15 April, 2013

How Do You Finish Your Quilt Bindings?



Okay, I've got a question about binding. In between finishing up my daughter's quilt and some surfing I've been thinking about binding a lot the past few days. Plus, it was a nice distraction from the real world.

Machine Binding
- Can finish on the front or the back.
- Very fast.
- Clean look, but with a very visible seam.
- Great for quilts that live primarily for trunk shows.

Hand binding
- I actually enjoy hand finishing.
- It feels like a very personal touch on a quilt.
- More or less no seam line on a finished edge.
- It does take some time.


Personally, I've tried a few methods for finishing binding. My preference is for hand-finishing, but I've got nothing against a completely machine bound quilt. I do machine binding on quilts that are not gifts - class samples, trunk show quilts, even some book quilts. Hey, when faced with a looming deadline a girl does what a girl has to do!

Let me be clear. I do not feel guilty about machine binding, nor do I judge anyone's method for binding.



One thing I have noticed, however, is that for those who hand finish, stitches seem really far apart. I see these perfectly flat binding edges that are stitched down. It's one thing to not see any stitches because the quilter is just that good. And there are many, many techniques for hand stitching a binding. But people, you need to put a stitch closer than every half inch! When we quilt we call those big stitches in the quilting itself "toe catchers". On a binding I would call that a disaster. That is the place a quilt wears the most and having large, maybe loose stitches is asking for a finger to pull it out at the first chance it gets caught.

I'm perfectly willing to admit that I'm rather anal about my own hand finishing  - having my stitches come in between 1/4'' and 1/8'' apart. So yes, this takes me some time. But I've also never had a binding come loose. This is my most common method for finishing, but I've used the ladder stitch and been pleased with the results. And I recently tried switching up my needle in placement - through the binding instead of the quilt back and liked the look and stability of that.



What about you? How do you finish your bindings?

35 comments:

Anna said...

I machine stitch mine down on the back. I have arthritis in my hands and holding a needle for too long gives me a cramp (and I want to use whatever hand stitching time I can manage for cross stitch or EPP!). Also I don't enjoy hand stitching and it always looks messy to me when I do it so I'd rather have a nice clean machine stitched edge that I know will hold than my messy probably prone to coming undone stitching!

When I sew clothes I use my machine to do the hem for the same reasons!

Andrea said...

I just tried machine stitching one down, and hated the seam on the back so much that I chopped it off and started all over again. Hand stitching for me. Just did a king quilt and it wasn't too bad. Maybe I'm just getting more efficient at it now. In your stitching photo, you do the opposite as me - I pick up the bit from the backing first then pick up the binding bit and pull through.

Lisa said...

I prefer hand stitching my binding as well. I love to sit with my quilt at the finish and snuggle in and stitch. I also stitch the way Andrea describes above.

Esch House Quilts said...

If I had time, I'd hand stitch all my bindings, but I'm slow and also take pretty small stitches. My corners are still not as square as I'd like, so I'll have to try your method next time I hand bind.

I often use Rita from Red Pepper Quilts machine binding method and I'm getting good enough at it that I'm OK with it. I still like hand stitching better though :)

mindingmomma said...

I like hand finishing.

Emily said...

I hand-bind 95% of my quilts simply because I enjoy the process. My method is a bit different, though, in that I pull my needle in between the binding layers instead of "catching" them out the top. This makes it so you can't see any visible stitches on the front or back. I like the clean look.

You can see what I do here: http://creativechicksatplay.blogspot.com/2009/09/family-reunion-quilt-finished.html

Alisa said...

I've done both ways. Lately it's more machine binding. I have finally perfected a way that I am happy with so that's what I usually do.

~Michelle~ said...

I much prefer the look of hand-stitched, but I am so freaking slow at it that I find myself machine binding more than I would like. I guess I ladder stitch, but I hold the quilt on my lap like you do in the last photo & stitch right to left. My mom has the first quilt I ever bound, and it's terrible (and very spaced out), but it's holding pretty well (but I don't think it gets washed that often).

elle said...

