Machine Quilt Binding Tutorial

Posted by Rona Herman on

How to Bind a Quilt 100% by Machine

Reading through social media comments and listening to people at Guild meetings I hear a lot of them say how much they dread Quilt binding. I promise, it really doesn’t have to be that hard. With my Double Fold Binding method, anyone can add binding to a quilt in less time and with a unique but subtle finish.  

I am not a hand quilter. There. I said it. My Grandmother says I ‘cheat’ because I use a machine for all of my quilting. It’s true. I use my trusty machines for nearly every step of the process, including the binding!

When people look closely at my quilts, they almost always comment on the uniqueness of my binding. I apply them completely by machine in a slightly non-traditional way. My bindings are closed seamlessly and I like to add some ‘flair’ whenever possible. That’s where the zigzag stitch comes in. But, more on that later.  

How to Bind a Quilt by Machine
Squared Quilt with Crazy Binding by Rona the Ribbiter Quilts

Truthfully, I simply don’t have the time, or really the patience, for hand stitching binding closed on a quilt. However, I greatly admire those that do hand quilting. It’s a tremendous skill I have yet to even attempt to master.

After starting my Americana project, I decided I needed to make a blog post to go along with it and the binding seemed like a perfect fit. Here’s how I make my Binding 100% by machine.

Americana Quilt Pattern by Rona the Ribbiter Quilts
Americana Quilt by Rona the Ribbiter Quilts

Preparing to Stitch

The first thing you’ll need is, of course, the binding. I like to use Double Fold Bias Tape or Double Fold Binding Strip. You’ll want to make sure your binding is long enough to cover the entire quilt with a little extra at the end to form your seamless closure. You can check out my post on How to Make Double Fold Bias Tape for tips to make your own and there’s even a Quilt Binding Calculator!

CLICK HERE to read How to Make Double Fold Bias Tape.

How to make double fold bias tape without bias maker

For your machine, make sure you have the feed dogs up and your basic Presser Foot attached. In most cases this will be Foot A. Set your stitch length a little wider as the sandwich is much thicker than basic piecing. I usually set my Pfaff Ambition 620 at 2.5. 

If your machine does not have an auto tensioner, you’ll want to increase the tension slightly, again to account for the thickness. Each machine is different so I suggest doing some practice stitching to get a feel for just how high you’ll need to raise the tension.

All set? Here we go!

Back to Front Quilt Binding

Flip your quilt sandwich so the back side is facing up. I like to start on the bottom of the quilt. Originally this was because I figured if I made a mistake on the closure, the bottom would be less noticeable.

Open you your Double Fold Binding strip all the way and align one raw edge with the raw edge of your quilt sandwich somewhere in the middle, as shown. Pin the end in place.

Double fold Quilt Binding tutorial

About one hand width (or approximately 6 – 8 inches) down from the end place another pin, keeping the raw edges together. Make sure the strip and your quilt sandwich are smooth and flat.

Before placing the quilt on your machine, make sure you can clearly see the FIRST (closest to the outer edge) fold line in your binding. If not, you can use a chalk pencil to mark the fold line so it is more visible. We are going to stitch ON this fold line.

Double Fold Quilt Binding tutorial

Line up your needle on the first fold line in your binding just below the second pin. Keeping the raw edges together, begin stitching ON the FIRST binding fold line. There’s no need to back stitch here as we’ll be closing the ends together later.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I like to stitch in small batches so that I can keep the raw edges lined up together. If you feel more comfortable, you can always pin the edges in place before stitching.

Once you reach the first corner of your quilt sandwich, stop about 1 fingers width BEFORE the end. Add a couple backstitches and remove the quilt sandwich from you machine. Here’s where I may lose you. But, stick with me. A little practice and you’ll have this down pat by your 4th corner!

How to sew double fold bias tape around corners.

Think Hospital Corners

With the sandwich in front of you, fold the binding strip AWAY from the quilt so that the edges create a straight line, as shown.

Easy Quilt Binding Corners

Fold the binding straight back on itself so that the raw edges are once again lined up and you have a straight fold on the edge, as shown.

