March 9, 2012

How to Make Bias Quilt Binding

When I first started quilting, I bought pre-made binding because I had no real idea how to make my own. The palate was limited almost entirely to solid colors, and it was depressing. Somewhere along the way, I learned to make my own and it's my favorite quilting trick.

It's my favorite because most fabric collections have a print or two that would make fantastic binding. It matches the colors of the collection already, and you can use it to show off a print you liked and used a lot or one you didn't get to use at all. I also think using a print instead of a solid can really make a good quilt into a great quilt.

Now there are some distinct advantages to making continuous bias binding. It's more durable than straight grain binding, and it's incredibly useful on curves. I use it for almost all my projects. The best part? It's really easy to do! The first time you make it, it can be a little tricky to visualize exactly what to do. I made this tutorial with tons of pictures to help clear up some of the confusion at a few of the steps.

First, you'll need some yardage. How much depends on how much binding you need and how wide you want to make it. In the example, I use a 1/2 yard piece and cut it 2 1/2" wide. That gave me about 11 yards of 1/2" binding. If you make it wider, you'll end up with less binding, so plan your yardage accordingly.

Ready? Let's go!

Iron your fabric before beginning and then lay it out on your workspace with selvages on the sides (instead of top and bottom). Trim off the selvage edges.

Now you want to take the top right corner of the fabric and fold it over to give you a 45 degree angle, just like this:

You definitely want to make sure it's lined up properly along the bottom. I like to press it to give it a nice crisp edge, but you don't have to. Cut along the fold line.

Now take the triangle you just cut and slide it straight over to the left side. What you want to have is the two selvage edges next to each other, like this:

Place the right sides together and pin so you can stitch the two pieces together. Press the seam open when you're finished. You'll have a nice parallelogram when you're finished. I really only mention that because it'll help you make sure you've done it right, and parallelogram is a fun word to say.

Flip the piece over, so you can mark on the back. Starting from the seam you stitched, mark all along the bottom edge. I made mine 2 1/2" wide, but you could make it wider or skinnier depending on your preference. Mark along the top edge as well starting from the corner.

Next, you want to draw a straight line from the first mark on the bottom to the first mark on the top. Repeat for all the marks until your fabric is covered in parallel lines. If you have a small section left on the end, which is likely, just trim it off.

Use something you can see well for marking, and don't use a pen that disappears with heat (because we'll be pressing it again). You'll need these lines, they become your cutting lines in the end.

One down, many lines to go.
I press a 1/4" foldover along the top and bottom, because it helps me line it up in the next step. You could also just mark a 1/4 line or fingerpress it.

Here's where it gets a little tricky. You want to take the lines from the bottom and match them up against the lines on the top. However, you want to match the 1st line from the bottom with the edge of top of the fabric. The 2nd line on the bottom will then match up with the 1st line on the top. This offsetting is important because it gives you the starting point when you begin cutting.

You really want to make sure you get the lines straight, which is why I find pressing the seam to be helpful. Once you feel the lines are all straight, pin them and stitch together with a 1/4" seam.

When you're done, you'll get a weird lumpy mess that looks like this:

Press the seam open. Guess what? The hard part is over! Now it's the fun part! Find the end.

Start cutting along the line, going around and around until you get to the other end. I like to go watch some wrestling while I do the cutting, since it takes a little while.

You'll be left with a big old pile of one long piece.

Press the binding as desired. I do it by hand with my iron and some determination. If you're lucky enough to have one of those fancy machines that will fold and press it for you, you can just set it up on that.

Voila! It's finally ready to bind your quilt! From start to finish, doing this 1/2 yard took me about three hours to do, but unless you're stopping for a photo session every few minutes, it will take you less time.

I hope you find this tutorial to be helpful and Happy National Quilting Month!

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