How to Bind a Quilt with a Whipstitch Binding

When you make a quilt, at some point you will have to consider the quilt binding. You may opt for an elaborate binding that makes an impact on the overall design, a simple and subtle binding, or no binding at all.

When binding a small quilt, such as a postcard, it’s usually best to keep it simple. Two of the easiest quilt binding techniques for small quilts are the satin stitch and the whipstitch bindings.

postcard with whipstitch quilt binding by melanie testa
Postcard with a simple quilt binding by Melanie Testa.

Fiber artist Melanie Testa demonstrated the whipstich quilt binding on an episode of Quilting Arts TV. Here are her directions:

Preparing the edges of small works in preparation for a whipstitch binding helps contain loose threads and batting, and inserting gimp into the edging helps create a sturdy, substantial finish.

Gimp is a coarse, thick thread that sometimes has a piece of wire in its core. Almost anything can be used as gimp–string or yarn–as long as it has body and will hold the edge of the quilt firmly in place.

To create very square corners, you will want to sew off the edge of the work.

Turn 90 degrees, creating a small thread loop on each of the four corners. For best results, use this technique for both a straight stitch and a zigzag stitch.

To prepare the edge

Straight stitch a 1/8th” (3 mm) seam allowance on all four sides.

1. Satin stitch over the gimp, concealing both the gimp and the straight-stitched line at a 2.5-stitch width.

2. Trim the gimp.

3. Do an additional satin stitch at a 3.5 stitch width. Now you are ready to whipstitch the binding.

To whipstitch the binding:

1. Starting from the front of the work, thread the strand from front to back. The knot will be at the front of the work.

2. Hold the knot and tail aside and whipstitch to conceal.

3. An occasional length of buttonhole stitch is an appealing addition.

4. There is no need to knot off when you come to the end of the strand. Turn the work to the wrong side, bury at least a 2″ (5 cm) strand in the previous stitches, and then trim.

5. Continue to whipstitch around all four sides until finished.

Melanie is particularly adept at combining innovative surface design techniques with stitching and finishing. In her book Inspired to Quilt: Creative Experiments in Art Quilt Imagery, she shows you, step by step, how to transform a concept into a finished art quilt using new and innovative ideas. Whether you make large quilts or small, you’ll definitely be inspired.

P.S. How do you bind small pieces of fiber art? Or do you? Comment below.

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5 thoughts on “How to Bind a Quilt with a Whipstitch Binding

  1. I have been sewing (everything imaginable) for more than 60 years and I am totally confused by these instructions. 1. What’s the need for the thread loop on the corners? 2. What is the “strand” used for whipstitching? Is it a particular weight of thread? What size needle should I use? 3. What is “the occasional use of buttonhole stitch”? Is it done by hand or machine? I’d like to see more photos.

  2. I also use gimp and a couple rounds of satin-stitching to finish the edges of fabric postcards. Melanie’s piece has a nice clean finish, but I can’t see the whip-stitching as described; it looks like machine satin-stitching. So my question is — why do the whip-stitching if it doesn’t show?

  3. I just used this edging on an art quilt. I round the corners (trace around a spool or other round object) and stitch three rounds, widening the zigzag slightly on rounds 2 and 3 and also using a shorter stitch length so that there is no space between the stitches on the third round. I too am confused about the whipstitch. I like the idea of using gimp to add stability. Stitch on.