I'm not at all biased

So here's the thing, I don't use bias binding...generally

and unless I make a quilt with a curved edge or use a particular patterned fabric that needs the diagonal orientation, I'm not sure you could convince me right now to switch over to using bias cut binding all the time.

For 90% of my projects I make my own binding strips. Its really only small projects like oven mitts etc that I might use pre-made binding on a roll.

Okay so lets back up a minute.  
So WHAT IS BINDING? It is the edging around the quilt, it protects and covers the exposed edge of the quilt sandwich. 

The fabric used is really long piece of fabric, usually 2.5 - 3 inches wide, joined end on end until it measures around 15(or so) inches longer than the perimeter of your quilt. Folded over length-ways ready for attaching to the quilt. 

BTW, this is not a "how to" blog post... there are plenty out there, this is just an in depth discussion on it, so please don't take this as a set of instructions!

Okay, so here we go..

When CUTTING THE STRIPS, there are mainly two schools of thought

1) Always use bias binding (Cutting the strips on the diagonal direction to the grain of the weave)

2) Use straight of grain or cross grain binding when the edge of the quilt is straight, use bias cut binding when the edge is curved or if you have a pattern that would look better if it were used on the diagonal.

There is a great explanation HERE

Although I am clearly in the 2nd cubby hole here, I wanted to air a few interesting "facts" that I've heard over the years. I think this is such an interesting topic filled with intrigue, scientific principles and possibly even lost historical technical know-how.

Okay, I'm already  making an "rrrggh" sound under my breath, because its not that simple.
If you make binding with bias cut fabric, you need to join the fabric using a diagonal seam, ie place them right  sides facing at a 90 degree angle so when it opens out you get a straight line of continous binding. 

BUT if you make binding with the straight/cross grain fabric then you are fine to just place them right sides together, right exactly on top of each other, the join will be perpendicular/straight rather than on an angle. And this is okay!

This is one of my little gripes, if there is a real reason to use a diagonal join when using a straight/cross cut fabric strip PLEASE TELL ME, I'm not being silly, please let me know.

As far as I can see, this one is all about the strength of the join and reducing the warping, so you are looking at running the line of stitching in the same direction as the weave. Makes sense.

Heres my second "rrrggh" moment. There are two methods for folding the long continuous binding strip that I have come across, I have used both and can see the merits for either. My unfortunate situation is, the one that gives me the best results is the one not recommended for quilts that are used a lot.

So, the first one is "Single Fold Binding" which is funny because you make three folds to make it.
You fold the binding strip in half length ways and press(NOT IRON) with a cool/warm iron setting. Then you open it out and fold the edges into the middle and press again. The idea here is that when attached you have one "Single" layer of fabric at the very edge of the quilt, this makes for a very crisp edge and corner. Great for show quilts and wall hangings.

The second one is "Double Fold Binding" which is also funny because you make only one fold to get this one ready. You just fold the binding strip in half length ways and press. The idea with this one is that you have two (ie double) layers of fabric wrapping around the very edge of the quilt, giving more protection. This one is also easier to make and understand for beginners.

So, the Bias thing also raises its hand in this discussion. It is said (who said? I don't know.. everyone. but this does have some merits for logic) ...

When you use a quilt the edges get worn. If you imagine the weave of the fabric as a grid. If you use straight or cross grain cut fabric for the binding, the grid is perpendicular (at a 90degree angle) to the edge. So the only protection is really the threads in the fabric wrapping around, not along the edge. If the threads got worn, a hole would appear exposing the raw edge of the quilt.

If you however use bias cut fabric for the binding, the grid is at a 45degree angle, this means that the grid is placed in a way that both directions of thread are effective in protecting the raw edge of the quilt sandwich, giving you twice the number of threads in the fabric that would need to fray before an actual hole would appear.

BUT, if your quilt is that special, it wont be in the hands of someone running around with it everyday, washing it all the time, giving it a good run for its money. I've had quilts for about 8 years now and they are all fine, even with my single fold, straight/cross grain binding.

In saying that, I currently use the double fold straight/cross grain, I'm trying to get more neat and tidy with my corners. This way my lack of skills wont be a contributing factor to not using the double fold for "nicer" quilts.

This bit will exclude the join at the end, this also varies and will need a section of its own!

Attaching the binding is very standard and for both single and double fold binding almost identical.

No wait...
"rrrgggh" I forgot there are a couple of different schools of thought here too...

The majority of tutorials will show you the "Machine sew to the front, hand sew to the back" method. This is what I use for all my big quilts.

The other method is "Machine sew to the back, machine sew to the front" often used with blanket stitch for a decorative variation. I've used this for oven mitts etc.

The method for attachment, whether to the front or back first is the same.

Leave a tail, start near the middle down the bottom of the quilt. Make your way around the quilt. (there are plenty of tutorials showing the "how to make a mitred corner" so I'm not going to add another one to cyber space.) at the end, leave a gap and another tail of binding fabric.

Join the two tails with just enough slack to have them lie flat before you return the edge to the machine to sew down the final gap. (again, go see a tutorial)

My discussion point here is akin to my point made in the "Joining Bias Strips" section.. if the fabric is cut on the bias, join it back up here on the diagonal.. if it is straight/cross of grain, just join it up straight. Don't make anymore work for yourself than necessary.

I'm going to be fairly diplomatic here, I like to hand sew the binding to the back, I think it looks nicer. Just keep your stitches fairly little, and if in doubt about thread colour, then always go a shade lighter, or one of the neutrals, ie grey, brown, or tan/cream.

Unless you are using a decorative stitch all round, then this bit is supposed to be invisible. I'm not a great hand sewer AT ALL!! but the more you do the better you get.. I do want to do a little tutorial about how I finish my binding, but here is not the stage to go on about that.. go get on the google machine for now :)

So that's it, I think... heh, I'm sure I might think of something else as soon as I post this but I'll add my further thoughts in a different colour so you can keep track of my brain.. (yeah good luck with that!)

Binding is really not that complicated, it just seems that way when you explore what is in my head on the subject. I just have "issues" with information without context/background/reason. I lot of tutorials and how-to's don't say "why" to do things, and I wanted to open up a discussion around that on Binding, mostly to stop the info/questions/thoughts rattling round in my head!

Apologies if this post is hard to follow/read, it came out my head/typing fingers pretty quickly! 
If there are other sites out there that explain this better LET ME KNOW. Really, I love to learn about these things and hope you do too! leave me some comment lovin', I'd love to hear what you think!

Take Care, have a great week ahead


  1. I hear ya!! lol. I have always used straight of the grain binding...the way I was taught. unless doing curves...I machine and hand sew to the quilt. doing the miter thingy at the corners and the tail to join....lol. It's just the way I was taught. It has worked fine for all these years. I don't enjoy bias anything really.

    1. Thanks Marjorie! good to know I'm not the only one heh I'm defn a straight cutter.. save me time for other things :)

      Do you know if there is a history of bias binding preference in show quilting.. I had a quick thought there might be influence jumping in from there too..

      Do you single or double fold?


Post a Comment