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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Double Bias Binding Tutorial - Part One

Throughout my 25 years of teaching quiltmaking, I've heard the same question over and over again. How do I make a perfect bias binding?

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.

Part One:

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.

Fabric square folded into a triangle and then folded again.

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.

Cut off just enough of the fabric folds to give a clean edge.

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.

The stitched line should look like this. It will be a little bumpy at this point.

"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.

Then press the seam open to eliminate bulk. Notice the difference "setting" the stitches made.

Trim the little "bunny ears."

You will have yards and yards of binding at this point.

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.


MyNorth said...

Excellent tutorial! I am eagerly awaiting Part 2. Daughter #1 informed me I will be a "G-word" in May and wants a quilt for the baby. Hopefully, I'll master the technique of double bias binding thanks to you!

Ellen Guerrant said...

Thanks for the nice comments from my Canadian visitor from the North. Congratulations on becoming a grandmother come May. I'm sure you'll make lots of baby quilts!


Annie Binns said...

Thanks for posting this and noting it on QuiltArt! Your instructions along with the pictures were crystal clear - looking forward to Part Two!

Jo Rice said...

So far that's the way I do it. But what I really want to say is I LOVE the quilt at the top of your blog and behind your photo. That's MY kind of quilting and I love it. I just finished one! I call it "Willy Nilly" Quilting!!!

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

A great tutorial Ellen.
I even go one step farther and use 1 1/2 yards or more of fabric if I'm doing a larger quilt.
this gives me more LONG pieces and fewer seams.
I then have fabric "planned overs" to use for other projects and sometimes I can use the same fabric to bind another quilt which means I already have a bias edge to start with.

Ellen Guerrant said...

Jo - Love the term "Willy Nilly" quilting. Thanks for your kind words.

Fulvia said...

Hi Ellen,
nice step-by-step photos. A question though: when you show the pin as marking which side of the fabric is the top, you then proceed to say in the next photo to place two pieces right-sides-together but the pin is on top ...? Can you please clarify that? Thanks!

Ann Ferguson said...

Great Tutorial Ellen. Really clear and the diagrams and photos worked well. Thanks,