Friday, February 9, 2018

The Making of a Mini Quilt, Part Three (the binding)

At times I get questions on how I bind my mini quilts. Recently I've had a few, so I decided to post my method. In no way do I think this is the only (or even the best) way to bind a mini quilt, but it is what works for me. Most of it I have learned through trial and error (lots of both), but now and then I have received a tip from another quilter that has proved very helpful. I wish I could remember what I learned from whom so I could give credit here.
Talk about TMI! This is lengthy--not for the faint of heart. And it won't be of interest to a good share of you, so you might want to come back another day, or wait until the book comes out. (jk--there is no book)
I took photos as I bound this quilt, and will take you step-by-step through the process.

Question #1. Do I use double or single fold binding, and how wide do I cut it?
Single fold, definitely! Double fold is bulk you do not need for a quilt that will be decorative on a wall or table top. True miniature quilt makers (of which I am not one) want to make their quilts to scale, so that if you saw a photo of them you would not be able to tell it isn't a full size quilt. If you bind the mini the same way you do a bed quilt, the larger scale binding is a dead giveaway. Though I am not a "purist" mini maker, I do like to keep the binding on my minis as slim as I can so that it seems to "fit" the smaller size quilt.
I cut my binding anywhere from 1" to 1 1/8". Wide variance, I know. :) A 1" wide binding is applied if I have used an extremely thin batting, or just a layer of flannel. Most of the time I am cutting somewhere in between. I am very aware that there isn't a 1 1/16" marking on rulers. But if you use the Itty Bitty Eights ruler to cut your binding (the 5x15" is my favorite for this task), you can line the fabric up between the "dashed" lines that are 1/8" apart (shown on the left), and be pretty accurate.

Whatever method you use to cut your binding, I like my binding strips to have the diagonal cut on the ends. Of course, you can cut and join your binding whatever way you prefer. This is my preference--it leaves less bulk in one place in the finished binding.

 I join my pieces, trim off the dog ears, and press the seams open--again, to reduce bulk.

Make sure you have a length of binding that will go around the perimeter of your quilt with folds at the corners, and a few inches overlap at the end.

Before I quilt a mini I always mark the top with a line that is 1/4" from the edge. This keeps my quilting within the border of the binding, rather than running under it. But when I get ready to trim the top after quilting, I don't just trim to that edge. Quilting can gather a quilt in a bit, more so in some places than others. I square up the quilt as best I can, and if that means that I cut 1/8" from the edge of the top in places, so be it. Once it is bound, that won't show, and it keeps the edges of the quilt straight.

Question #2. What seam allowance do I use when I attach my binding to the front of the quilt?
In keeping with the effort to make a slim binding, I sew with a "scant" 1/4" seam allowance. If I were to use a larger seam allowance, I would need to cut a wider binding.  I know some folks don't like the term "scant" in relation to seams, but it works for me here. I know where to place my fabric edge to get a 1/4" seam on my machine. For a scant seam allowance I move the quilt over just a thread or two toward the left.                                                    
 You can see in the photo above that the fabric comes just to the inside line of the 1/4" mark on the ruler. That is my definition of "scant".
Before I begin to attach the binding, I want to make sure that the seams in the binding will not land on any corners. That much bulk in the corner folds makes a nicely flat corner impossible. 
So I place one end of my binding anywhere from 1/2 to 2/3 of the way down the side of the quilt and, folding the binding at the corner as it will be when I am attaching it, I continue on around the quilt in this way to see if the seams will hit a corner. If that happens, I adjust the starting point up or down as needed, and try again. 
When I am satisfied that no seams in the binding will get caught in the corner folds, I place a pin in my starting point and begin stitching 2-3" away from the end. I like to back tack where I begin.
Question #3: How do I stitch my corners?
I continue stitching my scant 1/4" seam until I am close to a corner.
Whatever measurement you are using for the seam allowance, that is the measurement you use to decide how far from the end you stop stitching. If needed, measure before you get to the end and place a pin, or make a mark at the spot where your stitching should stop. Stop at that spot with the needle down.
Now lift your presser foot and with the needle holding your place in the fabric, pivot the quilt so that the corner is pointing toward you.
Put the presser foot back down and stitch right off the corner. It should look like this. 
Remove from machine and clip threads.
Now you want to fold the unattached part of the binding up and away from the quilt to form a right angle, making sure the edge of the quilt you will be stitching to next, and the unattached edge of the binding form a straight line with each other. Finger press the fold.
Keeping the diagonal fold in place, bring the binding back down along the second edge of the quilt, folding it exactly in line with the first edge of the quilt. The arrows show the two folds you should now have at the corner. Edges should be lined up so that there are no overlaps or edges peeking out.
It shouldn't look like this..........................................or this...

