Exploring the Many Ways of Binding A Quilt


We all have a method of binding that we like best and that we think is the “best” way.  What happens when you no longer love your binding method?  What if it this really trusty method you’ve been using for oh, about eleven years makes you shake your head and say no more.  That’s the experience I’ve been having.

Binding is such a preference thing.  There is no wrong way, but there is a YOUR way.  That’s what I want to find, a method that I’m in love with, so I’ve set out to explore all the different methods I’ve seen, or heard about, that you’ve shared with me, that I’ve read in a book, that I’ve stared at on old quilts or pictures online.  There are so many different methods.  I do want to really stress the point here that just because I’ve explored YOUR way and don’t love it, doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with your way.  It just means I didn’t enjoy the process or am not completely happy with the end result for my own quilts.  We can still be friends and not want to use each other’s binding method.

Over the few months or so, I have binded all of my quilts a different way.  What I’ve been doing is actually binding two quilts with each way, that way I can get a very fair opinion from it.  Things are always a bit mucky the first go around, but after the second you start to see what you like and don’t like.

This post is all about my findings.


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No Fuss Machine Binding (my method)

My method is just like many quilters method.  I machine bind.  I sew my binding onto the front of my quilt.  Once sewn, I flip the quilt over and then machine stitch right on top of the binding.  Here’s a tutorial.  I’ve always liked this method.  It’s simple, it’s ridiculously fast, consistent and I’m good at it.  The problem with it I now have is the stitch line that shows up on the front of the quilt.  I’ve always told myself it blends in with the quilting, but I’ve gotten nit-picky about it.

You can see that stitch line in the picture above, it’s close to the binding.  It’s been irking me and that’s what set off this whole binding exploration business.


      • Can be quickly completed
      • Consistently perfect 1/4″ binding showing on the front
      • Corners are really nice looking
      • No fuss


      • Stitch line on the front
      • It’s hard to use a thread that blends with your binding for the back because little tiny dots of that thread will show up on the front


The Ruby Beatrice Quilt

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No Fuss Method Reversed

So this method is just as common as my usual.  All is the same except when you start, you sew the binding onto the back and then fold it over and stitch directly on to the binding on the front.  The benefit is that you don’t have that line of stitches right beside your binding.  I know many of you use this method, but I don’t like it any better than my method.  My reasoning is that when you fold it and stitch on top, you end up with fatter binding which cuts off points on my blocks.  If I try to not pull the fold over as much, I end up with an inconsistent width of binding.

Maybe with practice this could be something I got better at?


      • No stitch line showing on the front
      • Tidy
      • Quickly completed


      • Fatter binding on front of quilt
      • Loss of points on my blocks
      • My stitches aren’t always perfectly aligned and I ended with inconsistencies in the “lip” area of the binding


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No Fuss Method with 2.25″ Strips

This was interesting to try.  It never would have occurred to me without so many of you prompting me to give this a try.  So I did my same method for binding on this one, but just decreased the width of the binding down to 2.25″ instead of my usual 2.5″.  The reasoning here would be that your stitch line (that shows up on the front of your quilt) would be naturally closer to your binding and not bother you as much.  I had high hopes for this method, because it made sense to me and I would only have to change one thing about my own trusty method.

I did really like the size of the binding better, but that pesky stitch line was still there screaming at me to look at it.  This method didn’t cure my aesthetic issue that I’m currently having.


      • Not much to change
      • Thinner binding is more pleasing to my eyes
      • Uses a bit less fabric
      • Fast


      • Stitch line on the front
      • It’s hard to use a thread that blends with your binding for the back because little tiny dots of that thread will show up on the front (you can really see evidence of this in the above picture with my hand holding the corner)


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Stitch in the Ditch Method (with glue)

Tracy actually had told me about her method a month or so before, I had missed vital information when the word “glue” was used.  My eyes glazed over and I was like, “uh no to glue”.  Luckily she mentioned it to me again, and something in her words finally clicked.    Hear me out though, or hear Tracy out….

