Binding On A Curve



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 Balloon Notquilt project.

You’ll recall in last week’s episode I was considering how to bind off the curved edge. I had several solutions, including one I really liked.

Alas, my elegant solution of darting a piece of binding so the inner curve and outer curve match the curve of the NotQuilt will not work. I made a proof of concept strip out of a seven-inch wide strip of salvaged sheet. I folded over the fabric, pressed it closed and pressed in a hem on each of the two long edges.

So far, so good.

I opened the fabric strip and marked out where the dart points would go, staggering them so that each dart point is about four inches apart on either the front or the back side. The front and back dart points are about two inches apart, front and back so they are staggered. That is, I did not want the dart points to lay one on top of the other when sewn down. This would let me keep the bulk from all those folded bits of cloth more spread out. Alternating the dart points also means that the cloth isn’t weakened at the edge as much. It just didn’t seem to me that having the dart points meeting would strengthen the fold.

Then I looked at my concept strip. The binding does indeed curve. It actually curves evenly, both on the inner and the outer curves. I used my presser foot as my measuring device, starting the dart point a thread in from the fold and ending up with the dart the width of the presser foot. I did this all by eye, not measuring, as this was a test piece to see if my idea worked.

I chose to put my dart points four inches apart, figuring that I didn’t need that much of a curve. When I folded the binding and laid it on the NotQuilt curve, four-inch apart dart points were too close! Even at four inches apart, the resulting curved section was too curved to fit the edge.

Moreover, each dart point results in a pucker. With a more careful sewing of the darts and plenty of pressing, I could finesse this issue.

The fold over hem would be more of a problem. I would have to ease off on the dart at the fold line, making it wider again, so the hem lays flat. Conversely, I could clip the curve, but clipping up to the fold weakens the cloth and I want this NotQuilt to hold together through multiple washes.

I can see from laying the concept strip onto the NotQuilt that darting the binding can work. I can also see that if I want my binding to fit smoothly, with no puckers, wrinkles or pulling, then I have to make several test strips, adjusting the spacing of the darts and their width. The next test strip would have to be cut long enough to encompass the entire outer curve and the darts would have to be spaced five inches apart.

Would five inches apart be enough for the curve to be correct? Would I still have too much curve or would the curve now be too flat? In theory, I could work this out mathematically, but my geometry is pretty rusty. It would be easier to cut test strips, sew in darts, and, after much trial and error, end up with a workable pattern.

Then I would repeat the process for the other curve as they are not identical. They are close, but would close be close enough?

At this point in the thought process, I thought: Why am I doing this? This is a lot of work for a utility quilt. If I am going to go to this much effort to make a perfectly aligned curve, then I would be better off making facings. It would be quicker and they would be guaranteed to lay smoothly, hems and all.

So instead, I went with shingles. I cut a few three-inch wide strips of binding. This was an arbitrary measurement: two inches seemed like I would have to cut out too many and four inches didn’t seem narrow enough for the curve. I ironed them with their folded hems and ironed the leading edge over to enclose the raw edge. I only need to iron over one raw edge as the other raw edge will be enclosed by the next shingle.

Then I sewed on a shingle, doing the back side first, followed by the front side. This meant that I could be sure to cover over the backside stitching. Any excess stitch lines might show on the back of the NotQuilt, where they won’t be seen.

I sewed on a few more shingles and, well, it worked. The shingles covered the cover, the edges lined up pretty well, and it didn’t come across as lumpy and bulky.

Each shingle had to be handled separately. That is, each shingle had to be measured, cut, folded, and sewn down; first the backside and then the fashion face side. But the sewing went quicker than I would have expected. I would pin on the shingle, adjusting for fit to the curve and ensuring that I covered the previous shingle’s raw edge sufficiently, sew it down, flip over the NotQuilt (the hardest part of the operation) and sew down the front.

I sewed down one entire curved edge, leaving a gap of two inches or so. This took eight shingles. I cut eight more shingles and pressed them all into submission. After they are sewn down, I will measure my gaps.

For each gap, I will cut a shingle. For this shingle, I will have to iron down both sides so there are no raw edges.

I did make sure, when ironing and sewing my shingles, to keep the green diamonds that show up on the percale on the back side of the NotQuilt. The marbling pattern hides the overlapping seams fairly well. If a green diamond fell at a side seam, it would really show up, chopped in half as it would be. There would be no hiding the discrepancy. So I made sure that any shingles with green diamonds were arranged so that the diamond, chopped and cut, were hidden on the wrong side of the NotQuilt.

Once the gaps are covered, the Balloons NotQuilt will be finished, other than washing to remove cat hair, dust, and chalk-lines.

An Alternative Solution

There was another choice available to me on how to finish the curved edge. I didn’t think of this option until I was writing up what I did. Recall that I wanted the curved edge because I liked the shape and, more importantly, the curved edge kept the NotQuilt from hanging onto the floor where it would be stepped on.

However, there is an alternative to a curve; a solution that keeps all the fabric of the corner from hanging down onto the floor.

You cut the corner off, leaving a straight side. I did this on the Starry Night NotQuilt. I could have saved myself all this aggravation and cut the curved edge off, straight across, where the curve started and ended. The end result would have been the same: the NotQuilt would not have fallen onto the floor when the bed was made, acting as a tripping hazard and a cat hair collector.

An angled straight edge would have been just another straight side to sew binding onto. I could have sewn square corners or mitered ones at the joins. Every step would have been easier and quicker than what I finally sewed.

Oh, well.