In this post, I’m sharing a tutorial for machine binding a quilt. After reading this post, you’ll come away with my favorite tips for a beautiful finishing touch to your quilty treasure.
Be honest, have you ever gifted a quilt that isn’t *quite* finished? Ha! Me too! Or maaaaaybe you have a few finished quilts that just need to be bound? Yikes! Me too! Sometimes you need to get that quilt finished in the quickest way possible… which means machine binding!
There are a lot of different ways to bind a quilt and a ton of comprehensive quilt binding tutorials available, so I won’t go into a full blown tutorial. Instead I’ll share what I do differently when machine binding a quilt. This is my secret sauce method that finishes beautifully, quickly, and with minimal effort.
Sometimes little feet are waiting for you to finish their quilt!
As I share my process for machine binding a quilt, look for these key takeaways:
- Attach the binding strip to the back of the quilt (not the front).
- Use thread to match your quilting thread.
- Match your stitch length to your quilting stitch length.
Why Machine Binding?
Many people love hand binding and find solace and relaxation in the process. But not me. If I do hand binding … it won’t get done. So my binding is not so much for relaxation, but to get the quilt finished, quickly.
Once I discovered machine binding, and I think I learned initially from Red Pepper Quilts, there was no looking back!
It took me awhile to fine tune my technique but after machine binding for a few years, I finally feel like I have my fool-proof method. And now, I probably machine bind about 90% of my quilts. I love the durability and the finish.
MAchine Binding Method
Let’s get started with the how to machine bind a quilt. Again, I’m not covering every aspect of binding, just what I do differently to get a great, lesser effort, finish. (If you need a comprehensive binding tutorial try here.)
sewing machine set up:
Prior to attaching the binding, I set up my sewing machine by changing the thread, stitch length, and the foot.
- Thread – I usually match my thread to the thread I used in the quilting.
- Stitch Length – I set my stitch length to match the stitch length in the quilting, usually around 3.5.
- Change the Foot – A walking foot is helpful, and perhaps required. I can’t bind by machine without my walking foot.
attach the binding to the back
To start with, I attach the binding strip to the back of the quilt, instead of front. This little change, allows for a prettier and tidier finish on the front of the quilt.
machine stitch the binding on the front
Once you’ve got the binding attached to the back, flip that sucker over to the front. It’s time to machine bind the front.
Beginning with one corner, start wrapping around the fold of the binding to the front. Usually I just use my fingers, but clips and pins work too. I don’t even use clips or pins anymore but I’ve bound a quilt or five.
Once you’ve got the start pinned (or not pinned), put that first corner under the foot. You will start stitching 1/4” away from each corner. Before that, you’ll need to bring up your bobbin thread. So hold on to your top thread; then needle down and needle up. Then pull the top thread until the bobbin thread comes up. Pull each tails to the back and side, or away from the seam-to-be.
Once you’ve got the thread tails out of the way, lock stitch or stitch and back stitch. Then continue sewing about 1/8′ inch away from the fold. As you stitch you’ll be able to control where the stitching line finishes on the front. It’ll be sooooo pretty!
For corners, I just keep top stitching continuously to attach the binding. (I used to stop and start at each corner.)
As you approach each corner you’ll need to pause and do your miter.
I’ve found it best to miter the binding from the next side (bottom side in the picture) under the miter for the current side (on the right side in the picture). This will help the walking foot not “trip” over the miter making a yucky fold (ask me how I know…).
Pin or clip your miters in place. (Is black the worst choice ever for a binding tutorial?!!! YES!) Try to pin away from where you’ll be stitching so that you can keep the pin in place for as long as possible. You just need to pin the top layers and not through all the layers.
Once everything is pinned to your satisfaction, continue top stitching. When you get to 1/4” away from the corner, ideally your needle will be through where the miter folds meet, you will stop and pivot the quilt. Make sure your needle is down when you pivot. Pivot so that you can top stitch the binding to the next side of the quilt.
Before continuing, just to be extra safe I put in a lock stitch. On my machine, the lock stitch is the circle within a circle button.
And that is that! This is how to machine bind a quilt, using my favorite tricks and tips.
