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More ways than one to bind a quilt - Creating binding strips

When I first started quilting I had no idea how to bind a quilt. I had no family or friends who quilted and I wasn't a part of a quilting group. I had an entourage of children and they were all very young so I never had time or money to attend a class so I resorted to books. This certainly wasn't a hardship as I love books but binding in books and patterns, in my experience, is just an after thought. It's briefly addressed and not given any real focus. One thing that I've learnt over the years is that binding shouldn't be an afterthought ... it deserves contemplation and skilled application! Over the next few months we will take a look at all things binding from how to calculate how much you need, how to make it and the many different ways to attach it.

In this post we will cover;

  • How to calculate the length of binding needed to finish your quilt.

  • How much fabric you will need to create the binding

  • Straight of grain verses bias cut binding

  • French fold verses double fold binding

  • How to create continuous bias binding with only two seams

  • Mitred joins in straight of grain binding

That sounds like an awful lot ... lets see how we go!

How much binding do I need?

This is easy!

1. Measure the perimeter of your quilt in inches. Add these measurements together then add 20" to this amount to allow for corners & the final join.

2. Divide this amount by 42 (average width of quilting cottons in inches) - this will give you the number of strips you will need to cut. Round this number up to the next whole number.

3. Finally multiply this number by the width of your binding in inches.


I have a quilt that is 44" long by 44" wide. Therefore the perimeter is 176". Add 20" and this total is now 196". Divide 196 by 42 and we now know that we will need 4.6 strips or 5 complete strips. I want my binding to be 2" wide so I know I need 10" of fabric. I would, however, purchase 30cm to allow for squaring of the fabric and of course user error. ;)

Straight of grain verses bias cut binding

Did you know that binding cut on the bias is more durable than binding cut on the straight of grain? It has to do with the number of threads of fabric that fall on the absolute edge of the binding. There is a really interesting article by Janice Pope that covers this in detail - you can find this here. This is a definite consideration if you are making a heirloom quilt, one that you think is going to get loads of wear and tear for many, many years. I think this is something you should definitely consider if you plan on using Liberty Tana Lawn for your binding. Tana Lawn is delicate and will break down if you aren't careful with it.

Bias binding should be used when applying binding to quilts with curved edges

Asthetics should also be considered when considering straight of grain verse bias cut binding. If you are using stripes which direction do you want the stripe to run? Gingham always works better when used on the bias for binding. When it comes to aesthetics all of the science and dos and don'ts go out the window for me ... I want my quilt to look the way I want it to look and if that means I will be repairing the binding in years to come ... so be it!

It's a common misconception that bias cut binding is more difficult to create and that you need more fabric when preparing your bias in this way. One thing is for certain if you have two pieces of fabric - one that's a square and one that's a rectangle, if both have the same surface area they have to make the same amount of bias ... just because one is cut on a different angle doesn't mean it suddenly shrinks in size!

I think it's a fair assumption to say that most quilters use a single fold bias. In most instances the binding is folded in half, the two raw edges are then sewn to the front of the quilt and the fold is then taken to the rear of the quilt and hand stitched down. This technique results in two layers of fabric on the very edge of your quilt. A good and practical choice when using straight of grain or bias cut binding.

Have you ever tried a French fold bias? I use a French folded bias when I am applying a wider than normal binding or if I am using a bias cut binding. I actually prefer this technique as it gives a beautifully flat finish that I believe is neater than a double fold. You must remember, however, this will not provide you with as durable a finish if you choose to use this technique when using the straight of grain.

We will cover the application of a French fold bias in a later addition but for now I thought it might be useful to look at how to create bias cut binding with only two initial seams. You can create bias with a square or a rectangle of fabric. In these images you will see that I've used a rectangle, however, you can most definitely use either, the same principles apply.

Continuous Bias Cut Binding

Step One

Square up your fabric. Then use your quilting ruler to cut a triangle of fabric from one side. This triangle should be a right angle triangle making the angles shown in the bottom left hand corner of our example both 45 degrees.

Step Two

Take this triangle and place it on the opposite side. Lining up what used to be the left hand side of your fabric with the right hand side of the fabric creating a parallelogram .

Step Three

With right sides together seam this join using a 1/4" seam allowance. Press the seam open. Return the piece to your work surface wrong side up.

Step Four

Now use your quilting ruler and a water-soluble pen to measure out the chosen widths of your binding strips. Take care to keep the rows parallel. This step is tedious but pays off in the end.

Step Five

Sadly this isn't a great image but if you look very carefully I have now numbered the lines running along the top edge of the fabric. They are numbered from right to left. Locate the first row in the bottom right hand corner of your fabric - cut along this line just a few inches. Now number the lines along the bottom edge but this time you will begin with number one being the second row. You can see this in this image if you look carefully.

Step Six

With right sides together carefully take the bottom edge of the fabric to the top edge matching up the numbers. This is going to seem very strange, it is going to be tricky to get the fabric to sit right. Carefully pin at each line. If you hold the fabric up to the light you will see that the lines actually cross over each other at the 1/4" seam line. Once pinned take the piece to your sewing machine and finish this edge with a 1/4" seam allowance.

Step Seven

Press the seam allowance open and continue to cut along the drawn line. It's as simple as that! Metres and metres of awesome bias cut binding all pieced and ready to go! Sadly I forgot to take a photo of the completed binding ... but we do have an image of the completed quilt!

Mitred joins in straight of grain binding

If you are joining straight of grain binding here's a final fun little trick. Take a look at the stitch plate on your sewing machine. On our Bernina machines you will find two 45 degree lines. You will also note the zero point indicating your needle centre position. These lines intersect exactly at the needle when it's in the central position.

Place your first piece of binding right side up along the 45 degree line that runs from bottom left to top right - as shown in the image. The the long length of the binding should be closest to you.

The second piece should be positioned wrong side up and have the long length of fabric furthest away from you. Position it along the 45 degree line that runs from top left to bottom right. The intersection of the two pieces should line up right at the needle. Follow this intersection to the opposite intersection to determine the line where you will stitch out your seam. Hold in place and stitch the seam out.

Trim to 1/4" and press the seam open. A perfectly sewn metered join!

Matching pattern repeats is a whole different matter and a topic for another day!

I hope that this helps with the decision making process and construction of your binding strips when it's time to bind your next quilt! Next time we'll cover attaching your binding.



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