myBearpaw Blog by Jo Avery

Single Fold Binding Tutorial

I’ve been planning to write this blog post for years now, as much for my beginner patchwork students as for anyone else. This is the way I do all my binding and I’m going to explain why in this post.
Recently I made 2 new cushions kits using versions of the Trip Around the World block (tutorial for this to follow soon). I decided to use these for this binding tutorial.
So why use a single fold binding? One of the reasons is that this was how I was taught to finish my quilts back in the old days (what I like to call ‘my first age of quilting’). When I came back to quilting 7 or 8 years ago I did the same and it took my quite a while to realise everyone seemed to be using a double binding!! Clearly I had missed that memo! So here’s my 2 main reasons:
1. It uses less fabric. I use a 1.75 inch strip which gives a slightly more generous binding than the double fold (which I prefer) as opposed to the usual 2.5 inch strip for a double fold.
2. It’s quicker. The only advantage to a double fold is that your edges are ready folded for turning under, and I agree this makes it a bit easier and slightly quicker. But any time saved here is massively outweighed by the fact you have to IRON THE BINDING STRIP IN HALF! This takes ages! You don’t need to do this with a single fold.
Some people have said to me that a double fold lasts longer and is more durable. I’m sure this is true, but I also know that I have quilts made over 20 years ago that have gone from boyhood abuse through teenage abuse, cats, and many many washes with no ‘binding wear’ issues at all. So I just thinks somebody wants you to buy more fabric… 
So in this tutorial I am going to take you through all stages of binding with both hand and machine options, and show you exactly how I do it. And then you can decide for yourselves. 
*warning* I’m going to be quite bossy in this tutorial!

First of all you are going to cut your fabric strips. You need enough to go around the whole quilt. I usually find this is around 7 WOB strips for a good sized quilt (but you will need to do ‘quilt maths’ to find out exactly!). So cut 7 strips of 1.75 inches wide (that’s 1 and three-quarters of an inch). This cushion cover needs 2.

Then join them together to make one long strip using a quarter inch straight seam. There is NO NEED TO CUT A DIAGONAL SEAM!! This is for making bias binding, we are not doing that here. Please ignore any instructions that tell you otherwise. If anyone would like to get back to me with a valid reason why you should cut diagonally for straight binding please do – I have thought and thought about this but can find no advantage, only more work.
*Edited *
A few kind and wise folk have explained that diagonal joining is to spread the bulk at the join. I can totally see how this would help with a double fold binding – the one time I tried this method I had very bulky joins. This has explained exactly why so many instructions tell you to do a diagonal join. However this is not a problem with single fold and straight joins, my joins are always nice and flat. So yet another time saving reason for using the single fold method!

Press your seams open.

Pin your binding to the top of your quilt RST, lining up the edge of the quilt with the edge of your binding (I actually don’t bother pinning this side as I am ‘relaxed’ about pins, but I feel you should if this is new to you!).
Leave a free ‘tail’ of fabric (about 5-6 inches long) at the start of your binding strip.

Always reverse or lock stitch when you begin stitching. Use a 3/8 inch seam, this corresponds to most ‘default’ sewing machine feet. So take off that quarter inch foot and put back on the one that came with your machine. Or use the lines on your throat plate. My Pfaff has a built in walking foot that hooks on from behind and lets you use any foot you like, using a walking foot isn’t absolutely necessary for binding but I do use mine.
*Edited* Somebody pointed out that you may need to use an 1/8th of an inch of extra wadding if you had points at the edge of your quilt that you didn’t want to lose. I have to say this has never been a problem I have encountered as design-wise I think I would always use a border rather than run points right to the edges. And we are only talking about an 1/8th of an inch here. But it is worth thinking about if relevant to your quilt design and either trimming your wadding to leave extra around your top, or use a quarter inch seam.

Now we are going to do a mitred corner. I’m pointing with a pin here to show you where you should stop.

You need to stop sewing the same distance from the end of the quilt as your seam allowance (this is nearly always a little further than it looks), stop and reverse a couple of stitches.
*Tip* it is always better to sew a little over the seam allowance than under.

Pull your work forward slightly (but don’t cut the thread).

