Binding a Quilt How To

My Favorite Quilt Binding Tutorial

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

You could say I’ve bound a few quilts in my life… I have never attempted to count just how many, but I do know I’m well past the 100-quilt mark. When I first learned to bind a quilt, I learned to stitch it by hand–at a nice, leisurely pace. It’s a wonderful activity, and while I love (and miss) the process of stitching the binding by hand, I have had to look for quicker solutions as life’s gotten a little busier. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, and am excited to share my full quilt binding tutorial. In the last steps, you can choose whether you finish the binding by hand or machine.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Update 1/6/22: I recently filmed a full video tutorial on my machine binding techniques with Fat Quarter Shop! Watch it below, and combine it with the detailed pictures of this blog post.

As is the case with many crafts, there’s a learning curve; it takes experience to get better at this quilt binding thing. As you implement these techniques, I’m confident you will see improvement on the next quilt you bind. And greater improvement on the next. It’s not likely that yours will look like mine on the first attempt, but don’t give up! Again, I’ve done this a lot and have been able to perfect this aspect of the craft. This is literally an example of practice made perfect. Let’s get started!

STEP #1: Gather your binding fabric and cut 2½” strips. If you’re following a quilt pattern, the instructions should tell you how much yardage, and how many strips to cut. Otherwise, you can figure it out on your own with a simple calculation:

1) Determine the perimeter of the quilt (add the length of each side of the quilt) + 15″.

2) Divide that sum by the 40″ WOF, then round up.

For example, if my finished quilt top is 75″ x 75″, I’ll add together:

75″ + 75″ + 75″ + 75″ + 15″ = 315″

If I divide that 315″ sum by 40″ WOF, I get 7.87 strips. Rounded up is 8 strips 2½” x WOF.

To cut the binding fabric, line up the folded edge of the yardage with the bottom line on your cutting mat. It’s important to have that folded edge aligned correctly so the strips will still run straight when you unfold them. Once everything’s aligned just right, use a ruler and rotary cutter to carefully cut the required amount of 2½” strips.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #2: Next, sew all of the binding strips together end-to-end, at a bias, to get (1) long strip. Sewing them together “at a bias” will reduce bulk (via a diagonal seam). To do this, just bring the ends of two strips right sides together at a 90 degree angle. Notice the ends overlap by quite a bit (to get rid of the unwanted bits of selvage). Draw a diagonal line as shown and pin in place.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Sew along the marked line.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Trim excess to 1/4″ seam allowance.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Press the seam open.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Proceed until all strips are sewn together end-to-end. Next, press the strip in half, wrong sides together. As you press a small section at a time, you can roll it up nicely like I did… or not. Sometimes mine ends up in more of a heap.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #3: Starting in middle of one side of the quilt: align the raw edges of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt. Skipping approx. the first 6″ of binding fabric, start stitching using scant 3/8″ seam allowance. (I stuck a pin to show you where I plan to start stitching.) A walking foot is strongly recommended for stitching through the bulky layers. (A walking foot essentially adds a second set of feed dogs on top to make sure the fabric feeds through evenly.) My machine is heavy duty and handles the bulk just fine with my quilter’s foot so that’s what I’m using.

perfect machine binding tutorial for quilters
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

I mentioned using a scant 3/8″ seam allowance. My quilter’s foot is a perfect 1/4″ so you can see I’m stitching just a little outside that. I aim to keep it between 1/4″ and 3/8″ but the most important thing is consistency.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #4: Keep sewing down that first quilt side, slowing as you approach the bottom. Stop approx. 1/4″ away from the bottom edge–the idea is to be equidistant from the bottom edge as your seam allowance… i.e. if you were to draw a line from the last stitch to the corner, it would make a perfect 45 degree angle. I usually eyeball it. For the next step, pull the quilt a little ways out from under your machine…

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #5: To prepare the edges for mitering later, fold the binding strip to the right, at a 90 degree angle. Notice the part of the binding strip that forms a 45 degree angle. Finger-press that 45 degree fold to flatten in place.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #6: Fold the binding strip back onto itself–to cover the 45 degree fold–and run along the next side of the quilt (raw edges aligned).

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #7: Rotate the quilt so you can keep stitching down the next side of binding. Check that the new “top” edge of binding (a fold) aligns with the top edge of the quilt and that the raw edges of the folded binding strip and raw edge of the quilt are also aligned down the new side. Keep stitching using the same seam allowance (scant 3/8″) and repeat the pivot at all corners.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #8: After you have stitched past all four corners, sew until you are approx. 12″ away from the first stitch.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #9: Pull the quilt out from the machine and flatten the unbound area as best you can. Bring the binding tails together (keeping them flattened with the quilt) and trim so they overlap by exactly 2½”.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #10: Unfold the binding tails and bring them right sides together at a bias (same as earlier), but overlapping the ends by 1/8″. (This will feel like a small wrestle because of the heaviness of the quilt attached to the binding, plus threads keeping you tethered to the sewing machine, etc. Pull the quilt out enough from the machine so you can move it the way you need to; also fold/bunch the quilt as needed to help. Whatever you need to do to accommodate the binding tails so they can be brought right sides together at a 90 degree angle, overlapping by 1/8″. Mark a diagonal line, and pin in place.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Sew along the marked line and trim 1/4″ seam allowance. When you let go of the binding, it should be a perfect fit to the quilt. (Double check by holding the quilt taut–the binding should stretch to fit the area… if it feels a little too loose, it’s easy to pick out the stitches of the diagonal seam and make a small adjustment.)

