Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Machine binding, it is possible.

Merry Christmas! Or... Thank God it's over?

Since I did not read the full blog over at Leah Day's FMQ Project and linked up anyhow while completely missing the point... I did my planned year in review blog early: Click Here to read it :) 

We had a fantastic Christmas even though my Mom wasn't able to join us this year, we had some uplifting news about her cancer just before Christmas Eve, her oncologist said that they had caught it in the early stages and started an immediate round of radiation to shrink the tumors in her hips.  Thankfully she will not have to do chemotherapy!! To top off the good news, she also managed to get into Compassion House in Edmonton which is amazingly beautiful and she had the opportunity to have companions for Christmas, I don't think there is anything more depressing than the thought of any Mom being alone, and stuck in a hotel room over the holidays by herself while battling any illness.  

I love Christmas, it is my favorite time of the year, though the last few years I've had to check myself to stop getting caught up in the stress of the season, especially since the onus of Christmas for our extended family is placed on my shoulders now, no complaints here, it's an honor to have the tradition passed on to me.  
Personally I had an epiphany this year, I came to the conclusion that it's our own personal expectations that cause the majority of the stress. From trying to create the perfect dinner to finding the perfect present for everyone to trying to meet all the demands placed on you by family members or friends, it gets to be a little much and honestly you end up feeling disappointed in many ways.  I had spent the week previous madly knocking out projects on my sewing machine everything from gift bags to a full 80 x 80 quilt, I don't think my family saw anything of me for the whole week.  Most of my gifts were met with at best lukewarm "thanks" and in the worst case a snarky smirk, you know the one, it screams all sorts of sarcasm because you didn't buy something, you "made" it. /snarl That teacher won't be getting so much as a handshake from me at the end of the year. /snarl off

On the (late) evening of the 23rd while basting the 80 x 80 quilt and planning on how I was going to make time to quilt the whole thing in a day, plus finish 4 stockings, do all my baking for Christmas dinner and make time with the family I realized that the bar I had set was just a little out of reach.. So I said "screw it"! (Not exactly, the word I used was slightly stronger ;D) and decided to gift the quilt as is with the addendum, "it's not quite finished but..", I didn't bake for an army since I wasn't having one over for dinner and I decided I didn't care if the turkey was perfect or if everyone would like their gifts. Terribly ironic, the turkey was the best one I have ever made, the gifts were exactly what everyone wanted and I got the opportunity to sit down and relax.  
Thank God it's over!! 11 months of recuperation should be just enough for next year. 

Let's move on to some quilting shall we?! 

I promised a blurb about total machine binding, I've looked all over for a reasonable tutorial and never found one that really explained things in depth probably because it is really fussy to get a great edge on your machine. Hand binding is neater but even more time consuming, so what do you do?

I am not going to call this a tutorial, it's more like tips and tricks on how to do it, I feel I am still in the learning process of machine binding since I am not as consistent as I would like to be and I am learning something new almost daily, like Sharon Schamber's binding tutorial that I watched this morning, you can find it on SewCalGal's blog here .
I didn't even consider using school glue to stabilize the binding! What a great idea! I am betting it would make machine binding that much easier as well. Anyway I am rambling, I do that when I get excited about an idea :D

 To begin:
1.  Sew your binding to the back of your quilt all the way around, use the thumb trick to make a 45 degree angle on your corners.
  - Watch the Sharon Schamber tutorial I mentioned earlier, it has some great tricks for a perfectly mitred corner like pressing your corners with an iron and then sewing off perpendicular to your seam line at the fold line made by the iron.

 - If you look at the picture at the seam I made, it's actually only 1/8" instead of 1/4" (or what ever seam allowance you will need for your binding width). I did this on purpose because I did not quilt the outer 2" which results in a lot of bulk for your binding to cover. The trick here is twofold 1.) your binding will be tacked down which helps with making a straight seam for the true seam allowance. 2) You can trim off the excess bulk easily and make sure your quilt is squared true, this is especially important when you are using high loft or really fluffy batting :/
If you quilt to the outer edges of the quilt and the seam lays flat with little to no bulk, completely skip steps 2 & 3 and carry on to the next part.

