Tutorial: How to Hand Stitch Binding Invisibly

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. Continue reading Tutorial: How to Hand Stitch Binding Invisibly

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Shortcuts and Binding Relationships

I have this love/hate relationship with binding. I love it, because it means that I’m almost done with the quilt, but when I get to that point, there are all these variables that have to be thought about, worked out, tried, discarded, tried again, and still when you put the binding on the actual quilt, any number of things could go wrong no matter how good things look before you start. Variables like batting thickness, binding width, which foot to use, binding fabric thickness, quilt fabric thickness, etc., etc., etc., not to mention the relationships between all of these variables and how they affect each other. And those variables can multiply exponentially if there is any fluff or border waving going on on the edges of the quilt. What’s not to hate?

I even made notes a while back about binding and the measurements that I use for strips and which foot and so on, but for the last couple of quilts I’ve finished recently, I’ve used different batting and much experimenting was necessary. The current batting is Quilter’s Dream Poly Request Loft, which is very thin, lots thinner than the Hobbs PolyDown or Heirloom/Tuscany Wool that I’ve used for many of my quilts in the past.

I almost always use a double French fold binding on my quilts. I’ve finished a couple recently with a facing, but after the second one didn’t really turn out better than the first, and still looked like it had fat dog ears, I’ve gone back to my regular binding method for now. For this Dream Poly batting, I decided to use 2¼” cut strips for the binding, since I wanted the binding a bit narrower than my usual treatment, and the battling is very thin.

When I sewed the binding onto the quilt with the machine, after some experimenting, I lined up the edge of the folded binding with the edge of the quilt, used the Pfaff #0A foot, set the needle at the 5.5 position, and guided the edge of the quilt along the right edge of the foot. This was basically a fat ¼” seam on the binding, and when I flipped it, it lined up perfectly with the folded edge sitting just above the sewn line, ready to hand stitch down.

French fold binding, back

After stitching it down by hand right above the machine stitched line with a ladder or blind stitch, it looks like this (well, this is a different quilt, but the same idea anyway):

French fold binding, back, after hand stitching

The corners are always a bit of trial and error. (See the McCalls website for diagrams that are much more clear than the pictures that I took of the corner folding process for mitered bindings!) On the first binding I did with this batting, I think I got two of the four corners mitered perfectly (or at least what I thought of as perfectly). The others were pretty good, but two were nearly perfectly square with a perfect miter and looked like this:

French fold binding, mitered corner

On the second quilt binding, for some reason I didn’t trim the quilt top before sewing the binding on as I usually do, which meant that I couldn’t flip the binding to the back as I went, and check the corners as I did each one to make sure they would miter somewhat close to perfectly. The batting was the same, there was nothing different about the borders from the first quilt to the second one, so I just “did it.” I folded the corners the same way I’d done the previous binding and trimmed the edges after I machine sewed the binding on, and didn’t check the corners by folding to the front along the way to check the miter. So I ended up with corners like this:

French fold binding, bad corner

Meh. Rounded corners. Corners that look like they got chopped off with a rotary cutter. Not good, not good at all. I may have to re-do the whole binding, which isn’t as bad as it sounds since the quilt is only 12″ square. (Okay, it’s not a show quilt, so maybe I’ll just live with it. Maybe.) The difference may have been the binding fabric itself since everything else was virtually the same. The plaid fabric was a bit “heftier” if that makes any sense. It just felt a bit thicker than the black solid that I’d used for the other binding.

Lesson learned: always, ALWAYS check the corners. And making a test quilt sandwich and putting binding on a corner with all the same materials as you plan to use in the real quilt probably isn’t a bad idea either. Too many variables left unchecked spoil the binding. You’d think I’d have learned these things by now, and I guess I have really, but we all take shortcuts sometimes. Most times when I do though, I end up being sorry for one reason or another…

Inchie Addictions Take Shape

Whenever I’ve shown Inchies or talked about them to quilter friends, almost the first question out of everyone’s mouth is “What do you do with them?” I mean, really, where’s everybody’s imagination? 😉 I’ve had a plan all along:

Inchie Quilt

Sure, you can make them, trade them with other quilters if you’re so inclined, keep them stashed away in a box, or make jewelry out of them, but why not create larger quilt art pieces with them? These were the first Inchies I made, and they’re all from the same chunk of fabric. You can see closeups of the Inchies here.

