Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Machine Binding Tutorial

So, a friend whom I showed my binding method to a while back was doing another binding the other day, and was wishing for pictures to remind herself of the steps. Well, as it happened, I had something I was working on binding, so I took pictures as I went along, and besides sending them to her, I thought I'd post them here along with some instructions, for anyone who may be interested in how I do my quilt bindings entirely by machine. I did the best I could with the pictures, but only having two hands sometimes it was challenging to both do something, and take a picture of it all at once.

First, I sew the binding to the BACK of the quilt, and not as one continuous strip, but as four separate strips. I start and stop a seam allowance away from the corner, backstitch at the beginning and the end of the seam, and I allow about 1-1/2"-2" to hang over at each end. Here's what one corner looks like after the strips have been added:

A note on binding widths and seam allowances. In these pictures, I'm working with strips cut at 2-1/2", and pressed in half, and I'm using a scant 3/8" seam allowance. More commonly I do a narrower binding, using strips cut at 2" and a 1/4" seam allowance. When I bind a flannel quilt with a flannel binding, I cut those strips at 6-1/2", and take a 1" seam allowance. This technique works with any strip width and seam allowance that you like to use.

After you sew all four strips to the back of your (quilted and trimmed) quilt, check each corner, to make sure you haven't caught one strip in the other seam allowance. As you can see, your start/stop stitching points will probably NOT be in exactly the same spot. That's okay, as long as they're close. Believe me, it'll work.

The next thing to do is to stitch the miters into the corners. To do this, you'll work on one corner at a time. First lay the quilt out flat, and work on one of the two strips that meet at that corner. You'll be marking on the side that will eventually be to the inside of the front, so what you mark with doesn't matter too much unless it bleeds through. I've used pencil, chalk marker, regular pen, and my favorite, a silver metallic Gelly Roll pen (which I've found shows on virtually every fabric). For the photos, I'm using a black pen so it'll show well.

Align a horizontal line of your ruler with the binding seam line, with the edge of the ruler at the point at which you started or stopped stitching.

Either make a dot right at the binding fold line along the edge of the ruler,

Or if you prefer, draw a line from the seam start/stop point to the fold of the binding, along the edge of the ruler.

Next, align the 45 degree line on your ruler with the binding fold line, and the long edge of the ruler with the start/stop stitching point.

Draw a line from the start/stop stitching point that goes at least past the middle of the binding strip. It does not have to go all the way to the fold.

Now align the 45 degree line of your ruler with the seam line, and the long edge of the ruler with the dot you made at the fold line, or if you drew a line there instead as I did, with the place where that line touches the fold.

Draw a line from the fold edge, at least through the middle of the binding strip. You're drawing a "corner," essentially. This will be your miter.

Fold your quilt so that the backing is to the inside, and the two strips that meet at the corner are on top of each other. The rest of your quilt will form a 45 degree angle going away from the corner you're working on. Keep the folded edges of the two binding strips matched up and even. The binding seam allowances should get pushed towards the quilt.

Pin them to keep those edges together. This is how I pin mine, but you may find something else that works for you -- you don't want to pin in the lines you drew, as you'll be sewing there.

Now you'll sew -- the first line, if you drew a line instead of a dot, does NOT get sewn on. The two lines that you drew by aligning the 45 degree line of the ruler with the binding fold and the binding seam are the lines you'll sew on, sewing in a corner or a big "V." First, sink the needle at the fold edge, right on the drawn line.

Using a very short stitch length (I use about a 0.8 setting on my machine), sew towards the corner formed by the intersection of the lines. Pivot at the intersection.

Sew towards, but NOT all the way to, the start/stop stitching point. Believe me, a gap there won't be a problem, but catching something in the seam that's not supposed to be there will. I'm usually somewhere between 1/8" - 3/16" away from the start/stop stitching point. It's important to sew as close as possible to exactly ON the lines you drew. You may find an open-toe foot helpful for this.

Here it is after it's been sewn. Note the stitching does NOT extend past the "corner."

Trim very close to the stitching, trimming away the extra binding "overhang." I like to blunt the tip at the corner slightly but cutting straight across there.

Because I cut so close, even though I use a really tiny stitch length, I like to use a seam sealant on those cut edges. There are several brands available, but this is the one I use:

This picture is a bit inaccurate, due to the only having two hands thing. Apply the seam sealant sparingly, right along the cut edge. Allow it to dry (this doesn't take long -- if I stitch one corner and trim it and apply seam sealant, and continue doing each corner in this way as I go, by the time I finish the fourth corner, the first is completely dry and ready to be turned).

Turn the corner right side out, poking it GENTLY with something with a blunt point on it. I usually use my That Purple Thang, but couldn't find it when I was doing this binding. So I'm using the back end of this seam ripper, the blue "tail" bit. You can use the handle of a small paintbrush, a mechanical pencil (with the lead retracted, though!), or anything similar. DON'T use anything sharp, and DON'T get too vigorous with the poking. Work gently and patiently to turn it right side out.

Here's how the corner looks after the point's been turned right side out. Nice stitched-in miter in place ;-)

To stabilize the corners for stitching the binding down, I like to use Elmer's School Glue. It's important that it be School Glue, because it's not really an adhesive, it's a starch. That's why it's okay if the kids eat it, and it also means that it won't gum up your needle, or your pins.

Apply glue on the seam allowance of the quilt top, position the binding in place to cover the seam line,

and pin in place to hold it. I only glue and pin the corners, but you can do the same thing all the way around if you want to. I'd suggest just working on a few inches at a time.

Once the glue sets up just a bit, it's time to sew the binding down again. With the quilt top facing up, you'll stitch the binding down on the front, just covering the first seam line with the fold of the binding. I've used all kinds of stitches to secure the binding -- a blanket stitch, a feather stitch, a serpentine stitch, a blind hem stitch, and others. In this example I'm going to use a simple zigzag. You want the left swing of the needle to just catch the fold of the binding. If you don't glue and pin the whole length of the binding, you're only concerned with a few inches in front of the needle at a time -- you'll stop frequently to make sure the binding fold is just covering the first binding seam line (from when you sewed the binding strips to the back of the quilt). This is the quilt in position to start stitching, with the needle sunk in just at the binding fold edge.

If you keep the left swing of the needle quite close to the fold, and keep the fold just covering the seam line, you'll get a nice even edge with neat stitching on the front,

and fairly even stitching on the back as well.

Personally, I don't worry if my stitching on the back wanders off the binding a bit -- I still think it's a nice neat finish. I don't make quilts for competitions, though, but to be used and loved. I think this finishing method is a lot more secure than MY hand stitching would be, and I really don't enjoy the hand stitching. So this works for me. I hope you find the instructions helpful.

Thanks for coming by to play. Come back again soon.

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