Saturday, April 12, 2008

Binding 101: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

I have been wanting to write a segment about bindings for some time now. It is probably one of the most understated items on a quilt, but a very important one. Nobody will ooh and aah over a quilt because of it's binding, but a bad binding will sure draw one's attention away from an otherwise very nice quilt. Now I don't proclaim to be an expert at bindings, but over the last few years, I have managed to figure out a few things about bindings (largely from making mistakes & learning from them).

There several ways to "finish" off the edges of a quilt; a binding is just one of them. For the sake of this lesson, let's ignore things like zigzagging the edge or turning the quilt inside out, and focus on just "bindings" in the classical sense. I know of a couple of methods for bindings, one of which is used more commonly. The French Fold or Double Fold method is what many people like to use. It is usually made from 2 1/4" strips, either straight cut or bias cut, pressed in half, sewn around the periphery of the quilt, and finished most commonly by hand on the back side. This link is one I found last year, and like. The photographs are very clear, as is the instruction. Here is another particularly attractive binding tutorial by Heather Bailey. This one shows how to clearly connect the two ends of the binding so as not to have that unsightly lump at the seam, an additional plus for a good binding. Furthermore, her fabrics are marvelous so have a look!

I used to be guilty of doing a single-fold binding because I thought in the end it saved fabric. It does, but the double fold is much more durable if the quilt is going to be used, gives a nice firm edging, and eliminates the need to turn under the binding edge before sewing it down. Do yourself a favor...Use double fold! You will be happier in the end.

Pay close attention to how the corners are done, as this is the only real hard thing about the binding. Once you can make binding corners as shown in the two links, you are golden! Take the time and practice because this corner style is WAY nicer than piecing the four binding pieces separately and having seams all over the corners. Looks better, plus it is one less place your quilt may tend to fall apart with repeated use and washings.

The convention does seem to be a narrow, tight binding, but play with this. I, personally, often use 2-1/4" strips for double fold binding as this uses the least amount of material, but I like them a little wider too, say using 2-3/4" strips. The wider binding on the finished quilt tends to pull & twist less because you have not "pulled" on it to make it so tight. And lastly... when sewing the binding pieces together, the strips should definitely be cut on 45 degree angle to minimize the bulk - if you chose not to make a continuous strip of binding.

Another one of my pet peeves about bindings are when they are machine sewn down on the back of the quilt. The machine does a great job putting the binding ONTO the quilt. It does a horrible job stitching it to the backside of the quilt. You can't see the other side while machine sewing! This is where the time-consuming hand-stitches are a MUST. Machined bindings are ugly and never look as good as the alternative. You have taken all this time to design and sew your quilt and either hand or machine quilt your quilt...take a little more time to hand finish the edge of the binding.

Bindings are that one last place that you can invoke a little style to your finished quilt. I have seen lovely little striped bindings and the especially fun scrappy pieced bindings. A nice dark binding will help to ground the edges of the quilt to the eye. I also am a huge fan of a binding that blends right into the edge of the quilt because it is the same fabric as the border onto which it is sewn. Each has it's place on certain quilts. Experiment and play with the colors to know and learn what will work best for your quilt.

One other possible type of binding is to make an invisible binding as seen here. I have never made one of these as I usually like the look of a traditional binding, but it is an interesting idea. There is a nice example of an invisible binding from Luisa here. And lastly, if you like something totally different, try a Prairie Point border. It's fun, perhaps more time consuming, but a great way to use up those scraps!

That's my opinion...I welcome your's! Please comment for me what you like to do for bindings, any favorite binding links and tips. I look for the inputs!


Kate North said...

If you are new to the French Fold method of binding, you might like to watch a Sharon Schamber video on You Tube, which gives a very good introduction to this method (actually, it's in three parts). Frankly, she's a bit more um...precise... than I have any interest in being (she uses glue) - and people who know me can vouch that my binding is plenty accurate. But for those who are having a hard time visualising the mitred corners or the join at the end of the binding, this could be very useful. The first part can be seen here.

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

I've never tried it, but there's also the binding with piping technique. It's nice because it adds a second mini frame to the quilt.

The French Fold binding is great. I wholeheartedly agree with the necessity for hand-stitching the binding in the back. It's a nice thing to do while watching tv in the evenings. Some people recommend using binder clips from the office supply store instead of pining the binding.

Tanaya said...

What a great compilation on binding techniques. Thank you.

I'm just going to send you my doll quilt to bind for me, okay? I am struggling so badly with this for some dyslexic mind just can't wrap itself around it. I've had to re-do my binding three times and it still looks bad!!!

Mom said...

I may know how to do binding, but it is far from my favorite part of the quilt-making process!! I have at least 40 feet of binding awaiting me (UGH!)
Have fun!