Monday, September 6, 2010

Tutorial: How to Fold Over Binding

I thought I would record what I learned in case I ever use this technique again.  I am making a Quilts for Kids quilt, and I wanted to make a binding that was quick and simple.  I didn't have (or didn't want to look for ) coordinating fabric for a separate binding, and I didn't have enough backing fabric to make a double fold binding.  Plus I wanted to try a new-to-me technique.  I decided to fold over the backing to the front as I have seen others do in the past.

The problem with this method (and with any other method) is that I have to bring cutting implements near the quilt top.  This is very scary to me, because of a traumatic past experience. 

Comparison to Separate Double Fold Binding

  • takes less fabric 
  • hand sewing not required
  • probably quicker, I'm not sure.
  • nice to have alternate techniques in your arsenal
  • not wasting the extra backing fabric. You have to add extra backing anyway, why not use it up right away?
  • stitching shows on top of quilt which is good if you use a nice decorative stitch

  • probably not as strong as a double fold binding
  • cutting implements near quilt (twice) is dangerous
  • probably won't win awards
  • stitching shows on top of quilt, which is bad if you have issues with stitching or can't find matching thread

Here are my tips / steps.  It isn't that complicated, but I like to explain things and break out lists in very small steps. Please critique this tutorial and let me know if I explain too much, am too wordy, or left anything out, or how I can otherwise make this tutorial better.


  1. Make your quilt top.  Sandwich and quilt, but don't quilt all the way to the edge.  The mat is going to have to stick in there, so leave about a quarter to half an inch from the edge. When you are done quilting, take out any remaining safety pins or basting where they can interfere with the binding process. 

  2. Lay the quilt flat again.  I use a floor because the table has too much stuff on it.  Put the cutting mat between the batting and the backing, as far in as the quilting will allow you to go.  Be gentle, you don't want to mess up the quilting.    Make sure everything is nice and flat.  The top, the batting need to be nice and flat.  Also pull the backing underneath the mat and check that it is flat and smooth under the mat. 

  3. Put the ruler on top of the quilt.  I like to line it up with the inner border to make sure I have a nice consistently straight line so the quilt top is nice and square.

  4. Do not skip this quality control step.  Lift up the batting over the ruler to be sure that the backing is flat.  Be careful that when you are doing this, you aren't also pulling up the backing.  If you leave a fold like this,

    Batting folded over for quality inspection.  Backing should all be under ruler,
    but here it is peeking through.

    it can cause a cut like this!

    I don't recommend doing this.

  5. Plan how much you are going to cut at a time.  You want to make sure you aren't cutting too far, off the mat or away from the ruler area.

  6. Cut at your own risk.

  7. Move the mat and ruler and repeat steps 2-6 as you go all around the quilt, especially the quality control step. You can do that step several times if you want. But do it carefully.

  8. Batting has been trimmed
  9.  Decide how wide you want the binding to be. First, find the area where the backing sticks out the least from the quilt top.  That is the largest your binding can be cut.  Then look around the edges of your quilt top to see where the top doesn't quite make it to the edge, not that you have any of those. 

    Quilt top didn't quite meet the backing here

    You want the binding to be large enough to cover this spot and a little bit more. That is the smallest your binding can be cut.  You will be folding the binding over itself to cover the raw edge, but may want to tuck about an extra quarter inch of the raw edge under the quilt to have two layers of fabric at the most vulnerable part of the quilt, the edge. If you do, that will affect how wide you want to cut the binding.  I played around with folding the backing over the top to decide where I wanted my cut. You can take a practice spot and try cutting it different widths to see what works.  Remember, start big and work your way down to smaller sizes in small increments.  I decided to cut 1 and one fourth inch (1 1/4) away from the edge of the quilt.

  10. Put the cutting mat under the backing this time, line up the ruler for the measurement you determined in step 8.  Make sure everything is nice and flat, and cut carefully.  Repeat around the quilt. You don't need me to break all this out into mini-steps.  You are a pro at this.

  11. Now, if you didn't follow my advice in step 4 and have any issues, you have options.  You can decide you want a separate binding after all, or you can take these correcting steps.  If you didn't have any issues, you don't really need my tutorial, but you are almost done, so you might as well finish reading, just to make me feel good. But if you stop reading, I won't know.

  12. You want to fold the binding fabric against itself first to hide the raw edge.  You can just fold in half, but I recommend folding about a quarter inch more, so you can tuck some of that fabric under the batting.  This will give you a semblance of a double fold binding, and makes sure there are two pieces of fabric over the most vulnerable part of the quilt, the edge.  Fold the folded fabric over the quilt, pin or otherwise baste, being careful to have a consistent binding size throughout the quilt. Since I had a limited number of pins on hand, and because I didn't want too many pins stabbing me, I did one edge at a time, long, opposite edges first.

  13. You can sew by machine or by hand.  I used machine since I could see exactly where I was sewing. A decorative stitch would be nice, but a straight stitch works as well.   If using the machine, put in a walking foot, and change the settings on your machine accordingly. Use thread that is close to the color of the binding fabric.  I put the pins in facing the needle, so I can easily take them out without getting close to the needle.  Sew from edge of quilt to edge of quilt, about one eighth of an inch away from the fold. I would backstitch at the top and the bottom if the backstitch button worked on my machine.  I just use a shorter stitch length since it doesn't.  You can probably sew all the way off the binding fabric, but I didn't so I don't know what the quilting police would say if you did.

    Sewing binding down

  14. To do the other two sides, you will have to deal with the corners.  To make the mitered corner, fold a triangle in the corner first,

    Fold binding diagonally into triangle.  Pin optional.

    then fold the binding over itself in half (or more) as before.

    Binding folded over itself.  Pin still optional.

    Fold the folded binding over the quilt and pin. 

    Binding folded over quilt.  Pinning highly recommended.

    Sew down the miter and the rest of the binding. You can do the miter by hand if you don't want stitching to show in the back, but I did all by machine.  Do the same for the rest of the quilt.   Label your quilt and you are done. Congratulations!


    Barb said...

    great tutorial with such detailed instructions!
    I haven't tried this yet, but I'm going to some time!
    Thanks, hope you're having a nice day

    Allie said...

    Excellent tutorial - I wish you'd been around when I did mine, I had so much trouble with the miters. Your way is perfect! You did a great job on this!

    Tanya said...

    Well done! I will try this! I loved your line "You can decide you want a separate binding after all..."

    Cynthia said...

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I have been fighting with mitered corners forever because I use this wrap around method. This makes them soooo easy!