...or even this.

When you have that corner under control, put a pin in it.
You will begin stitching right at the edge of the fabric, with the scant 1/4" seam and go down to the next corner and do it all over again.
I actually start my stitching just off the fabric so that the entire corner gets a good stitching down.
Once you have gone around all four corners, and are back to side #1, make sure you stop stitching that binding down about four inches before the spot where you started. I back tack at the stopping point, just like I did at the starting point.
Now I trim off the pointed edge from the starting end of my binding. Fold it down and cut along the fold line.
There are many gadgets and methods you can use to attach the edges of the binding. This is the one I currently employ. However wide you have cut your binding is the measurement to use for the overlap of the edges. Since I cut my binding 1 1/16", I need that same amount of overlap between the start and end of my binding.
I let the beginning edge I just trimmed off straight, peek ever so slightly out from beneath the tail end of the binding. That beginning edge is where I place the mark for how wide I cut my binding on my little ruler gauge (that I think I have had since 7th grade). The excess of the tail of the binding is laying to the left of the ruler. 
Next I bring that tail from the left, and fold it back over toward the right, over the ruler.
Remove the ruler and finger press the fold.
Trim off the excess tail along the fold line.

Wow, I'm tired, aren't you? This has been way too long, and we aren't finished yet. But at this point the edges of your quilt should look like this.
All but the tail ends of the binding are stitched down, and those tails are trimmed to just the right length for attaching. So let's do it.
Take those dangling tails and match them up right sides together, as if you were doing a diagonal seam on the binding. 
I find that folding the quilt in half and securing it with a strong pin makes it easier to work with the finish on the binding.
Put a pin in the ends of the binding, diagonally, just where you will be stitching.
Sometimes it is tricky to see the starting point, because the top layer hides where the bottom layer corner is, so I may mark that before I stitch. Stitch where the dashed line is. Don't make the mistake of stitching from side to side.
When it is stitched, don't trim it just yet. Make sure it lays well on the quilt surface, and that if there is any excess, it isn't more than you can ease in as you stitch it down.
Now you can trim and press the seam open, and finish stitching those last few inches onto the quilt.

Question #4: How do I do the final fold on the corners?
 Once I am at this point, to aid me in the folding over of the narrow binding, I may take the iron and press the binding away from the quilt on the front side. This trains it a bit in the direction I need it to go.
With the quilt laying face down, I start in the middle of a side and begin folding the binding over and PINNING it into place. I emphasize pinning, because for me the clips aren't as effective with such precise work. You may find otherwise. I use fine pins to avoid distortion as much as possible. Don't pin all the way through to the front of the quilt, just catch the back and some batting--also helps avoid distortion.
 I continue folding and pinning, working my way toward a corner. When I am within 1-2 inches of the corner, I stop.
Then I go around the corner, starting in the middle again, and working toward the same corner I had just approached from the other side.
When I get about 2 inches from the corner from this direction I stop.
Next I fold that corner fabric down in, just as I have been as I have gone along the sides.
This is the critical part. If you have done everything else well (sometimes I do and sometimes I don't), then this should work fine.
Look at the front side of the corner.
You can see that there is an obvious direction in which the fold is made. You want the fold on the back to be from the opposite direction. So using the method I show here, the fold on the front will end up coming from the left, when you are looking at the front of the quilt. That means that on the back, you want the final fold to come from the right. So I need to fold down the left side of the corner FIRST, so that the FINAL fold will be coming from the right. Make sense?
So I fold down the left side. Now, what you do here can make or break the finesse of your corner. When I try to fold in the right side, the left side will often shift and make a sloppy corner. So I take a strong pin--not the fine ones I have been using to pin the binding in place, and not a stiletto (too bulky). I place that pin along the final fold line and hold that left fold in place while I make the right fold.
Then I pin that corner down, being careful to catch the fold at the corner to hold it all in place. If it shifts a thread or two as I pin, I can correct that when I come around and stitch.
When one corner is finished, I move to the middle of another side of the quilt and start pinning my way toward another unfinished corner, until all sides and corners are pinned.
It should now look something like this.

