Saturday, October 8, 2011

A back-to-front Binding Process

I took the Process Pledge quite a while ago, and then haven't done much with it - I've taken oodles of step-by-step shots but they never seemed to turn out quite right or I lost the energy for the process by the time I sat down to write it out. The gist of the pledge is that quilt bloggers will work to include in their blogs elements of a secondary guild meeting: not just show'n'tell, but how'n'why as well.

I shot a process for the back-to-front binding once before, but my recent 'It's a Girl Thing' quilt, in the blown-out Friendship Spool block was much lovelier and so I did it all over again!

This is one of my simpler graphic quilts, featuring only three fabrics on the front and the large even dots on the back, which will also form the border. Both the animal print and dots are from Michael Miller's 'It's a Girl Thing' Collection.

After piecing, sandwiching, and quilting, it's time to cut away the excess batting. I've heard of quilters pulling the backing back and using a rotary cutter and straight edge to trim the batting, but I'm terrified of nipping the backing at the same time, so I use a good pair of scissors and a bit of patience.

When I'm planning for a back-to-front binding I don't quilt all the way to the edge of the top - since those quilting stitches might appear within the binding edge on the reverse. If you look closely at the image below you can still see my edge marking, which is 0.5-inch in from the edge. I use a hera marker and I adore it - I should probably add a 'tools' element to my Process Pledge, since I can certainly wax poetic about my favourite tools! But, I digress, here's a shot of trimming batting, followed by a shot of trimming backing.

I do use the rotary cutter and straight edge for trimming the backing. Thanks to the see-through acrylic ruler I can easily trim the backing to 1.25" excess from the quilt edge.

When it comes time to turn the backing into a binding I start several inches to the left of one corner and make a folded binding. The cut edge of the backing is folded just under the cut edge of the batting, creased, and the crease is folded onto the front of the quilt. With a 1.25" excess, this leaves the folded edge just about 0.5" in and aligns with my leftover crease (with a little wiggle-room). I use 5/8 binder clips from the office supply store to hold my binding in place.

Although we only create one crease, the process creates two folds - the crease becomes the edge of the binding fold that we will stitch on, and when we put it into place we have created a default fold on the outer edge of the quilt. When it comes to the corners, I extend the crease and fold fully to the edge of the cut backing on the right - so that the binding folds are in position well beyond the surface of the quilt. Then, in a process reminiscent of origami or gift wrapping, the tip of the corner is folded over so that what was the outer edge fold is now lined up with the edge of the top and backing, as below:

The process then repeats - fold the cut edge to the edge of the batting, crease, then fold again so that the crease aligns with the 0.5 inch mark. There may be some fidgeting to get the corner to line up properly with the bulk, but with some strategic pinning and a thin straight edge (a fat toothpick or narrow craft stick or a hera marker) you should be able to get it to lay flat. When the corner is ready, hold it in place with another binder clip, and continue around and around.

The result will be a fairly heavy, tidily clipped binding:

Then comes the fun part - very carefully topstitching that binding down. I use a walking foot, so that when I come back to the beginning there's less chance I'm going to have a bump in the seam:

I stitch just about an 1/8 inch in from the crease. I align an edge of my foot with the edge of the crease and move my needle accordingly. When it comes to the corners, I like to rotate the quilt and stitch out to the tip and back. I really like the look of topstitched corners, plus it makes them a little more secure.

Obviously, you should back-stitch at the beginning and end of your binding. There are a number of reasons you may find to use a back-to-front binding in your next quilt, or request one in your next commission, but probably the most important is: strength. Because the binding is one piece, there are no seams along the length and the stitching stands up to abuse better than blind-stitched traditional binding that is half sewn by hand. The modern sewing machine is called 'lockstitch' because it creates such a tight, sturdy stitch, and is an excellent choice for finishing a quilt that's going to have a lot of use, particularly quilts for children.


Pomona said...

That is a really helpful tutorial. I use folded over binding but I slip stitch it - I can see that your way is much stronger!

Pomona x

tarabu said...

It's a really good technique for quilts that are going to have hard use - I don't worry about a future toddler yanking one of these out from under the dog!

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