I have been using bias tape to bind quilts since I started quilting in 2010. However, I recently learned that there is a second way (which is considered an “easy” way, or a quilting “hack”) to bind a quilt: essentially folding the overhang from the backing to cover the front.
I have seen a number of tutorials on both types of binding, and I do not believe that there is enough analysis of each provided. Each of these methods has shortcomings and benefits. Each also has its own variations. Below I will outline each of the methods and offer my input on what makes each worth using.
*Disclaimer: I deliberately chose these fabric colors, binding, and thread so they would stand out from each other for the purposes of this post. In normal circumstances, I would not have this thread and binding with these fabrics.*
Bias Tape Method
I have made bias tape once, and it is a very time consuming task. Instead of making bias tape, I buy it in 3-yard packages where the bias tape comes already double folded. Bias tape is first attached to one side about a quarter of an inch from the edge (using a machine). In my opinion, mitering is the only appropriate way to finish the corners in any circumstance. There are two ways to attach the binding to the second side (my second side is always the front): machine sewing and hand sewing.
Machine sewing is much faster, and the finish has a visible seam at the edge of the binding. I prefer to use this method on quilts that are larger and/or will be washed more frequently. Hand sewing takes much longer and has invisible seams. For my previous post So, what does a quilt cost? the binding time is approximate for machine sewing. I will also be posting step-by-step directions for both bias tape finishes.
I came across this method recently when I was helping a friend finish four quilts. In this case, the backing is folded over the front and machine sewn. There are two ways those who use the backing to bind finish the corners: square and mitered. The major downside to binding this way is that the corner finish only appears on one side.
In my opinion, the squared finish (pictured above) looks unfinished and lazy.
The mitered corners (above) look nice, but this detail only shows on the front side because of the way the initial attachment is accomplished (technically, skipped entirely).
It is also worth noting that the quilting ends will be visible on the backside of quilts that have been finished using this method of binding.
For those of you who want to know how to do this, a tutorial I came across that I found the most useful for a mitered finish was on Cluck Cluck Sew.
If the backing coordinates well with the top of the quilt, and if the quilting was done cleanly, using the backing to bind the quilt is a good option. As far as I am concerned, the only acceptable way to finish corners is mitering. Despite the ease of using the backing as binding, I know that I will continue to use bias tape for binding my own quilts.