Quilt Binding for Beginners: How to Bind a Quilt

I didn’t bind my first quilt. After piecing it together and quilting it myself, I was so afraid to ruin it with a bad binding that I didn’t even try. This was, however, before the internet and definitely before YouTube. Quilters these days have it easy, I tell ya.

Nevertheless, binding is a daunting process. There’s a lot of precision involved for such a small part of the quilt that I think some beginners are still tempted just to leave their quilt unbound. Take my word for it: bind your quilt. You’ll feel better about the finished product, and learning how to bind now and getting over that hurdle are important to your progress as a quilter.

Here’s the simplest method of how to sew a binding on a quilt that I’ve found.

Selecting the Binding Fabric

The first step, of course, is selecting the fabric you’ll use for your binding. There are two schools of thought on this, and both have merit.

The first school of thought says to buy a binding that will blend in with the border of your fabric. Sometimes, on more subdued quilts, this is a great idea! The second school of thought says to buy a fabric that will contrast with your border. This is also a great idea! Both strategies can look amazing and, like a lot of quilting, it’s up to you to decide which one to choose.

Do keep in mind that your binding will be reasonably small. Large print fabrics might not show up very well. Even small print fabrics may not. I tend to use solid colors, either an accent color I’ve used in the quilt top or a complimentary color I used in the border.

Measuring/Buying the Binding Fabric

More important than what fabric to buy is how much of it to buy for your binding. Luckily, this is simple.

Here’s how you figure out how much fabric to buy:

  1. Measure the outside of your quilt. Once you’ve measured the outside, add the numbers together. This will give you the perimeter. For this example, let’s say our quilt is 54” x 48”. There are two sides that are 54” and two sides that are 48”. Add all of those sides together and you have 184”. Therefore, our binding will need to be 184”.

  2. After you’ve selected your backing fabric, figure out the usable width of that fabric (WOF). This is normally around 40”. Divide the number we got in step one, by the WOF. Assuming a WOF of 40”, if we divide 184 by 40, we get 4.6, Round that up to five. Therefore, we’ll need five binding strips.

  3. Multiply the number of binding strips by the width of the binding. For beginners, 2.5” is probably the best width. So, 5 times 2.5 is 10. Typically, we would round that up to a whole number, but since it’s already a whole number lets get 12” of fabric just to be safe.

  4. Since 12” is ⅓ a yard of fabric, we’ll need ⅓ a yard for our binding.

Preparing the Binding

To prepare your binding, the first thing you’ll need to do is to square up your binding fabric. Make sure the ends of it are even and straight--this will save you a lot of trouble later! Since you should know how to do this after piecing a quilt, I won’t go into detail about it here.

After you’ve squared up your quilt, you need to cut your strips:

  1. Lay out your binding fabric and ensure it’s even.

  2. Give it a quick press with your iron. Double check to make sure everything is square.

  3. Use your rectangular ruler and cut your 2.5” strips. For our example, we need to cut 5.

After you’ve cut your strips, you need to stitch them all together and form the “binding tape,” as I call it. Here’s where we wade into unknown territory. A lot of tutorials will tell you to bind your strips at an angle, and that is one way to do this. Since this is a tutorial for beginners, I’m going to teach you a simpler way.

  1. Place two strips right sides together.

  2. Bind them with a straight seam, approximately ¾-1” from the edge.

  3. Trim away enough to leave a ¼” seam.

  4. Finger press the seam open.

  5. Repeat this process for the rest of your strips.

Give the binding tape a good pressing, making sure to press the seams open. Once you’ve completed this, you’ll need to carefully and accurately fold your “binding tape” in half lengthwise. Once the raw edges are even, press the folded binding tape once more.

Attaching the Binding

Before you attach the binding, square up your quilt. Cut away any excess batting around the edges. Now you’re ready to begin attaching the binding of your quilt.

  1. Begin attaching the binding approximately 6-10” away from one of the corners.

  2. Align the raw edges of the quilt sandwich and the binding tape.

  3. Stitch the binding tape to the quilt sandwich using a ¼” seam allowance. Make sure to check that the binding tape and quilt sandwich are even throughout.

  4. Continue stitching the binding fabric to about ¼” from the edge of the fabric. It can be helpful to put a pin here so you don’t stitch too far.

  5. Back tack a few stitches.

  6. Cut the thread and remove the quilt.

Quilt Binding Corners

Now, we’re at a corner. Bindings use something called mitered corners. It sounds a lot more complicated than it is, though. Here’s how you put mitered corners on your binding:

  1. With the quilt off of the sewing machine and the edge with the attached binding tape laying left-to-right in front of you, fold the binding tape up and perpendicular to the attached binding. Ensure that the corner of the fold is a 45-degree angle. See figure 1

  2. Hold the 45 degree angle in place and then fold the rest of the binding tape down the next edge of the quilt. Make sure the folded edge aligns with the edge of the quilt. See figure 2.

  3. Mark where you finished stitching the last edge with a pin or chalk pencil.

  4. Place your sewing foot on that marker, sew a few stitches and then back tack a few.

  5. Attach the binding tape to the next side of the quilt as before.

  6. Do this for each corner.

At this point, the corners should have a triangular fold with two 45-degree angles and one 90-degree angle.

Stitching Together the Binding Tape

At this point, almost all of the binding tape should be attached to your quilt sandwich. You will, however, have loose fabric at both ends of the tape. You need to stitch those together. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Trim the ends of the binding tape so that they overlap about ½”.

  2. Unfold the ends of the binding tape.

  3. Place the ends right side to right side.

  4. Stitch them together using a ¼” seam allowance.

  5. Finger press the resulting seam open.

  6. Refold the binding tape and align it to the edge of the quilt.

  7. Stitch the last of the binding to the quilt.

Machine Binding the Quilt

We are almost done! This is the last step to bind your quilt. A lot of people choose to do this part by hand stitching the binding onto the quilt. If you choose to do this, make sure to stitch the mitered corners. Since we’re going for the fastest, easiest way to bind a quilt, we’re going to learn how to bind a quilt by machine.

  1. Attach a ditch quilting foot to your sewing machine. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a requirement but it sure does make the process easier.

  2. Fold the binding over the edge of the quilt and finger press that seam. You want to fold all of the binding over the edge.

  3. Clip the fabric in place.

  4. Lay the quilt top side up, and stitch in the ditch along the seam of the binding. You’ll notice that the thread is attaching the binding on the bottom of the quilt. Check every once in a while to ensure the seam is straight.

Finishing the Corners

  1. As you approach a corner, fold the edge you aren’t sewing underneath the quilt.

  2. Fold the side that you are sewing over that fold.

  3. Use a pin to make sure that the second fold is a 45 degree angle.

  4. Stitch to the corner while holding the 45 degree fold in place. Stop with the needle down.

  5. Pivot the quilt to begin stitching the next edge.

  6. Repeat for all corners.

You did it! You’ve bound your quilt! Pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back and snuggle up in your newly-finished quilt. Now that you know the basics of how to put binding on a quilt, nothing can stop you!

Happy stitchin’!

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