Binding Basics - Part 3: Preparing the Quilt

Preparing the Quilt for Adding Binding

by Ann Johnson

How do I prepare my quilt for sewing on binding?
All the steps of the cutting, piecing, and quilting process are important to successful binding. Precision in consistent seam allowances, sewing blocks the correct size, squaring-up blocks and measuring the quilt before adding borders all add to the ease with which uniform, straight binding can be applied. Many binding problems occur because it is sewn on without cleaning up and straightening the edges and squaring-off the corners (important for mitered binding). Quilt edges are often slightly irregular due to quilting. Folding the quilt in half lengthwise and width-wise helps to make sure it is generally squared-up. I will discuss two methods for getting a quilt ready for binding.

Trimming or Marking the Quilt

Trimming the quilt and marking the quilt are two main methods for preparing the quilt for binding application; both techniques use rulers to square-up the quilt and aide sewing on the binding in a straight line. Any large, square ruler will work; use the largest one you have. I love my 20-1/2" square ruler for this step! Place a square ruler with the 1” and 1” in the upper right hand corner (if you are right-handed). Determine the area where the border is most narrow, line up the ruler with a seam (usually a border) so that the distance is equal on each side. In the photographs, the ruler’s 4-1/4” line is aligned with the seam of the top and side borders. If there are parts of blocks such as points next to the binding, be sure to leave a 1/4” seam allowance. A long ruler can be aligned with the square ruler for keeping the sides straight and squared-off.

Trimming Method

Trim off the excess batting and backing along the edge of the ruler, using a rotary cutter and mat, before the binding is sewn on the front by machine. This method leaves a clean, straight edge along which to sew the binding. This is my favorite method because I like have a pristine edge ready for adding binding. Some quilters worry about not catching all three layers of the quilt sandwich evenly; they prefer to either sew a basting stitch, by hand or machine, 1/8” (or within the seam allowance) before trimming the batting and backing away or use the marking method.

Marking Method

Use the rulers as discussed above and mark the quilt along the ruler’s edge all around the quilt. The raw edges of the folded binding are lined up with the marked lines. The backing and binding are trimmed away after the binding is sewn on. Problems arise when the batting and backing are left on but the marking step is skipped because the binding has a somewhat messy and irregular path to follow.

End of Part Three - Part Four covers sewing the binding onto the front of the quilt.