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Bind It

Zigzag Quilt Binding
By Barb Bergquist

The last step on quilt construction is the binding.  Binding finished the outer edges of the quilt.  Keep in mind that there are different ways you can bind your quilt, but these other methods are seldom used and usually for special instances.  So I’m sticking to the tried and true, everyday method that I use for today.

Let’s start by talking about how to determine how much fabric you will need to bind a quilt.  Here’s a simple formula that I use. 

(Length * 2) + (Width * 2) + 12” = Total inches of binding needed

Next, I divide by 40” to get the number of strips I’ll need to cut.  Last, I multiple the number of strips by 2½” to determine the yardage required.

Working through this with real numbers may help.  I’m going to use the dimensions 45” x 60” for demonstration purposes.

  • (60” * 2) + (45” * 2) + 12” = 120” + 90” + 12” = 222” – the amount of binding required for these dimensions.
  • 222” / 40” = 5.55 strips.  Since I will only cut full strips, I’m going to round up to 6 strips.
  • 6 * 2 ½” = 15” of fabric, but since this is more than ⅓ yard, I’m going to round up to the next cut size – ½ yard.  So if I haven’t already got fabric to bind the quilt, I’m going to buy ½ yard of fabric for the binding.

Now that you know how much fabric you will need, let’s talk briefly about what fabric you may choose for the binding.  Obviously, you will want to use something that coordinates with the colors on the front and the back of the quilt.  Often times, quilters will have yardage left from piecing that is used for the binding.  Sometimes, quilters use the same fabric as the backing for binding.  And sometimes, the binding is a fabric that coordinates with both the front and back but is not found elsewhere in the quilt.  This works well if you bought the fabric from a collection – fabrics from a fabric line that are designed and color-coordinated to go together.  What you decide to do is up to you.  Each has a unique look, so experiment and decide what looks best for your quilt’s design.

Quilt Binding that Matches Fabric in the TopBinding matches Fabric in Quilt Top

Quilt Binding Matches Fabric in Quilt BackBinding matches Fabric in Quilt Back

Quilt Binding coordinates but does not match Top or BackBinding coordinates with but doesn't match either top or back

Once you have your fabric, you are ready to cut your strips.  How many do you need to cut?  Go back to your calculations.  Remember the second step?  You divided the amount of binding needed for your quilt by 40” and then rounded up to determine how many strips.  That’s the number you’ll cut, and you will cut them 2 ½” wide (by WOF – width of fabric).  In my example above, I would need to cut 6 strips.

Finally, you have the strips all cut and you are ready for the next step.  You will sew the strips together, joining them with diagonal seams.  Why diagonal?  Diagonal seams reduce the bulk of the seam.  After you finish sewing the seams, trim them to ¼” and press them.  You can press them open, or press them to the right or to the left, whichever is your preference.  When this is all done, fold the binding strip in half lengthwise and press with wrong sides together (right sides out).  Once you have this all done, you are ready to start sewing it on your quilt.

Now, this is where I differ from most tutorials out there.  The tutorials will tell you to cut off the extra batting and backing from your quilt.  I have found it helpful to leave the extra batting and backing on until after I have sewn the binding down.  If your quilt edges are not straight and will be hard to follow if not trimmed, by all means, trim them.  But if you have nice clean edges, the extra fabric gives you something to hold onto.  I will leave that decision to you whether you do it before, or after!

Pick what side you want to start with, then, leaving at least a 10” length of binding free, line up the edge of the binding with the edge of the quilt so that the fold of the binding is facing the center of the quilt and start sewing it down at least 12” in from the quilt’s corner, backstitching when you start to lock in the stitches.  I don’t pin my binding ahead of time, but feel free to do so if you would rather pin it down.  Sew until you are ¼” from the next corner, backstitch to lock it in place and then cut your thread.

You are ready to miter your corner.  Lift the binding and create a diagonal fold in the binding, where the binding is now setting above the quilt, but just for a moment.  Next, fold the binding over the previous diagonal, lining it up with the quilt edge that you just sewed so that it is again following the edge of the quilt.  You should have a triangle of binding under the folded binding that is ready for sewing on the next side.

Diagonal Fold for Binding's Mitered CornerStep 1 - Upward Diagonal Fold

Horizontal Fold for Binding's Mitered CornerStep 2 - Downward Horizontal Fold

Stitched Binding at Mitered CornerStep 3 - Stitched

Starting ¼” in from the edge, start sewing again, backstitching to lock in the stitches.  Continue like this along this next side.  Do this for all three sides and miter all four corners.  When you get to the last (previously first side), you want to stop about 12” from where you started sewing.  Trim your binding to the length that you’ll need to reach the point where you started sewing plus another 12” of binding.  (Note that I prefer to have plenty to work with to make the job easier.)

Trim the tail (naming this “starting tail”) from the starting point of the binding at a diagonal about 12” from where you started sewing the binding.  Next, open the tail from the last point (named “ending tail”) where you last sewed the binding and lay the starting tail inside the fold of the ending tail.  Lightly mark the ending tail along the cut edge of the starting tail.  Now trim the ending tail ½” beyond the mark on the ending tail.

Marking the Tail of the Binding

Open both trimmed tails and place them right sides together.  Sew them together with ¼” seam and press.  Fold the binding in half again with wrong sides together and repress.  You are now ready to sew the remaining binding on the quilt.

Sewing Ends of Binding

When you finish sewing the binding, trim the excess backing and batting if you haven’t already done so.

The last step is to fold the binding around the edge of the quilt to the back.  Some people pin it, some use clips such as the Wonder Clips; some position it as they stitch.  Regardless, now it the time to stitch the binding down on the back of the quilt.  Most quilters stitch the binding by hand using a blind stitch, but there are a few who prefer to machine stitch it.  I prefer the hand stitch because I believe it gives a cleaner finished look, but I have a friend who has arthritis and cannot manipulate a needle so she has become very good creating a clean, straight machine stitched binding.  Do what feels right for the quilt you are making.

Now with the binding finished, you are finished with your quilt.  Don’t forget your quilt label.  Finally, sit back and admire your workmanship.  Good job!  Give yourself a pat on the back, celebrate your finished project and start planning what’s next!

Barb Bergquist along with husband, Ron, own A Block Away Quilt Shop.  A dedicated quilter with more than 25 years of experience, she is now actively sharing her love of quilting through the work in her shop.

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Phone: (956) 638-1961
Location: A Block Away Quilt Shop
                 2706 N. 10th Street
                 McAllen, TX 78501
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