This method goes like this.  You sew your binding onto the top of your quilt, 2.25″ strips by the way, then you pick up your quilt and it’s attached binding, take it to your ironing board and use glue and your iron to get your binding to stay folded onto the back of your quilt.  Now before your own eyes start glazing and you start skimming ahead, listen to me, this method was phenomenal.  You think with the glue it’s a definite not, but the glue didn’t take me long at all.  I spent maybe 30 minutes gluing the binding down.  When I took the quilt back to my machine, I stitched in the ditch right beside the binding, but on the top of my quilt.  The result was a machine binding method without any stitch line on the front of my quilt.  My heart started to quicken and my mind went to racing.

The only “flaw” was that there was quite a bit of a fat lip on the back of my binding.  I was expecting some inconsistency, Tracy had mentioned it to me, but there wasn’t too much in my opinion, there was just a fatter lip.

Now we are getting somewhere!  Here is that glue.


      • No stitch line on the front
      • Beautiful front binding


      • Fat lip on the back
      • Had to deal with glue
      • Took a bit longer to complete because of the glue, but not terribly so


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Stitch in the Ditch Method (no glue)

So this method was inspired by Tracy’s method above, except made to accommodate my own likes and dislikes.  I didn’t like the fat lip on the back, so I thought I’d try this again, but cut the binding strips at only 2″.  I know!  It was so scary!  My reasoning was that if the binding was 1/4″ smaller, there would be no fat lip.  Also, as much as that glue was easier than I had expected, I couldn’t see myself doing that for each and every quilt.  Instead, I used clothes pins to hold my binding in place (later upgrading to binder clips) and just move them down the line as I sewed.  The clothespins and the glue’s purpose was to hold the binding in place.  If you are sewing something down, and can’t see it, it does need to be held down by something, glue or pins or whatever you prefer.

Friends, I think I have a winner here!  I’m so thrilled!  Look at that binding.  No stitch line, no fat lip.  There will be a video tutorial for this method next Wednesday.  After trying this method several times since June, I’ve found that Microquilter is far superior to any other thread while ditch stitching.  It’s 100 weight really hides will and the silver color blends in with most any fabric color.


      • No stitch line on the front of the quilt
      • Quickly completed
      • No fat lip on the back
      • Easily finished with minimal fuss
      • 2″ strips used less fabric


      • I’m not used to needing something to hold my binding as I sew it and I ended up having to invest in some binder clips because the clothes pins kept falling off
      • Using 2″ binding means there is no room for mistakes on the edge of the quilt top and no mistakes on seam allowance when initially sewing binding to the quilt
      • Some inconsistency because of the 2″ on the actual binding.  When I use the clips on the binding to hold it down, they need to be placed just so, so that you end up with a straight line on your binding (on the back) instead of a wavy one

Here’s the video tutorial for this method.


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Chunky Hand Binding

Oh my goodness, the dreaminess!  To say this is my favorite binding method ever would be an understatement.  But of course we already know that hand binding is superior it’s just that we don’t always have time for it.

I used Pearl cotton #8 and a sashiko needle and all it is is a running stitch.  I did find it not to be as easy and simple as hand quilting.  The thicker layers didn’t allow me to put several stitches on my needle.  Instead I had to put one stitch per pull, making it take a bit longer.

Also, in the pic above I used a 2.5″ width binding.  Next time I’ll reduce that to 2.25″ for aesthetics.

I’ll be saving this method for quilts I plan on keeping or that are very special for me.  I’ll also be doing a video tutorial for this method soon.


      • Stunning
      • No stitch line


      • Time consuming (a 60×72″ quilt took me around six hours to complete, though I may be slow)


Here’s a video tutorial for this method.



