Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Easy Method to Join Binding Tails

Binding. Love it or hate it? I love it because it means a quilt is almost finished. Some people dread the binding process, especially joining those last two ends of binding strips – we call them the binding tails. There are many tools and techniques to do that step, but I’ve discovered an easy and accurate method that requires no math, no expensive special tools, and it lays perfectly flat every time. My method works the same way for single or double fold binding.

Here is my most recent binding project, a Baltimore Album quilt that has been “in progress” of hand appliqué and hand quilting since at least 1989. Too pretty to languish in the UFO queue any longer! It is about time to bind it, right?

 This quilt has been trimmed and squared. After folding the binding fabric yardage on the diagonal, I cut the first four 2-inch wide bias strips, and laid them at the corners. The next four strips were laid down along the sides. The ends of each strip are loosely flipped up and down. This step is how I estimate placement of all the binding seams – not near corners or midpoints. (Binding seams add too much bulk if placed near a corner, and I like to avoid seams directly at midpoints because this is where quilts are often folded in half – just my personal preference.) 

Again, this is just a rough estimate of placement. The seams will be sewn right sides together, then attached to the quilt, except the last seam, the “binding tails.”

Before picking up the first and second strip to sew the diagonal seam at the sewing machine, I place a pin on the quilt edge to mark where I plan to begin attaching the binding. Then sew that first strip to the next strip, picking them up off the quilt counter clockwise.

To keep the joined binding strips from stretching or wrinkling, I wrap the entire binding flat onto a cardboard tube. (Note: For a double fold binding, I do not fold my binding in half and press, as some people do.)

You will need a walking foot or even-feed foot to sew the binding onto the quilt.

Big tables are great for handling the bulk of the quilt. Be sure the quilt is always supported so its weight does not pull against the needle or the binding.

Place the beginning of the binding at the marking pin on the quilt leaving at least a 6 inch extra “tail” hanging loose at the beginning, as shown in the photo below. Loosely fold the binding in half, wrong sides together, and align both raw edges evenly along the quilt edge. Sew the binding to the quilt with a walking foot 1/4 inch from the raw edges. Miter corners.

Keep adjusting the bulk of the quilt as needed. See how the cardboard tube stands on my table nearby? Roll the binding off the tube as needed.

When you get around the quilt, BEFORE the last 10-12 inches of the quilt, STOP, leaving another long tail, at least 6 inches long. (Do not cut the tails yet.)

Trim threads, remove the quilt from the sewing machine, and lay it out flat.

Align the remaining binding (tails) along the quilt edge until their ends meet. Flip one binding tail straight up, the other straight down, folding them flat to form a 45 degree angle where they meet, as shown below. Be sure the binding folds are butted close together, and right sides are facing up. Remember: The tails should form a continuous line straight up and down, and the folds should butt close together, or the resulting seam will not be correct. Finger press the folds firmly so they lie flat. Pin in place temporarily.
NOTE: With a double fold binding, you will have to loosely fold the quilt up in curves to allow the binding folds to open out flat, as shown in the following photos.

Cut a piece of blue painter’s tape the length of the butted join (not longer). Carefully tape the join. Press down on the tape to firmly crease the folds underneath. Scratch over the tape with a fingernail or tool to make sure the binding folds are well creased and secured to the tape.

Remove all pins. Carefully slip the palm of your hand under the taped binding to gently lift it up away from the quilt while letting the quilt gently fold out of the way.

Open the binding creases, forcing the blue tape to fold in half. The binding will form an X. You should still see the creases, but if you cannot, mark the crease with a ruler and pencil.

Sew along the crease to join the binding strips. Do not pierce the tape. (NOTE: If your tape is too long, it might stick to the sewing machine bed – just trim the tape so it’s not sticking out from the seam line.)

Open the seam and carefully remove the tape, lifting it from the sides. If you have pierced the tape, bits can be removed easily with a tweezer. 

At this point, I like to lay the binding down flat on the quilt to see that it will indeed lie flat, but it always does. :-)

Trim off the excess binding tails 1/4 inch from the seam.  Notice in the photo below how the quilt is loosely curled UP and safely out of the way temporarily.

Press the seam open.

Return the quilt to a flat surface. Align the binding flat along the quilt edge, and pin.

Finish sewing the binding onto the quilt. The binding is now all attached and the finish is in sight! Find a comfortable chair, and hand sew the binding to the back of the quilt to finish.

© 2013 Barbara M. Burnham

Taking this technique a step further, you can make a pieced binding to identically match your pieced quilt border in “Precision Pieced Binding,” American Quilter Magazine, November 2012.