Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quilt Binding, Edging and other finishes

When I work on a quilt one of the things I sometimes think of right at the start is how I'm going to want to finish it's edges.

I'm not a big 'functional sewing' fan - I'm the opposite of most people I know in that the artistic side seems to come easily, but give me a hem to take up and there's often serious unpicking. I am getting better, i've probably even managed a couple of shift type dresses without too many nasty swear words, but it's something I need to concentrate on to do - and even then cross my fingers and hope.

The same goes for traditional patchworking, which I'll admit to not having tried much of - matching points and inset seams (which still irk me so badly I don't design with them) just seem to be more luck then skill if they do work.

For this reason - and because I don't hand sew much at all (unless I want blood stains on my quilt :) !) while I am always after the edge treatment that suits my quilt the best, I'm also after the absolute easiest way to do it.


For traditional bindings I always go back to this 3 part Sharon Schamber tutorial on You Tube. She uses a wash out craft glue (No pins! My third sewing nemesis after hand sewing and unpicking!!) to position and fit the binding - and check for mistakes before you sew. This method takes a little time (but less then hand sewing or unpicking!) but gives a wonderful tight, neat binding, even for functional sewing misfits like myself. :) Best of all the glue washes out completely!

For Sharon's wash out glued binding tutorial click here!

For the glue there is a wash out one available at Spotlight if you don't want to try and find the Elmers.


For Facings I always go and revisit this tutorial page on Brenda Gael Smith's blog. I love how it links to a whole number of different facing finishes, showing how to do each one. There is also a pic showing 4 different ways to clip a corner and how each finishes up, that means I get to pick the one that suits my quilt the best without having to trial for myself :)

There are so many other ways to finish the edges of a quilt though. 

 Selvedges / Transparent fabrics: 

This small quilt below (click on it for a bigger pic) submitted for a Self Portrait challenge had the selvedge edges (complete with fringing) cut from organza with a soldering iron (so there was no fraying). I just used a metal ruler on my glass hot plates to position the fabric, held with a ruler and then drew a line down the edge with the soldering iron to cut and seal it in one go. 

I then folded one of these over the top, another on each side and one on the bottom. To help manage translucent fabrics you can fuse them down with misty fuse (a see through fusible web) or do what I did hear and use wash out glue. A quick dunk in a water when finished washes it straight out and there's no slipping to worry about when you sew.

You could use conventional cotton selvedges cut with scissors or rotary cutter- with the branding etc printed on them and just hem the side that will go on the back and fold the selvedge to the front.

You could also use felt, vinyl or other non fray fabric.

 Melting the edge: 

For synthetic fabrics only - the quilt below was made with acrylic felt and lots of speciality synthetic fabrics (organza / satin / tulle etc). For it's edge I used the soldering iron to very slowly trace around the edge sinking it into the quilt a little more here and there to give an uneven edge. I had to wipe the soldering iron off frequently on a metal wool ball (which i purchased in a stand together with the soldering iron itself).

I used this same technique on the leaf quilt below. This one is backed on vinyl and I left some of the organza and tyvek leaves (also cut with a soldering iron) to over hang the edge.

You can use this technique for silk, you just have to work much slower and I'm not sure how it would work on battings etc. For silk it burns a fine edge as opposed to melting it.


You can use conventional close up zig zag stitch but if your machine does decorative stitches try out some of those and adjust the spacing closer together. The quilt edge below was done using the one sided grass stitch on my Pfaff. I upped the length to it's longest setting the made the width the smallest. (9mm and .2 respectively). Remember you can really change the look of a stitch by playing with it's length and width settings.

The red quilt is with grass stitch and the second has a metallic satin stitch.


 Couch a decorative edge: 

For this just do a basic zig zag (or small satin stitch if you like) all around the edge in a colour to match or contrast with your trim, then use your couching foot to apply a ribbon, brocade, yarn or even cut fabric strips to the quilt edge. I don't have a quilt to show you this one from myself though I know i've done it in the past - but the best example i've seen lately is in this really amazing quilt Judy Coates Perez created and uploaded to her blog. Her work is just wonderful.

 Remember your decorative presser feet: 

Along with couching over the top of zig zag you may want to try out any decorative feet you have for your machine. For the pfaff I have a fringing foot, a cording foot (which allows me to thread up to 9 decroative threads through holes and then to a fancy stitch over the top of them) and may others.

Here's a short video that shows the 9 hole cording foot from Pfaff. I think it looks great with a metalic thread in a decorative stitch on top.


 Freemotion the edge: 

Treat your edge like an extension of your quilt. For this small thread painted and fused collage piece I did a freemotion zig zag (but it could have been a straight or decorative stitch) over the edges and drew back into the quilt. I matched the thread to what I was working on - so oranges for the sky etc.

Basically as long as the edges are sealed you're good to go! If fraying is something you want - and you don't mind your batting showing (i think this would be a good look if you dyed your cotton batting to a colour that matches or contrasts your quilt) just do a line or two of straight stitch or freemotion around the edge. The purpose of a binding to to secure the quilt layers and stop them coming apart - so as long as you're pleased with the finished look and it's structurally sound it really doesn't matter what type of edging you use.



  1. I love yr work and am loving the quilted girl...stunning.

  2. A really great collection of ideas. Thanks.