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Why am I having trouble with binding?

blue quilt

I’m having the hardest time with binding. It’s always wavy and not always the right size. What’s the best way to do your own binding?

Let’s play detective…

First, ask yourself if it is the binding or the border that is wavy. Sometimes it can be the border that is wavy, causing the binding to also ruffle.

To clarify this issue, we want to remind people to always measure through the center of the quilt top before adding borders, to obtain the border length measurement. Don’t just measure along the outside edges to see how long the border strips should be. These edges often become a little stretched during quilt top construction, no matter how careful we are.

If we use incorrect measurements for border length, it means the border strips are now longer than the quilt top and as a result the finished borders will ruffle and not lie flat.

Second, was the binding made with strips cut on the straight of the grain, or on the bias? It is sometimes difficult to get straight-of-the-grain strips to look neat and flat. We both prefer to use bias bindings that we make ourselves.

We prefer to make double-fold bias binding. Directions for both methods can be found in the “how to” sections of most quilting magazines, including how to determine the finished width of your binding.

We both prefer a finished width of 1/4″, but it is a matter of personal preference. Many quilters like the look of a 1/2″ finished binding.

We carefully apply the binding to the front side of the quilt, taking care to not stretch it as we go — stretching will cause the binding to be smaller than the quilt and will also make the quilt not lie flat. You can also use a walking foot on your sewing machine for this process. Others use their regular presser foot.

Another cause of wavy bindings is the amount of quilting, which can greatly affect the flatness of a quilt. If the center of a quilt is heavily quilted but the borders are not, it is very common to have wavy bindings. This happens to me all the time!

One way to prevent this from happening is to sandwich your quilt top without the border, leaving enough material around the edges to add the border later. Baste the batting and backing over to the edge of the quilt top to prevent raveling, and quilt the top.

When you’re finished quilting, take out the basting, flatten out the quilt, and add the border. This will keep the border flat and much squarer. Now you can quilt the border in any pattern you wish and it won’t be wavy.

I hope these tips were helpful to you. If you have any comments or tips that you would like to share, please comment below. We love to hear from you.

Happy quilting!

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