In today’s blog post, I’m taking a trip down memory lane, to gain inspiration for quilts moving forward. In this case, this is the first (and only) quilt that I have ever been gifted, and it’s NOT one that I made. My mother gave this to me at a baby shower thrown when I was expecting my younger son, Andy. After 8 years between kids, a lot of the baby items needed to be updated, and this quilt was among the gifts. This quilt was used hard for years when he was a baby – on floors, in sleds (it’s a great insulator), as forts – until it was consigned to the cedar chest at the foot of my bed for a longish time. I brought it out of retirement when we learned that my first grandchild was coming, and today that same quilt is draped over the side of the rail in the crib in Had’s ‘room’. We have a game of playing ‘tuck me in, Nana’ at naptime, and she loves it when I cover her with Daddy’s quilt – Had is two at the moment.
On one of the times I was recently folding the quilt after naptime, I took a good look at the edges of it. A Really, really good look…and I found that this much used quilt is beginning to show it’s age – you can tell by looking closely at the binding. It’s wearing. That has made me rethink how I think about the bindings I put on my quilts.
When I began quilting, I learned one method of putting a binding on a quilt – and I had used that method for a LOT of quilts. I stitched strips together, folded them in half the long way, then machine stitched them to the front of the quilt – then turn them over and stitch them by hand to the back. That was time consuming and tedious – and most of the time I cut the strips on the straight of grain. By looking at the picture at top right, I now know what happens to a quilt long after it’s been gifted or donated by me if I’ve done a straight grain binding, and it has changed how I think about that.
There’s an old addage called “Form follows Function”, and it applies here. If you have a wall quilt, or something that isn’t going to be handled a lot – a tablerunner, for example – I would still make a straight grain binding because the edges aren’t likely to be handled a lot. If, however, I am going to make a binding for a bed quilt, or a baby quilt – I have now switched to a bias type of binding. And I have an easy way for you to cut the binding strips – I have made exactly one of the continuous edge bias binding edges – and although it’s cumbersome, it does work. I just have an easier method for you to use…
For this step, I pulled a half yard cut of fabric (it’s floral – I must be missing spring) and ironed it out. Using my 24″ x 6″ ruler, I lined up the 45º angle on the selvedge and made my first cut. The triangle that is cut away is put aside, and I now have a straight edge on the bias to use as my border. I cut my binding strips at 2¼” from that point on, cutting as many strips as I need to cover the perimeter of my quilt, plus about 10-12 inches for the join. When I go to join my edges, I do it with a 45º angle, giving additional strength at the seam.
I should note here that this method works whether I am stitching the second side by machine or by hand – and I am developing an affinity for machine applied bindings – they are much quicker, and much more stable as well.
The picture at the right demonstrates how much stratch there is to my bias edges, and that will make this piece more durable when I apply it to my quilted item.
As for the baby quilt, it’s developed quite the patina now, and I may retire it from the crib in the not too distant future…but it now will serve as a great visual aid when I teach binding classes.
What’s your favorite method of binding – straight grain or bias? This is one quilter’s viewpoint, and I’d love to hear yours.