Machine Binding Tutorial

For many years I sewed my quilt binding onto the front of my quilts by machine, then sewed the back edge down by hand. I enjoyed the whole ritual and used to look forward to spending a whole evening with a quilt on my lap, slowly stitching the binding on whilst watching Netflix. A quilt is supposed to be a labour of love after all. 

As my design work got busier, my commitments and deadlines started piling up. I was working on a quilt one day for a paid partnership and I realised I didn't have enough time to sew the back by hand. So I had a go at machine stitching it instead. It was far from perfect, but I had it done in half an hour and met my deadline! I'm sharing my method with you today, as I've had a lot of questions on Instagram after sharing a binding photo recently. This method is not only a massive time saver but also produces more durable quilts that can withstand many, many washes and you don't need to worry about the binding unravelling and needing repairs. 


Watch the video here

1. Cut your binding strips 2 1/4" wide, cross grain. 2 1/4" is my preferred width of strip as it produces a neater finish on the back, without a big 'flap'. I've always cut my binding strips cross grain rather than bias for standard rectangular quilts, in fact often I cut the strips straight from the bolt. I find bias strips overly stretchy for my binding method. If you aren't familiar with these terms this is a helpful article

2. Join the binding strips with diagonal seams, as shown.  Trim excess fabric 1/4” away from the seam, press open .Press the entire binding in half lengthwise, wrong sides facing. 
3. Starting half way down one side of the quilt, place the binding strip on the right side of the quilt, raw edge to raw edge. Leave a 6" tail of binding at the beginning, then sew the rest onto the quilt, with a 1/4” seam, mitreing the corners. Leave a 6" tail at the end of the binding also. Join the two tails of the binding with a diagonal seam (as above), press with iron down onto the quilt, and finish stitching it down with a 1/4" seam.

(Note: Up to this point this is pretty much the universal method for binding a quilt and there are many video and picture tutorials on the Internet if you are a beginner. I wanted to include these steps in this tutorial for completeness.  My machine binding method and my video below focuses on the rest of the binding process.)

4. You will need three quilting clips for the next step. I use Clover Wonder Clips but there are other brands out there, and I heard of people using bulldog clips for this also. Place the quilt on a flat surface, right side up, and fold over the binding to the back, as tight as you can so there is no 'gap' between the edge of the quilt and the binding. Clip. Repeat ~5 inches  below, folding over and clipping again, and then one more time 5 inches below the last clip. This is the most important part of the process and takes a bit of practice till you get used to it - if you don't fold back the binding sufficiently your stitches will not catch the binding on the back and you will end up with unsewn gaps.

5.  Place the quilt on the machine with the foot right below the first clip. I just use a regular sewing foot but you can use a walking foot also if you prefer or if you use high loft batting. Sew in the ditch with a 3 mm stitch length as close to the binding as you can get, without sewing over it. 

6. Keep stitching down the length of the binding, go as slowly as you need to, making sure your stitch line remains right up against the binding edge. Slide the clips down as you go. Periodically stop to repeat step 4, folding over the edge of the binding to the back and clipping. 

7. When you get to a corner, first fold over and clip the binding on the lower edge, then mitre the corner. You will notice in the video below that I first mitred the corner in one direction, it didn't sit quite right so I mitred it the other way and the corner looked sharper. There is no 'right' direction of mitreing so do what works and looks best. Put a clip on the corner to hold the mitred fold in place. Keep sewing all the way to the corner, right into it (and in fact you may even want to go a small stitch in onto the binding then back one stitch, if you want to absolutely make sure the corner is secure). Stop with needle down, turn the quilt 90 degrees and keep going as before. 

You should end up with a binding that's neat and even on the back. It does take some practice, so don't be discouraged if your first effort doesn't look as even.


The video below shows the whole process from step 4 onwards. 


- If you end up with unsewn gaps on the back, just unpick the stitch line up to an inch before the gap, fold the binding over tightly, clip, and repeat the process. If the gap is very small e.g. less than 1/4" you can just put a stitch or two in there by hand. 

- If you are using a very high loft batting, or really struggling to catch the edge of the binding on the back, with lots of unsewn gaps, try cutting your strips 2.5" wide instead. That should give you a bit more room for error as there will be more fabric on the back for your stitch line to catch. 


For those of you who asked on Instagram - this is the mini quilt I was binding! It's an old project from my WIP drawer that I dug up for this tutorial. It's a free block designed by Lori Holt - you can download the pattern here. The fabrics are a mix of prints from my stash, most of them over 5 years old.

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