Mostly because of time crunches, I am trying to find a good machine finish. We'll see but my favourite is handstitching!

Vicky K said...

I, too, have been thinking a lot about binding lately. I am currently machine sewing on a binding as I need to have it finished for a technique class for my guild today. Normally I would hand sew by binding on using a ladder stitch. I prefer hand sewing but that might be because I haven't found a way to machine sew down a binding to my liking.

giddy99 said...

I've hand-stitched one side down, but I cannot imagine stitches more than 1/4" apart? Mine are about 3/8" apart, I think... I would love to learn how to machine bind a quilt that didn't look like it was sewn by a maniac, but I'm not there yet...

Lee D said...

Definitely hand stitching for me. Nice time to relax and enjoy the quilt on your lap, especially if it leaving you!

JaneB said...

I'm a hand stitcher. I use a modified ladder stitch with 1/4 to 1/8 inch stitches. I don't think I'd do very well at the machine binding & I really enjoy the hand work.

Mary said...

I do it by hand. I have tried machine binding but I hated the way it looked. Usually I rip it out and hand bind anyway. The few times I have machine bound and left it, I was just so ashamed every time I looked at it. SOME people can do a beautiful job of machine binding.. unfortunately I am not one of those people.

Ladder stitch is my favorite.

Victoria said...

I hand stitch the binding, and yes, I also set mine 1/8 to 1/4 apart, (and I make them teeny-tiny, too)!

OPQuilt said...

Done it both ways. Love the easiness of getting it all done quickly on the machine. But. . . I think the hand-sewn bindings flex more with the quilts than do the machine soon. I sew my stitches about 1/4" apart, as I don't need to glue that binding down, just have it hold through years of love.

Great discussion!
Elizabeth E.
opquilt.com

P.S. Am adding you to my Bloglovin' list!

Deb said...

I have not tried the machine method of finishing yet but I so love to sit and hand stitch the binding down. It feels so relaxing.

Kris P said...

I enjoy the hand stitching part of finishing a binding. I my stitches are similar to yours shown, but shoot for 10-12 per inch. I takes time, but totally worth it, in my opinion.

Allison said...

I sew my bindings by had. I use a double fold binding, and when sewing it down I put the needle through one layer, just underneath the fold. when pulled tight, the stitches don't show at all.

Dawn said...

Hand binding all the way for this gal. I machine stitched one baby quilt binding because I had a deadline but I detested the look and swore never again. I stitch the opposite of you in that I have the binding edge closest to me and take my first stitch in the backing then the binding. When I dip back into the backing for my next stitch I go into the backing just behind where the last stitch came up and you see only one tiny stitch. My stitches are fairly equal in size...a scant 1/4". You are sooooo right about the finger/toe catching thing. Yikes! Why bother?! Those big ole stitches are really ugly and look like a person just coudn't take the time to do a proper finish. In that case I would even rather the machine finished binding. Can't wait to see your finished quilt. :o)

Helen McNaught said...

I use both hand finish and machine. I do make lots of quilts for little children and for those quilts I use a method I found on Stitches In Play blog. It's a WIDE binding method and comes out perfect every time. I machine stitch on to the front of the quilt, just as if I was going to hand stitch the back but then I flip the back over and because I have cut it much much wider than usual (around 4" to 5") I have quite a large binding on the back which I then machine stitch down using a bobbin thread that matches the FRONT of the quilt - this gives you a row of extra quilting around the front of the quilt which works fine for most quilts. Stitches In Play has a great post about it on her blog, you can find it under Tutorials(quilt binding by machine).

Carla said...

I hand finish mine with a ladder stitch much like you do and also with tiny stitches. I also double my thread for added strength. I have done a machine finish before which looked fine, but I do prefer the look of hand sewing (and definitely prefer the process!)

Elita en Suisse said...

I have done binding by machine when I'm crunched for time or more often, when it's going to a hospital charity & the like because they are washed more rigorously. However, I prefer to do the binding by hand. I stitch like Dawn, with the binding closest to me, but taking the first stitches like you do, in the seam allowance. It moves along pretty quickly & I love snuggling under the quilt at the same time. :-)

Mary P said...

