Binding a Quilt: Bias Binding vs. Straight of Grain Binding

You’ve pieced your quilt, quilted it beautifully, and now it’s time to finish it off with binding. Will you cut your binding on the bias or straight of grain? These are the two most common ways to cut strips for binding a quilt, but do you know the difference?

Here are a few terms and definitions to help you understand which binding strip is right for your quilt:

Selvage is “the edge on either side of a woven or flat-knitted fabric so finished as to prevent raveling; specifically, an edge (as of fabric or paper) meant to be cut off and discarded” as defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Selvages can be woven with heavier thread or with a different weave structure. One selvage is usually marked with manufacturer information including the name of the fabric and the number of screens used to print the fabric.

The cross grain of fabric, also known as the weft, has some stretch.

Cross grain refers to the threads that run perpendicular to the selvage also known as the weft; this is the direction fabric is cut off a bolt. There is some stretch in the cross grain.

The length-wise grain of fabric has almost no stretch.

Lengthwise grain refers the threads that run parallel to the selvage also known as the warp. There is almost no stretch in the lengthwise grain.

Fabric cut on the bias has the most stretch

Bias is the grain that runs between the warp and weft threads at a 45-degree angle. This is the grain of fabric that has the most stretch.

Why are these sewing terms important to consider when binding a quilt?

I’m glad you asked! For a square quilt straight grain binding, meaning fabric strips cut cross grain or length-wise grain, will work well. If, however, you’re binding a quilt with curved edges, you’ll want to cut bias strips for your binding. The stretch in the bias makes it easier to maneuver the binding around the quilt’s curved edges.

Learn the meaning of bias and straight of grain when it comes to binding. Once you’ve settled on bias or straight of grain strips, and chosen the width of your binding, you can put rotary cutter to fabric with confidence.

If you’re like me and want a little more assurance before you begin to cut and bind your quilt, I’d recommend watching a video first. When I am nearing completion of a quilt, I always find comfort in a little quilt binding refresher. Not only does it help me take a moment to get situated and organized, it also prevents me from plowing through finishing my quilt and risking frustration-induced mistakes.

One of my go-to videos to bolster my quilting spirits before I bind is from Susan Brubaker Knapp. She does a fantastic job demonstrating binding a quilt along with six other quilt finishing techniques in the Quilting Arts Workshop video Fabulous Finishes. If you’re looking to add to your quilt binding expertise or want to explore more finishing options, download your copy instantly. You can’t go wrong learning how to face, frame, and hang your quilts like a pro with Susan’s expert advice.

Happy quilting!

Brenna's Signature

P.S. What’s your favorite type of binding? Share your insights on binding including the direction you cut your strips, your preferred strip width, and more by leaving a comment below.

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Binding & Finishing, Quilting Daily Blog

2 thoughts on “Binding a Quilt: Bias Binding vs. Straight of Grain Binding

  1. Usually I bind with a double fold bias binding, sometimes referred to as a French binding. For bed or other heavily used quilts, it wears much better. I have two queen-sized quilts which are about the same age (more than 10 yrs.) which I alternate on my bed, so each gets washed once every two years. The one with the straight binding has started to wear through, especially on the corners. The one with bias binding is fine.

    If I am limited by the amount of fabric I have, I will use the straight binding as you end up with fewer seams. Since the crosswise grain stretches a little, I try to cut the strips along it. The little bit of stretch allows me to apply the binding a tiny bit tightly, and so avoids any tendency to waviness along the edge.

  2. So far I’ve only applied straight of grain binding. However, I’m almost finished with a double wedding ring quilt & will need to learn more about bias binding & how to apply it to a quilt with curves.