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finished quilt

Quilt Finishing

Assemble, Bind & Stitch

quilts, placemats, hot pads
& other layered items

Also see: Quilt Lessons
Also see: Quilt Patterns


Finishing A Quilt

A "quilt" consists of 3 layers: the backing, the batting and the decorative top layer. After assembly the layers, the item is quilted, either by hand or machine. This stitching holds the three layers together.

Binding covers the unfinished edges of the three layers. It is a long strip of bias cut fabric that is stiched to the front and turned to the back. A miter is needed for corners. The miter occurs on the back.

Binding can be added to full size quilts, lap quilts, hot pads, placemats and wall hangings. A mitered binding is sewn onto the front of the quilt, then folded over to the back side. There is no "bunching" at the corners.

If the quilt is to be hung on the wall it will require a hanging sleeve.

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Hanging Sleeve

If you wish to attach a hanging sleeve to a small project that will not be quilted, do that before sewing on your binding and before assembling the quilt. If you are going to quilt your piece, the hanging sleeve must be added AFTER quilting (or you will stitch through the hanging sleeve).

Refer to: Hanging Sleeve Directions. If you are going to quilt your project (machine or hand stitch layers together through-out the quilt), you must add the hanging sleeve after the project is quilted (otherwise you will quilt through your sleeve).

Assembling Layers: when using binding

Lap quilts, placemats etc. are assembled in the following way: quilt backing on the bottom, batting on top of backing, quilt top on the top. Be sure to align your layers properly (see last paragraph in this section). For placemats, I often use craft felt. This is inexpensive compared to actual batting, and can be bought by the yard. For quilts, the weight of batting you choose depends on several factors. Will you be hand quilting? Do you need warmth? A sales person at a quilting store can help you choose the correct batting for your project.

To help you, there are now iron-on battings. An iron-on batting is nice because you can iron the batting into place on the wrong side of the quilt backing piece, and then re-position it if needed. Once it is in place, you can then iron down the quilt top. The three layers are held in place for you until you can stitch them together. NOTE: Iron-on batting is not easier for everyone. I have found that I prefer to pin my layers together.

There are many different methods for aligning your layers. Techniques differ. I advise you to refer to a good quilter's book for instruction. This is the technique I use. If you have a large table to lay your quilt out on, use it. I don't have a table that will work so I just use the floor. Lay the backing down first, wrong side up. Lay the batting over the backing. Lay the quilt top on top, right side up. Measure your quilt diagonally and mark the center. Measure on the other diagonal and mark the center. The two centers should align: if not, adjust the quilt. Pin the layers together in the center. Keep layers of fabric taut (smooth our wrinkles). Move out from the center and pin again. Do this in each direction. Keep doing this until you have the three layers pinned throughout the quilt (baste the layers for hand quilting). When finished pinning, baste the outer edges of the layers together; trim. You are now ready for machine or hand quilting (or tie-off) and binding.

Assembling Layers: without binding

This method works well for placemats. This method finishes the edges nicely without the use of binding. Instead, the edges are topstitched around all four sides. If you are going to finish the edges in this way, you will need to trim the batting or felt ½" + smaller in height and width than your quilt top and backing pieces. Iron under a ¼" hem around all four sides of your quilt back and quilt top. Now, layer the batting on top of the wrong side of the quilt backing. Fold the quilt backing hem over the batting edges, so the batting edges are hidden under the hem of the backing. Lay the top layer over the other two layers. Stitch through all three layers, very close to the edge (a zipper foot is helpful here). NOTE: It may be helpful to use a temporary roll-on or iron-on bond adhesive to hold the edges for you before they are sewn (caution: some iron-on adhesives cannot be sewn through - they are used in place of sewing). I would recommend hand basting through all three layers before your final stitching is done.

Attach Binding

Mitered Binding
I cut my binding 2" wide and long enough to go around the entire perimeter of the quilt or placemat. A 2" binding strip is wide enough to cover the ¼" seam allowances on the outside edges of your quilt (for front and back), with enough extra to hem under in the back. Be sure to cut enough 2" strips of binding fabric to go around your quilt, plus a few extra inches. Sew the strips into one long strip. Press under one long edge of the binding ¼" (for hem).

NOTE: You may want to cut your binding 1.5" wide for placemats. Follow the same instructions as above.

Continuous Bias Binding
For a stronger binding, bias (rather than straight grain) strips are best. When cut on the bias the fabric strips are more flexible and might hold up better over time. Many quilters prefer bias binding for large quilts.

It is possible to make one long strip by making a "continuous bias strip". For directions,
go to:  Continuous Bias Binding

Quilt Top / Placemat Top
Start stitching the unpressed edge of the binding to the quilt top, right sides together, about 1/3 of the way up one side of the quilt (where your eye won't pick up the place where the two binding ends will meet). See figure 1. Stop stitching ¼" from the end. See figure 2.
bind quilt side 1
Figure 1
bind quilt side 2
Figure 2

Pivot your project and fold the binding straight up, away from you. This will create a 45-degree fold line. See figure 3. Fold the binding straight down, lining up edges. Stitch from top edge. See figure 4.

bind quilt side 3
Figure 3
bind quilt side 4
Figure 4

Continue stitching around, creating mitered corners as you go. When you come around to where you began, stitch the two binding ends together and stitch the last area of binding into place.

Quilt / Placemat Back

Turn the binding to the back of your quilt. A mitered corner will automatically form on the front side, but you must help things a bit on the back. First, fold one corner down at a 45 degree angle from the corner (figure 1 below).

Then, fold under one side, creating a mitered corner fold (figure 2 below).

Last, turn under the other side, creating a mitered corner fold (figure 3 below). Press well and hand stitch into place using an invisible hem stitch around all loose edges.


Items With Binding

binding on lower edge of appliance cover
binding on base of
appliance cover
binding around pot holder
binding around pot holder

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