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Quilt Binding Tutorial — How to Machine Bind a Quilt (No Hand Sewing!)

Quilt Binding Tutorial — How to Machine Bind a Quilt (No Hand Sewing!) post image

I know many people love to sew by hand, but I am not one of those people. I’ve noticed that my sewing machine is faster, more accurate, and, with all of its clever decorative stitches, more inventive than my fingers. It’s machine quilting all the way for me, baby! That’s why I was so pleased when I stumbled on this clever way of attaching quilt binding to the body of the quilt entirely by machine.

Most of us are taught to bind a quilt by machine-sewing the binding to the front side of the quilt sandwich, then folding the binding to the back and whip-stitching it down by hand. On a large quilt, this method can take quite a lot of time. And who has that kind of time?

To Machine Bind a Quilt, Just Sew the Binding to the Quilt’s Back Side

Make just one little change in this technique, and you can bind a quilt without any hand sewing at all. Instead of sewing the binding to the front of the quilt sandwich, stitch it to the back side instead. Then you fold the binding from the back to the front and use your sewing machine to stitch it down on the front side with a blanket stitch, a satin stitch, or one of the decorative stitches that imitates hand quilting. The end result looks great, and it takes a lot less time than hand sewing.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Machine Binding a Quilt

Here’s how to use the back-to-front method of binding a quilt:

1. Decide How Wide to Make the Binding

If your quilt is made of blocks without borders or has a pieced border, use a narrow ¼” finished binding width. A 1/4″ binding will just cover the ¼” seam allowance built into the blocks. This leaves the whole block visible, while a wider binding would cover up some of the block.

If your quilt has unpieced borders, I’d recommend using a wider binding strip. Wider binding is easier to work with and more forgiving of mistakes. I also like the contrast a wider binding gives to the quilt. If you want to use a decorative stitch to secure the binding, it’s definitely easier to go wider. It can be hard to fit a decorative stitch onto a narrow strip of binding.

Finished Binding Width

Cut Binding Strips This Wide

1/4″ 1-1/2″
3/4″ 3-1/2″

These widths are based on this formula:

(Finished binding width x 2 + ¼” seam allowance) x 2

2. Cut and Sew a Continuous Binding Strip

Click here for a photo tutorial on making continuous quilt binding.
When you are finished, you should have a binding strip that looks more or less like this:

3. Sew the Binding to the Back Side of the Quilt

  • First, trim off extra batting and backing and square up the quilt, if needed.
  • Lay the binding strip on the outside edge of the quilt’s back side, aligning its raw edges with the quilt edge. Start in an inconspicuous place on the side or bottom of the quilt. 
  • Stitch the binding to the quilt, using a 1/4″ seam allowance. Use a 1/4″ quilting foot if you have one. Leave a tail of about six inches of unsewn binding before you start stitching.
  • Whenever you reach a corner, stop stitching 1/4″ from the corner. With the needle down, turn the quilt 90 degrees and back stitch off the quilt’s edge. Your stitches should look like this:
  • Fold the binding up, then down again to make a fold that looks like this:
  • This will make a mitered corner when you fold the binding to the front of the quilt in the next step. Keep sewing around the quilt, following the steps above at each corner. When you get back to the beginning, attach the tails of the binding together and sew them down.

4. Fold the Binding to the Front

  • Take the quilt to your ironing board and lay it down with the back of the quilt facing up. Press the binding away from the quilt:
  • Then fold the binding to the front of the quilt.

5. Create Mitered Corners and Pin Binding in Place

  •  Pick one corner of the quilt and fold the binding into a mitered corner, then pin the miter in place: Make sure the top fold points in the same direction as your sewing direction.
  • Pin the binding to the front of the quilt along one side, making sure to maintain a consistent binding width. You can pin all along the side or use just a few pins and move them as you sew.

6. Sew the Binding to the Quilt’s Front Side

  • Use your sewing machine to sew the edge of the binding to the front of the quilt. When you get close to a corner, fold the binding into a mitered corner and pin in place.

I like to use my sewing machine’s decorative stitches for this step. Here’s a spooky-looking stitch I used for a Halloween quilt:

Here’s another Halloween quilt. I used my machine’s blanket stitch to imitate hand quilting on this one:

With the binding in place, the quilt is all finished except for trimming stray threads and adding a quilt label.

Post photo by everywhere orange, Flickr.com. Used under Creative Commons license.

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{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Colleen February 16, 2012, 7:22 am

    Thank you so, so, so much for this post. I have a quilt, complete excepting the binding, that’s been sitting in my sewing room for 3 years. I’m going to finish it now. I trialled the method on a lap quilt for my auntie and it was so easy.

    I also used your tutorial on how to make binding. I’m no longer terrified of binding and will stop buying the overpriced ugly stuff from the shops. 😉

    Thanks again. 🙂

    • admin February 16, 2012, 6:27 pm

      You’re welcome, Colleen. I started out with store-bought binding too, and it took me years to arrive at the machine binding approach I use now. Good luck with the quilt, and send me a photo when it’s finished!

  • Diane Holcomb January 4, 2013, 4:20 pm

    What does the back side look like when you do the sewing machine stitch to the front.

    • Christine Mann January 4, 2013, 6:23 pm

      Good question, Diane! It depends on what stitch you use. If you use a straight stitch, you will see a line of straight stitching about half an inch in from the outer edge of the quilt, all around the back side. I use polar fleece to back most of my quilts, so the stitching tends to disappear in the fleece. If you use a decorative stitch, you will see the reverse side of the decorative stitch, also about a half inch from the outer edge. This never bothers me. I’ll try to post a photo tomorrow.

  • Jlumley February 19, 2015, 6:47 am

    Thank you so much, I just completed my first small quilt using binding and it will take practice with the edges but its not half bad! I thought machine binding was easier, I am a new quilter and hand sewing is not for me! I see now sewing off the top before you fold down till help when you turn the quilt over to miter the corners will help me. Thank you for sharing your experience with those of us just learning!

    • Felicity Walker February 19, 2015, 7:26 am

      Thanks! I had been quilting for quite a few years before I discovered this machine-binding shortcut. What a relief! Whip-stitching long quilt edges can take a lot of time, and it happens just when you’re impatient to get the quilt over and done with.

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