow these tips and tricks and GO SLOW!
Pretty sweet right?!?
Don't be discouraged if your first attempt does not look like this! Remember, I have done this MULTIPLE times and have picked up tips and tricks along the way. It takes practice and I PROMISE my first 7 quilts did not look this good ; )
Just keep at it and it will get easier and look better!
Finished Christmas Quilt
Here is a peak at the finished product! It was a Christmas gift for my in-laws this year.
We used two retro Christmas themed charm packs from Swell Studio and a creamy off-white fabric to create the X and O top pattern.
I found an AMAZING Christmas Story themed (leg lamp and all!) red cotton fabric for the backing. My mother-in-law is a huge fan, so that worked out perfectly. It was hand quilted with a "big stitch" method, using red, pink and green size 6 perle cotton.
I love the retro, classic look and pops of pink.
Jump in and start swimming!
Don't be intimidated to give this a try!
I just decided one day (SEVERAL years ago), that I wanted to make a quilt....and I just kinda figured it out as I went along! There are great resources available online, to help you along the way. Check out my Pinterest boards for some great references and inspiration!
Honestly, I think binding is the hardest part. And you now have 2 resources of how to do that part, right here on Moms with Scissors! Don't worry, I have some more quilting tutorials planned soon in case you need help or inspiration to get to this point.
Cheers to cuddling up with imperfect, cozy, made-with-love quilts!
Be kind & stay well,