You have pieced the quilt and it’s been quilted, whether by hand or machine, so now what’s next? It’s time to think of the finishes. Binding, labeling, and a hanging sleeve. These are some things that tend to be afterthoughts when making your quilt, but you should include these in planning the project. These are all important parts of the quilt even if that’s not what someone pays attention to when they see it. I’ll cover these things in this week’s post and give you tips on adding them to your quilt. Let’s go!
I confess… I’m guilty of skipping this step at times, especially if I am keeping the quilt for myself. But here’s why I think you should always label your quilts. So many quilts I look at in books say “quilt maker unknown”. I wonder who made the quilt? Who was it for? What was the occasion? You do not want that to happen to the quilts you make. They are part of your family history.
I inherited a few family quilts that did not have any labels on them. Luckily, I was able to get some information from a family member, who has since passed, and made labels for them. Now anyone in the family who inherits the quilt from me will know who made these quilts and the approximate date they were made. That’s great information to have.
In the years since I acquired those quilts, I have begun to label my quilts more. The labels can be as simple as your name and the date the quilt was made or it can be a detailed description.
Here’s one of my simple labels:
I used a pen made for fabric to write the quilt information directly on the backing. This is the easiest method. Be sure not to press hard with the pen so the ink bleeds to the front. And be sure you are using a pen that is safe for fabric.
I’ve also made labels that are more involved, like this label for my daughter’s high school graduation quilt using printable fabric:
I included her name, year she graduated and the activities she was involved in. If you don’t want to do that, you can perhaps include words to a poem or write your own tribute to the receiver of the quilt. You can find these fabric labels, that run through your home printer, sold at most quilt shops.
You can also just attach a fabric piece to the back of the quilt and then write on it with the fabric pen instead of using your printer. Here’s a tip to make those labels even more securely attached: sew it into the binding on two of the sides! Here is one I did:
Above left photo shows how the label, pinned in place on the lower corner of the quilt, is secured on the back as you machine stitch the binding on the front. The next photo shows the two sides secured by the binding so now all you have to do is hand stitch the other two sides and you’re done! You can do this with any piece of scrap fabric and make it into a label.
Adding a hanging sleeve (sometimes called a rod pocket) to the back of a wall hanging or larger quilt is the best way to easily display it. The sleeve also serves to hang the quilt smoothly and helps to avoid stressing any one side of the quilt. Once the sleeve is there, you can use about any item to hang your quilt like curtain rods, wire quilt hangers, and even yardsticks! Here’s some I have hanging:
The hanging sleeve can be partially attached like the label, by sewing one side of it while you attach the binding to the from of the quilt.
All you need to start is to cut a 2 1/2″ strip of fabric about 1 or 2″ shorter than the width of your quilt and hem it 1/4″ on each end.
Lay the prepared strip, right side up, on the back of the quilt aligning it with the top edge and pin in place (photo on left). Then proceed to pin and stitch the binding to the front. The top of the sleeve will be stitched to the back at the same time (center photo). Finally, turn under the bottom raw edge, pin and hand stitch (photo on right). Easy, right?
The final finish! By the time quilters get to the binding they usually are just ready to be done and may not put too much thought into it. Actually I confess I sometimes feel that way too. I just want to be finished and get the quilt gifted or start using it. But, here’s a few things to consider: the color, the type, and how much fabric you need.
Color: when considering the color of the binding, consider whether you want it to stand out or to fade into the background. The binding can act as a frame for your quilt if you want it to. Here’s an example of that:
Now for this next quilt, I kept the binding color the same as the quilt top background so your eye is drawn to the appliqué instead.
Type: Now you need to consider the type of binding for your quilt: single-fold or double-fold. Single-fold binding is made up of strips, usually 1 1/2″ wide, and attached to the quilt top in a single layer. Double-fold binding is made up of strips at least 2 1/4″ wide and is pressed in half before it is attached to the quilt top (see photo below). I will use single-fold binding on things like table runners and wall hangings. I use double-fold binding on larger quilts because it tends to be sturdier for a quilt that will be handled more.
Fabric Needs: How do you figure out how much binding you need for a quilt top? Here’s some handy steps:
- Figure the perimeter of the quilt by adding up the length of all the sides. For example for a quilt that is 60 x 72″ here is the calculation: 60 + 60 + 72 + 72 = 264
- Add 2″ to that measurement to account for the length of the binding used when turning the corners (I figure in 1/2″ per corner): 264 + 2 = 266
- Then divide that measurement by the width of fabric to determine how many strips are needed. I use 40″ for my usable width: 266/40 = 6.65. I always round up, so I need 7 strips for this quilt’s binding.
