Let’s Talk Binding!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

You’re finally here at the last step of quilting-binding your quilt! You need your quilt that has been trimmed, and your binding to complete this step. Binding is a long strip of fabric that goes around the outside of your quilt, sealing in all the layers of your quilt and keeping them together. Binding has a “raw edge”, which is where the fabric has been cut, and a folded edge, where it has been ironed in half. You can make your own binding or you can purchase it-which is what I did when I first got started! There are a lot of options especially on Etsy, and one of my favorite is Bessie Pearl

You begin binding by attaching the binding to the back of your quilt. Your quilt will go in to the sewing machine with the back side facing up and the raw edge of the binding right on top of the edge of your quilt. I like to start in the middle on one side so that I have some room to get my binding going before I get to the corner. When you start binding, leave a tail of about 6 inches unattached.

You are going to sew the binding on with a 1/4 inch seam. Insert your needle through the binding and the quilt, lower your presser foot, and begin sewing. Backstitch a few stitches, and then continue sewing until you are 1/4 of an inch from the corner of your quilt.

Once you are 1/4 of an inch from the corner, stop sewing and lift your presser foot, leaving the needle down. With the needle down, turn your quilt so that you are sewing directly towards the corner. Put your presser foot down, stitch to the corner, backstitch and then cut your thread.

Now it is time to fold your binding to create your corner. Your quilt is in front of you, with the attached edge on top and the binding leading off to the right. First, fold your binding up and over the edge you just sewed down. Then, fold your binding back down, making sure not to let go of the fold you first made. This will create a small loop that will be your corner, and your raw edge will now be on top of the next side you will attach the binding to.

Bring your quilt back to your machine, and insert your needle 1/4 of an inch from the corner of your fabric. You do not want to sew over the loop you just created, the needle should be placed right below it.

Lower your presser foot and begin stitching, backstitch, and then continue sewing down to edge until you are 1/4 of an inch from the next corner. Repeat this process until you have created all four corners and are approaching where you originally attached your binding to the quilt. Leaving at least 6 inches between the beginning and end of the binding, backstitch your binding down to the quilt and cut your thread. It is time to join your binding.

To join your binding, your two strips of binding need to overlap by 2.5 inches. Place a ruler alongside the original tail of the binding from where you first attached to the quilt. Lay the end of your binding on top, measure 2.5 inches, and cut off the excess.

Open up both binding strips, and place then right sides together (the sides with the design that were facing out). The bottom strip is running up and down, the top strip is running side to side, and they meet to create a square of overlapped fabric.

You will now sew from corner to corner, backstitching at the beginning and end.

Cut off the excess fabric on the outside of where you just sewed.

You should now have a continuous binding strip that sits flat across the remainder of your quilt!

Return to where you left off binding, and insert the needle with the presser foot 1/4 from the edge once again. Lower your presser foot and begin stitching, backstitch and then continue sewing until you reach the beginning of where you attached the binding. Backstitch again and cut your thread.

Your binding is now attached to the back of your quilt!

To attach the binding to the front of your quilt, turn the quilt over with the front facing up. Take your binding from underneath your quilt and fold it over, pulling the folded edge of the binding towards the center of the quilt. Some people choose to pin or clip down the binding on the entire front of the quilt at this point, but I choose to do this while I sew.

Once again starting in the middle of one side of the quilt, bring your quilt over to the machine and place it under the presser foot. If you are using your 1/4 inch presser foot, the binding should sit neatly under the foot, with the outside edge of the quilt on one side of the foot, and the inside edge of the binding on the other side of the foot.

Insert your needle, lower your presser foot and begin stitching. Backstitch and continue stitching until you approach the corner. Take your time and try your best to keep the presser foot in the same spot on the quilt edge as you sew.

Now it is time to create your corner on the front of your quilt. First fold the side of the binding that you are stitching down towards the center of the quilt.

Then, pull the upcoming side of the binding over, creating your corner.

Continue to stitch slowly, holding your corner in place with your hand, until you have stitched down the corner and you are 1/4 inch from the edge of the quilt. With the needle down, lift your presser foot, and turn the quilt to begin sewing the next side.

Once again, your binding should fit right under the foot, and you can continue to stitch down this next side slowly and carefully. Once you approach the corner, repeat this process until all four corners are attached.

When you return to the side you started on, you will simply continue stitching until you reach your original starting spot.

Once you have reached that point, backstitch and then cut your thread. Congratulations, you have completed your quilt!

Let’s Talk Quilting!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

Choose Your Quilting Style

You’ve made your quilt top, basted your quilt sandwich, and now it is time to quilt! The actual quilting of your quilt is another place where it is all about personal preference. You can choose to quilt very densely, with your quilted lines very close together, or you can choose to quilt farther apart, as long as you keep in mind the quilting density needed for your batting. You can choose straight line quilting, or use a decorative stitch on your machine such as a zig-zag. My personal preference is straight line quilting, using the seams of my quilt top as a guide.

