I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to bindings, so here’s my quick tutorial for hand stitching the binding down to the back of the quilt. When I bind my quilts, I use a French- or double-fold binding. For a medium size quilt with a 3/8″ binding, I cut strips 2¼” wide, stitch them together with diagonal seams end to end, then fold the binding in half as I put it on the quilt, not beforehand with the iron. It really does fold over the edge of the quilt better if you don’t iron the binding in half before sewing it to the edge of the quilt.
I adjust the seam allowance when I sew the binding down with the machine so that when the binding is flipped to the back of the quilt, the folded edge just barely covers the bobbin thread, and the edge of the quilt fills the binding nicely without being bunched up and lumpy inside. I adjust the seam allowance, sew for 3-4″ and then flip it and check it on every single quilt because this setting can vary so much depending on the fabrics in the quilt and the binding and the batting used in the quilt. Even the weight of the thread can cause a variance in this setting from quilt to quilt.
Once you’ve sewn the binding all the way around the quilt, flip the binding to the back of the quilt and secure temporarily with binding clips. The binding clips really do make the hand sewing easier. Thread your needle and knot the end of the thread; use a single thread, not a doubled thread. Secure the end of the thread under the binding in the edge of the back of the quilt where it won’t be seen.
To make these invisible hand stitches start by bringing the needle through just the backing and a bit of the batting, coming out just above the binding stitching line. Insert your needle into the very edge of the folded edge of the binding, and guide the needle through the fold for 1/8-1/4″. Guide the needle back out of the folded edge of the binding as shown:
Pull the needle and thread all the way through. Insert the needle into the back of the quilt, just above the binding stitching line and only through the backing and a bit of the backing. Guide the needle through the batting and backing next to the stitching line for 1/8-1/4″, and guide the needle back out of the back of the quilt as shown:
Pull the needle and thread all the way through until the binding lays flat against the back of the quilt. Repeat these two steps all the way around the quilt, and don’t forget to stitch down the corner miters for a more finished look. Here’s what the finished hand stitching should look like:
I’ve always thought this stitch was called a ladder stitch, but I could be wrong. If anyone knows differently, do share! What ever it’s called, it makes a wonderful nearly invisible stitch. I do recommend using a coordinating thread, but it almost doesn’t matter when the stitch is done right, since it hardly shows. Years ago I used 100# Silk from YLI to hand stitch bindings, but I found that it really wasn’t strong enough for this purpose for the long term, even though it completely disappeared into the fabric and you couldn’t even tell it was there.
I usually use Aurifil 50wt. Cotton Mako these days if I have the right color, otherwise I’m still using up all the Mettler 50wt. that I have left over from my “before Aurifil” days. The Aurifil thread is a 2 ply thread so it’s very fine, and the Mettler is 3 ply, and I have a bit more trouble with knotting with the Mettler.
I hope this helps you finish your quilts with great bindings! If you have any other tips to add to this, do share them here in the comments.