9.03.2011

Tutorial: How to Hand Sew a Quilt Binding



I've come to find that my favorite part of sewing a quilt is hand sewing the binding to the quilt backing.  Perhaps it's because I'm finally so close to seeing what was once only an image in my mind come to fruition.   Or because hand sewing is so easy to start and stop, requiring only a needle and an (optional) pin or two.  Maybe it's the way it keeps my hand busy while I converse with my husband or sit near my kids as they play.  Or the way the repetition creates a meditation all its own when I sneak away for a few minutes alone.  For all of these reasons, hand sewing is something I have grown to love.

There are plenty of tutorials on how to bind a quilt.  My favorite is this one.  Yet I've found that most of the time, the instructions stop short on how to hand sew the binding to the quilt backing, simply stating to "hand sew" it.  One book that I own gets a little more specific saying to use a slip stitch.  When I used this stitch and later enthusiastically asked an avid quilter what she thought of my binding, the room suddenly went to {crickets} followed by a hesitant, "Yeah.... it's (pause) nice."  I knew then and there that I needed someone to teach me a better way.

At the end of Jude's kindergarten year, his teacher gave every child a bound quilt block with their name embroidered on it.


She does this each year, making 20 blocks, one for each child, in addition to the class quilt which is auctioned off at the school fundraiser.  I looked at the hand stitching on the binding of the block.  It was impeccable - nearly invisible.  I asked if she could share her secret with me.  She was happy to and she gave me permission to share it here with you, too.

1. Single thread your needle with about 18 inches of thread.  (If you use more it may get tangled.)  Make a knot at the end of the thread.  Some quilters suggests matching the thread color to the binding.  Others prefer to match it to the backing.

2.  Fold your binding so that it covers your machine stitching line.  I pin it down a few inches away from my starting point and move the pin as I go. 

3.  Insert your needle under the un-sewn quilt binding (in the backing) to hide the knot.  Then insert it into the crease of your binding.


Pull the needle and thread all the way through.

4.  Insert the needle into the backing of quilt, directly beneath where your thread came out.  It's best to insert the needle into the backing at or behind the binding.  If you insert it into the backing just behind the binding, the stitch will be nearly invisible.  Then continue to move your needle up into the inside of your binding.


5.   When your needle is in between the two layers of the quilt binding, turn the needle perpendicular.  Take a 3/8" running stitch inside the crease of the binding.


6.  Pull your needle and thread through.  You will now be back at step 4.  You will again insert the needle into a "bite" of the backing and then make a 3/8" running stitch inside the binding.  The only stitches that will be visible are the tiny "bites" into the backing.


Now I am going to show you another method for hand sewing the binding.   This method may be a little easier because you don't have to make the perpendicular turn with your needle.  You can try both methods and see which you prefer.   Here's how this method works.

Steps 1-3 are the same as the first method.

4.  Insert your needle into the quilt backing, directly beneath where your thread came out.



5.  This time, you will make a 3/8" running stitch into the quilt backing and come out in the crease of the quilt binding.


With this method you need to be very careful that you insert the needle only into the quilt backing and batting and not into the front layer of the quilt.  If you accidentally insert it through all three layers, the stitch will be visible from the front of the quilt.

6.  When you pull your needle through, you will be back at step 4.  You will repeat this stitch over and over.  As with the last method, only the tiny "bites" you take from the quilt binding into the backing will be visible.  The other stitches will be buried, this time in your quilt backing.

A video tutorial of this method is available here.

For both methods:

When you reach the corner, fold the binding so it forms a crisp miter, overlapping the bindings slightly where they meet.  Insert your needle through both layers of the binding, like this.




You can then whip stitch the binding at the corner, or just continue hand stitching the binding.

When you run out of thread, hide a knot under the un-sewn binding


and start again.

Pour yourself a cup of tea, get comfortable under your quilt, and enjoy these quiet stitches.  You'll be done in no time!


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