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Traditional Hand Binding


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Let’s be real.  Traditional hand binding is the holy grail of binding.  It’s not hard to do, surprisingly.  It’s just taking time consuming to a whole other level.  Unlike it’s cousin above (chunky hand binding), it’s tiny, hidden stitches that will leave your eyes blurry, your thumb and forefinger sore, BUT when it’s done, you will be swooning over your work.  It’s also a great time to spend couch time, car time, sipping tea and chatting with friends time, waiting at the doctor’s office time, kids practice time.  You get the picture.  It doesn’t have to be completed in one sit and more than likely will not be.

Many quilters will tell you they love doing it, and I can see why.  It’s relaxing, soothing even, almost meditative if you want it to be.  It’s your last little bit of work on your quilt and why should it not end with a sit and gentle stitching?  It’s bonding time.

In the picture above I used 2″ binding strips, I forgot how I meant to use 2.25″ and things got a bit tight in certain places, although I made it work.  I’m not sure how often I will use this method.  It’s a stunning method, but I’ve got 7 hours into this baby and it’s only a 60″ square quilt.  I used a milliners needle and my microquilter thread.


      • Holy grail of binding
      • No stitch line
      • Gives you plenty of bonding time to love your quilt some more


      • Massively time consuming
      • Not as strong as machine binding


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I’ve been working on trying each of these binding techniques since June.  It was nice to go through each method and look into what I loved the most by actually trying them instead of just assuming something was out of my reach.  I find that many times, I’ll say to myself, “you can’t do that”, and that simply isn’t true.  It’s not true for any of us.  There’s nothing in quilting that’s actually “hard”.  It’s just usually time consuming or we haven’t practiced enough to be good at it.  Can you really expect to wow on any of your first attempts?  Can any human doing ANYTHING expect to wow when they haven’t put in the practice?  Definitely not.

From now on for the majority of my quilts, I will be using my new stitch in the ditch binding with the 2″ strips.  I loved it!  It’s exactly what I set out to accomplish when I first starting this exploration.  For special quilts or the first of their kind quilts, I’m going to go with the chunky binding.  It may take me more time, but that look probably deserves the effort.

If you are wondering about the scrappy binding in the picture above.  I’ve got a tutorial for that here.  Next Wednesday, you can expect a video tutorial for the stitch in the ditch binding.

Thank you for your patience with this post.  I’ve received many emails and messages and I apologize for it taking me so long to complete, but I wanted to be thorough.  Thank you to everyone who chimed in about what they like best too and who made recommendations to me along the way.  A special thank you to Tracy and Cindy who showed me a that I could have both:  no show and machine binding.

Tracy and Cindy are also both longarmers who have each quilted a quilt or two for me in the past.  If you need something quilted, do support them if you can.


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  1. Fantastic post! I haven’t seen chunky hand binding before and am definitely going to use it. I love the way it looks! I have mostly used the traditional hand method because I have the time and enjoy sitting on the couch, with a cozy quilt over my lap, on a cold winter day. Thank you for sharing!!

  2. I love seeing different bonding techniques! Especially love the chunky binding. But I have a question about it…do you only see the chunky stitch on the back?

    1. You can either do front or back. I like a very thin binding on the front of my quilts so that points aren’t cut off, so I put the stitches on the back.

  3. Melanie – don’t apologize – this blog was well worth the wait! So informative and I think you covered all bases. I am in love with the “chunky” style and would love to do it on the front too. I will be trying that for sure. I will also try you 2” binding, stitch in the ditch. You’re right, there is no room for error there and I would have to be careful to make sure I’m catching that back binding. I too like thinner binding. Thank you so much for doing the ground work and providing us with this great information – will be looking for the tutorials ?

  4. Thank you for the detailed descriptions. I have sewn 90% of all my bindings by hand. Time consuming but worth it. (I’m not on a schedule usually). Non of them have come unsewn in the many years I’ve been quilting and using everyday quilts. I have never been happy with my machine binding except on baby/children’s quilts.

        1. That’s exactly what I did with my Anthologie. I sewed the lace onto the binding at the fold, but when I sewed it onto the quilt I made sure that the edge of the lace was behind the binding. I loved how it turned out. 🙂

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