Finishing Spree! Quick Bindings That Mimic the Look of Hand-Sewn

I like to have lots of different projects going at different stages at the same time, so I always have something interesting to work on. But sometimes there’s a bottleneck, and I have a bunch of projects that are all at the same step. That’s what has been happening to me lately – a pile-up of quilts just waiting to be bound.

Butterfly Bouquet quilt (pattern by Simone Quilts), made by Beth Ann Williams and quilted by Terri Watson of ThreadTales Quiltworks

For years and years, I bound all of my quilts with a double-fold binding machine-sewn first to the front of the quilt, and then wrapped around and hand-sewn to the back of the quilt. I love the beautiful, clean finish this method provides, but it does take time! Over the past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives. (I know I could always just straight-stitch the binding; but I find it can be tricky to keep absolutely perfectly lined up with the edge of the binding, and I’m not especially crazy about how it looks.)

One of my favorite alternatives has been a Flange Binding (or faux piped binding) – I even wrote a tutorial here on the blog.

Church Window quilt made and quilted by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), finished with a flange binding.

But not every quilt needs a piped binding (faux or otherwise), and my collection of quilts waiting for bindings was piling up. So I returned to another technique I’ve experimented with before – sewing the double-fold binding first to the BACK of the quilt, and then wrapping the binding around the the front, and stitching it down with my favorite “invisible” machine applique technique.

Here’s what it looks like:

I cut my binding strips 2 1/2″ wide and joined them with diagonal seams.

UPDATE 9/17/21 – I have recently switched to using a strip width of 2 1/4 and find that I generally prefer the slightly narrower look πŸ™‚

I trimmed the beginning end of the binding strip on an angle, and folded over and pressed the edge to give it a clean finish.
I began by sewing the binding to the back of the quilt. Since I planned to use the tuck-in method for finishing my binding, I anchored the beginning of my binding by opening up the folded strip and sewing the first 6″ or so through the bottom layer only, using a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Sewing through the bottom layer only at the beginning of the binding strip will make it easier to tuck in the other end of the binding later.
Then I refolded the binding and resumed sewing it to the back of the quilt with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
I stopped stitching 1/4″ away from the corner, and then stitched through the corner right off the edge of the quilt.
I folded my strip first up and away from the quilt,
and then folded it back down again, making sure the fold was even with the edge of the quilt.
I resumed stitching at the outer edge of the quilt and continued around all 4 sides, mitering all of the corners in the same way.
As I approached the beginning of the binding, I stopped with the needle down in the fabric. I gauged how much of an overlap I wanted between the beginning and end of the binding, and temporarily opened up the fold so I could cut the end of the binding at an angle to reduce bulk in the overlapped area. (There’s no need to press up a hem on this end – it will be completely enclosed in the binding.)
I refolded the binding and inserted the newly cut end between the fold at the beginning of the binding. (Having the lower side of the beginning end of the binding already stitched down helps keep it from slipping out of place during this part of the process.)
The overlapped area – ready to be stitched down.
I resumed stitching and continued until I passed the beginning of the stitching on top of the fold near the beginning of the binding.
I like to “prime” the binding for wrapping it around to the front of the quilt by first pressing it away from the back of the quilt with a hot iron.
What the back of the quilt looks like with the binding pressed away from the quilt, ready to wrap around to the front. (Just one corner of the quilt is shown in the photo.)
I set my machine for a small zigzag – just large enough for me to see clearly enough to aim for one side of the zigzag to fall on the surface of the quilt right next to the binding, and the other side of the zigzag catching the edge of the binding. (The numbers on your machine may or may not match mine – different brands/models may have different systems for setting stitch length and width.)

