This is the finished quilt -- a scrappy Grandmother's Flower Garden inspired by an antique quilt top I saw for sale on e-bay. I English paper-pieced it during my mother's extended illness and escaping to the work literally was a blessing as it calmed and soothed me to be able to focus on something over which I had total and complete control.
It's hard to see, but I chose "big stitch" hand quilting with pearl cotton to outline each of the rings and then quilted the border by machine. I had the deadline of getting it off to The Sew'n Place in Chambersburg, PA where it will hang as a teaching sample for a workshop there in the spring -- deadlines are good!!
As I was worked on the binding, I thought about all the other quilters in NE Ohio who are finishing their entries for the annual quilt show at Lake Metroparks Farmpark in Kirtland, Ohio.
A friend of mine always serves as a scribe on the judging days and every year she shares remarks that the judges make about poor "bindings".
Some of us are in a big rush when we do a binding so we don't always take the time we should but that's the first thing a judge touches when she/he goes in for the "close-up". So here are some of my best tips to improve the quality of your quilt bindings.
First the edges of the quilt need to be flat before the binding is applied. When spread out on a flat surface, if it doesn't lay flat, the binding will not flatten it. It actually will emphasize the wobbles.
There are a couple causes of the wobbles but the most common is not quilting all the way to the raw edge of the quilt. After I trim the edge of a quilt, I put the walking foot on my machine, set it for the widest zigzag and stitch the edges of the quilt. On my Bernina that is a length of 3 and width of 5. This flattens the edge and takes up some of the fullness. Then I steam the edges with the iron -- full head of steam, hold it 1" above the quilt, and let the steam flow down into the quilt. If I'm doing it on the ironing board -- I walk away and let that section dry and cool before moving on to the next section. Takes a bit longer and some patience, but I try to use the time to tidy up something in my studio.
Now I'm ready to stitch on the binding! The generally accepted width to cut the French fold binding that most of us use is 2 1/2" but that is too wide if you are using a 1/4" seam to stitch the binding in place. You need to experiment with widths and find the best one for you and your walking foot. I use 2 1/4" with much better finished results. And thanks to a tip I gleaned from one of Marci Baker's video tutorials, I no longer press the binding in half before I start stitching it in place. I fold it as I go.
When I look at a binding, it's usually the corners that are the issue and I do a good corner 95% of the time.
I took this series of photos while I bound my flower garden to illustrate the keys to greater success.
First, stopping 1/4" from the corner only works if you are actually sewing 1/4" seam. My walking foot's seam is somewhere between 1/4" and 3/8". So when I'm about 6" from a corner, I fold the binding strip off the quilt at a 45 degree angle and crease it.
When I open the binding strip out flat, I make a pencil mark on that crease. Now I stop for the corner at the crease and I really don't need the "measurement".
Now it's time to fold the binding off to the right at a right angle and back onto itself to turn the corner.
Likewise, you must align the two folds that make the upper edge of this little triangle. It's hard to photograph, but if one of the folds is askew, it will create a problem when you turn the corner to the other side for the final stitching.
Finally, as you begin to stitch down the next edge of the quilt, be sure to secure the end of the stitching so that it holds the diagonal fold underneath in place. Doing this assures that the miter will turn smoothly to the other side of the quilt. Notice in the photo, I stop a couple stitches from the edge but the fold will not pull out when I turn the miter.
So there you are -- I hope these tips help you turn better corners on your bindings and you get high marks from the next judge you encounter!! If you want a face-to-face tutoring session and live in NE Ohio, my next open workshop at home is Saturday, January 18.
And I already have another quilt layered and ready to go -- it has a deadline, too! So I know I'll finish two this month!
It's (actually) not a quilt until it's quilted!