When you put your quilt sandwich through the machine to quilt, make sure it is laying flat, and is not folded under. When I quilted my first quilt, I accidentally left a corner folded under, and ended up quilting it folded in half-that was a mess to clean up!

Quilting Lines

When you quilt, you are sewing all three layers of the quilt sandwich together-this is how the quilt stays secure. I use the seams of the quilt top as my guide, which means that I put my presser foot right along the seam and follow that seam all the way down the quilt to create a straight line parallel to each seam. Line your presser foot up with the seam, put the foot and needle down, and begin sewing right where your quilt top begins. When you start, backstitch to secure your stitching, then follow the seam all the way down the quilt, backstitching again when you get to the bottom of the quilt. I repeat this on each seam, making sure my quilting lines are always on the same side of the seam.

Trimming Your Quilt

When you are satisfied with your quilting, it is time to trim your quilt so it is ready for binding. You will need your quilt, cutting mat, quilting ruler and rotary cutter. The goal is to trim the batting and backing so that it is exactly the same size as your quilt top.

Because your quilt is most likely larger than your cutting mat, I fold the quilt in half to trim it. Make sure you have folded it right along the midline, as this will help ensure you are properly squaring up the quilt. Line the midline of the folded quilt up with a measurement line on your cutting mat.

You are now going to trim the edge that is perpendicular to this midline. Make sure your ruler is perpendicular to the midline, and parallel to the measurement lines on the cutting mat, as close to the edge of the quilt top as possible. Hold the ruler in place with your hand, and use your rotary cutter to trim away the extra batting and backing. Flip your quilt over, and repeat with the opposite side.

Once you have trimmed those two sides, fold your quilt in half in the opposite direction. Use your newly trimmed sides to line up your quilt on a measurement line of your cutting mat. Repeat the trimming process with the remaining sides.

Congratulations, your quilt is quilted, trimmed and ready for binding!

Let’s Talk Basting A Quilt!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

What is Basting

Basting is what you do to prepare your quilt to be quilted! You create a “quilt sandwich” made up of three layers, your backing fabric, batting, and quilt top. There are many different ways to baste, but I will share what I have found to work for me! You will need a flat space to work on that is larger than your quilt and the following tools.

Tools for Basting

To baste your quilt you will need a few supplies:

Backing Fabric: this is the fabric that will make up the back of your quilt. Choose a print or a solid-whatever makes you happy! Your backing fabric needs to a few inches bigger than your quilt top on every side. For a baby sized quilt you will typically be able to keep your fabric in one piece (for the I Think I Can Quilt you will need 1 and 1/4 yard of fabric in one continuous piece). To back a larger quilt you will usually have to cut your backing fabric and sew it back together, changing it from a very long and thin piece of fabric, to a piece that is closer to a square and the actual shape of your quilt.

Batting: this is what goes in the middle of your quilt and gives it its fluff. There are many different brands and materials of batting. I prefer to use 100% cotton batting, but there is also polyester, wool and bamboo batting. When you are looking at batting it is important to note how far apart you can quilt using that batting. I use Warm and Natural brand because when you quilt, your lines can be as far apart as 10 inches, and I don’t usually quilt very densely. Batting is sold in different sizes, from craft to king and even in giant rolls. Make sure your batting will be a few inches bigger than your quilt top on each side.

Quilt Top: this is what you just sewed together! The quilt top is where your design and hard work happened and it is time to show it off.

Painter’s Tape: Painter’s tape is useful because it does not leave a sticky residue on your surface but it holds your fabric in place. If you are able to find wider painter’s tape it will be easier to use when you baste.

Safety Pins: this is how you hold the layers of your quilt together and the main tool of basting. Some people prefer to use spray baste, but I find safety pins to be the most secure.

The Steps of Basting

1. Lay out your backing fabric on your large, flat, surface, with the right side facing down. The right side is the side that the pattern is printed on, or either side of a solid fabric. Make sure your fabric is smooth and flat. Pick a side to start and tape down that side of the backing fabric. Then move to the opposite side, stretch it tight, but not tight enough to pucker the fabric. Tape down this side of the fabric. Repeat this with the other two sides of the quilt. Finally, pull the fabric tight from each corner, and tape them down. As a reminder, your fabric should be right side down, flat and tight, without pucker.

2. Lay your batting out over the backing fabric. Smooth the batting out so there are no wrinkles or puckers.

3. Lay your quilt top out over the backing fabric and batting, right side facing up. Smooth it out and make sure each side of the top is inside the backing and batting on all sides.

