Finishing Up



This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here. The link below takes you to the Cat Notquilt project.

I’m done. I’m done. I’m done. Well, almost done.

I had my strips of dark green percale ready to go to bind the edges. I did the sides first, top and bottom, using up a total of four strips of dark green percale. These strips were about six inches longer than the strips that would go on the top and bottom, to compensate for the longer length of the sides. I marked all my strips with chalk to ensure I did NOT sew a top strip onto a side.

quilt binding

I laid the NotQuilt onto the ironing board and pinned the binding strip to the back of the NotQuilt. I arranged the binding so that the fold wrapped around the edge of the comforter. I knew that I would be boxing the corners rather than mitering them – this is a utility quilt after all. Therefore, I started the binding about a fingertip away from the edge. This bit will be covered with the final binding strip when I enclose the corner.

notquilt-pinnedAfter I had pinned on all four strips – left side top and left side bottom, right side top and right side bottom – I sewed them down, starting as always with a tiny stitch and then loosening it to the longest the Babylock will let me have. After pinning and before sewing, I pulled the front side of the binding away so that it would not be caught by the needle.

How did I manage this? I pinned very carefully, checking with each pin that I was catching only the back side of the binding, all the while keeping the binding tightly wrapped around the NotQuilt’s edge. If I pinned through all the layers, I moved the pin. I had to pin with the binding pressed into place, front and back, in order to ensure that the binding went where I wanted it to go.

It doesn’t work to lay the binding down over the edge and try to get the edge lined up in the fold. Everything shifts and moves as you pin. Wrap the binding all the way around, pin very carefully, and remove and replace those pins that catch the other side. Then you can be sure you have a tight, snug fit and the seam line will go where it should go.

I do the back side first so that when I sew down the front of the binding strip, I cover up any seam lines. No matter how fastidious you are, you will not perfectly line up the front seam right over top of the back seam of binding. Maybe if you hand sew and adjust as you go, you might manage, but why do this if you have a sewing machine?

I have also found that I can’t sew down the front and back seams in one go either. No matter how carefully I place and pin, trying to sew both sides of binding down at once results in the front looking fine and the back side ends up with either the seam well away from the edge of the binding or worse, not catching the binding in place at all. Then the seam has to be redone and boy, will that show.

So instead I sew down the back of the binding and then, in a separate pass, I sew down the front of the binding. I end up with two seams on the back but this is the price I pay for not hand sewing the binding on, all around the quilt. One seam secures the binding and the second seam (from sewing down the front of the binding) overlaps this, runs concurrent, or shows on the backing fabric and not on the binding at all. Hand sewing the bindings, front and back, would mean 64 feet worth of stitching (32 feet on the front and 32 feet on the back). I would much rather have extra stitch lines than do all that hand sewing.

Once I had the four side pieces done, it was time to tackle the top and bottom edge. Overall, the binding strips were handled exactly the same except I had to make sure I covered the corners.

To do this, I folded under a 5/8 edge at the narrow end of my binding strip. When I wrapped the binding around the edge, I fitted the comforter edge right into the fold line at the narrow end. This required careful pinning.

quilt binding After the strips were pinned – top left and top right and bottom left and bottom right – I went back over and rechecked my corners and removed and replaced any pins that held the front side of the binding onto the front side of the cat NotQuilt.

Then I sewed down the binding on the back, just the same as I had sewed the sides. When I sewed the binding to the front of the NotQuilt, I lined up the free edge of the binding with the sewn down portion and sewed the front in place.

This left me with a pocket opening at each corner. The picture may not show this clearly, but I ran the top and bottom binding strips over and across the side strips. I did this because the sides are longer than the top and bottom of the NotQuilt and I wanted to encourage the idea that top and side were the same length. If I had wrapped the corner so that the sides were one continuous piece, the NotQuilt would have looked longer than it already is.

This is a tiny optical illusion but worthwhile to make things look more even. I have also, if I am very careful with my pinning, wrapped my corners so that each corner follows the other around the edges, like the interlocking of the flaps on a cardboard box.

Once all the dark green percale was sewn down, it was time to fill in the gaps with the sea foam green.

I made the binding the same way. I had my strip of percale (torn, not cut) ironed, folded over, and ironed again so that it was ready to wrap around. I laid the NotQuilt onto the ironing board and by eye, cut a sea foam green section that would cover each gap with an inch or two to spare plus extra for seam margins.

I did NOT want to measure it precisely as that practically guarantees that the fill-in strips would end up short.

I cut one strip at a time, starting at the top. I laid the cut piece of binding onto the gap to check I had plenty of overlap. Then I ironed under the raw edges and pinned the section into place as I had done before with the dark green. As before, I pinned carefully to ensure I could pull out the front flap.

I measured, cut, and pinned each of the four gap pieces separately. That way I knew the piece I was working on would be large enough.

The sewing was only a little different. I started at the narrow outside edge of the binding, went in from the edge, at the corner adjusted my stitch length back down to 2.5mm, turned the corner, went back up to the longest stitch the Babylock lets me have, went down to the corner, repeat and back out to the outer edge where I went down to the narrowest stitch length to hold the seam line in place.

With this finished, it was time to sew down the front flaps of the binding. I pulled them snugly into place, pinned, and sewed just as before.

I was very pleased with how the four gaps and their filler turned out approximately the same length. I did it all by eye, no measuring. Because I cut my strips in half and in half again (off by six inches to compensate for the difference in length between side and top), all my strips covered the same distance and I didn’t have any waste at all. That made the gap in the middle about as small as it could be.

The binding turned out quite nice. In fact, it looks like I planned it. It’s nice when that happens because no planning was involved at all.

The next-to-last step was to hand sew the pocket-like openings closed at the four corners. I used a double thread in a similar green and a blanket stitch to ensure that the “pocket” closed and stayed closed. A whip stitch would work fine too, as would a back stitch. I like the way the blanket stitch looks and so that’s why I use it.

So I am almost done. What is the last step? The cat NotQuilt has to be washed to remove all the chalk marks, stray loose threads, and cat hairs that it has accumulated. It should go through the wash with flying colors. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the sewing machine for another patch job.