Welcome back for Part 2 of the quilt binding tutorial.
In case you missed it, Part 1 delves into how to make straight grain binding, how to attach the first side to your quilt, how to navigate corners and how to join the two ends for a seamless finish. Plus, it includes my top 10 tips to create perfect binding every time.
Now it’s one thing to create the binding and get it onto your quilt, but deciding whether to finish the second side by machine or hand can be a tough one. They each have their pros and cons. Let’s explore what those are.
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This approach is hands down the quickest. You’ll be in and out in no time. But it leaves visible stitches. Not the end of the world, just a different look.
There are two ways you can go about attaching your binding by machine, which I’ll quickly sum up by saying one involves following the edge of your binding and the other involves stitching in the ditch. I’m hoping to delve into both of these techniques a little more in the future. As it stands, my experience mainly lies with hand binding. The number of projects I’ve machine bound stands at one! And it was this tiny place mat I made for Pips’ food (cause he’s the messiest eater ever) out of some scraps from my Cats in Boxes quilt.
Now if you’re thinking I’m crazy for even considering hand sewing, let me start by saying hand sewing anything was not my cup of tea. And when I first started quilting the thought of having to tackle binding was daunting in of itself, never mind hand binding. But, I love learning and I believe in trying different approaches so that you can understand your options. And once explored, decide for yourself if that technique is right for you.
While I love the look of a hand bound quilt, what I love even more is the process. Snuggling on the couch under my quilt, up close and personal so I get to see all the details – the fabric, the stitching, the design – all the design decisions I’ve made along the way. It’s such a beautiful moment in the quilt making journey. And with practice, I’ve seen my hand stitches improve that the total experience is quite meditative and relaxing!
The cons is definitely time. It takes wayyyy longer than machine binding. But the pros are in the seamless finished look and the enjoyable process.
Now you’re probably thinking “well, what kind of stitches do you use” and “how do you make those stitches look good”.
Well, before we get to that, let’s dive into the tools you’ll need.
HAND BINDING TOOLS
Here are all the tools and notions you’ll need to tackle hand binding:
- *Thread conditioner (optional, but highly recommended)
- *Clips (optional)
- Pin Cushion (check out DIY Quilted Pin Cushion Tutorial to make your own or grab the Sit ‘n Sew Pincushion pattern)
NOTE – you can skip ahead to the video at the bottom of this tutorial if you’d prefer to see hand binding in action 😉
PREPARING YOUR BINDING FOR HAND BINDING
In Quilt Binding Tutorial – Part 1 I left you with your quilt binding attached securely to the front with a nice mitered join on the ends. The next step is entirely optional. I know many quilters skip it entirely, but I find it’s often these small details that make a difference in the finished look.
To prep everything for hand binding, I like to *iron back the binding for a nice crisp finish on the front. This takes 2 seconds. Ok, maybe a minute – tops. It’s quick, but it leaves everything nice and flat and crisp on the front.
TO CLIP OR NOT TO CLIP?
I then hand fold the binding to the back and keep everything in place with binder clips. You can also use *these hair clips (yes, really!) or these *fancy clips, but I found the latter expensive and I prefer to keep my sewing dollars for fabric and other essentials.
Plus, I already had a huge stock of *small binder clips on hand, so I went with that. Go with what feels right to you. Some quilters even skip this step entirely and just flip the binding over as they go. Totally up to you.
For nice crisp corners, the best approach is to first lay the bottom binding edge flat right up to the corner. You want it as flush as possible before you flip the top binding back over. This is what I’ve found results in a perfect mitered corner
every most of the time 😉 Nothing is perfect here. Some days your binding game will be on point, other days not so much. I aim for a perfect finish, but if it’s off a little, so be it! I’m certainly not about to unpick everything I’ve done. I’m a firm believer in “done is better than perfect”.
Once everything is clipped in place, it’s time to settle in for some lovely hand stitching. The reason I love hand binding is that it gives me a chance to be up close with my quilt, admire my patch work and the fabric choices I’ve made, snuggle under her and think back on the quilting journey. There is something really magical about this process that I just can’t give up (even though I have been tempted by the speed machine binding offers).
When it comes time to selecting your *binding thread you want to be as matchy-matchy as possible with your binding fabric and not your backing. This will help reduce your stitch visibility and make everything blend seamlessly.
In terms of how much thread to cut, a good rule of thumb is no longer from your finger tip to your elbow. You don’t want it too long or it will just get tangled on you. But you don’t want it too short or you’ll constantly be re-threading your needle.
TO DOUBLE THREAD OR NOT
Should you double your thread or not? I think this is kinda similar to “do you pre-wash or not?”. I know quilters who use both approaches. I’ve heard it said that double threaded is stronger, but I’ve also experienced a lot more tangling (which I find frustrating). So, I typically only use a single thread. I’ve recently started using *40wt thread since it’s a little thicker and sturdier, but it does mean my stitches are a little more prominent. I’m actually loving the results.