I have done both, but I prefer machine binding for the strength amd the speed.

BijouxBaby said...

I ladder stitch. The whole point of of hand sewing the binding is so that there are no visible stitches. Whip stitching also doesn't look secure to me. You just caught those few threads of the binding. I like hand sewing the binding so much that I'm thinking about going back and redoing a quilt I made a few years ago. It's my favorite and most sentimental quilt as I used pieces of my daughter's crib bedding. Everytime I look at it, the binding bothers me.

Christina said...

My stitches are probably just slightly less than 1/2" apart, although I do pretty small stitches, so they may be much less than that, but i've never had trouble with binding coming up on a quilt. I think the key there is using the blind stitch (which is probably what you are referring to as the ladder stitch - similar concept). I personally don't like to use an "invisible" stitch because your thread is actually showing and for the exact reason you mention i'm afraid it will be snagged on something, so I prefer mine completely out of sight. Plus, having the thread run between the fold of the binding helps it to stay snug against the quilt as well. I always love hearing what others do for binding. Snags between stitches is definitely something I think about, especially on quilts for kids that get lots of rough play.

Patti said...

I like to hand stitch my binding down. A good "in front of the tv" project. I would probably suck at a machine stitched binding. And I try to stay about 1/4 inch between stitches. I do a version of a whip stitch but hide it in the fold of the binding so that it can't be seen. It's the product of not knowing how the first time and just carrying on doing it because I like not seeing any stitches. So there you go!

roxi said...

Just saw your class on Craftsy!! so exciting!!!! Can't wait to sign up!!!! You are one BUSY lady!

Ether Bourn said...

I prefer machine binding because I make quilts to be used. I never want to see them stacked behind glass. I would rather see them dragging on the floor behind their snuggler. My last finish was a hand binding because it was a smallish wall piece and the extra top stitching would have been too much. Congrats on the new class.

CitricSugar said...

I prefer to hand-bind my quilts. It's a very rare occasion that I'll machine bind one. I simply like the quiet, winding down of a quilt from the furious cutting and hustling shuffle of presser feet to a slower, relaxing rhythm of hand-binding. I tend to measure a quilt in the number of movies or shows I can clear off the PVR while binding it. I am very careful of taking small stitches, though. And I sew with a doubled thread for extra strength. I haven't had a binding come loose yet (or any toes caught) and my quilts get a lot of wear. Maybe machine-binding is just too abrupt for me. I don't get the ritual and the time to mentally-process the quilt when I do it by machine... (wow, did that just read as flaky as I think it did?) :-)

Tricia said...

I prefer to finish my quilts by hand. I have had a binding come out but I think that's more related to the fact that I have no idea what to do with my thread when I get to the end of it. I usually double the thread because a single strand makes me nervous that it won't hold up over time.

Boo McCready said...

I hand sew them by hand with the binding closest to me. The stitches are really close together but you can't see them. It takes forever and I'm not real crazy about doing it. Most of the time I stitch the corners down too. It looks nice and tidy! I sewing one binding by machine and it was a disaster!

Vicki said...

I've done some all machine bindings but I've found on big (not-mini or potholder) quilts I have to stretch the binding as I sew it on at first, otherwise it will ripple after I machine sew the 2nd pass.

I like to hand finish bindings, and am making my stitches a little smaller these days. I use the ladder stitch, and I used to have my stitches right at or a little bigger than 1/4", now I try to be in between 1/8" and 1/4" for stitch length. Never as big as 1/2"!

Sarah said...

I've done both. I learned to hand stitch them down and I do love this look. I'm fussy and use a small stitch like yours, so it takes time. Recently I've taken to machine binding. It's so fast and really I always found the hand stitching a binding down a chore. I try to get out of chores whenever I can!

Holli said...

Little late to the party, here, but I hand stitch mine. I like your method stitching, appreciated the suggestion to shorten up those stitches, and have created a bookmark so I can find this post again. Thank you!