The Inchies are made from two layers of fabric fused to either side of Timtex, and attached to this simple background quilt with Velcro Fabric Fusions. I wouldn’t use Timtex again, because while I like the stiffness and ease of construction use, it’s just too hard to hand sew beads and embellishments to the Inchies through the Timtex. I’ve discovered a better combination to use as a base from now on (more on that later).

The iron-on Velcro isn’t very user friendly either (or maybe I’m just challenged by fusible things). I’ve had a terrible time getting it to stick permanently like it’s supposed to; it seems to be stuck just fine until about an hour later when it’s completely cool, and then all the glue becomes goopy again and the pieces peel right off the fabric. Part of the problem is undoubtedly that I’m fusing it to two layers of fabric and batting or Timtex, but it’s completely strange that it seems stuck right after fusing, and then unsticks when it cools. I’ve started fusing it twice to see if that will help.

I wasn’t even sure I’d like the Velcro treatment since it might make the Inchies stick out too far from the quilt surface, but now that it’s done, I really love it! It gives the Inchies a “mounted” look and adds some dimensional interest. I was planning to tack the Inchies to the quilt with thread, but I did a couple that way and didn’t like doing it or the way it looked, so I switched to the Velcro. The Velcro has other advantages as well, since I can rearrange the Inchies on the quilt, or switch them out to display a different set.

When the quilt was ready for binding, I wasn’t too keen on adding anything visible around the edge. I remembered keeping an article about facing quilts during the great magazine purge, so I went digging. Thanks to a most excellent article by Katleen Loomis in American Quilter Ultimate Projects 2007 Magazine, I learned a new technique and the back of the quilt looks like this:

Facing on Inchie Quilt

Her technique uses a one-piece curved corner facing and some dressmaking techniques to keep the facing from rolling to the front of the quilt. Where the corner and side facings meet a little pocket is formed, and if you don’t sew it closed, it makes the perfect place to put a piece of dowel rod for hanging a small quilt like this.

Dowel rod for hanging

I think I was a little too vigorous when I pushed out the corners after turning the facing, so the corners of the quilt look a tiny bit dog-eared, but it isn’t as bad in person as it looks in the photos. That’s just something to remember for next time I use a facing to finish a quilt.

If I had the whole quilt to do again, I’d either leave more space around the outside of the Inchies, or shrink the space between the sets a bit. I had a moment when I wasn’t thinking ahead about binding and finishing at all, and forgot to leave a seam allowance for that when I trimmed the edges, so there’s a bit less space around the outside than I originally intended. There’s always next time. All in all though, I’m quite happy with the finished product!

Piping Hot Binding tool–I like it!

Piping Hot Binding tool and bookI purchased this Piping Hot Binding tool and book on my last trip to the States (I think), intending to use it to put piping on the edge of The Misery Quilt when the time comes. I finally used it last week on a smaller quilt for a bit of practice before just diving in on a show quilt.

The directions are very thorough and straightforward, though obviously the method adds a bit more time to the binding process since you have to make the piping and then apply it before putting the binding on. I used my Pfaff 2056 to make the piping and bind the quilt since it has the dual feed, and I figured it would be way easier to find a Pfaff foot to use to make the piping because I have a much better selection of Pfaff feet around.

Pfaff appliqué footI used a Pfaff appliqué foot and moved the needle to the right just enough to clear the cording to make the piping. The foot has a channel on the underside so that the piping slides under it nicely and it’s easy to guide it through the machine. The Groovin’ Piping Trimming Tool made it super easy to accurately trim the piping to an even width after sewing. I used a regular 0A foot on the Pfaff to sew the piping to the edge of the quilt; I tried an open toe appliqué foot, but found that the 0A foot held the piping steadier with less shifting around while sewing it down.

I think my only issue with the whole process would be the fact that after you apply the piping, you have to put the binding on “upside down” so to speak. Usually I lay the quilt edge on the machine, and ever so slightly stretch the binding fabric as I sew it on. It makes the bindings firm, and takes care of any slight ruffling at the edges of the quilt by drawing it in a bit so it’s flat. (If I’m working on a show quilt, I do things a bit differently if the edges are ruffly, but on non-show quilts this is my quick and dirty cheater method of choice, and it usually works pretty well.) Continue reading Piping Hot Binding tool–I like it!