Sunday, August 21, 2011

on Binding

Binding.  It's the way most quilts are finished.  It's a little edging detail that can make a big impact.  Honestly, it's something I need to work on.

Often, my choice of binding is uninspired.  It may be that I put all of my thought and focus into the quilt top patchwork and just feel like finishing by the time binding comes around.  But, whatever the reason, I always seem to play it safe.


FO: Mom's Mini Geese Quilt

But "safe" has it's drawbacks.  I mean, what if Jacey had played it safe here?  That vibrant lime binding adds so much, don't you think?  It's actually that little something extra that makes it "look" like Jaceycraft.  I love it!

I'm not saying that binding has to JUMP out at you to be a great choice.  Sometimes you do really want a subtle frame.  I guess my point is that I want to start taking risks, start feeling my way into the possibilities.

What about you, how do you feel about binding?  Is it an afterthought?  Do you love to hand sew it?  Or, do you rush through it (like me)? 

One traditional way of binding a quilt is to sew down the back to the underside of the quilt.  Done well, this will leave a flawless, virtually invisible finish front and back.  But it's s.l.o.w.  As much as I love handwork, I've only hand stitched one binding.  Unfortunately, I didn't much enjoy it.

And so my friends, I machine apply binding.  Because it's FAST!  For starters, I learned this way, as taught by Rita of Red Pepper Quilts.  About this time last year, I made my own step-by-step tutorial on how to make and machine stitch binding as part of the Colorbrick Quilt Along.  But over time I realized that I like a wider binding than Rita, so I now cut my binding strips 2.5" wide and apply them to the quilt top at 3/8" from the edge.  Like Rita, I've typically secured the back of the binding by stitching in the ditch from the quilt top and hoping to catch the binding (which is folded over to the back) as I go.

"Hoping" being the key word.

stitched In The Ditch

stitched In The Ditch 2

These are a two examples of recent quilts finished with binding secured in the ditch of the quilt top/binding seam through to the back.  I've really had a lot of practice with this method, and I try to be super-careful about pinning the back of the binding evenly.  But it seems that no matter what, I have plenty of binding sections that get missed entirely, so that I have to go back and fix things after I'm "done" stitching in the ditch.  Plus, the parts that are secured don't look so hot from the back if you take a close look.

Mostly, I've not let this get to me.  My quilts won't be perfect, and I'm ok with that.  On the other hand, I do want to work towards improving my skills.  And, I also wonder if I "figured out" my binding technique a bit more if I'd enjoy the process and put more thought into my binding choices.

To that end, I tried a different way of machine finishing when I bound Bottled Rainbows.  I was inspired by Jeni's binding tutorial to stitch from the folded-over side so that my finishing seam would be tidy. 

stitched from Back

I did not actually follow Jeni's method, since I began my sewing my binding to the front and then folding it over to the back; whereas, Jeni sews her binding to the back and folds over to the front. But, other than that, it's the same basic concept.  If you look at the back (green stripe fabric), you can see that I followed the binding neatly about 1/8" from the gray binding edge.

Due to user error (or human-ness?) my stitch lines on the quilt front fell on the binding itself sometimes and on the quilt top (the Heath grey grid).  Fortunately, with the Heath fabric, they don't show.  With other quilt tops or backings, I think this would bug me.

So, here's what I really want to show you!

Stitched zigzag!

I tried zigzags!  To bind the Summer Sampler quilt, I stitched along the quilt top/binding ditch with a zigzag stitch using multi-tone thread.  I know you can only see a small stretch of the underside of the quilt in this picture, but it all looks that good!  The zigzag is so forgiving because it makes your stitch wider.  This hides discrepancies between the quilt front and back that result in a wavy finishing stitch line in other methods.  It also means that there are fewer binding gaps in the back that don't get stitched at all.  When I finished this decent-sized quilt, I think there was just one gap I had to close!  Also, since I'm not stitching IN the ditch, I can go a lot faster and not feel so paranoid about making mistakes. 

Suffice it to say, I'm excited!  I also finished last week's baby quilt this way with speed and happy results.  I know that zigzags aren't for everyone.  They're far from subtle.  But, I think it adds a good kind of character for many of the types of quilts I make. 