2. Once you have got you binding tacked, go back and do your true seam line. I do not join ends until after I've done the true seam, joining before may cause your binding to not lay properly at that point since the seam will be 1/8th (or more) off.

In the lower picture on the right, you can certainly see the extra bulk that is sticking out, I used a 2" binding on this particular quilt so all of that bulk is not going to have anywhere to go if I don't trim it.

3. I like to square off from the true seam which is usually 1/4", this will vary depending on the width of your binding and personal taste.

There is really no tricks here except measure twice and cut once ;) .

4. Start turning your binding over, I usually pull one edge and two corners over so I have control of the binding and it's not flopping or wrapping in odd places. You can give it a light press with an iron or pin it in place. I've also occasionally used hair snap clips to help keep it turned over with wider bindings, otherwise I don't pin as I like to have complete control over where the binding is going to exactly go, select the stitch you are going to use. We are not using a straight stitch, you are going to want a stitch that is adjustable in width and looks nice when sewn also make sure the stitch is going to the right. Break out a practice scrap and test the stitches you like in at least 2" lengths so you can get a good view of what it will look like on your binding.

5. Line up your binding against the true seam line, it is important not to cover the seam, here I may use a pin or two just to get started, depending on how my binding is going to act. It helps if your binding is lightly starched, a starched binding tends to lay better.

6. Line up the seam line with your needle and place in the down position. A little trick that I use to get my stitch width correct is to use the hand wheel to see where my stitch will land on the binding.
You want the stitch to fall just over the outer edge, no wider than 1/8". If your stitch is too large it is going to really show.
Thread color is important too, you don't want a visibly contrasting thread. I used the white thread specifically for this tutorial so you could see where my seam lines are, for the actual stitching I used the brown thread that I had quilted this quilt with as it will fade into the background of the blue binding and not be significantly different on the back.
- A quick tip: Don't use a small stitch length, stitches that are too close together will look bulky and messy. I wouldn't go lower than 2.5, I usually use 3.

7. Start to stitch slowly, you will be able to go faster once you are more comfortable but you definitely do not want to go pedal to the metal here. It is important you stop and readjust your binding as needed. Perhaps every 3 or 4 inches so it stay's nicely aligned with the seam.

-Corners: Sorry I forgot to take a picture but this is fairly simple, don't stitch to far into your corner.  I stop a stitch or two before the seam line for the next edge then I align my binding for the corner against the seam line again and make 1 or 2 stitches, you  don't want to go to far in, basically just enough so the corner is tacked down. With the needle in the down position pivot, you may have to adjust your quilt so your needle is falling on the new seam line properly, don't worry about that, it's a tiny adjustment and that won't be noticeable.  Continue binding in the same manner until you've completed your binding... Your done!

-Quick note: If the join seam of your binding is a little loose, try to stretch out your quilt so it doesn't pucker.
Your stitch line should fall right on top of the binding in the back.

A couple of issues that I usually come across:

Pulling the binding too tight

If you are pulling the binding too hard, the stitch line will end up on the back of the quilt rather than on the binding.
This is not a deal breaker, it will not be noticeable unless the quilt is looked at minutely, the fix for this is to slow down so you are stitching in a straight line and trim the edge if the binding won't wrap properly.

Not enough of a pull on binding
If you have a stitch line going to high up into the binding, it usually means there is a smaller amount of bulk in that area or your true seam is off a bit. This one is hard to fix especially when using cheaper battings.  If you want to pull it a little more taut, there is the risk of ending up with a puff either on the front or back.  Most often for me it's because I am zoning out and not paying attention to my stitching.
Definitely not a deal breaker either unless you are planning on sending it to show.

I am off for the night, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, see you in 2013!!!



  1. Glad to hear the good news about your mother.
    Loved the binding tutorial. Also watched the video from the link that you provided...was amazed to see the use of glue. Will have to watch it again...there were a few things that Sharon Schamber did quite differently.Thanks for sharing.

  2. I do many of my quilt bindings the same way as you. Its easy and yes, stretching the binding will not improve the look of the finished binding.


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