Just keep it up until you have 4…
For me, machine binding a quilt is a must. If I have to hand bind, the quilt will linger and haunt my to do lists. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Prior to perfecting my machine binding technique, and it did take several go rounds, my biggest frustration with machine binding was that my stitches would inevitably wander. Sometimes the stitches would wander so much, there’d be a portion of the binding that wasn’t even attached to the quilt (fail!).
My biggest aha moments came when 1) I attached the binding to the back (as I’ve shown above) and not the front, 2) coordinated my thread and stitch length with the quilting, and 3) did a continuous stitch to attach the binding to the front.
As I attach the binding to the front I can control the wobbles and make sure the binding is actually being attached to the quilt. (What a concept! Ha!)
Comment below with any questions on my technique or if there’s a binding tutorial or resource you’d love to share.
Robin Campbell says
Thank you for sharing! I go back and forth between sewing the binding to the front and the back to start. I would like to be more consistent. That said, what is it you like better about sewing the binding to the back first?
I love how durable the binding is when attached by machine. The quilt never comes back to me for repair after my grandkids and their pets have had a roughhouse day with the quilt ?
What does the back look like? Where does the line of stitching appear?
Sorry…I thought I responded.
Anyways, I'll update the post with a picture of the back. It might be a few days though.
The stitching on the back wanders back and forth from on binding strip to just off the binding strip. Which can look a bit sloppy. By sewing the binding to the back first and then top stitching the binding to the front, those wandering stitches are only seen on the back.
When I started machine binding, I began by sewing the binding to the front of the quilt as normal. Then I would wrap the binding around to the back and stitch the binding on (So the top of the quilt would be face down.) Then those sloppy stitches would be on the front of the quilt, which I didn't like so much!
Where os the stitch line hitting on the back? Just below the binding? Might help to show this with other than black binding.
The back is decidedly more messy. The stitch line hits usually in the backing.
Totally agree with the black binding. What was I thinking!
Looks good! I like the control of seeing how the stitching on the front is going. Sometimes I glue baste the top and mitered corners. Then I don't have to pin anything 🙂
Machine binding is totally my nemesis! I've gotten better but still not great. Like you, I have started attaching it to the back first, so that I'll know at least that the front will look good. And like you, the stitching on the back wanders a little which I gotta admit drives me a little crazy. I'm still searching for the perfect method.
This is the easiest looking method I have seen yet. I guess I’ll find out for sure when I get my next quilt done, which ought to be in about a week. Haha. I have tried just about every method out there and I always go back to doing it all by hand because I hate not being able to control where that back seam is going to end up.. Thank you for the new method to try. By the way, I have enjoyed scrolling through your site and reading all the many ideas that you have.
You know it takes a few trial and errors to find what works, doesn’t it?
suzanne smacher says
Do you have videos to watch to do this? Also I have a Bernina 570qe. Do you have a video from start ( setting up your machine) to end, in how to quilt your quilt on a machine??
Hi Suzanne, I don’t have a public video, it’s in my paid programs. Gotta keep some things back!
I too stitch from the back. The only thing I do differently is I glue down the binding. If my stitching the binding on is perfectly straight, the binding ends up perfect. After I stitch the binding on, I iron the the binding out from the back, flip it over and glue that edge right to the stitching line. It sounds like extra work but it isn’t. I put a 6 or 8 inch stream of glue along the seam line, press and iron it in place and keep going. You can glue baste the whole binding on a queen size quilt in about 15 minutes. I also do the miters and glue them down too. Nothing moves when sewing, no pin bumps, just smooth sailing. I also match my thread length to my quilting but use my edging foot and move my needle in a few notches. The foot does all the work for keeping it straight and perfect. Rarely does the stitching line ever falter even on the back. Try the glue. You might love it like I do.
Oh my gosh. You are so right! I need glue!
Thank you for sharing your tips!
you seem to explain process like everyone has done it or knows what you are talking about. Some of us are newbies. So I appreciate more information. The more info, videos, pictures helps us learn more.
There’s a link to a great tutorial from start to finish above. It’s by Canoe Ridge Creations. http://www.canoeridgecreations.com/2013/02/double-fold-binding-tutorial-part-one.html
One question, when you are attaching the binding to the back, how are you handling the corners turns? Thanks.
Thanks for suggesting the walking foot — why didn’ t I even think of that? It would be much easier and faster! THANKS!!!