Hello, zigzag bindings!

38 comments:

  1. I have had the same issues when trying to use the method from Rita (Red Pepper) and thought that I was just not being careful enough.
    I actually have started hand stitching my bigger quilts (and it is slow and boring, yes) but I still use machine stitching for smaller quilts and baby quilts especially as they will likely be washed a lot.

    What I have found works well is using one of the decorative stitches...like the little row of hearts or stars. It has the same effect as the zigzag, but looks really cute!

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  2. I finish my binding by hand because the flaws whenever I've tried to machine stitch just get me too bent out of shape. It is slow and sort of boring, but I usually use that time to catch up on tv shows or whatever so I don't feel like I'm totally wasting the time. (I'm combining two time wasters into one!) I don't usually get THAT bothered by flaws in my quilts (thank goodness because they're ALL flawed in one way or another), but that's just one thing that winds up making me feel worse than something I enjoy ever should.

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  3. Thanks for your thoughtful post! I really enjoyed reading it. To date, I've made and finished 3 quilts -- the first two I hand-stitched the binding and the third I tried Red Pepper's technique for machine quilting (I was in a hurry). It was faster, but I was so disappointed! Like you pointed out, it gave a much sloppier finish. I'm definitely going to consider your zig-zag approach next time :)

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  4. Have you tried binding clips. They look like those little hair barettes, but without the paint. After stitching the binding to the front, I press it out to give it a nice, crisp fold on the front, and then just tuck it back good as I fold it over and clip it. I had similar problems at first (not catching the back and wavy lines), but with practice, I've become much better. Thanks for your great ideas.

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  5. I sew the binding to the front of the quilt, flip it to the back and stitch it all down from the front. I use an elongated "S" as sort of a decorative stitch and to be sure I catch all the edges on the back. 99% of my quilts are for charity and I want to be sure they are durable and will withstand lots of handling, washing and loving, so machine stitching seems best for what I do.

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  6. I agree completely with Sonia B & find the ironing to be what really makes it work. However, I just received some fusible thread that I ordered and am trying this from Chasing Cottons blog-it looks fantastic to me!
    http://chasingcottons.blogspot.com/2011/07/fusible-thread-tutorial-featured.html

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  7. Hi Rachel
    I also used Rita's tutotrial and have a couple of hints that really helped me. After I stitch the binding to the front of the quilt I press the binding away from the quilt from the front and then turn the quilt over and fold the binding over and press. I take care to press the corners perfectly. I use no pins whatsoever. I then turn the quilt over and stitch in the ditch from the front as Rita does. Here is the KEY for me.....As you stitch, run the tip of your pointer finger, of your left hand in the ditch...YOU WILL BE ABLE TO FEEL IF YOU ARE CATCHING THE BINDING AS YOU STITCH. I've used Rita's method three times and on the last quilt I used the finger in the ditch thing and didn't miss the binding anywhere. Also if you take the time to press your corners you can just stitch in the ditch all the way around the quilt....catching the corners as you go. I also use a
    2 1/2 inch binding. I hope this helps.

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  8. I'm glad I'm not the only one! I really love stitching the binding by hand, but it's nice to have the machine option too. I machine stitched a few bindings recently, and I'd love them to be tidier. The zigzag is a good alternative!

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  9. I think bindings are So Important! I've been known to attach a whole binding, look at the quilt as a whole, and decide bleh, to take it off and find different fabric. I was taught that framing your painting has just as much importance as the paint itself. So I suppose I see binding as the frame...and it has to set off the top just right. I like hand quilting mine, I love holding the fabric close one last time before it is all done and ready for pretty folding.

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  10. Zig zags are a great idea.
    My approach is to apply it to the front as usual, then flip it over and machine sew it to the back (like you did with your grey/green one). But my trick is to put some invisible thread in your bobbin for the second step so that your stitches are always hidden on the front.
    Also, I like this binding idea:
    http://patchandi.blogspot.com/2010/11/my-creative-space-aka-fancy-shmancy.html
    Have fun!
    Andi :-)

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  11. I have always finished by machining the binding to the front and hand-stitching the back - I love that bit, snuggled on the sofa, being sociable :)

    I have never thought to finish by machine due to my definite ability to go wonky. The zigzag may be an option I try though - thanks for trailblazing!

