Friday, November 1, 2019

Machine Binding Tutorial

Binding my quilts by machine used to intimidate me, and I was not satisfied with the results.  I was more consistent about missing the binding on the blind side than I was about stitching it down, and I figured it was just easier and tidier for me to sew the back of the binding down by hand.  However, though my speed has improved, I'm still a slow hand sewer. When projects with deadlines started piling up, I decided I needed to start practicing machine binding.

Binding for Triple Sunset

After watching and reading multiple tutorials and tips and tricks posts over the last year, keeping some tips and discarding others, I finally have a process that works for me.  I'll share it here and encourage you to do what I did: use the bits that work for you and leave the rest

I like to use 2 1/4" binding strips folded in half, sewn to the front of the quilt with a 1/4" seam allowance, just like I do when I hand sew the binding.  This gives me a finished binding that looks more like hand sewn binding on the front of the quilt. I shared how I attach the binding to the front in my previous post.

Binding sewn to the front of the quilt

Next, I press the binding away from the quilt top.  Why did I not know this before?  This helps even when hand binding.  It makes the fabric lie in the right direction on the front, so when I'm folding it to the back, it isn't pulling, wanting to go back to lie flat against the front.

The binding miters itself at the corner as I iron the binding away from the quilt center, and I press that too with the tip of my iron to help the miter keep its shape when I manipulate the binding on the back of the corner later.

Next I fold the binding to the back.  I used to pin it in place, but take a look at the picture below.

See how the edge of the binding curves into a little scallop between the pins?  That's why my line of stitching didn't stay a nice even distance from the edge when I sewed from the front.  The edge wasn't straight.  I think it also contributed to the stitching dropping off the binding and onto the quilt backing in spots.

Many quilters swear by washable school glue instead of pins to hold down the binding for sewing, but honestly, I just made a mess of it.  If you love it, use it.  If you haven't tried it, go ahead and see if it works for you.  I tried it, chose to skip it and moved on to Wonder Clips.

At this point I will confess that I used to roll my eyes when quilters raved about Wonder Clips.  Wasn't that just another unnecessary tool taking up my fabric budget?  Now that I have used them I wish I could tell my previous self not to wait so long to try them. (And no, I have not been paid, or given free products, or had any contact at all with Clover to entice me to write this.  I just love the clips!)

Notice that I put the flat side of the clip on the back of the binding, on the back of the quilt.  I stitch from the front side, so the flat part is against the bed of the machine as I sew.  When I come to a clip, I push down on the top to open the clip to remove it, and that flat part just slides out and away without catching and disturbing the binding.

I know what you're thinking about all those clips!  Well, maybe not all of you, but some of you, I'm sure. Why don't you space them out a little bit more?

When I space them out too much they don't keep the fabric where I want it and my stitching slips off the binding.  Rather, my stitching is right where it is supposed to be but the binding is not.  So, I clip closely together.  It really doesn't take that long, and I get better results so I'm going with it!

You may also be wondering how many clips I own to get all around a quilt.  I bought the pack of 50 clips and that's plenty.  I just don't clip around the whole quilt all at once.  I use all the clips, start sewing, pause when only a few clips remain, clip the next stretch of binding, and continue this way until I have bound the entire perimeter.

To miter the corner on the back, I start by folding the binding on one side all the way to the corner, keeping the folded width even all the way.  It will naturally make a 45 degree fold at the end/corner.  I finger press this fold to help it keep its shape.  You could give it a quick press if your iron was close at hand.

Next I fold the top edge of the binding down, using my finger (you could use a stiletto) to make the corner crease in line with the raw edge of the quilt.

As I fold the top edge down, I bring the point of the finger pressed corner fold down to meet the edge of the side binding.

I clip that corner in place.  If the iron is close at hand I might give it a quick press first.

Moving on to the sewing part, let me introduce my good friend, the stitch-in-the-ditch presser foot. If you can find one for your machine, I highly recommend it.

The metal guide tucks right up against the high side of the "ditch" and the needle comes down right behind the guide, stitching right next to the high side of the seam.  Using it for binding, I tuck it up right beside the binding on the front of the quilt and the needle stitches in the ditch, into the quilt top close to the binding.

Here's what that stitching looks like on the front..

To turn the corner, I keep stitching until the needle is tucked into the corner, but not on the binding, stopping with the needle down.

Keeping the needle down, I lift the presser foot and pivot the quilt to bring the metal guide on the foot into line with the next side of the binding.  I then continue sewing.

I keep going until I reach the point where I started.  I stitch a few stitches past that, then backstitch a few stitches to secure the stitching.  That's it!

I still have wobbles now and then, especially at the corners, but overall this process gives me a tidy,  straight stitching line on the back of the binding, and a front that looks similar to what I would get if I hand stitched the back.

If you have any binding tips to add, please share in the comments!


  1. Excellent tutorial, Joanne. I need to gather my courage and try binding by machine sometime!

  2. Now I know why I get gaps where the binding slips out of the stitching line. Great tutorial! The only time I have ever had my binding turn out perfectly was when I used 1/4 inch fusible on the backside, or fusible thread in the bobbin to make the back of the binding stay down while I stitched it. I'm going to try your method next. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great tutorial, Joanne! I do all my machine binding by sewing to the back first and bringing it around to the front because I could never get the blind stitches right. I figured if they were wobbly, they should be on the back! But I'm going to try this "Close Clover Clips" technique and see if I can get enough improvement to reverse my set up. Thanks for the inspiration!

  4. I sew my binding to the back and fold it to the front to top stitch because, like Louise, I couldn't get the blind stitches right doing it your way, but I think I will give it another try and use the Clover clips. Thanks you for such a well written and photgraphed tutorial. I know how much work that took you to do that for us!

  5. When you tried the glue method, did you use an iron to set the glue? After I watched "Sharon Schamber - Perfect Straight Binding" on YouTube, I started gluing my bindings - one side at a time - before machine stitching them and they turn out better than ever. Also, thanks for the tip on the binding foot. I have one that came in a set and never used it!

    1. I did use the iron to heat set the glue. I made the mess before getting to that. I guess I'm just messy with glue in general, which is why the clips are a better bet for me. I'm glad the glue worked for you though!

  6. Glue was always messy for me, too, until I found the washable purple glue sticks. Admittedly, I use them on smaller projects like placemats and hangings (they aren't cheap, even on sale) but for a really important piece, they might be the solution.


Thank you for visiting. I truly appreciate your comments and will try to reply to comments by email if your commenting staus is not set to "no-reply".

If you have a question, emailing me directly at will ensure I have your address to respond. I promise I will not share your email address and I will not use it for any purpose other than replying to your message.