Making your own binding for edging a quilt isn’t hard and it means you can chose exactly what colour and print you want rather than the need to rely on what you see available in the shops.
Although I use pre-cut vintage binding on many projects (such as trimming the sleeve and collar edgings on dresses) I always prefer to make my own binding for quilting. I’ve got a couple of those brilliant little binding gadgets that you slide the cut fabric through (all the time my fingers seem to be attempting the dance of death as they avoid steam from my iron) and use that when I’m edging pot holders or tea cosies….but I don’t use them for bed or lap quilts because I prefer my binding for those to be doubled.
The edge of a quilt can get a lot of wear and tear, and if you’re making something that hopefully will be treasured and passed on through the family, then over the years it’s going to have a lot of hands touching it (quilts by their very nature are such tactile things that you need to imagine all the scrunching and cuddling it’s going to get). Doubling the binding means you have an extra layer of protection around your quilt (it’s always possible to re bind a quilt but that isn’t the easiest of chores and I think it makes more sense to use a little more fabric in the first place.)
Anyway, I thought I’d show how I make my binding (this was the way my friend Alison patiently showed me many years ago)…you don’t really need any fancy equipment, though if you have one of those long transparent gridded rulers and a rotary cutter and cutting mat, hoorah…but I’ve made binding with a wooden ruler, pencil, and a pair of fabric shears before and it came out fine….
First of all measure the top and side of your quilt, then double that measurement. The binding has to go all the way around your quilt. Then add another 15 inches for turning the corners and to make sewing the two ends together a bit easier.
Press your fabric so it’s as wrinkle free as possible, and then with a long gridded plastic ruler or yardstick , draw a straight line from top to bottom. Measure along the width of your binding 2 1/4 inches (it’s about 5.5cm….most quilting equipment comes from America and so is marked up in inches which means it’s easier to think in “old money” rather than new) and then either cut with a rotary cutter or draw another line (and cut later with fabric shears)….cut and draw as many lengths of binding as you need.
For my example, my quilt is 30 inches wide and 40 inches long, so that is 30 + 40 x 2 (140) plus the extra 15 inches, which is 155 in total.
The fabric being used for binding is 45 inches wide so when I cut my strips they will each be 45 inches long (and 2 1/4 inches wide) so 1 strip is 45 inches, 2 strips will be 90, 3 strips will be 135 and 4 strips will be 180 inches. So I need to cut 4 strips. It seems like there is going to be a lot of binding left, but each time you join the binding lengths you are using up some of that extra length allowance before you even begin to work any corners.
When the strips are all cut, lay one right side up and then lay a second one on top at a right angle. (I have a little 4 1/2 inch square gridded ruler which I find invaluable* for measuring small pieces like this)……..then draw a 2 1/4 inch square on the top fabric and a diagonal line running from bottom right to top left hand corner)
Pin the two pieces of fabric together.
(I always seem to use a lot of pins but it’s important the fabric doesn’t shift around)
Sew along the diagonal line, starting and ending with a couple of over stitches. I rarely make a knot when I’m sewing patchwork and find a couple of over stitches makes for a neater and secure start and finish.
Open out the two pieces of fabric and gently press open with a hot iron.
When you look at it from the front you will have a nice straight edge top and bottom to the joined binding.
Trim the sides of the binding to a generous 1/4 of an inch.
Now with a hot iron (and avoiding steaming your finger tips where possible) press over the top edge of your binding about 1/4 of an inch. If you don’t want to judge by eye then by all means draw a line 1/4 of an inch away for the top edge and then carefully press along that.
Now bring the bottom edge of the fabric up to the pressed over top edge, and then carefully press along the bottom.
Your binding should now measure 1 inch wide, and have a 1/4 of an inch flap inside one edge only.
When you use binding gadgets they create a flap on both sides and that is not what you are going for here.
Carefully wrap your binding round your hand and fold it up (secure with a piece of ribbon or wool) and you are all set now to start sewing the binding to your quilt.
If you need to calculate how much fabric to buy to make your binding then I’d measure the quilt and write out the length required on a piece of paper. Generally speaking fabric bolts are about 45 inches wide (which for your binding is measured as the length), and you know the binding needs to be 2 1/4 inches each section. So for my example I’d need a piece of fabric that was cut wide enough for 4 x 2 1/4 inches (which is 11 inches). Depending where you are buying your fabric from, some shops may happily cut a piece 12 inches or a foot wide for you, however, if you’re buying on line then this won’t be an option so you will want to buy a piece that is about 20 inches wide (this is sold as either half a metre or as two joined fat quarters**)…..you’ll have some leftover but as all quilters know, leftovers soon find new homes in other projects.
* and I’m writing down all the pieces of equipment that I find really helpful when I’m sewing patchwork or making a quilt so will post that in a few days.
**if you’re buying on-line you might want to check how the fabric is sold, a few companies only sell fat quarters which is great for patchwork but bit wasteful if you are making a lot of binding. For smaller projects, like a cat quilt, then a thin quarter (10 inches wide) may well be enough.