Hand Binding a Quilt: Part One

Binding. It’s the last part of quilting and often the least thought about. After all, you have to get though the cutting, piecing, basting, and quilting first. I don’t know about you, but when I first searched the internet for how to bind a quilt, I was completely baffled that the only way to get a seamless binding was to bind by hand. Every other part of quilting had been engineered with the upmost efficiency of 21st century technology, but binding has remained an age-old beast. It’s especially daunting when you’ve got a bed-sized quilt.


Never fear! Hand binding your quilt is actually quite easy. And once you have the motion down, it’s a cozy way to spend an evening or two watching TV. Everything you need to know about how to hand bind a quilt will take two parts. This first part will show you how to make binding strips and sew on the binding for the top of the quilt. Part two will show how to hand bind the back.


Making binding strips

Choosing a size

Before you do any sewing you have to figure out how wide you want your finished binding (aka seam allowance) to be. Over the years I’ve vacillated between very skinny and chunky monkey. Either way is completely fine. I would say 1/4″ – 1/2″  is normal. I usually like to go with 3/8″, because I like to quilt a 1/4″ around the perimeter of my quilt sandwich before I bind to hold everything together. The 3/8″ binding just makes sure all that stitching is covered.


Much like the binding width, how wide your binding strips is also a bit of a personal decision. Some people, like myself, prefer really tight binding. Other prefer something more lose so they have more give when they work. Below are some common binding widths for different seam allowances.

Hand bind a quilt: binding size

If your pattern doesn’t tell you, you’ll need to know how much fabric you’ll need and how many binding strips you’ll need to make your quilt. Quilter’s Paradise has my favorite binding fabric calculator that I use all the time. You’ll just need to type in the width of your fabric, the length and width of your quilt, and the width you chose for your binding strips.


Making the strip

After you get your fabric and cut out the strips, you need to attach them together. This is best done with chain piecing. Look at the diagram below. The green fabric is place perpendicularly on top of the blue piece so the right sides are together. Where the two pieces touch, you’ll need to sew a diagonal line. See the diagram below. Once it’s sewn do NOT remove your piece from the sewing machine or cut your thread.


How to hand bind: making binding


Simply take the tail of your ‘green piece’ and flip it on your machine so the right side is up. See below. Take your next piece of binding fabric (shown as pale yellow in the diagram below) and align it, right sides together, to your ‘green piece’. Then, just as you did above, sew along the diagonal.The thread will continue off the last diagonal you just sewed, so the corners are attached This is called chain piecing. Repeat this chain piecing until all your binding strips have been sewn together.


Hand bind a quilt: making binding

When your done, you’ll simply need to snip the threads holding the corners together and trim the corners you made to half an inch. Press these seams open (or to the side, if you roll like that).Lastly, press the entire length of the binding strip in half the hotdog way. Now your raring to go!


Sewing on the binding strips

You know how I mentioned hand binding in the beginning. Well, we’re actually going to machine bind first. You see, you have to attach the binding to both sides of the quilt. You’ll machine bind the front and hand bind the back. Here’s how you do it.


Starting the front binding

Place one end of your binding about halfway down one side of your quilt, aligning the raw edges of the binding to the edge of your quilt. ~8″ down from the edge of the start of the binding, begin sewing the binding on with your desired seam allowance. Stop sewing one seam allowance from the bottom edge of your quilt, back stitch to lock the threads, and remove the quilt from the machine.


Hand bind a quilt: the beginning of the front


Making a corner

To get around the corner you’ll simply need to fold the binding out to the right as shown in the diagram below. The folded binding should make a neat corner that aligns with the corner of the quilt.


Folding the binding out

Then, you need to fold the binding across the dotted red line in the diagram below.


Folding the binding corner

This makes the raw edge of the binding run along the next side of the quilt. Continue sewing along the binding from the corner you just made.

Binding the second side


Finish the front

You’ll run into three more corners (unless you have a wonky quilt). Repeat the steps above until you’ve folded your fourth corner. When you go to sew along the final side, you’ll want to stop ~8″ away from the tip of the starting binding end (ie. there should be ~16 inches between where you started and stopped sewing on the binding). Lay the tail end of the binding over the starting binding. There should be overlap. Trim the tail binding so the overlap between the two ends is the width of your binding strips.


Hand Binding a quilt: finishing the front


Now you need to sew the ends together. You’re going to sew the pieces together like you sewed the binding strips together above. Take the tail end of the binding (the blue piece in the picture  below. Unfold it and place down with the right side up.


Finshing the binding


Take the starting binding end (the purple in the picture below). Unfold it and place it down with the wrong side up. Pay attention to how you are twisting the binding strips!


how to hand bind a quilt: finishing the binding


Move the starting binding (purple) to rest perpendicularly on the tail binding as shown in the picture below.


Finishing the top binding


Then sew down the diagonal as shown below.


finishing the top hand binding


Trim the corner you sewed to 1/4″ and press the seam open (or to the side, if that’s you). Now the quilt should be fully enclosed and the binding should be the exact length of your quilt. Finish the top binding by machine sewing the final ~16″ of binding down


End of part one

Phew! You’ve made it half way, and you haven’t even done any hand sewing yet! Lucky for you that’s up next week.

Sew on!

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