This is an important part of the process that is too often rushed or done carelessly. Take the time to finish your quilt well, as it can make or break your piece. Most judges (this formerly inlcuded me) are sticklers on this point.
I'm putting a new binding on a quilt, so now's the perfect time to do a step-by-step tutorial.
1. Rent a good movie - this will take a while.
2. To make enough double bias binding for a full-size quilt, begin with 1 to 1 1/4 yards of 45" fabric. Using 1 1/4 yards will give you a 45" square and will be a gracious plenty (as they say in the south). Fold the fabric diagonally, bringing raw edges together corner to corner as you would a scarf. Then fold it in half again, laying the bias folds together. The fabric is now four layers thick and looks like a big half-square triangle.
Click on these drawings and then look at the photos of fabric examples.
Close-up of bias edges aligned. The fabric is now four layers thick.
3. Check to make sure the folded corners (seen above) form a 90 degree angle. This is a very important step. If you don't begin with straight edges, your cut strips will not be straight.
Check to make sure the fabric is straight by lining it up perfectly with the horizontal and vertical lines on the template.
4. Using a straight edge, cut the bias folds from the fabric.
5. If your cutting surface isn't wide enough, you may make one more fold, as I did below, again aligning the cut bias edges. Using a sharp rotary cutter lined up with the bias edge, cut strips 2 1/4" wide. I recommend using a fresh blade, as you'll be cutting through four to eight layers of fabric at once. As with knives, a sharp blade is much safer than a dull one. Remember to ALWAYS close your blade safely when your cutter is not in use.
Remember to keep your strips straight when cutting. Check to make sure you retain the 90 degree angle at the corners throughout.
Continue cutting strips until you have the needed length. Fourteen strips gave me close to 18 yards of binding - more than enough for my project.6. Sew cut ends of strips together as follows:
Mark the right side of the fabric with a pin. This ensures the diagonal ends will fit together properly. Make sure to clean up any fuzzy diagonal ends before proceeding.
With right sides together, align strips as above with an equal "bunny ear" at each end. Make sure to begin stitching exactly at each "valley" - see drawn arrows/line above. Note: The pin is securing the two layers for stitching, not marking the right side. Thanks, Fulvia.
"Set" the stitches by pressing the stitched line. This is an old tailoring trick which will make the seam lie much flatter. Get into the habit of always doing this step, especially when piecing, as it makes a huge difference.
7. Remember, the fabric is true bias and stretches easily. Carefully fold the long strip in half, wrong sides together, and press. Use care to align the raw edges well.
8. Brew a cup of hot tea (or hit the hard stuff) and relax for a bit. You've earned it!
Coming next, part two: Stitching the binding to the quilt, making mitered corners and finishing.