UPDATE 9/17/21 – I have recently switched to using a stitch width of 2.0 and am finding it much easier on my eyes πŸ™‚

In the past, I’ve used MonoPoly as my top thread with Bottom Line in the bottom – but this time, I opted for Bottom Line in both the top and bobbin. (InvisaFil would have been another great option, but I didn’t have the right color on hand.)
Stitching in progress. One side of the zigzag falls just off the binding into the quilt, and the other side of the zigzag will catch the binding.
What the finished binding looks like. The needle holes in the binding are visible right now, but they will virtually disappear if you run your finger nail across the stitching and/or wash the quilt.
What the finished corner of the binding looks like from the front – I don’t find it necessary to stitch down the miter; it is quite secure already. πŸ™‚
What a corner of the quilt looks like from the back – I purposely made the binding wider on the front than on the back of the quilt so that the zigzag stitching does not go through the binding on the back; instead, it runs parallel to the binding.
And the quilt is ready to enjoy!
A closer look – Butterfly Bouquet quilt (pattern by Simone Quilts), made by Beth Ann Williams, quilted by Terri Watson of Threadtales Quiltworks.
I sewed the binding on my Supergalactic quilt (pattern by the Athena Workshop), in the same way; but this time I used MonoPoly as my top thread with Bottom Line the bobbin, since I didn’t have a spool that was a good color match. (This quilt was also quilted by Terri.)
A close up of the finished binding (before washing).
And the finished quilt in use!
Scrappy Posie quilt made and quilted by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Bonjour Quilts), Java Batik fabrics from Cotton Cuts.

Once again, I used MonoPoly as my top thread with Bottom Line the bobbin when I stitched down the binding on my Scrappy Posie quilt.
Back in the shade – Celtic Crossing quilt made and quilted by Beth Ann Williams (pattern by Lo & Behold Stitchery), Java Batik fabrics from Cotton Cuts.

I used the same fabric for both the background and the binding for a “disappearing” binding on my Celtic Crossing Quilt. I used Auriful 50 cotton thread as my top thread and also in the bobbin. The stitches melted in completely!

And that’s how I’m catching up with my pile of quilts waiting for bindings. πŸ™‚

Finishing Spree! Finish with a Facing

A quick note before we dive into facings – I have 3 more Zoom classes coming up soon:

⭐Easy & Effective Machine Quilting with a Walking Foot – Sat., April 17 & 24, 2021; 10 am – 1 pm

⭐It’s All About the Thread – Thurs., April 29, 2021; 6 – 8 pm

⭐Color Tools & Color Confidence – Thurs., May 6 & 13, 2021; 6 – 8 pm

Registration is through the Wyoming, Michigan Lakeshore Sewing store – 616-531-5561.

And now back to Facings. πŸ™‚

My sewing machine has been getting a workout! I’ve been in full-on production mode with even more projects than usual in-progress at the same time. As I’ve been working, one of the techniques I’ve been exploring is different ways to finish the outer edges of my quilts.

My Sea Breeze table runner, finished with a facing. I also tweaked this foundation pieced pattern by Sharon Holland to better fit the dimensions of my table. I machine quilted it with variable channel quilting to add subtle texture without taking away from the elegant simplicity of the design. The wonderful batik fabrics are Java Batiks from Cotton Cuts. πŸ™‚

I always finish my utility quilts (bed quilts, cuddle quilts, throws, etc.) with a sturdy French Fold Binding, as the binding is often the first area to start to show wear on a quilt that is getting lots of use.

But when it comes to art quilts, wall hangings, table runners, or other smaller items, there are other options. One of these is a facing. Facings are a great alternative when you don’t want to cut off or confine the design with a binding. There are lots of different ways to approach facings for a quilt; but after quite a bit of experimentation, I have found what works best for me. And even better – there’s a link to free printable instructions near the end of this post!

Corner of a quilt finished with a facing (the quilt on top) versus finished with double-fold or French Fold binding (the quilt on the bottom).

All of the methods I tried were similar in that they involved sewing strips to the front of the quilt and then pulling the fabric around to the back of the quilt to create a finished edge. All of the methods also called for hand-sewing the fabric strips to the back of the quilt. The main differences were in how the fabric strips were prepared and how the corners of the quilt were handled.