You can see that I do the folded corner labels. I pin it in place before I start attaching my binding to the front, and it magically is attached as you sew the binding down.

Question #5: What stitch do I use on my binding?
I consider myself one of the world's slowest binders. I have tried different stitches, and tools, and I have finally settled on the ladder stitch (if you want more info on the stitch, search for a YouTube video. That is how I learned it) and a milliner's needle. The ladder stitch is very invisible and it allows me to load more than one stitch on my needle at a time. The milliner's needle is slender and long. It glides through the fabric easily, making stitching more effortless. Both of those have combined to improve my binding speed, but I still wouldn't win any races!
I usually start by removing a pin right by the corner of the sewn in label. I put my needle in where the knot will be hidden by the binding, and come up by the label, taking a couple of stitches. It is usually harder to stitch through the label, so I start here to get it over with.
There is not much to show, other than when I come to a corner, so lets jump to a corner.
I've let the stitches loose so you can see better what I am doing. I make sure that when I get to the corner, my needle first goes into the backing (or label here), then it picks up the tip of the bottom side fold, before coming up in the tip of the top side fold. Notice how the stitches, when pulled tight, will bring the binding to cover the line of machine stitching from attaching the binding.
Now I continue that same type of ladder stitch as I stitch to the point.

I know not everyone stitches the corners of their binding down, but I like how crisp the corners are when I do.
The final stitch at the tip will catch the top of the corner and go through to the other side...
...where you want to catch the top of the fold and come all the way through to the front.
Ladder stitch your way down the front fold until you come to the right angle of the binding.

I put my needle right into the corner, and come up again on the back side, catching the fold of the left hand side where I will begin stitching the binding down.
Continue around, repeating this at each corner, until your binding is completed!
Question #6: Final question (whew!!) Is your binding wider on the back than on the front?
Yep, it has to be in order to cover the stitching line of the machine. But mine isn't bigger by much. It is a snug binding, and doesn't give a bulky look, whether viewing the front or back.
This is the longest, most boring post I have ever written (well, maybe some of you would argue that I have been even more boring at times). But it is over now. If anyone is still reading, let me know. I'm choosing a name to receive a pack of my herbal soap, so you can go relax in a warm bath after this ordeal.
Until next time--which won't be anywhere as long, I promise!!
Janet O.

In case you are wondering why this is "Part 3", you will find "Part 1" here, and "Part 2" here.


  1. That pivot hint for the corners is fabulous. Most of the time my corners look okay but once in a while it's a real eye sore. You make it looks so easy. Thanks for the step by step instructions and thorough pictures.

  2. OH MY guurrrl, this was so interesting!! Doing tutorials are not easy and I really enjoyed yours. I sewed on a binding yesterday and I do mine exactly like you do. Great minds! I am in the process of sewing mine down, I don't use the ladder stitch though, I use what may be called the blind stitch and I'm THE slowest sewer ever. I sew a little and then get up and go do something else and then come back to it.
    I realized the reason my orchids are not as prolific as yours........they don't have a mountain view.......sigh....

  3. That was a great binding tutorial!! Thank you! I read it all the way through. Interesting point about how the front corner fold goes one direction and the back corner fold goes the other direction.

  4. It may be your longest post, but it's packed with great info and wonderful clear photos. Though I seldom do a single fold binding anymore (since I don't generally do mini's), most of the information is exactly what I've learned through trial and error to do with my double-fold bindings. I hope a lot of newer quilters will see this blog post and learn from your tutorial.

  5. This is great information--thank you for sharing. I have at least three (okay maybe four) quilts waiting for their binding. Time to put your tutorial into action.

  6. Thanks for a fabulous tutorial.. Very interesting and the quilt is beautiful.

  7. Well done. Great photos and excellent directions.

  8. Good to know the bonus of using a single layer of binding. Even I learned something from reading your lengthy post! Thanks. The Pin in the miter is a good idea too.

