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Scrappy Quilts and Binding

picture of a small table runner with a tight binding

There are many ways to finish the edge of a quilt.  The edge of a quilt gets a lot of wear, so most quilters like to make a double fold binding.

Double Fold Binding

The binding is the last design element of your quilt.  Some quilters like to make it wide, while others like it tight.  I usually make it small and tight, as in the picture at the top of the page.I cut my binding strips about 3 inches wide.

There are a double of ways to make a double fold binding.  You can use a continuous strip of fabric, or you can do each side separately.  If you want to make a continuous strip of binding, you are going to have to seam the strips together to get the required length.  You are going to need the length of all the sides, plus extra for the corners and where the beginning and end of the strips are joined.  Add an extra 4-5 inches for each corner and for joining the strips at the end.

You are also going to have to decide how to piece the strips.  You can make a flat seam, and on some fabrics you will barely notice it.  In the picture on the left below you can see that the binding with the straight seam is barely noticeable.

Also pictured is how you lay strips together to make a diagonal seam.  In the picture below you can see that when the bottom horizontal piece is pressed down, the strip will continue in a straight line, and the joining seam will be diagonal.  Most advanced quilters like to make a diagonal seam.  It looks better and distributes the bulk of the seam.

3 inch binding with a flat seam

how to sew binding with a diagonal seam


Binding with a straight seam

How to sew binding with a diagonal seam

Do not cut the batting until after you sew on the binding.  You want to be sure and leave enough batting so that it will fill the binding strip when it is wrapped over the top and sewn to the back.

If you want to sew the binding on each edge separately, do opposite sides first.  Start with the long end of the quilt. Sew it on, turn the edge over the top, and sew the binding to the back of the quilt.  Cut off the excess.

Finish by binding the sides.  Make your binding strips a little longer so that you can turn under the edges before folding them to the back and sewing them down.

the binding strip sewn on the quilt edge

picture of binding on the front of the quilt


The binding strip sew to the quilt

The front of the binding after turned

Here is how you turn the corners when sewing on a continuous strip of binding. Start sewing on your binding strip at least 8 inches from the corner.  When you come to the corner stop exactly 1/4 inch from the edge.  Turn the binding up at a 45 degree angle, as pictured below.  It will form a right angle with the horizontal strip.

Then fold it down at the top of the strip, and continue sewing down the strip, as illustrated by the black line below.  When you turn the binding strip to the back, the corners will look like the ones on the table runner at the top of the page.

the binding strip turned up at the corner

the binding strip turned down again

The binding turned up at 45 degrees

The Pillow Fold

Instead of applying binding to a quilt, you can put the layers together, and sew them together like a pillow, leaving an opening to turn the quilt.

This is not as strong a finish as a double fold binding, but it is a nice look, and if don't want to machine stitch the binding in place, and it is hard for you to do hand sewing, it is a good option.

When you make the quilt sandwich, put the batting down first.  Then put the backing on top of the batting, right side up.  Finally, add the quilt top, right side down. It is helpful to baste the backing to the binding to help keep it all together when you turn it. After you turn it, just sew up the opening and you are done.

Note:  If you sew a small border on the perimeter of the quilt, it will look like a binding strip.

Binding the Quilt with the Backing

Another option is to put the quilt layers together, making the backing  wider than the quilt top.  Then you can fold the backing  and bring it around to the top of the quilt top and sew it down.

Folding the Quilt Top and Backing and Sewing Together

This method of finishing a quilt is not done much these days.  When our ancestors made quilts, they had limited fabric and this was one way to finish a quilt without using extra fabric.

Here is how you do it.  After putting the quilt sandwich together, cut away around 1/2 inch of the batting. Then turn under the edges of both the quilt top and the backing, and sew them together.

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