The first time I made a quilt, and I mean a REAL quilt, I wasn’t quite sure how to sew on the binding. I had spend a lot of time an effort to make a quilt for my mom’s 80th birthday, and I didn’t want to mess it up by doing a poor job on the binding. Fortunately, I have a co-worker friend who is an avid quilter. She knows it all. So, on my lunch hour, I went to her office and asked her to explain how to do it. She took a napkin and cut a strip. She began explaining it to me while using paper napkins for a visual aid! It made total sense! It was waaaay easier than I thought it was going to be. Since I am a visual learner, the explanation using the napkin was perfect. I came home and added the binding to my mom’s 80th birthday quilt just like she taught me! (BTW, it was a great birthday surprise! She had no idea that I knew how to make a quilt! The truth is, neither did I!)
This tutorial has a lot of steps and pictures, but take a minute to look through all of the steps. I think it helps to get in your mind how to do it before you begin.
Cut strips to desired width. I like a small binding, so I usually use a 2 1/2″ or 2 3/4″ wide strip. When I am using a striped fabric, I like cut it across the grain so that the stripe is perpendicular to the edge. You could also cut the strips on the bias (at a 45° angle) if you want diagonal stripes on the binding. The directions for sewing the binding onto the quilt are still the same. Be aware that when the strips are cut on the bias, they will stretch a bit.
After you have the strips cut, (make sure you have enough to go all the way around the 4 sides of the quilt, plus about 12 more inches.) Use a ruler and draw a light pencil line from corner to corner. (This is how you will stitch the strips together.)
Stitch on the pencil line.
Use your ruler to trim the seam to 1/4″.
Press the seams open.
Here is how it will look when pressed.
Fold the strip in half (but do not press) and pin it to the front edge of the quilt as shown above. (Leave about 8″ unpinned and start the stitching about 8″ from the end – you will stitch the ends together later when the strips meet.)
Stitch using 1/4″ seam allowance – STOP 1/4″ from the end as shown above.
Fold the strip up as shown and pin to secure. The pin will be right in line with the 1/4″ seam allowance.
Then fold the strip back down and stitch (using 1/4″ seam allowance.) The edge on the right should line up with the edge of the quilt.
Do the other three corners the same. When you get about 10″ from the end of the end of the beginning strip, stop stitching. (You need these to be unattached so that you can stitch them together.)
Lay the quilt out in front of you, right side up and unfold the strip on the left. Use a ruler to mark and cut a 45° angle as shown above.
Fold the strip in half again and lay it next to the edge as shown.
Now, unfold the strip on the right…
then lay the folded left strip on top of the right (unfolded) strip.
Use your ruler to draw a light pencil line to match the 45° angle on the left strip. (You can see the left strip underneath.)
BEFORE you cut the strip, ADD 1/2″ (this will give you enough for two 1/4″ seam allowances so it will match up perfectly!)
Pin the strips together and stitch as shown. Open the seam and press it open using your fingers.
Then fold the strip in half again and pin it the the front of the quilt. It should fit perfectly! Stitch it in place.
After you have sewn the strip all the way around, fold the strip back as shown. You will see a nice mitered corner.
Turn the quilt to the back and fold the top edge over and pin.
Then fold the side over to meet the top edge and pin. See? You have a perfectly mitered corner!
I like to hand stitch mine using a blind stitch or whip stitch- but if you prefer, you can do it by machine. You just need to “stitch in the ditch” on the top side making sure that it gets stitched through the binding on the back.
Here are some of the tools I used: