An Easy Quilt Binding Technique for Small Quilts

9 Apr 2012

I will be the first to admit that quilt binding is not my favorite part of the quilt-making process. I understand that binding a quilt frames it and, done correctly, enhances the design of the body of the fiber art piece. And of course, if you're going to use a quilt (rather than hang it on a wall), binding a quilt is necessary.

Terry Grant  shows how to bind a quilt
when it's small (and get a neat result)
on "QATV" Series 600.
But to me, binding a quilt is more tedious than creative--and I have a lot of UFOs to prove it!

Fortunately, my smaller art quilt projects can be finished off with a fused binding, zigzag stitching, or no binding at all.

Very small quilt projects pose their own binding issues. A wide binding can overwhelm a small project. But it can be difficult to create an even zigzag or satin stitch that doesn't get wonky somewhere (especially at the corners).

Quilter Terry Grant has a clever way to bind a small quilt that is easy, neat, and not tedious. You'll need perle cotton floss and matching machine thread, a handsewing needle and heavy-duty thread, a ruler, and a permanent marker, plus your sewing machine.

How to Bind a Small Quilt (adapted from "QATV" Series 600)

1. Start by making the piece larger than you intend the finished size to be. I like to start with a piece that is 1⁄2"-1" bigger in each direction than the finished size.

2. After the piece is quilted, use a ruler and a permanent marker to mark the final size on the top of the quilt.

3. Leaving approximately a 1⁄2" of floss loose at the beginning, lay a piece of perle cotton on the marked line and zigzag over it. Use a narrow zigzag that just covers the width of the perle cotton. By doing this before you cut the edges off, you can get it nice and smooth, with neat corners. TIP: It's best not to start and end at a corner. The start and stop are less noticeable along one of the sides.

4. When you get back around to the start of the stitching, cut the perle cotton so the end butts right up to the start and then stitch over it, taking a few extra stitches beyond the start. The raw ends will be virtually invisible.

'Green Beans' quilt by Terry Grant.
5. Next, carefully trim the excess fabric off, as close to the stitched perle cotton as you can get without cutting the stitching. If you happen to snip 1 or 2 stitches, don't worry. Small errors will be covered later.

6. Using a hand-sewing needle threaded with a heavy-weight thread (I use buttonhole thread), take just one stitch through each corner of your piece. Cut the thread off, leaving 2 long tails at each corner (each about 3" long). These thread tails are going to prevent the problems that often occur when you stitch around corners.

7. Zigzag over the perle cotton and the edge again. As you approach a corner, grab the thread tails and use them to guide the stitching up to the corner. Stop, with your needle down at the corner, pivot, and use the thread tails to pull the corner gently toward the back, under the foot, while you smoothly stitch into the next straight side. When you are finished, you can just pull the thread tails out and discard them.

Terry demonstrates her technique for how to bind a quilt on the 600 series of "Quilting Arts TV." If you're looking for advice and ideas for how to bind a quilt, create surface designs, improve your stitching techniques, designing a quilt, and more, "QATV" series downloads will solve your problems and inspire you.


P.S. Do you enjoy adding a quilt binding or do you see it as a chore? What is your favorite way to bind a quilt? Leave your comments below.


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Comments

artistic wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 10:39 AM

Recently, I have been experimenting with some nontraditional ways to bind a quilt. I always look forward to the 'binding' process. I feel like I can slow down, reflect back on each step, evaluate what I have learned, and then get closure to my work.

jdespotakis wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 10:48 AM

If you really hate binding, birth the quilt instead. You can fake a binding by adding a narrow border, then birth by either leaving an opening on one side to turn the piece right side out, or make the back in two pieces with a small opening to turn the piece.

Quilt or embellish as desired after you turn the quilt.

jmfem wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 11:10 AM

I "quilt-as-I-go", meaning I will make a quilt row about 18" wide by however long I want the quilt.  Then I create the "frame" by folding a piece of fabric the width I want the finished frame, in half, sandwich in the batting, and stitch down the middle.  Then I iron down 1/4" on one of the unfinished sides,  add the other unfinished side to the quilt, sew right sides together with a 1/2" seam, leaving the ironed down section free.  The I turn it right side to, and pin the 1/4" seam down on back, but pinning it from the front.  Then I stitch in the ditch down the front of the quilt, and my frame is done with no binding.

(I do this on both the left and right, finish the quilt, put all the sections together, and then put the top and bottom on the same way.)

codyss12 wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 11:36 AM

Binding? Oh how I don't look forward to it. It seems regardless of how slowly or careful I am, something always goes awry with my binding. There is a reason you do it last. It makes you so glad the project is over. It is my worst enjoyable thing associated with quilting. I am always looking for ways to bind that might make it easier for me.I am the charter member in the "hate to bind" club.

nandas wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 12:05 PM

very nice, terry! what a simple solution! personally i like binding quilts but i don't want to have the same finish on all my art quilts so this is a good tip to have in my bag of tricks! thanks.

sarinar2010 wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 1:40 PM

i really like this article.  thanks/

Quiltedcat wrote
on 10 Apr 2012 9:37 PM

While not my favorite part of quilting I like to use quilt binding in a rich color.  That gives me another place to use fancy stitch to seal it.  I think corners are the hardest part of a quilt.  If you round them they never match and if you square them by folding the binding back at least one will always look lopsided and not fold back flat.  Or the birthing process is a place to add a ruffle or lace on a baby quilt and then a fancy stitch to hold it flat.

mitzibarker wrote
on 11 Apr 2012 1:06 AM

I like to think of the binding as the crowning touch and enjoy using a fusible technique coupled with decorative stitches and threads

on 14 Apr 2012 10:16 AM

The thread tales are  a great idea. I'm wondering if it would be easier to use a couching or mini piping foot to get the perle cotton down... will have to do some experimenting!  OF course a serger set to rolled edge would also do this  too... perhaps even more neatly.

Judy Balint wrote
on 14 Apr 2012 10:31 AM

I LOVE applying and sewing down bindings.  It's very relaxing and great work when sitting in front of the TV or when you want to think things out.  Am I strange?  :)  

ohiowa wrote
on 18 Apr 2012 1:11 PM

I have made one simple quilt with a Gees Bend design approach-no preplanned pattern. I used cotton and linen from old clothes that I purchased in Japan and the US on which I added embroidery and applique. This is a quilt of memories of the 3 years I lived in Japan. It has excellent binding that I made out of Thai ikat from clothing and yardage. I am now doing small embroidery sketches on small squares of linen of all colors no more than 6" square. On my third square I removed binding around an arm hole of an old sleeveless blouse. I opened the seam attaching the binding to the blouse and hand sewed it around the square. For me, binding adds that extra touch to much of my sewing projects. I agree that it slows me down and makes me focus on the binding and not my worries or world problems-for a short time.

on 1 May 2013 12:19 AM

I may have mentioned that binding a quilt is my least favorite part of the quilt-making process. But I've realized that if I'm going to reduce the number of UFOs in my studio, I'm going to have to learn how to bind a quilt in a way that I