  9. Your binding tutorial wasn't boring at all! I learned some good stuff, and plan to dig out that seam gauge from 8th grade and use it for that final binding seam. I've been doing that method, but using a lot of extra tools. Simple is better! Thank you very much!

  10. I read all the way to the very end and was not at all bored! Excellent pictures and explanations. I do my bindings exactly the same way only have not made many minis. I don't always stitch down the corner points because mine never look as pretty as yours. Maybe because I use the blind stitch like an applique stitch. Will have you watch the ladder stitch video.😀 thanks again for taking time to show us the proper way to get the best results.

  11. Nice tutorial. Very detailed. You did good.

  12. Thanks for an excellent tutorial! I found it very interesting, and not boring at all! ---"Love"

  13. Gosh, what an excellent tutorial, Janet. Your photos are awesome and the directions are perfect. I doubt I'll ever bind a mini quilt (despite the cuteness of those tiny 3/4" squares in some of my current blocks) but even so, this is helpful for binding regular quilts. The tip to stitch diagonally at the corners will probably work well on a regular quilt, even with a double-fold binding. And maybe I'll try the ladder stitch. (No need to include my name for the drawing for your beautiful soap. I'm sure I would enjoy the fragrance but skin allergies prevent me from using most soaps.) Thanks again for the tutorial.

  14. Thank you for the time and effort you put into writing and photographing this post! The subject matter is important for making lovely finished quilts!

  15. Excellent tutorials! fabulous photo's. Kiwi Hugs xx

  16. A great tutorial, thanks for taking the time to do this

  17. Thank you for sharing this great tutorial. I learned a great deal and I too have my seam gauge from my 7th grade Home Ec class!

  18. Congratulations for this excellent tutorial ! Easy to understand and so clever !
    Thank you very much Janet !

  19. This was not boring. In fact it was very helpful. Your site is always inspiring to me. Thank you for sharing your work and your knowledge.

  20. Excellent post! Your photos are very good too. All of your details are explained so well....and almost everything applies to full size, double fold binding as well. Now we all can see why your minis are so wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Ah-mazing!! And thank you, thank you, thank you! I have tried joining my end pieces of binding your way and it is so awkward for me, and I still end up with it too long. I am now doing the diagonal fold and just laying the other piece inside of the fold, and calling it done! Your tutorial is wonderful and I will definitely save this piece of knowledge. I'm going to see part one and two now!

  22. You are too funny! It's not boring when you're teaching something we all want to know :-) I bind my larger quilts very similarly to what you describe here except of course with a wider strip and double fold. Interesting tip for leaving a bit extra around the quilt top when you are trimming and marking the edge as well. That might be something for me to consider as well. Thank you!

  23. Great minds think alike--lol! I do everything exactly the way you do on my smallest quilts, aside from the ladder stitching. I've never tried that, but it sounds intriguing--I'm going to check it out!

  24. Wonderful tutorial. Tried single fold bias once and it was a wobbly disaster. After reading your tutorial I am going to give it another chance.

  25. WOW!! What a fabulous and detailed tutorial!! Thank you ever so much!! It's nice to know I am doing most things correctly!! Thank you so much for all the time you put into this post!! Oh, and it was NOT boring, at least for me!! Very instructive!!

  26. Yes I am still reading & my head is spinning slightly as I am not a quilter but this tutorial will be SO useful as I have a small heart block to bind. Thanks so much Janet ... your work is so detailed & beautiful!! I have saved this post to my "favourites" so I can go back for reference :-)

  27. Thank you, there were definitely more then a few pointers in your tutorial that will be helpful for my next mini!

  28. I didn’t find this boring at all. Thank you so very much for putting all the time and effort into making this tutorial. I’ve never made a miniature quilt before, though I am going to be making one within the next month or so. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read your tutorial about sewing on the binding. Much of the process is similar to what I already do but there are some steps that are different and I feel my finished quilt will look better as a result of having this knowledge. Thank you very much.

  29. Oh Janet! Your posts are never boring! I love your detailed instructions! Thanks so much for all the binding tips!

  30. And I thought I knew how to sew down bindings!! WHEW! What a fabulous tutorial.
    I did learn something. I never sewed at a 45* angle at the corners, before I turned the corner. I just sewed to 1/4" before the end, removed it and started just as you did. I'm going to try doing it like you showed.
    And, seriously, if you don't have room for that feathered star piece, I know exactly where it would look GREAT! it's just BEAUTIFUL...