Double fold Quilt Binding Corners

Once we turn the quilt over to the front side, this corner fold will give us that nice mitered corner. Pin the end in place.

Realign your needle on the FIRST fold line of the binding and, keeping the raw edges together, continue stitching. Repeat this process for all 4 corners.

Joining Double Fold Binding Ends

Once you’ve made it all the way around to the bottom of your quilt, DO NOT stitch all the way to your first pins! Only stitch about 2 -3 inches from the end and stop. Place a couple back stitches to hold it in place then remove the sandwich from your machine.

Once again keeping the raw edges together, lay your binding up to the starting end and pin in place, as shown. Make sure both your binding strip and quilt sandwich are smooth and flat.

How to join Quilt binding ends together

Fold the loose binding end back on itself so that the fold lines up perfectly with the starting end of your binding, as shown. Press firmly with your fingers.

How to make seamless binding

Remove all the pins and open up your loose binding end. Using a chalk pencil, draw a line ON the pressed fold on the RIGHT side.

How to join the ends of a quilt binding with diagonal seams.

This part takes a little finesse to get it all to work but it is very doable, I promise! With the RIGHT side of the loose end up (so you can see the chalk line), place the lower binding edge over top on the diagonal, as shown. The inside of the starting edge should be lined up with the OUTSIDE of the chalk line. Pin in place.

How to join the ends of a quilt binding with diagonal seams.

Draw a chalk line across the diagonal connecting the intersections.

Carefully maneuver the binding ends onto your machine making sure the chalk fold line and the inside edge stay lined up. Stitch ON the drawn diagonal line.

Remove the binding ends from the machine and cut about ¼ inch from the OUTSIDE of your stitched line to create a seam allowance. Press your seam open.

How to join the ends of a quilt binding with diagonal seams.

Place the closed binding back on your quilt sandwich, keeping the raw edges together, continue stitching on the first fold line to connect the ends in place.

Front Side Beauty

Turn your quilt sandwich over to the front and fold your binding over with it. At each corner be sure to press the ends in.

How to miter quilt corners

Beginning, once again, at the bottom, fold the binding completely over to create the Double Fold. Pin in place. Instead of pins, you can also use these great Binding Clips to hold the edges in place. They work like a champ!

How to use Quilt Binding Clips
Quilt Binding Clips

Continue folding the binding over and pinning in place until you come to the first corner. Here’s the really cool bit. Remember the ‘hospital corners’ we mad on the back? This is where that pays off.

Fold the first side of the binding over all the way down and off the end. Then, fold the binding of the next side up to meet it. This creates that wonderful mitered corner with little fuss! How cool is that!? Make sure to pin in place to make stitching easier.

Continue folding and pinning until you’re gone all the way around your quilt.

Zigzag Frenzy

As I’ve mentioned, I like to give my quilts a little ‘flair’. To do this on my binding I like to use a zigzag stitch. I personally think it gives the quilt a unique and ‘finished’ look. Of course, you can just as easily use a straight stitch as well if you prefer. All’s far in love and Quilting!

For the zigzag stitch you can keep the same presser foot but set your machine to the zigzag stitch. I like to make my width a little wider and the length a little smaller than the default setting. I simply prefer the narrower stitching.

Line up your needle so that the left position will being just inside the folded edge of the binding, as shown. Then, begin stitching. There is no need to back stitch at this point. When you reach the first corner, stop, pivot and continue. Once you’ve stitched all the way around, continue stitching past your beginning stitches to lock them in place. Backstitch a few stitches and then your done. How easy was that!?

Attaching Quilt Binding by Machine

Here’s a little video to show you how I pivoted around the corners with the zigzag stitch.

Wow, I definitely need to find a better angle for these little snippet videos. Apologies for the gigantic hand in the way!

Did you use the zigzag stitch on a quilt? Show us in the comments! Or, share with us on the Facebook Group. I LOVE seeing everyone’s creativity!  

Have you mastered basic piecing and ready to take on Applique? You got this!!! CLICK HERE to check out my tutorial on Beginning Applique!

As always, Hoppy Quilting!  

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