- Multiply the strip amount by the size of the strips needed. If I am making double-fold binding, I use 2 1/4″ strips so: 7 x 2 1/4″ = 15 3/4″. I round up to the nearest common cut of fabric, so I will need 1/2 yard to make the binding for this quilt. If I was only doing single-fold binding, I use 1 1/2″ strips so: 7 x 1 1/2″ = 10 1/2, rounding up, I would use 1/3 yard of fabric here.
Some Final Tips for binding:
Tip #1: Cut away the excess batting and backing from the quilted quilt before attaching the binding. However when you are cutting away the excess, leave a scant 1/8″.
This helps you to achieve a “full” binding. This little bit serves to stuff the binding as you turn it to the back for stitching.
Tip #2: Start pinning on a straight edge at least 6″ from a corner. Pin one side at a time for stitching. Once you get to the corner on the first side you have pinned, measure 1/4″ up from the edge of the quilt top and pin the binding there. This is a step you need to do before you turn the corner with your binding and continue onto the next side.
Tip #3: When stitching this side, start stitching and stop at the pin that marks 1/4″ from the edge. Doing this helps when making the mitered corner as you turn the binding to continue onto the next side. If you are using double-fold binding, don’t start stitching right at the top of the binding. You want to leave a little “pocket” to slip the end of the binding in once you are done.
Tip #4: Hand stitching the binding to the back is easier with these handy clips. They’re actually the hair clips my daughter used to use when she was in high school. These types of clips are now sold in many quilt shops for this use.
Tip #5: How to get a nice mitered corner when hand stitching the binding is something that seems to elude many quilters. Here’s how I do it.
When I get to the corner, I pin the two sides of the binding as shown in the photo on the left. Then I hand stitch up to that corner catching both folded edges and stitch up the diagonal “seam” created (center photo). I will then feed my needle back down that seam in the fabric and start stitching the next side. As you can see in the last photo, it makes a perfect mitered corner on the front! With practice, your corners will start to look like this!
As a bonus, here’s my binding video tutorial covering how to make double-fold binding and the steps to attach it to the quilt top.
I hope this was a helpful refresher for you experience quilters and a great learning experience for the beginners among us. Share your comments and questions below. I will choose a winner among the commenters to receive a copy of my newest pattern: Star Dash.
The drawing will be on Monday, March 13th. **We have a winner! Congrats, Julie!**
Carol Porter says
Excellent tips, thanks so much! Even after a hundred plus quilts everyone can use a refresher!
Donna S says
When making a separate fabric label, I also like to use a soft fusible web on the back of the fabric to adhere it to the quilt besides stitching it in the corner seams. I write on the label before taking off the paper covering. It helps make the fabric firmer & easier to write on. Or if you don’t want to use a fusible, iron temporary food freezer paper, that can be removed after you write on the label.
Good idea. It also makes the label more secure because it’s harder to remove.
Sally Garon says
You did it again. The so much fir beibg so generous with your quilt knowledge.
Judy in MO says
Such a good review of finishing techniques! I tend to forget labels, so this was a good reminder. Thanks!
What pattern is the scrappy quilt with the applique in the borders, dark binding? I’ve seen this before and I think I NEED to make this! 🙂
Hi! That is my pattern, Hugs & Kisses:
The only thing I would add is that you put name of maker on label and also the year. Many of us may remember who made it but not when.
Yes, definitely important info to add to the label!
Karla Larkin says
Love the tips for better finishing. I have those hair clips but never thought to use them for holding binding! I bought clips!!
Peggy Salz says
I am new to all this quilting and appreciate all of your step-by-step instruction. Most of them I have printed off so I can refer to them several times.
I wish you would next describe a “single fold” binding, please.
I’ll keep watching for your tips. thanks.
I will put that on my list for future topics.
Mary Smith says
Helpful photos to go with your tips. Makes everything easy to understand
Mary Barnett says
Wow! What wonderful detailed instructions you have provided! Thank you so much! You have really spent a lot of time making everything clear and including pictures & video. What a great teacher you are!
Valerie MacDonald says
As a beginner quilter these tips are a great help, thank you so much.
Regina Bohannon says
Great tips! Thanks! I will always label my quilts after finding out my favorite quilt is a mystery quilt. I thought it came from my Mom’s side of the family. Nope! My husband’s side…nope! It seems we’ve always had it but after 40+ years of marriage neither of us can remember.
Oh no! Maybe someday it will no longer be a “mystery” quilt!
karen smith says
I appreciate the information. I have been a quilter for many years and I admit, not all quilts are marked with a label. Thanks for the reminder. Also binding video is very informative.
ANN ROBERSON says
Great info as usual. I’ve seen people who stitch off to the corner from the 1/4″ measurement. So I tried that but do not get neat corners when I do that so I went back to just stopping at the 1/4″ and find that my corners are better 90 degrees.
Lois Oberg says
I have been quilting for years, but still like to read “tips” cuz you’re never to old to learn something new, or a better way to do something. Thank you for all these helpful tips!!! I enjoy your posts.