  31. Well, you KNOW I read this word for word til the end! Nice to know I do several things similar to the way you work, especially since I admire your work so much! Thanks for painstakingly posting each step of your process. I know it isn't easy getting an in depth post such as this together!

  32. Very interesting post! Thank you for the mental nudge about sewing the corners down. Next time I will try sewing the corner down by starting at the binding edge instead of jumping to the point and sewing towards the center of the piece as I've been doing. Why didn't I try that before?? lol

  33. Oh my goodness! Very long...but detailed and very informative post! I learned one way to bind and just stuck with it...but, now I see a few of your tips/tricks that I need to try...and binding just may become enjoyable? lol! First...ladder stitch. Eureka! This looks like such a time saver! Second...using a strong pin to aid in the folding of the corners. Third...using pins to hold the binding in place (instead of those clips), adding precision. And fourth...overlapping the end of the binding by the exact width of the binding. You would not believe how clear you have made ending the binding the way you demonstrated. I've watch a couple of videos on this and yet I have always gotten so nervous to cut that tail thinking I cut to short, too long, sewed it backwards...etc. Now I'm actually looking forward to binding the little runner I'm working on this weekend! :-) Thank you and have a Sunny Sunday! :-)

  34. Great job!! I picked up a trick or two, too, thank you! Nicely done, Janet -- perhaps there should be a book!! ;)

  35. Thanks for all the great information on binding,love your quilt seeeew cute!
    Thanks for sharing. :)

  36. Great post Janet :-) Just one question.... when you fold your binding over to handsew down, do you fold the raw edge to met the raw edge of the quilt? I don't think I've ever made binding so narrow but will definitely give it a try on my next mini :-)

  37. Excellent tutorial!! It's a great reference to have available.

  38. I am a bit behind on my Blog reading! What a fantastic tutorial!!! Thank you so much for sharing your talent with the rest of the world. Your quilts (and your bindings) are remarkable!

  39. I, too, am behind in blog reading and I think this is a wonderful tutorial. I have a three wallhangings or smaller quilts to finish and I have never tho't about doing less than usual folded bindings. I always have one corner that doesn't look as good as the others too!! Thank you so much!

  40. I loved your detail! This is the 1st time I've come across your blog, & I will be back or subscribe if that's offered above. Pam Buda in her blog post directed us to you. Now I'm going to go read Parts 1 & 2 :) Thanks much!

  41. Good tutorial. I haven't thought about the corner fold on front vs. back going in opposite I am going to pay attention to that. Thanks for all the pictures too - I'm a visual leaner.

  42. Best tutorial ever Janet! Perfect closeup images and detailed explanation. You should win the Blogging Award Of The Year - know how putzy it is to load all those photos and make sure they line up with the text. I always join my binding ends the same way but have to stop and think which direction those strips have to be placed in order to turn correctly.

  43. Janet, this is a wonderful tutorial. I know how long it takes to do a tutorial post (or any lengthy post for that matter), and I appreciate the time you've taken to explain the step by step process. The photos are very helpful. I have the Itty Bitty Eighth rulers and really hope to try my hand at smaller quilts one day. I used to love those Miniature Quilt magazines and wish they still published them. I wonder if you have space, if you would be willing to put a tab under your header linking all three of these posts so when the time comes we can refer back to them? Also, I can't get your link to your Yardstick tutorial to work under your header. I am always on the lookout for the older yardsticks.

  44. Janet thanks for linking your three mini posts under your header. There’s a lot of good information there, and that makes it easier to refer to them again later. And I love the yardstick post. When I saw those hooks on clearance at my JoAnns, I bought several packages. When you come into my house from the garage, you pass through my laundry room, and I would love to hang some little quilts there without holes in the walls.

  45. A long boring post and look how many comments you have! I do my bindings similar, just not as precise as you! Great step by step tutorial, Janet!!

  46. Thank you for the fabulous tutorial! I know it was a lot of work but it is well done. I do it the same way and also really like the way a single looks on a small quilt. I also sometimes do it on a wall quilt.
    thank you thank you thank you!
    your the master!

  47. Thank you Janet! I really appreciate your time consuming binding tutorial - especially the joining portion.


I love to have your comments and feedback.