Securing the NotQuilt Binding



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.

I have now sewn down three sides of the binding. As with the cat NotQuilt, I ironed my strips with a half-inch hem, a three-inch front side, and then I eyeballed the final measurement to make the back side of the binding. I ironed the back side so it was slightly smaller than three inches wide and the fold-under hem ended up being whatever width it wanted to be, but never less than a half-inch.

The curved bottom edge determined my order of sewing operations. I did the two sides first, pinning and sewing down the back of the binding. When the back of the binding was sewn down, I reversed the quilt and sewed down the front of the binding, pulling it if necessary to cover the first line of stitching.

On the back of the NotQuilt, you will see two lines of stitching. Sometimes both lines are on the binding, but not always. On the front, where it matters, you only see one line of stitching and it is neatly aligned with the edge of the binding’s edge. So the moral is sew the backside first on your quilt binding.

On each of the two sides I began the binding at the very top edge. After it was sewn down (both sides) I trimmed any overages off so all the fabric edges line up. This makes sewing down the top binding strip (with square corners as opposed to mitered ones) both easier and makes it lie more smoothly. If there is excess bulk of fabric, trim it off. You don’t want to go back and rip off the binding to trim and resew if the edges are lumpy.

The bottom edge was trickier. I have that curve to consider. So I trimmed the binding strips to stop an inch or so after the curve began. I will overlap the curved binding on both the sides and the bottom binding.

Once both sides were sewn down, I added the top binding strip. As with the cat NotQuilt, I folded over the raw edge to enclose and conceal the previous binding resulting in a square finish as opposed to a mitered corner. For the first corner, where I began sewing, I ironed the binding strip over an inch.

The second corner was done in situ. I didn’t measure the binding strip precisely to match the NotQuilt top. That never works for me so I didn’t bother ironing the fold-over at the exact length the binding strip needed. Whenever I do this, the strip ends up too short, which is deeply annoying, or too long, meaning that I have to cut it shorter and fold it over anyway, without the benefit of the ironed down flap.

How do I do this? I pin the binding strip in place and sew it down as always and when I am within six inches of the end, I trim the binding strip to an inch or so longer than I need to wrap around the raw edge. At this point I know how long the strip needs to be, and I don’t need to be concerned with any stretching the fabric might have done even with the walking foot. I repin the binding, folding over the wrap-around, finger-press it down, and sew to the end just as if I had spent hours meticulously measuring, pressing, pinning, and then doing it all over again when my measurements came out wrong.

Then I sewed down the front edge of the top binding strip, confident that the strip was the correct length. As always, I sewed the open edges together with a blanket stitch.

The next step is to tackle the bottom binding and the curved edges.

I have several shorter pieces of binding left over from sewing the two sides and the top edge. I also have a pristine, very long piece of binding standing by. The NotQuilt had four sides so I had ripped four binding strips.

What to do next? Use the two shorter pieces to cover the curved edges? They look like they would be long enough. Barely. Laying them down on the curved edge proves this. But barely long enough is not the same as definitely. Barely long enough usually ends up not being long enough at all and you get an annoying gap that has to be filled in with a patch.

I do not want to do this.

So what do we do? We measure the leftover strips and what do you know! If I sew both longer strips together, plus the very short bit left over from the top binding, I will have a long enough binding strip to cover the bottom of the NotQuilt and wrap up around the curved edge an inch or so on each side.

That will leave me with my long, uncut strip which will be more than long enough to cover both curved edges and leave me with some margin for error. This margin will prevent me, I hope, from having to rip another strip from my remaining piece of percale.

Piecing binding is perfectly acceptable in a utility quilt. I do it all the time. I try to keep my joins to a minimum and keep my joins in inconspicuous places. The bottom binding is a pretty good place to put a pieced binding, thus hiding those seams.

Once the straight sides are bound off, I am still left with the curved edges. I am using binding that is three inches wide on a side; that’s pretty wide even for binding cut on the bias and this binding is ripped along the grainline. Bias binding will stretch to fit curves. Grainline strips aren’t going to do that under any circumstances.

There are solutions. If I was showing this NotQuilt at the county fair, I would face the curve front and back. I would trace the curved edge — both of them as it is almost a guarantee they are not identical — on a piece of newspaper, making a pattern of the shape.

Then I would draw a curved line three inches in from the curved edge, giving me a curved C-shaped pattern, like a neck facing on a collarless shirt. I would add seam margins to all four edges. Then I would cut out (remembering that my fabric has two sides!) a front and a back facing for each curved edge.

The curved edges would then be sewn together along the long side, and the seam would get clipped and graded so it would fold over nicely. The short curved edge would get ironed over at the seamline, clipped so the curved edge would lay flat, and the two short edges would get ironed over as well.

Then the completed binding would get pinned and sewn in place, first the back side and then the front side.

Alternatively, I could make a whole bunch of short pieces of binding, each about two or three inches long. I would sew each one down, starting at the top edge of the curve, and gradually, overlapping them like fish scales or roof shingles, cover the entire curved edge with a series of straight-edged pieces until I reached the end of the curve.

This would work. There would be many seams. It would be bulky where the fabric overlaps. I would have to be very careful to keep the top edge of each segment even with the ones it was lying next to.

I could also cut my binding strip, ensuring that it is long enough on the curved edge, plus my folded over hems. Then I could force the inner curve into submission by running a long, loose running stitch just inside the hem on both sides. Then I would gather that stitch line, pin it into place, adjusting my gathers, and sew it down. That method would work too, but it would definitely be bulky where the binding meets the surface of the quilt. The inner curve is several inches shorter than the outer curve and the shorter the inner curve is, the more fabric has to be bunched up to make it fit. Those gathers will never lay smooth and sleek even if I ironed them down from now until Christmas. It would be a mass of radiating wrinkles.

Or I could do something completely different.

I can take the binding strip and put in plenty of darts, staggered so they don’t lay one on top of another. With the wide mouth of the darts at the inner curve, and the narrow point of the darts at the outer curve, the binding would take, all on its own, the shape of the curve. It would fit precisely, like a faced binding would, without using up plenty of percale and generating unusable, oddly shaped scraps. If I staggered the darts so they do not lay one on top of the other, the bulkiness will be minimized and I won’t have weak spots where the darts meet at the outer edge. If I trim the darts closely, and press the fabric apart, I will minimize the extra fabric at each dart even more. The foldover hem of the binding may be a problem but if I widen the dart even a little, then that folded over piece will be wider, allowing the binding to lay flat.

I like that option best and we will find out if that works next time.