Binding. It’s the last step when quiltmaking. Some of us love it, some hate it, and some just do it and get it over with. Many of the greatest UFOs are lying there with their raw edges exposed.
Isn’t that sad? All that hard work deserves a great finish that’s as good looking and durable as possible!
Where to start? Like most things, a little planning goes a long way. Patterns often end with “bind as desired,” so here’s a start!
Match or Contrast?
Spread the quilt on the floor or other surface large enough to contain it all, or folded into no smaller than one-fourth. Step back and take a look, maybe with a squinty eye so you’re dealing more with color values than details. You might like to take a black-and-white photo image of the quilt to concentrate on color values. Does your design call out for a visual frame? Would that enhance the look? If so, try a highly contrasting fabric; tuck a piece under the edge of the quilt and see what you think.
Beginners often like to use the same fabric for binding as they’ve used on the outermost border, but you don’t have to be a beginner to use this method – it’s a look that extends the outside border and almost disappears.
The middle-of-the-road option: you might choose binding to match the backing (or the alternative: pick your backing to match the binding), or pick up one of the colors in the quilt design. Fold a piece of fabric and put it in place – then step back and view the result, remembering that color balance is a good thing.
Keep in mind that any quilt’s binding is an important design element, and your color choices do matter.
Common finished binding widths are between ¼” and ½” – and that’s variable, of course, depending upon the desired finished effect. Keep in mind that a thin binding will more securely stabilize seams that reach the outer border; the more seams that approach the edge of your quilt, the less wide the binding should be if seam stabilization is a consideration.
Will I be cutting the binding on the bias – or not? Why?
It depends upon how much wear your quilt will receive. It’s ok to put a straight binding on a wallhanging, because it won’t be manipulated a lot. But if the quilt will be used often, especially if it will be laundered, bias-cut binding is a far better option. Picture the edge of the binding: when it has been cut along the grain, a few continuous threads run the length of the fold. With wear, those few threads will break and the binding will look as though it has been cut. (You’ll see this often on antique quilts.)
The 45-degree angle of a binding that’s cut on the bias allows the threads to cross the fold. Plus it has built-in stretch for easing around corners and curves – you’ll be able to smooth it without puckering!
Single layer or double layer?
Single layer binding is the weaker option – reserve it for very small quilts that will receive little wear. Double layer binding, also called French binding, has a folded finished edge to sew to the back of the quilt after stitching the raw edge to the front. The added bonus: two layers of longer-wearing protection for the edges of your quilt!
Out of space for now! I hope you have pulled that UFO out of the stack and are considering the finishing touch of a binding. Your quilt will soon be put to use! Watch for Part 2 of Finishing Touches: Binding Cuts.