4. Start pin basting your quilt! The way you do this is up to you and the density of pins you use is whatever will make you comfortable in its security. I like to start on one side and pin inside each square of the quilt top, making sure the pin goes through all three layers. As you move around the quilt, continue to smooth it out and keep it tight so it remains flat across the other layers. Once you have pinned in each square (or however often you feel is secure), you are done basting your quilt!

Let’s Talk Sewing Rows!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

Quilt Layout

You have your fabric cut out and you are ready to start sewing! The first thing you need to do is lay out your squares. If you have a design wall this is the time to use it, but if you’re like me, you can just lay them out on the floor. If you are only using one color, this is a straight forward step, but if you are going scrappy or using multiple colors, it is time to decide on how your final quilt will look.

Sewing Rows Using Chain Piecing

Now it is time to sew your squares together! I find the easiest way to do this is with chain piecing. When you chain piece you put your squares through the machine one after the other, without cutting your thread in between. This makes the whole process go much quicker and in my opinion it goes more smoothly as well. When I chain piece, I begin in the top left corner of my layout, and move down each column. The first step is to sew all the squares in column one to all the squares in column two. Begin with the squares in row one, putting the squares right sides together.

Make sure your squares are sitting one right on top of the other and are lined up on each side. The column one square should be on the bottom, with its right side facing up, and the column two square should be on the top, with its right side facing down. Bring your squares to your sewing machine.

When you sew your squares together, you sew a line 1/4 of an inch from the right edge. The foot of a sewing machine is typically 1/4 of an inch, so you can use that as a guide, making sure the edge of the fabric stays right underneath the edge of the foot.

When I lower the needle in to the fabric, I like to do it manually (using the wheel on the side of my machine that controls the needle) to make sure that the needle does not unthread in the process. From there, I stitch 2-3 stitches forward, then backstitch 2-3 stitches (using the lever on my machine) to lock in the stitches, making sure they will not come apart. Then I stitch down to the bottom corner, finally backstitching 2-3 stitches to lock in this side of the square.

Now this is where the chain piecing comes in-don’t cut the thread yet! Instead, go get your column one and column two squares from row two. Once again, the column one square should be on the bottom with its right side facing up, and the column two square should be on top with its right side facing down. Line up your edges and sides, and once again you will sew 1/4 of an inch from the right edge. Put this set of squares into the machine while you continue stitching, remembering to backstitch at the beginning and end of each square. Continue in the way until you have sewn together the column one and column two squares in each row. You will have a chain of sewn together squares-hence the name chain piecing!

Video Tutorial of Chain Piecing

It is finally time to cut your thread, then bring your squares back to your layout. Open them up to make sure everything is in the right place before you move on.

Now you will sew the chain pieces squares to your squares in column three. Pick up the chain pieced squares and the column three row one square. With the chain pieced squares on the bottom, right side up, and the free square on top, right side down, you will sew these pieces together. Continue chain piecing until you have sewn each column three square to the previously chain pieced squares.

Video Tutorial on Continuing Chain Piecing

Cut your thread, and then begin chain piecing the column four squares. Continue to move through each column until you have chain pieced each square. You will now have 7 rows that are sewn together, but not sewn to each other.

Completing The Quilt Top

Now it is time to sew your rows to each other! I prefer to keep my rows connected with the thread from chain piecing, but you can choose to cut the threads at this point if you prefer. Fold row one over row two, and bring them over to your sewing machine.

Row two should be on the bottom, right side facing up, and row 1 should be on the top, right side facing down. Using your foot as a guide, sew 1/4 of an inch from the right edge of the rows, backstitching at the beginning and end. Cut your thread and move to the next row. Now with row three on the bottom, right side facing up, and connected rows one and two on the top, right side facing down, sew 1/4 of an inch from the right edge of the rows. Continue in this way until all the rows are connected.

Congratulations, you have finished your quilt top!

Let’s Talk Cutting Fabric!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

You have your quilting tools, you picked your fabric-now it’s time to cut your fabric for your pattern!

Quilting Tools and Choosing Precuts

Cutting a Layer Cake

Watch the video below for a step by step tutorial on cutting your layer cake, or keep scrolling for pictures and written instructions!

From your layer cake (10 inch square) you will be able to make four 5 inch squares. Start by laying your fabric out on your cutting mat and lining each side of the fabric up with a straight line on your cutting mat. I like to use multiples of 5, since I am cutting 5 inch squares.

Find the horizontal midpoint of you fabric, 5 inches from each corner. Lie your ruler across the midpoint so it sits straight through the fabric. Open your rotary cutter, put your hand on your ruler to hold it in place and slide the rotary cutter blade right next to the ruler. You will now how 2 rectangles, 5 inches by 10 inches.