What I’ve learned over time is that conditioning your thread with *thread conditioner makes a difference. I had my doubts, but I remember Suzy (of Suzy Quilts) mentioning it and, well, she’s never steered me wrong, so I gave it a go. It totally works!
All you have to do is run the thread through the center of the container and then pass it through your fingers to make sure you have an even coating. This will help the thread glide through all those layers. Plus, it helps reduce tangling. It doesn’t prevent it (that would have been awesome), but it definitely helps.
After threading my needle (*these are my go-to), I then knot and often triple knot. Three knots probably seems excessive, and most times it is, but I’ve also had my double knots pop out on occasion and that just irritates me, so I go with three to make sure it’s not budging (and I keep my sanity) 😉
Now, I know there is such a thing as a quilter’s knot, but try as I might, I can’t get it. So, I go with quick and dirty. This isn’t going to be seen, so as long as you have a knot at the end, how you get there doesn’t really matter.
You then want to insert your needle on the underside of the loose edge of binding, but only go through the one layer. Travel in between the two layers and pop your needle out along the very edge of your binding (i.e. through that fold you created). You’re now set-up to start your blind stitches.
A tip here is that you want your next stitch to start straight down from where your needle came out. The straighter you are the less visible your stitch will be. This took me some time to figure out. For the longest time (and it still happens) my stitches were slanted, and I didn’t understand why.
Now go through the backing and then travel through the batting and come out through that fold about 1/8 to a 1/4 inch away from your previous stitch. The more you keep your needle exiting through that fold, the more seamless it will look.
I just want to say, this is still very much a work in progress for me. I’m not a stickler. I’m totally fine with my stitches not being completely blind. It’s what I strive for, but I don’t sweat it if I miss the mark.
And then repeat. Keep repeating until you start running out of thread.
Then knot your thread by creating a loop of thread around your finger, pass the needle all the way through the loop you created. Then use the tip of the needle to guide that loop down close to where you took your last stitch and pull to close the loop forming a knot. Repeat 1 to 2 more times.
Put your needle directly in the same hole you took your last stitch and travel between the backing and front and exit about an inch away, pulling to pop your knots from the front of your binding and burying it between the layers of batting. Cut your thread for a fully buried knot.
A quick tip, similar to how you wanted some breathing space to attach your quilt binding ends, here too you want to leave yourself enough wiggle room to be able to knot your thread and then be able to bury your knot. If your thread is too short, you’ll have a hard time positioning your needle. Trust me, I’ve done it way too many times than I care to admit!
Keep doing this until you get to your first corner.
HOW TO STITCH BINDING CORNERS
Coming up to your first binding corner can be sweat inducing, but I’ve got a few tips to help you through.
I’ll start by saying not everyone stitches down their binding corners. So, if you’re thinking you’d prefer to just by-pass this additional step all together, you totally can.
But in case you want to take it all the way, here’s how.
Remember from the To Clip or Not To Clip section above, you’re already clipped your corners in a mitered position. All you need to do is come along and stitch it securely into place.
When you’re a stitch away from the corner, leave the binder clip in place so you can easily position your needle to come through the bottom binding edge and through the top corner binding edge. This keeps that point nicely aligned with that bottom binding edge. Then continue stitching, using the same blind stitch, working your way up the corner. Once near the top, put your needle back through the hole of your last stitch and travel through the batting to exit at the very tip of the mitered edge.
Then continue blind stitching away until your entire binding is secured.
And you’ve just hand bound your quilt!!
Since hand stitching is a little tough to describe and show in pictures, I’ve put together a quick video walking you through each of the steps so you can see it in action.
ULTIMATE HAND BINDING TIPS
Here are my ultimate hand binding tips:
- *Condition your thread. I thought this was just a gimmick product, but once I gave it a go, I actually noticed a difference in how the thread slides through the layers. It claims to prevent tangles. My thread still tangles, but I dare say less often.
- Use a sharp thin needle. *These are my fave. Ever since I started using these I find my hand binding went up a level.
- Match your *thread colour to your binding colour (not your backing). It will blend better.
- Double or triple knot so it doesn’t pop through.
- Place the needle straight down from where you came out from your last stich. You want your stitch to be vertical rather than slanted so that it blends better.
- Take your time, enjoy the methodical stitching. It’s all about the journey, after all.
- Practice, practice and practice some more. There is no getting around this one. The more you do it, the better you get. It’s that simple.
I hope this tutorial has given you some tips to help improve your quilt binding game or more confidence to give it a go if you haven’t explored the joys of hand binding.
As always, feel free to ask any questions or share your own tips in the comments.
And don’t forget a quilt label. You’ve spent all this time creating your quilt, it would be a shame not to document who made it and when. For tips on creating your own check out the DIY Quilt Label tutorial.
Happy quilting my friend!
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