The first method I tried involved sewing folded triangles to the corners, which, when you flip them to the back of the quilt, create “pockets” in which you can insert a hanging rod. You can read more about this method in this tutorial by Robbie Joy Eklow on the We All Sew site.

My Hold-Tight quilt (pattern by Sharon Holland) finished with a facing. I had fun machine quilting this quilt with my walking foot and several different sizes of serpentine stitch in a variety of variegated colors.

I ran into a problem, though. I think this method would have worked really well for a much smaller art quilt, but my quilted wall hangings were too large to be well supported by just the two pockets at the corners. I needed to add an additional hanging sleeve. I also wasn’t crazy about how much extra bulk the folded triangles added at the corners of the quilt, or about how they tended to stretch out and slightly distort the upper corners of my Snowflake quilt so that the edges aren’t hanging perfectly straight in the photo below.

My Snowflake quilt finished with a facing. I resized this fantastic pattern by Modern Handcraft to make a wall hanging instead of a large throw or bed quilt. I free-motion quilted this quilt with variegated thread – which is easier to see in the next couple of photos.
What the folded triangle corner and folded top and side strips look like before sewing them to the front of the quilt.
One corner of the quilt flipped over to show the back of the quilt after the facing has been pulled to the back and hand-sewn in place. Note how the folded triangle of fabric has created a pocket.

So I don’t know that I’ll do the folded triangle corners again. I also prefer to further eliminate some of the bulk of the strips used at the top, bottom, and sides by using this method (free printable instructions) from Susan Brubaker Knapp. Please note that Susan gives express permission for this free handout to be distributed. Check out her site for more great eye candy, info, & free tutorials – including one for Mitered Facings.

This time, I used Susan Brubaker Knapp’s recommended method for added a non-mitered facing – and was very happy with it!
Back side of my Sea Breeze table runner showing a finished corner.

Whichever method you choose, I strongly recommend Wonder Clips instead of pins to hold everything in place – you’ll be working through a lot of layers!

This is the exact link I’ve used to purchase 4 sets of these AWESOME clips.

Happy Finishing!

Wicked Weaver & My New Favorite Product

The October Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts and the Midnight Bite Sew Along (#MidnightBiteSAL) from Lillyella Stitchery offered me a fun opportunity to go outside my comfort zone this month.

Ronan posing with the contents of the October Java Batiks Box from Cotton Cuts.

The Midnight Bite pattern bundle has 3 sizes of each of two different patterns – a bat and a spider. I opted to make the Wicked Weaver, which is also available as an individual pattern. Admittedly, spiders aren’t usually my thing, but I thought it would be a interesting challenge.

Wicked Weaver (pattern from Lillyella Stitchery) in progress.

When I made my fantasy butterfly this summer (from the Take Wing pattern also by Lillyella Stitchery), the only part of the process that I definitely did not enjoy was removing the paper foundations after the stitching was complete. What a pain! Trying to get all the little bits of paper out from underneath the small stitches – without putting too much strain on the stitches – is not my cup of tea. Which was frustrating, because after years of avoiding foundation piecing, I felt like I’d finally hit my groove and figured out a method for foundation piecing that I find straightforward and satisfying.

Which brings me to my discovery – June Tailor Perfect Piecing Foundation Sheets. As far as I’m concerned, this product is the best thing for foundation paper piecing since sliced bread!

Just like other foundation papers I have used in the past, these sheets ran though my printer with no problems. But that’s where the similarities ended.

First of all these sheets are translucent, which makes it so much easier to line up the seam allowances perfectly on the underside of the paper while sewing on top of the paper.

It was easy to see through the paper and keep my pieces lined up properly.

(Side note – I don’t precut exact shapes when I foundation piece, but I do measure the average width of the shapes – plus seam allowances – and cut strips of fabric accordingly. This minimizes waste, but still saves lots of time over precutting exact shapes.)

Secondly, it was also easy for me to fold the paper back before sewing each seam and see through to the fabric, making sure that the fabric would completely cover the appropriate shape after the seam was sewn.

