Who says that's not right?
I’m sure you’ve run into the nay-saying quilt police before who say that machine binding your quilts is “wrong” or “cheating”. This perception is from the idea that you shouldn’t be able to see your stitching on the binding. it “should” be invisible. Well I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of hogwash!
I simply do not have the time or patience to sit and hand stitch. Besides that- I don’t enjoy hand stitching! If you do- more power to you! But sometimes we just need to get a project done quick without compromising on quality! So here are my 6 tips on making professional looking machine binding that only takes 20 minutes!
6 Tips on making professional looking machine binding
1. Thread Color
When you hand bind with a chunkier thread, you are looking for it to stand out and add an element of design. But when you are machine binding, you want it to blend in because it is not as decorative. The most important tip I can give you to make your machine binding look professional is to use a matching thread color. This elevates the look of your binding by 1000%. So, if your binding is yellow- use a yellow thread. Is your binding black? Use a black thread! This is my #1 Tip!
2. Where to start
Most people start by attaching the binding to the front. I recommend that when you machine bind, you start by attaching the binding to the back. This is because when you are stitching the second side down, it leaves a stitch line on the opposite side. I don’t want that to be on the front of my quilt.
3. Seam Allowance
Early on in my quilting career I put a couple of quilts into our local county fair. When I got them back it came with judging notes. All of mine said that my binding was too loose, and needed to be pulled tighter. I don’t know if that’s a “thing” or not. But I started doing just that and I really like how it looks. With that being said, I usually stitch all the way around on the back first at a little more than 1/4″ seam allowance. This will also help to keep the line on the back closer to the binding (which you’ll see after you stitch down the front side).
4. Corners matter
Corners can be tricky! I love when people use the chunky thread and make little “X” marks over the corner fold. I think it’s so cute! However, with machine binding, you want to make sure that your corners are secure without running a stitch up the corner fold. So, when I am stitching the binding down to the back and I come to a corner, I do not cut my thread. I sew up to 1/4″ away from the next edge and lift my sewing machine foot. Then, I carefully (with the needle still down) turn my quilt 45 degrees so that the next edge is lined up and ready to sew down. While carefully holding the quilt in place, I lift the foot and fold back the binding so that the fold is aligned with the last edge. Then I put the foot back down and stitch back and forth a couple of times before continuing down the next side.
The reason I do this is to make sure that my thread stays as one continuous thread. It helps to stabilize the corners so that when I pull it around to the other side, everything stays put.
Once you have flipped the quilt over and are stitching the binding to the front, you’ll stop a few inches from the corner and fold the binding up towards the side you are on and hold it in place. The corner fold should be perfectly mitered. Sew back and forth ONE stitch a few times over the fold. Then, with your needle down, rotate your quilt and continue on down the next side.
5. Top Stitch on the front
This is the part that needs some special attention to detail. You are going to pull your binding over to the front of your quilt and top stitch all the way around. I try to keep my stitching as close to that folded edge of the binding as possible. Going a little slower helps you keep your line straight and steady. And, of course, make sure that your binding is pulled over your stitch line from the back.
6. Size matters
I always cut my binding at 2.5″ wide and then press the whole thing in half lengthwise. This has worked well for me over the years, especially if I sew little more than 1/4″ seam when I first attach the binding to the back. Bessie Pearl sells gorgeous pre-made bindings to help make this process even easier! We also have an article in Issue 7: Getting Into Shape that’s all about how to make bias binding!
I believe that there is no reason you can’t have quick AND beautiful binding on your quilts. I hope these 6 tips on making professional looking machine binding will help you feel successful in machine binding. And don’t worry what the nay-sayers are saying! There is no wrong way! Only alternatives.