Wrap your binding around the corner to the next side. This will give you a flap of fabric at the corner. Fold this over to the left (on top of your seam) so that it creates a perfect 45 degree triangle. The folded edge should be lined up with the binding strip you have just sewn. I like to run my nail along that 45 degree line to make it more obvious.

Start sewing again where you have made that indentation with your nail, you are aiming to be exactly on the other side of the triangular flap from where you finished sewing. Sew a couple of stitches forward and then reverse over them to secure.

Now just keep sewing all the way around the edge of the quilt, repeating the mitering on the other 3 corners.

When you get nearly back to where you started, stop sewing a few inches from the start of your tail. reverse and cut your thread.

Bring your two tails together and fold back at their meeting place. The two folded edges should butt up to each other as in the photo above. Press you nail along them to get a good crease

Carefully hold the tails up and pin them so as not to disturb the placement of the folds meeting place. Now take them over to your machine and sew along the creases, making sure they are still matched up.

Trim the tails away leaving a quarter inch seam and press open. You can now finish sewing on the last bit of binding between the two ends.

Go to each of your corners and cut the loop of thread there.

Fold over your binding and lightly press from the right side of your quilt.

Flip your quilt over to the back and start turning you binding under and pinning. If you are used to double fold binding this stage my seem awkward to start with but it’s really not hard and think of all that time you saved on the ironing! You can also use binding or wonder clips here which do make the job a little more fun (and clattery!).

The main thing that’s more fiddly with the single fold is the corner, but it’s really not that bad, just needs a little practice.

Now we are going to slip stitch our binding. Choose a matching thread for your binding. I sew with a single thread.
A slip stitch is the same stitch you use to hem a skirt. Your needle comes up very close to the folded edge of the binding and goes in directly over the binding into the quilt and along about a quarter of an inch before coming out close to the edge again.
Don’t sew through to the front of the quilt.

Don’t slant your stitches, all your ‘travelling’ should happen with the long stitch inside the quilt. The tiny stitch in the binding just catches the edge.
I like to think of the binding as a kerb, the stitch goes straight over the kerb and down into the gutter and along.
Also make sure you give each stitch a good tug – loose stitches will be seen.

I use this same stitch for needle turn applique, it is quick and should be nearly invisible. I like binding my quilts by hand as long as I have the time. I full sized quilt can take maybe 3 hours if I am doing it in front of the TV.

Here’s some photos to show what happens at the corners.

Just put a couple of stitches in, moving maybe half way up the corner and then sending your thread under the binding and back to start the new side.

If you really hate hand sewing then you can make a neat and probably more durable binding completely with your machine.

That’s how I have tackled cushion 2 here (we are pretending these are quilts for the sake of this tutorial!).
Instead of sewing the binding to the front of the quilt I have attached it to the back of the quilt. Everything else I have done is exactly as the steps above.

The photo above shows the stage of turning under your attached binding ready to sew down and pinning, except this is all happening on the front of the quilt.

Once pinned just top stitch very close to the folded edge of your binding. This may take a little practice if you are not used to sewing so close to an edge. Just sew over the corners, securing them closed, (no need to sew ‘up them’ they are not going anywhere).

Doesn’t that look neat? If you have followed my instructions correctly as regards seam allowance and strip width (and you have managed a neat top-stitch) your seam should be in the same place either side. If not it will still look neat on the front and like another row of quilting on the back.

Well I hope this has been an illuminating tutorial. As I said it is as much for my beginner quilting students as anything else, but I have been wanting to share my methods here for a long time.

I would very much welcome your comments!


  1. Thanks Jo. I've experimented with both types as well and I too am all for the single fold binding. Uses less fabric and I find it much less bulky, especially on joins and corners. I thought it was just me who had converted to single fold binding so it's nice to know I'm not alone!!

  2. Hmmm I was taught double fold binding and never contemplated single-fold. I assumed the folding under when attaching the back would be really cumbersome. Thanks for this really clear tutorial. You have me hooked!

  3. I used double binding because I hated having to iron under the raw edge – the one that ends up on the back. Never occurred to me that a) I didn't need to iron it at all and b) I wasn't saving any time as I was ironing the double binding – doh!!!!

    Also, it never occurred to me that I didn't have to use the walking foot to sew the strip on to my quilt. I just assumed it was necessary but the other foot will make a much better guide. Thanks Jo – as always!!!

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