Now you will cut your fabric vertically. Without moving your fabric from its spot, find the vertical midpoint, 5 inches from each corner. Lie your ruler across the midpoint so it sits straight through the fabric. Open your rotary cutter, put your hand on your ruler to hold it in place, and slide the rotary cutter blade right next to the ruler. You now have four 5 inch squares!

Cutting a Fat Quarter or Yardage:

Watch the video below for a step by step tutorial on cutting a fat quarter or yardage, or keep scrolling for pictures and written instructions!

Because you are cutting 5 inch squares, I find it easiest to think in multiples of 5. Lay your fat quarter or yardage out flat on your cutting mat, with the bottom edge right over your first interval of 5 (between 4 and 5). Lie your ruler on the 5 inch line, making sure that it sits right on the line all the way across. Open your rotary cutter, put your hand on the ruler to hold it in place, and slide the rotary cutter right next to the ruler. Without moving your fabric, pick up your ruler and move it so it sits straight across the next 5 inch interval, the 10 inch mark. Check that your ruler is straight, and cut your fabric across the 10 inch line. Repeat this process on each 5 inch interval mark.

Now you will cut these strips into squares. You can slide your strips over so that you can once again use the 5 inch interval marks to cut your squares. Line up your first edge, and lay your ruler straight down the 5 inch line. Cut straight down this 5 inch line. Without moving your fabric, pick up your ruler and move it 5 inches over-to the 10 inch line. Cut straight down the 10 inch line. Continue this at each 5 inch interval. You now have your 5 inch squares!

Let’s Talk Quilting Tools!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

To get started with quilting you will need five basic tools-three for cutting and two for sewing. In the video below I talk you through those tools and what you will need them for.

Sewing Tools

The sewing tools you will need are a sewing machine and thread. So far I have done all my quilting on a Singer Simple Sewing Machine and I highly recommend it for beginners. There are not a lot of bells and whistles but it gets the job done and is straight forward and easy to use. When choosing thread for my machine I like to go with 100% cotton thread. I have used both Aurifil and Guttermann thread and like them equally. When I am piecing my quilt tops (sewing together the pieces that make up the top of the quilt) I like to use a neutral color so that it blends in to my fabric. When quilting (sewing all three layers of the quilt together) I sometimes like to switch it up and use a fun color to make the stitching pop!

Cutting Tools

The cutting tools you will need are a cutting mat, rotary cutter and quilting ruler. By using these three tools together, you can get a precise cut on your fabric, which will make sure your pieces come together neatly.

Shopping for Tools

While all of these tools can be found at major craft stores such as Joann’s, I prefer to support local shops and quilters that I know. Below are some small shops that stock quilting tools (often called notions)!

The Fat Quarter Shop

Shop Domesticity

Purl Soho

Let’s Talk Fabric!

Let’s Talk-Tips and Tutorials

Outside of your quilting tools, the other thing you need to get started on quilting is fabric! Finding fabric is one of my absolute favorite parts of quilting. I think it is so much fun to test out different combinations and color schemes and I could spend hours scrolling through online fabric stores. Before you jump in to fabric shopping-here is some lingo you should know:

Yardage vs. Precut

Yardage: this is fabric that is cut by the yard. Some stores will only cut in increments of one yard, while others will cut as small as 1/4 of a yard. A yard of fabric typically measures between 42-44 inches in width and 36 inches in length.

1/4 yard = 9 inches by 42-44 inches

1/2 yard = 18 inches by 42-44 inches

3/4 yard = 27 inches by 42-44 inches

1 yard = 36 inches by 42-44 inches

Precuts: this is fabric that is already cut in to smaller pieces. Some shops will also call these bundles. Some common precuts are:

Charm Packs = a pack of 5 inch by 5 inch squares

Layer Cake = a pack of 10 inch by 10 inch squares

Jelly Roll = a pack of 2.5 inch by 42-44 inch strips

Fat 16th = 9 inch by 11 inch cut of fabric

Fat 8th = 9 inch by 22 inch cut of fabric

Fat Quarter = 18 inch by 22 inch cut of fabric

Solids vs. Prints

Solid Fabric: this is fabric that is dyed one color which will be the same on both the front and back of fabric. This creates a fabric where either side can be the right side of the fabric

Print or Pattern Fabric: this is fabric which has a pattern printed on to one side of the fabric. This creates a right side (the side where the pattern has been printed) and a wrong side (the side without the printing)

When looking for fabric to begin quilting, I recommend starting with quilting cotton, which is 100% cotton and a touch sturdier than the cotton clothes are often made from. I have linked some of my favorite fabric shops below for you to start browsing!

Some of my favorite fabric shops

Morris Textiles

Marmalade Mood Shop

Cottonfield Shop

Kye + Hardy Quilts

Great Heron Thread Co