SO many ways!: finishing binding on quilts

Binding options from Happy EndingsIf you’ve ever been stuck when it comes to stitching binding, welcome to the club! Think about it—you might make 20 (or many more) of the same block for each quilt you create, but you’re only sewing on quilt binding once per project. Practice makes perfect—and that’s considerably less practice!

In 1988, a quilting teacher with a dream to publish a book about her binding techniques got her chance—and she called her book Happy Endings. Since then, that teacher, Mimi Dietrich, has become a nationally renowned teacher and the bestselling author of numerous quilt books. Her “happy endings” have led to many happy beginnings.

There doesn’t seem to be any ending at all for Happy Endings, now back in print by popular demand—for the fourth time! From super-quick to beautifully elaborate bindings, Mimi’s book ensures that you can finish buying finishing books. Just take a look at the different  techniques included:

  • sewing binding on quiltsFinishing edges without binding
  • Finishing rounded corners
  • Making imitation binding
  • Appliquéing edges to a border
  • Working with sculpted edges
  • Finishing edges with backing
  • Finishing with overlapped corners
  • Finishing with mitered corners
  • Single- vs. double-fold binding
  • Straight-grain vs. bias binding
  • Determining binding yardage
  • Cutting bindings (straight-grain and bias)
  • Continuous bias binding
  • Cutting special fabrics for bindings (stripes, plaids, etc.)
  • Scrappy, scalloped, and sculpted bindings
  • Grandmother’s Flower Garden edges
  • Adding trims, cording, piping, prairie points, lace, and ruffles

(And the above is not a complete list!)

We’re thrilled to have Mimi as a guest blogger today at Stitch This! She’s sharing a brilliant idea that many of us have seen her teach at Quilt Market. If you’re puzzled about how to fold and sew corners when sewing binding on quilts, you’ll love Mimi’s make-and-take paper binding below. For a concrete example of Mimi’s techniques, just make a paper binding for yourself; then tuck it right into the pages of your copy of Happy Endings!

Mimi DietrichThe Disney princesses have their dream-come-true stories, but I have Happy Endings!

I wrote my first quilting book, Happy Endings, in 1988. At the time, I thought it would be my only book. That was 25 years and 16 books ago! Happy Endings had been out of print for a few years, but it has just been re-released for its 25th anniversary. I’m so thrilled—it’s amazing for a quilting book to be in print that long. Many quilters have learned how to apply borders and bindings, and have finished their quilts, because of this book!

I also had another exciting event happen this year: I was named the International Association of Professional Quilters Teacher of the Year for 2013! I have been teaching quilting for more than 30 years, so I thought I would share some Happy Endings tricks with you.

Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt bindingThere’s a funny story behind how I wrote the book based on a class. One of the first quilting classes I taught was called “Happy Endings”—a workshop to teach quilters how to make binding and finish the edges of their quilts. Once I knew I was going to write the book, I wanted to make sure that I included every detail. In a class, if you forget to mention a detail there’s a good chance that your students will ask questions and get you back on track. (I have learned a lot about teaching from my students throughout the years!) So one day I took my son’s Fisher Price tape recorder to class and captured all of the information I needed to write the book. The rest is history! If you’re a teacher who has thought about writing a pattern or a book, try recording a class—your students will help you get the step-by-step details organized.

My favorite tools for teaching techniques from Happy Endings are little paper quilt corners. I have used these in classes of ten students and in lectures for 100 quilters. The “audience participation” helps everyone remember the basic folding techniques. Plus, they have a souvenir to refer to when they put binding on their quilts. They can keep the paper samples in their book! You can make your own, following the instructions below.

How to Fold Binding on a Quilt Corner

1. Cut a 3″ square of paper (scrapbooking paper works so much better than the construction paper I used in 1988) and a 1″ x 6″ strip of coordinating paper. Use a glue stick to attach the strip to the top left of the square. This represents a 1″ folded binding on the corner of a quilt top. Use a pencil to draw stitches across the top, stopping ¼" before the right edge.

1" folded quilt binding


2. Fold the strip diagonally so that it extends straight up from the right side of the quilt corner.

Fold the binding strip diagonally


3. Fold the strip down so that it matches the right edge of the quilt corner. (In the photo below, the strip is lifted a bit so that you can see the fold at the corner, but when folded flat the strip should align with the right edge of the square.) Add some “stitches” to show where to sew.

Fold the binding strip down


With these easy folded papers, you have a sample to keep in your copy of Happy Endings (pages 46–47). The crisp folds in the paper will help you remember how to fold the corners on bindings.

I also use paper squares to demonstrate how to finish the edges by folding the back of the quilt to the front to look like binding.

Finishing Edges with Backing—Mitered Corners

1. Cut a 4″ square of scrapbooking paper and a 3″ coordinating square. Align the smaller square with one corner of a larger square, wrong sides together, so that you have 1″ of the larger square extending. Glue in place. The smaller square represents the front of the quilt and the larger square is the back of the quilt.

2. Fold the corner of the backing squarely over the corner of the front. The secret to success here is to relax and leave a little space between the front and the fold, so that the miter will form smoothly later. Tuck the point under the front quilt square.

Fold the corner

Tuck the point


3. Fold the 1″ of backing in half along the sides. The raw edge should match the quilt front.

Fold binding in half


4. Fold the backing once more to cover the front with “binding” and form a miter at the corner. Keep this sample in the book (page 27).

Fold again to form a mitered corner


Teaching quilting has been a dream-come-true for me—and it all started with Happy Endings! I love writing books so that quilters can learn from my step-by-step instructions, but there’s nothing as wonderful as teaching a class in person. It’s exciting to interact with students and their fabrics, to have fun and enjoy the experiences that quilting brings. I am always thrilled when a quilter tells me she used Happy Endings to finish one of her quilts!

Mimi, thanks for sharing your make-and-takes for binding—what a great way to remember how all the folding goes!

Happy EndingsWhat’s your favorite way to give your quilts “happy endings”? Share your ideas in the comments and you could win a copy of the Happy Endings eBook! We’ll choose a random winner one week from today and let you know by email if you win.

Can’t wait? Download the Happy Endings eBook for free right away when you purchase the printed book at our website.

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Thanks to all who entered the drawing! The randomly chosen winner is Stella, who writes:

“The end of making a quilt is like the end of a movie for me. I want it to be memorable. After all, a lot of work has been put into getting to this point. I’ve added a satin ruffle. I’ve added lace with lavender ribbon weaved through and tied into bows in the corners – adorable. I’ve added prairie points. I would just love to have a book that would introduce me to new ideas. I haven’t made many quilts, but just wrapping the edges in a standard binding seems just okay to me. Kind of like framing a Picasso in a dollar store frame. A finished quilt is a masterpiece – frame it like one. :)”

Stella, we’ll email you about your prize. Congratulations!



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