Before sewing, I folded the paper back on itself (the stitching line being the fold line) to make sure that the fabric would completely cover the shape it needed to cover.
After sewing and pressing – but before trimming.
After trimming – view from the back.
After trimming – view from the front.

I once again used 60 wt. Bottom Line thread in both the top and bobbin of my machine, but didn’t need to shorten my stitch length – which made it much easier to “sew in reverse” when I wasn’t paying close enough attention and sewed a piece out of order.

And best of all, the “paper” is actually a non-woven stabilizer than can be either torn away cleanly or (HURRAH!!!) left in the quilt.

Backside of my spider, showing the foundations. I pressed the seams between each section open to reduce bulk.
Completed Wicked Weaver – pattern by Lillyella Stitchery, made by Beth Ann Williams.

The pattern was just for the spider itself. I improvised a quilt-as-you-go setting and added some decorative stitching to up the “ick” factor and make my spider “hairy”. I finished it off with a flanged binding.

Wicked Weaver spider (pattern by Lillyella Stitchery) with setting pieces designed by Beth Ann Williams and flanged binding.
And here is the pic with the funky background that I posted on my Instagram.
Wicked Weaver spider (pattern by Lillyella Stitchery) with setting pieces designed by Beth Ann Williams and flanged binding.

Happy Halloween!

Finishing Spree! Fireworks, Curvy Quilting & “Disappearing” Binding

A quick note: my new fall online teaching schedule is up! In addition to repeating a couple of my most-requested classes, I’ve got some brand-new classes to share with you all.

I haven’t been posting much this summer, but I’ve certainly been sewing up a storm! I’m finding it good therapy. πŸ™‚

Due to the pandemic, we weren’t able to enjoy our usual fireworks display downtown this year, but I was inspired by the July Java batiks box from Cotton Cuts to create some fireworks of my own (metaphorically speaking, of course). πŸ˜‰

Goodies from the July Java Batiks box from Cotton Cuts.

I started by cutting out shapes with my Tri-Recs rulers, and created little four-patches for the corner of each block. (This was a design-as-I-go project – I didn’t have a pattern.)

I used the Tri-Recs rulers to cut out the star block, AKA my fireworks burst.

I turned my blocks on point, and added more four-patches to the setting triangles.

Building my design – I decided to extend the expanding “fireworks” by added four-patches to the areas where the setting triangles would be.

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Cotton Cuts and the Value of Value

“Color gets all the credit, but value does all the work.”

I don’t know who first came up with that quote; but I’ve seen many, many versions of it – because it’s so true!

Most quilt books have a section on how to choose colors for a quilt. Color theory can be very helpful, but what often gets lost in the discussion is the importance of value – how light or dark a given color (or piece of fabric) may be, and how differences in value and value placement can be used as a primary design element.

Today I’d like to briefly share some of my recent exploration in using value to define individual shapes within an overall pattern, establish focal areas, and create depth and lumiosity.

But first I’d like to back up for a second and talk about a different kind of value…

Cotton Cuts is one of those special companies that you not only feel good about supporting because of the quality of their products, but you can also feel good about supporting their mission.They offer a variety of monthly subscription options for top-quality quilting-weight fabric and Aurifil thread. They also have a 10-month mystery quilt; an online shop with additional thread, fabric, and patterns; and host the #CCColorChallenge on Instragram.

From the Cotton Cuts website:
“Cotton Cuts is on a mission to create jobs. We have partnered with a local workshop that provides dignified employment opportunities to the intellectually challenged and to those with other disabilities. Every Cotton Cuts membership that you purchase contributes toward enriching the lives of these very talented individuals.”

“Build your stash while feeling good about it!”

As a newly minted Cotton Cuts Brand Ambassador, I received my first box of goodies back in March.  What fun! Each box I’ve received so far has had different color theme.

Here’s my March Java Batiks unboxing video:

And here’s a video I posted of my April Java Batiks box:

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