Making a Quilt Binding from Scraps

Although there are many great tutorials online in blog and video form, a family member asked for a refresher course in making a handmade quilt binding from scraps, and so I oblige, hoping it might be useful for others, and providing me an excuse for taking a break from my NaNoWriMo novel.

Long ago I asked a quilter what was the most important thing to know about quilting, and she answered, "Precision cutting."

To make your own binding, your scraps can be any length, but they all need to be the same height and cut straight with square corners. I find that 3" is a good and versatile height.

Right sides together (if you can tell), pin two together, the top one perpendicular and heading toward you. If your mat has diagonals on it like mine does, it's easy to align and point the pins to the diagonal, leaving a clear path between them for the stitching. I often mark the bottom right corner, using it as an aiming point. Sometimes I'll go ahead and just draw the line on the cloth to help me sew straight.

Sew from the left corner down to the right corner, and/or to your mark.

Trim off the triangle in the upper right.

Iron open the seams on the back.

This is what it looks like from the front. A couple steps more to go. (You would repeat everything up to this point for all your scrap strips.)

When you have the full length you need to bind your quilt, iron the strip in half, lengthwise, making it narrower (one and a half inches, in this example).

If you are using thick fabric, such as denim or canvas, or wanted a flatter, wider border, at this point you could use it as it is, putting the folded side to the left on the front of the quilt, and sewing the raw side of the binding to raw edge of the quilt. To finish, wrap it around and handsew the folded part of the binding to the back of the quilt.

To continue, using thinner fabric or if you wanted a more padded, ropelike, narrow edge, open the strip, fold the raw edges (bottom and top) to the center, and iron.

Now it looks like this.

Fold in half again, lengthwise, and iron again. Now this is what a typical store-bought quilt binding looks like.

Note that the diagonals help balance the stitching so the stress at the joins are spread out. It is also less bulky to sew to the quilt because all the seams are not in one place.

And you would place the one-folded edge to the left, and the two-folded edge to right at the raw edge of the quilt. You'd machine-sew it here, wrap it around, and handsew it to the back.

I have a feeling there are other methods, but that is what I do.

Below, L to R: Turbulent Travels quilt with 4" denim strip, folded once; Resiliance quilt with 4" cotton weave strip, folded once; Everything Is Temporary quilt with 3" cotton strip, folded twice; They Must Agree quilt with store-bought binding.


There are some excellent resources for binding and 'rules' for good binding.
Most strips are not 3 inches but 2.5 at max; the binding should be full of the contents of the quilt--not flat on the edges--being full will make it wear better and longer. The corners are mitered and sewn in place.

I don't have a particular reference for binding tips--but there are plenty out there. I always find it hard to look at work that has excellent composition and color choices but lacks in the fine details of construction. For me the construction aspect takes away from the quality of the piece--and I always wonder to what levels the artist could achieve by having skills...not just artistic vision
Alisa said…
Thanks for writing, sylviaweir. I understand what you mean about potential. I've had the same thoughts about artist's books, and how art and craft, vision and skill come together or don't quite. I have seen some work that is so lively and interesting, or that wakes me up and inspires me but doesn't have exactly perfect technical construction, but if it works on all the other levels, I'm willing to overlook the craft. I have also seen some highly technical, complicated, and well-made pieces that I find boring or just not fresh enough on an artistic scale. So, like most things, I think it is a continuum, art to craft. And it might even be a trade-off. From the maker end, it's even harder for those of us who like to work in more than one medium. There just aren't enough hours in a day, a week, a month, to practice everything. But there are a few. And all we can do is keep practicing. And practice how we see as well.