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  12. Morning :) I have NEVER stitched my bindings by hand. My first few quilts I used the pillowcase method and just did topstitched around making a faux binding :) Then I read Rita's tut and that was it, I always use my machines to finish my bindings. I use my right hand to feel behind the quilt as I go making sure I don't miss anything.

    My quilts are for friends and family, so I don't feel the need to make show ready quilts with all that hand stitching and being a single 50+ hours a week working mom, who has the time??

    Oh and binding must be cut and pieced and pressed in half (2.5" only) while cutting my pieces for the quilt or else it sits with no binding forever!

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  13. I used to ALWAYS hand-stitch my bindings, that is until I was working on a larger quilt some months back and just couldn't take it any more. I found Rita's tutorial and is the one that I tend to use most; but I have done a zig zag once and it was super-cute and added a little something extra too. Those "missed" parts bug me too; but I've grown to embrass them.

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  14. I've been practicing machine binding and also use Rita's method. I have better results when I use a 2.25 strip to start, take time to sew a consisent seam allowance on the front, don't iron until it's stitched on the quilt, and feel as I go with my finger when attaching the back.
    It takes a little longer, but I'm happier with the results. It drives me nuts to have uneven flaps on the back. (thats my OCD tendencies talking!) Your zig zag idea intrigues me but I think the OCD will win out in the end. =)

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  15. 2.5" binding, sewn to the back first, wrapped around and sewn with a decorative stitch on the front always works for me. (i consider a zig-zag 'decorative'!lol)

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  16. Thanks for adding your thoughts, friends. I don't think binding is easy for anyone (except maybe, Rita!). Next time I want that invisible look, I'll try using my hand to pull the binding around back and "feel as I go" as some of you mentioned. I've been using pins to hold the back down, which is a TON of work and obviously gives me poor results.

    And more power to those of you that do enjoy the hand stitching!

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  17. I totally think the binding is important and am thinking about it when I start a quilt, tho I do often change my mind about what to use. And I confess I am one of those that absolutely looooves to hand stitch my binding on. Compared to the rest of the piecing (and quilting!) I don't consider it slow at all and totally enjoy the process. Plus, when you're done there's a reward - a completed quilt!
    Good for you, though, to keep at it till you find a method that works for you!

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  18. Thanks for the love, Rachel! The mini quilt for my mom was actually my first attempt at hand-sewing the binding. My previous quilts with machine-applied binding all came out just a little messy, and since this was a gift, I wanted to be sure the binding was securely attached, with no chances of gaps.

    I will definitely have to try the zig-zag approach, as I would much rather machine-bind in the future (as long as I can improve!). Great post!

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  19. Your post is great and made me laugh as I've had exactly the same experience with all the methods you've tried. Lately, I sew it onto the back and finish sewing it on the front. I've even waited to see if my straight stitching is acceptable. If not, I'll zig-zag over it. Or if I've got the right machine up (one won't zig zag), I'll just do that from the start.

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  20. Hmmm, something to think about. I prefer to attach it to the back by hand. I really enjoy sewing by hand of an evening and it goes rather quickly, really. Plus it's perfect, which is always nice.

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  21. Thanks for the tip! I actually really like the way the zigzag stitch looks and I think you're right, it does add some character. I'll have to try it on a quilt soon. Right now I use the hand stitch method. It looks pretty but it's so time consuming!

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  22. when I taught myself to quilt a million years ago I did some zig zag binding stitching, but I had forgotten about it until this post! Thanks for bringing back that memory. It may serve me well as I finish up a wedding quilt in the next few weeks.

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  23. Yea for zigzags. I have been looking for a way to be happy with my ability to machine finish a binding and this might work for me. I seem to miss too many places otherwise and then get frustrated with the result. I have the perfect little baby quilt to try this on today. Thanks Rachel!

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  24. i love jacey's green binding. it really makes the mini over the top.

