How to Attach a Binding

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This tutorial on how to attach a binding is one of five tutorials that are part of a larger sewing project, How to Sew a Tic-Tac-Toe Board.

The following five tutorials make up most of the steps involved in sewing a Tic-Tac-Toe board:

What is Binding?

Binding is a piece of fabric that encloses the raw edges of a quilt. It’s attached to both the front and the back.

Important Notes

I’m using a Tic-Tac-Toe board, a small quilt-like project, to teach my favorite binding technique.

The technique in this tutorial can be used on almost any size project.

The critical factor is to have enough binding to go around the perimeter of your project plus an extra 12-20 inches.

That being said, this tutorial does not explain how to measure for or make a binding.

Measurements for binding vary for different projects but the process to make it is the same.

There are simple directions for making a binding in Step 8 of the Tic-Tac-Toe board tutorial and more comprehensive directions in A Beginner’s Guide to Double Fold Binding.

When I attach binding, I prefer to sew the binding on the front by machine (this tutorial) and hand sew the binding to the back using the blind stitch (another tutorial).

To keep the edges from shifting on the layers you’re binding, you can use a basting stitch close to the raw edges of the layers.

The Presser Foot

For a quilt, a 1/4-inch presser foot should be used.

Because the project used during this tutorial is not a quilt, you’ll see a regular presser foot in the pictures.

How to Attach the Binding

  1. The right side of the quilt should be facing up. Align the raw edge of the binding to the raw edge of the quilt. You’ll start sewing in the center of one side. But don’t sew the first 8 to 12 inches of the binding.

On the Tic-Tac-Toe board, place one pin in the middle of one of the center squares and a second pin about 3 inches from the corner to hold the binding in place to get started.

You won’t pin the rest of the binding. Instead, you will line up the raw edges as you sew.

Attach binding

2. Using the edge of the presser foot as your guide, start sewing in the middle of the center square near to where you placed the first pin. Pay attention and make sure the raw edges stay lined up as you sew toward the first corner. Stop sewing about a 1/4-inch from the corner edge.

Begin to sew binding on

3. Lift the presser foot, pivot the fabric so the needle is aimed toward the corner, lower the presser foot, and sew to the corner.

Sew to the corner

4. Remove the fabric from the sewing machine.

Stitches at the corner are at an angle

5. Fold the binding up, using the diagonally stitched line for the fold line.

Fold the binding up at the corner

6. Fold the binding back down so the binding fold lines up with the edge of the fabric and the raw edge of the binding lines up with the perpendicular raw edge of the game board. Insert one pin to hold it in place.

Fold binding down and secure

7. Start sewing at the edge of the fabric to attach the binding on the next side

Sew binding on next edge

Repeat steps 3-7 until you’ve sewn all four corners. Remember to stop 1/4-inch from each corner so you can pivot the needle and sew into the corner.

Stop sewing the binding on the last edge about 2 inches past the last corner. There will be a gap between where you started and stopped sewing.

Note: On larger projects than this Tic-Tac-Toe board, leave about a 12-inch gap between where you start and stop sewing the binding.

Starting and stopping points for the binding.
Excess binding

You should have several inches of binding left on both sides.

Depending on how much binding is left, I sometimes trim each side so they’re each approximately the length of the remaining space and easier to work with when connecting the ends of the binding as described below.

Cut excess binding to fit space
After trimming, each side of the excess binding is the length of the remaining space.

Connecting the Ends of the Binding

Caution: Double check your measurements on directions 1 and 2 before cutting so you know they’re correct. Otherwise, the binding won’t lay down flat.

IMPORTANT: The amount you measure in step 1 needs to be equal to the width you cut your binding.

  • The binding in this tutorial has a width of 2.5 inches, so 2.5 inches is measured and marked.
  • For a binding that has a width of 2 1/4 inches, 2 1/4 inches would be measured and marked.
  1. Measure and mark 2.5 inches from one end of the binding.
Measure one binding end

2. Lay the other side of the binding on top and trim it at the 2.5 inch mark.

Lay binding down and cut

3. Open up both sides of the binding, overlap them slightly with right sides together, and lay them together at a right angle. (See photo in step 4.)

Tip: The area you are working with is pretty small but it is possible to get the binding to lay flat. If the binding doesn’t lay flat, you may need to remove some of the stitches on the left-hand side with a seam ripper.

4. Pin the binding (right sides should be together) and draw a line from corner to corner.

Right sides together, pin, and mark
The left side of the binding will be right side up. The right side of the binding will be wrong side up.

5. Sew on the line. Take your time as you sew to make sure the fabric is laying flat.

Sew on the line

6. Remove the pins and fold the binding to make sure it will lay flat in the remaining space.

Check binding fit
If the binding doesn’t lay in the space or somehow got twisted, remove the stitches and try again.

7. Once you are sure the binding is sewn correctly and lays flat, trim off the excess fabric so there is about a 1/4-inch seam allowance.

Cut excess fabric

8. Press the seam open, lay the binding flat, and sew it down. Make sure the raw edges are aligned. Overlap a few stitches at the beginning and end of this last seam to secure it.

Binding is all attached

To see how to attach the binding from start to finish in action, you can watch Jenny from the Missouri Star Quilt Company execute my favorite way to bind. (She starts around minutes 5:10.)

Almost Done with the Tic-Tac-Toe Board

You have successfully attached the binding to the front of the Tic-Tac-Toe board or other quilt project.

To attach the binding to the back, you’ll be hand sewing the blind stitch.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

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