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #11: Once you know it’s good, finger-press the seam open. Re-fold the strip in half, and finish stitching the binding to the quilt.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #12: Take the quilt to your ironing board, front facing down. (This is what it will look like before folding the edge of the binding over to cover the seam.) I just want to point out that the goal is to cover that seam by approx. 1/8″, because that seam is basically where the stitching will come through again. Covering the seam by 1/8″ with consistency is important and help it look as flawless as possible.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #13: Working from right to left, fold the binding over and press. (At the ends, the binding will form a point.)

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

After the section is pressed, draw a thin line of Elmer’s School Glue above the seam.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Re-fold the binding down and iron with a quick shot of steam, again focusing on covering the seam consistently by 1/8″. Because of the glue, the binding will be stuck in place right where you want it to stay! Keep moving along the quilt in sections to press/glue the binding in place.

<< NOTE: This is where I insert a quilt label tags into the binding >>

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #14: When reaching the end of a side, again, the binding will come out to a point like this.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Fold in the adjacent side of binding to miter the corner. Proceed to press and glue that adjacent side until you’ve gone around the whole perimeter of the quilt.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

STEP #15: For the next step–you have two options.

1) Finish by stitching the binding to the back of the quilt by hand with a needle and thread. No binding clips needed!

– OR –

2) Finish stitching the binding in place by machine in the following steps:

STEP #16: Bring the quilt (face up) back under the sewing machine and “stitch in the ditch” (aka the line where binding meets quilt). Since we’ve covered the seam on the back by 1/8″, the stitching hits right where we planned it to. I will sometimes place my finger on top of the quilt where I’m about to stitch to feel the binding edge underneath to confirm it’s 1/8″ out from where I’m about to stitch. (NOTE: If you’re worried about the seam not hitting the right place on the back, you can actually stitch into the top binding area instead of “in the ditch.” Just be consistent with whatever you choose.)

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

And that’s it! As I said earlier, it takes practice and you will discover what works best for you along the way. Here’s how mine looks on the back. Not technically perfect, but pretty darn close.

Quilt Binding Tips featured by top US quilter, Lella Boutique
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Oh and in case you’re wondering–this quilt is one of my Homestead quilts–mixing my Lollipop Garden fabric with Wildwood by Rifle Paper Co for Cotton + Steel. The binding is a striped print from Lollipop Garden.

homestead triangle layer cake quilt by Vanessa Goertzen of Lella Boutique. Fabric is Wildwood by Rifle paper Co for Cotton + Steel
Free Quilt Binding Tutorial: Expert tips on binding a quilt by hand or machine

Hope you found this helpful, the ironing and gluing has made a big difference for me!

9 Comments

  1. Rose K Zapel

    March 8, 2021 at 5:58 am

    This is an awesome tutorial; and I know it will be helpful. I need to get better at machine binding to save my thumbs. Glue will be a gamechanger. And the striped fabric is so nice on this quilt. Thanks for doing this; the video should be considered a great public service.

  2. Pam P

    March 8, 2021 at 7:08 am

    Thank you for this step-by-step tutorial. The multiple pictures are very helpful to follow each step. I have heard of gluing the binding down before but have been reluctant to try it. Your binding is beautiful! Does the glue make it stiff?

    1. lellaboutique

      September 17, 2021 at 11:38 am

      A few things to note about using the Elmer’s School Glue. Many have asked about it gumming up the needle. It does not gum up the needle or cause problems in stitching the binding in place. It can definitely make the binding feel a little stiffer but only until the quilt is washed. The beauty of using the school glue is it washes out! Hope that helps

  3. Janet Sweeney

    March 31, 2021 at 1:36 am

    Wow this is a really good tutorial. You explain it precisely. I love your idea of using the glue. And you made sewing it with my machine a lot less intimidating. I thought you had to attach to the back and bring it to the front and sew. I have tried that and it came out sad.

    1. lellaboutique

      March 31, 2021 at 12:06 pm

      Thank you! The glue is a game changer! Oh and I have never understood sewing it to the back first–if your stitching isn’t perfect (which is most of us humans) it shows on the front! I’ve tried it many ways and this is by far my favorite.

  4. Susan

    June 6, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. My binding came out perfect thanks to your tutorial. I finished it with machine stitching. Glue, who knew!

  5. Peg L.

    September 16, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    You haven’t answered any questions asked above, I hope for an answer! You said your binding isn’t quite perfect. I’d like to know why. I’d have a better understanding! It does look really good to me!!’

    1. lellaboutique

      September 17, 2021 at 11:46 am

      I’m talking very minor flaws and you’d have to be scrutinizing every single inch of binding. The biggest thing I take care on is using a consistent seam allowance when I sew the folded binding strip to the quilt top initially. If you aren’t consistent there, it makes it difficult to cover the seam on the back evenly. Since I’m not a robot, it will never be 100% perfect but it’s close enough for me!

  6. julieborders

    January 11, 2022 at 9:36 pm

    I am so glad I watched the tutorial. I had heard you talk about the glue before, but not the ironing. I’ve been gluing and then using binding clips to hold it on while drying. The back of my binding did not look nearly as consistent as yours! Have you ever had spots where you missed the binding altogether on the back side? If so, how did you repair it? I’m hoping this won’t happen anymore now that I know about ironing!

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