Phew, we’ve reached the last step in making a quilt, finishing the edges off neatly.
Trimming/Squaring Up The Quilt
You may remember waaaay back in the basting stage you made the batting and backing bigger than your quilt top, and while you or your long armer were quilting, this bit may have been a little spread into by the top. Now, though, that bit needs to go. I use a positive battery of rulers side by side on a set of large cutting mats end to end to do this bit, with a square one at the corners, but different people approach this in different ways, including measuring (my rulers don’t measure a thing at this stage lol). It’s more important to measure for show quilts, or if you’re aware that the top has spread kind of unevenly and you’re not sure if your corners are even square any more.
Finishing The Quilt
The most common way to finish a quilt is to ‘bind’ it. Binding is made up of a strip of fabric long enough to go all the way around the perimeter of your quilt plus an overhang for joining of around 8″ – 10″. Bindings can be: made of a single fabric, ‘scrappy’ (where different fabrics are joined together), made from another fabric type (such as lawn), narrow, wide, you name it! There are several types of binding which we will look at below.
Straight Cut Binding
This is where the strips for the binding are cut across the width of the fabric, following the grain. This works well for the majority of quilts which will end up square or rectangular as there are no curves to worry about or accomodate. Strips are joined together end to end to create the binding, either with end cut with the grain, or by joining them at a 45 degree angle, which reduces the bulk at the join a little as you’re sewing the binding on.
Bias Cut Binding
If your quilt edges have curves or angles, such as on a quilt with circles or hexagons on the edges, your strips of fabric are best cut on the bias. This means that the strips are cut at 45 degrees to the selvedges/grain, and are more flexible going round curves and angles because the strip goes diagonally across the grain. To see the difference in how the fabric behaves, straight cut or bias, cut a small straight strip of fabric from scraps, and then cut a second small piece at a 45 degree angle to the edge – most quilting rulers have this angle marked on them to make this easier. Gently pull the edges of the strips and see how they react.
Double Fold Binding
On large quilts intended for use (as opposed to art ones that may end up on a wall) binding is generally ‘double fold’. What this means is that the entire length of binding (regardless of how it is cut) is folded in half lengthways and the side with the two raw edges is sewn around the edge of one side of the quilt, then the folded edge is wrapped round to the other side before being either machine stitched or hand stitched in place. Most quilt binding tends to be around 1/4″ wide on the front of the quilt and a tiny bit larger on the back, so in order to accommodate the fold as well as the thickness of the quilt being attached to, binding is usually cut at 2 1/4″ – 2 1/2″ in width. Exactly how wide is a combination of preference around the look of the finished product, and how you intend to attach the binding – machine sewing the folded edge in place requires a little more overhang than hand sewing it down.
Single Fold Binding
On mini or artist quilts a single fold biding can be used instead of double fold to reduce the bulk. In this case one raw edge is turned to the back of the fabric by the seam allowance, usually 1/4″, and pressed in place, after which the other raw edge is sewn around the edge of the quilt, right sides together. The folded edge is then wrapped round and stitched in place in the same way at for a double-fold binding. For a binding finishing at 1/4″, the fabric is usually cut at around 1 1/4″ in width.
This is where you have no visible binding on the front at all. There are 2 options for this, the first involves quilting the top and batting only, then sewing the backing and front of the quilt right sides together and turning through a small gap (although this means that the backing generally doesn’t get meachine quilted) or you quilt the 3 layers as normal and do a single fold type binding, but pull the seam allowance round to the back as well when pressing. The pictures below are from a turned through version, and as it will be tied, it actually will include the backing in the quilting, while machine quilting at this stage would run the risk of distorting the edges.