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  25. Bindings. I have such a love hate relationship. I've done the stitch in the ditch from the front method and like it OK. I've never done the handstitching way (I'm way too lazy!) - but for a great, fast, very forgiving but very cool way to finish a binding... use your machine's decorative stitch(es)! See my first quilt finish, cuz that's how I did it and it worked out very well: http://junebugworld.blogspot.com/2011/05/pips-quilt-completed.html

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  26. I've seen many tutorials on binding, but I have to admit, I have wondered about the zig-zags. I thought as I was so new to quilting though, that maybe it was some kind of faux pas that one should never make, so glad to hear I wasn't totally off the wall!

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  27. Keep practicing! It's hard to learn everything out of books & online tutorials. I thank my mama for hands on help with machine binding. It made all the difference. Personally I prefer a 1/2" binding so I cut strips of 3 1/2". And like some others, I don't pin (except the corners) and simply feel my way around the quilt by stitching in the ditch from the top. You'll get it! There will be times zig-zag won't suit your eye so don't give up. Not that you would ever contemplate such a thing...*wink*

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  28. I machine sew all my bindings. I do enjoy hand-sewing, but making a paper-pieced hexie quilt during TV time more than meets that need. I prefer a straight stitch (no zig-zags for me), and get much better results stitching from the folded-over side (front or back, have done both ways). Stitch-in-the-ditch would be my go-to method, if I were better at it. Maybe for my next one (thanks all for the pressing tips, I suspect that's the key step I've been skipping).

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  29. Hi Rachel and thanks for the great ideas. I am way too subtle on my bindings and need to start being more creative! I hand sew most of mine but I'm a newby and have only made 5 quilts. I'm starting to think that I should have zigzagged the quilt my son just took to college as the hand sewing is bound to come out. Well, I guess I'll just sew it on again. Thanks for all the great tips and great comment ideas from your readers too!

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  30. yep you sold me ;) I'm trying this on the one I'm suppose to finish the month, thanks for sharing.
    -annabelle

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  31. excellent! this is just the kind of simple suggestion i needed for my next binding- i am trying it for sure!

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  32. Great idea with the zig-zag stitch, I have never finished my binding by machine though. I love to hand stitch it and admire my new quilt, while staying warm under it. I watch a movie/Netflix or I take it with me on the road while I do the binding. I have finished binding on several quilts while camping. As for choosing binding,I plan my binding right away with my quilt idea and it is one of the first things I buy when picking fabrics. I guess I love to bind quilts. :)

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  33. Gosh, I've never thought about machine stitching binding. Hmm...perhaps I should try. Thanks for the links!

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  34. Hi Rachel,
    some time ago I found this tutorial. It´s a machine finished binding using zigzag but you don´t see it from the front. I haven´t tried it yet but I will!
    Here is the link: http://maryonlakepulaski.blogspot.com/2011/05/binding-is-it-by-machine-or-is-it-by.html
    Greetings from Germany, Inka
    inka(dot)mangels(at)elaborate-consult(dot)de

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  35. On the bed-sized quilts that I've made, I have always sewn the binding onto the front, then hand-stitched the back. It does take a long time, but it also does look great.
    That said, I've lately been doing mostly small quilts, and on those I have completely machine stitched them. I sew the binding on to the the back first, then fold over to the front & sew as close to the edge as I can with a straight stitch - then I go over that with a zig zag or other decorative stitch. Now that I've done that for a while, I may leave out the straight stitch part. Guess it will depend on what kind of trouble the binding is giving me! lol

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  36. I will always bind by hand. I just think it looks better... plus if we put it in a show, there are quilt police here. Even our guild's charity quilt group won't allow bindings done any other way (I never used to mitre corners because i was afraid, and oooh the looks I got! lol) I enjoy the process of hand stitching. IT goes quick if you have thread conditioner. ; )

    ~Monika

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  37. I love the zig-zag stitch idea and will definitely have to remember to try it on my zig-zag "Stock Market" quilt I'm making out of HSTs.

    Thanks for the great idea!

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  38. actually tried this on THREE small quilts yesterday and am IN LOVE!! Thanks for the tip, great idea:)

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