Applying Binding With Your Longarm or Midarm Machine

These snippets were first published in Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine's ask-the-expert column 'Ask Kimmy'. Copyrights held by Kim Brunner and Meander Publishing. All rights reserved.
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In A Bind from the November 2011 issue of Machine Quilting Unlimited magazine


Dear Kimmy- I’ve been told that it’s possible to apply binding to the quilt while it’s still mounted on my quilting machine. Is such a thing possible and, if so, how do I do it?


Kimmy says- It’s not only possible to apply binding on your stand-up quilting machine, it’s fast, easy, efficient, and I do it all the time! Before I proceed with the instructions, however, let me issue a small disclaimer; this is not a technique that you will want to use on a quilt that needs to hang perfectly flat and square, such as a wall hanging or show quilt. For best results, those quilts should be bound using traditional methods of binding application. When it comes to ‘every day’ quilts, though, this technique is the slickest thing since peanut butter in a jar and once you’ve tried it you’ll be hooked.


Begin by loading your quilt so that it’s as straight and square as possible. Keep in mind that you will need to use a straight ruler as a guide while stitching your binding, so it would be wise to allow yourself a bit of extra space between the edge of your quilt and the edge of your backing fabric. This is especially true in the areas between the top and bottom edges of your quilt and the edges of the leaders that your quilt is pinned to, as this extra room will prevent the pins from interfering with the ruler. To accomplish this, I make sure that my backing fabric is at least 6 inches bigger all around than my quilt top, which helps me to ensure that I have a couple of inches of free space all the way around on which to rest my ruler without interference. (for example, if my quilt is 72x90, my backing will be 78x96) PHOTO A


Quilt as you normally would, but do not remove the quilt from the machine when you’ve finished quilting. At this point, your quilt should be pinned to two leaders only; the take-up leader at the top and the backing leader at the bottom. Because your quilt top has now been removed from its leader and attached to the backing fabric by the quilting stitches, you are now free to roll and unroll the quilt at will. Unroll the quilt all the way back to the top, so that the top border of the quilt is in the center of your work area and within easy reach. Prepare your binding as you normally would, in the width that you prefer. The binding should be approximately 12 inches longer than the perimeter of the quilt. My favorite trick when prepping the binding is to use a bit of spray starch when pressing. By applying a small amount of starch to the wrong side of the fabric before pressing it in half I find that, in addition to adding a wonderful crispness to my finished binding, the starch acts like glue and holds the two sides of my binding firmly together and prevents the sides from shifting or separating during the application process.


Fold the length of your binding in half and mark the center with a pin. Bring the binding to your quilting machine and line up the center of the binding with the center of the quilt’s top border, matching the raw edges of binding and quilt. Smooth the binding into place all the way across the top of the quilt. Beginning in the upper left corner of the quilt, start stitching the binding to the top at a point ¼ inch in from the left side and ¼ inch down from the top. PHOTO B


Make a few locking stitches and continue to stitch a line ¼ inch from the raw edges, using a straight ruler to guide your stitches in a nice even line. (this is where that extra backing fabric comes in handy, as it gives you a convenient place to rest the bulk of your ruler and your hand as you stitch) PHOTO C


Rather than trying to slide your ruler along as you stitch, it is much wiser to stitch for 6-8 inches, stop with your needle down, shift the ruler to its new spot, smooth the binding back into place if it has shifted (being careful to avoid stretching the binding as you do so) and then resume stitching. Just as when you apply your binding using traditional methods, it is critical that your binding not be stretched tighter than the quilt to which it is being applied. A too-tight binding will draw up the quilt edge and cause it to distort. A too-loose binding will be drawn up and distorted by the quilt’s edge. Make sure your binding and quilt top are evenly tensioned at all times.


When you come to the upper right hand corner, stop stitching at a point ¼ inch down from the top and ¼ inch in from the right side, making a few locking stitches to secure the stitching line. Return to the upper left hand corner of the quilt, fold the binding up and away from the top edge of the quilt at a 90 degree angle and give the resulting fold line a sharp press with your finger. PHOTO D


Fold the binding back down on top of itself, aligning the resulting fold line with the top edge of the quilt, forming a mitered corner. Align the raw edges of the binding with the raw edge of the quilt and gently smooth the binding into place down the side of the quilt. Position your needle just off the folded top edge of the binding and ¼ inch in from the left hand side of the quilt, lining up your ruler evenly along the side of your quilt so that you can continue to use it as a stitching guide. Photo E


After making several locking stitches, stitch down the side of the quilt, stopping every 6-8 inches to realign the ruler and smooth the binding into place, until you run out of work space. Lock your stitches and break your thread.


Move back to the upper right hand corner of the quilt. Once again you will fold the binding away from the quilt at a 90 degree angle, and then fold it back on itself to form a mitered corner, just like you did on the upper left hand corner. Align the raw edges, smooth the binding into place, line up your ruler and stitch the binding into place with a ¼ inch seam allowance, stopping every 6-8 inches to make necessary adjustments. Stitch until you run out of work space but this time, instead of locking your stitches and breaking your thread, stop with your needle down, *very carefully* advance the quilt with the needle still in place until the needle is approximately 5-6 inches from the take-up roller and a new section of quilt has been exposed. Smooth the binding into place along the newly exposed right hand side of the quilt, aligning the edges and lining up your ruler, and resume stitching. Stitch until you have run out of work space, lock your stitches and break your thread.


Move back to the leftt side of the quilt, smooth the binding into place along the newly exposed area of the quilt, and align your needle with the previously stitched line so that you can resume stitching exactly where you left off. When you come to the end of the work space, stop with your needle down, *very carefully* advance the quilt until the needle is approximately 5-6 inches from the take-up roller, smooth out the binding, and resume stitching. In this manner you will leapfrog from the left side to the right side and back to the left side, alternately ending your stitching line/breaking your thread and stopping with your needle down/advancing the quilt.


When you come to the bottom of the quilt, stop your stitching line ¼ inch from the bottom edge and make a few locking stitches to secure the seam. Fold the binding away and then back on itself to form a mitered corner, just like you did on the top of the quilt. Do this to both bottom corners. Starting at the left corner, position your needle so that it is just off the left edge of the quilt and ¼ in from the bottom edge. Stitch the binding into place, again using the ruler to help you achieve a straight ¼ inch seam allowance. Apply the binding to approximately half of the bottom of the quilt, leaving the end of the binding unsecured and folded out of the way. Move to the bottom right corner of the quilt and repeat this procedure, stopping your stitching line approximately 6 inches away from the binding you previously applied, leaving the ends of the binding free to be finished later. PHOTO F


Remove the quilt from the machine and finish the binding on your domestic sewing machine, attaching the binding ends using your favorite method. Trim away the excess backing and batting. The binding is now ready to be turned to the back side and stitched down either by hand or machine, according to your preference.


This fast and efficient method is sure to become a favorite in your studio and, if you quilt for customers, can be an excellent source of additional income. Give it a try and see what you think!