Lol! Sometimes I forget to put my walking foot and I get all mad at machine… and then I realize it’s user error! Ha!
I hate to hand stitch for the same reason-it will never be completed! Thank you for your tips I do actually what you do and I’m pleased Most times with outcome! Have you ever used your backing fabric for your binding I have and I like that too. I know they say it’s not as sturdy as separate binding but if I know it won’t be washed alot I’ll use that method!
Barbara Ryan says
Thanks for the binding tutorial! Just wondering how wide you can’t ur binding strips and what seam allowance do you use?
You’re welcome! I use a 2 1/2” binding strip. And a quarter inch seam allowance.
Pat Limburg says
The most important take away for me is that you let the binding stitch show…ah ha! Larger stitch and matching thread!
Yes! The stitches are a nice touch.
Terry Habermehl says
I love binding by machine since I discovered a bi-level top stitching/binding foot after watching Rob on Mansewing using one. It was a game changer! I tried my walking foot but the bi-level foot was what I needed. I have a Brother sewing machine.
Ohhhh what will they thing of next! That sounds really cool!
Thank you so much for the binding tutorial and thank you for “giving” me permission to attach to the back of the quilt first, then flip to front. I have tried machine binding a few times and failed miserably. I’ll be giving your technique a try with the week. Thank you again!
Yah! It’s such a simple but huge change. I hope it helps you as much as it helps me!
I always do machine binding. And. like you, use a 2 1/2″ binding, sewn to the back. From the back, I fold the binding over the back seam and iron. That way when I pull it around to the front and sew with an eighth inch edge, it almost always shows on the back on the backing and not the binding. When I want the machine binding to look really good, I sew binding with a 1/8 – 1’4 inch contrasting flange and sew the binding down on the front (after wrapping around from the back) on the inside corner of the flange with thread the same color as the flange.
Alice Nelson says
Even with the black binding, this such a clear description I now look forward to finishing some of the projects languishing in my pile! (that I have just rediscovered – one of which is a Christmas wall hanging, lol) Thanks!
Woot woot! So glad!
Pat Schafer says
I don’t mind binding by hand, but my hands seem to mind. Been machine binding for a while, using pretty much your technique. However, the last one I did, I took a glue stick to hold the binding in place on the front as I sew. Have also used a wobble stitch to sew tge binding down, that way of you get a bit crooked, it doesn’t show.
As Deb mentioned above, I glue my binding on after the initial stitching. I stitch it to the front, glue it to the back, and then sew it from the front using a wide decorative stitch that catches more than the edge of the binding on the front. On the back, the decorative stitch usually catches all the binding. With glue basting, I don’t need to worry about using the walking foot, either.
Jeannette Ruggiano says
I have been doing machine binding from the back…poorly. The first time I tried this, I considered cutting it off the quilt. Uneven stitches and wonky corners…you get the picture. It’s gotten better over time, but just seeing how your quilt corners turned out is making me look forward to binding a baby quilt this weekend. And I’m especially looking forward to using your points on starting at the corner, a larger stitch length, and a different foot. And the one idea that has not worked for me is gluing. I have found that whenever I use glue in liquid or fabric form, it affects my needle, as though it’s struggling to get through it.
THANK YOU! You are making a difference, and it’s appreciated. Loved seeing those sneakers ‘under the stars’.
Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Stacey Starr says
Thanks for another great tutorial! I will try stitching to the back first. I know it is just to messy the other way around. Hate how the stitching wobbles all over the binding. Have not tried the glue idea but that may actually help. Will let you know how I make out on my next binding!
Shari Deline says
I too sew my binding on by machine, using 2-1/4″ strips, starting on the back and then flipping it to the front. I used to use a walking foot or a bi-level foot, but since I now have a Pfaff with IDT, I use my open toe foot, lengthen my stitch length, and move my needle to the left. I then sew, keeping the binding edge snug against the inside part of my foot – the stitching on the back never hits the binding and looks really nice.
Phyllis Blickensderfer says
Thanks you! I didn’t read all the comments, so in the years between this may have been asked – but that foot does not resemble the walking foot for my machine. It does appear to be very helpful in keeping the stitch edge smooth. Is it your brand’s walking foot?
Yes, it’s the walking foot. Thanks!