Like every good book, every good quilt must come to an end. However, a book is bound before it’s finished and a quilt ends with the binding. This is a process that some people really enjoy while others allow it to delay their quilt finishing. Quilters often think they would have no way to use an overlocker/serger in their process, but it can make tidy and speedy work of the binding process. Who wouldn’t love that?
Step 1. Prepare materials
Before you begin binding your project, you should square and trim the project to the desired size. The overlocker will be set to 6 mm cutting width which is approximately ¼ inch.
Make the binding using your favorite method. I typically make my binding from 2 ½” strips sewn together and pressed in half.
Set up your overlocker for a 3-thread overlock stitch using the left needle. You could also use a 4-thread overlock stitch, but I find the 3-thread to be strong enough for this application, while also not adding unnecessary thread bulkiness to the seam. Here are the settings for the BERNINA L 460 or L 450 machine.
3-Thread Overlock Wide (left needle)
Step 2. Where to start
Begin with the binding end trimmed at a 45 degree angle and pressed under ½” –later we will tuck the binding into this portion to finish. Leave approximately 6” of binding tail to work with when you come back around to the beginning. Start the binding in the middle of the longest side and use Clover Wonder Clips to secure the binding to the quilt. These clips work great with a serger because they are easy to see and won’t accidentally end up the machine’s cutting blade. The binding and quilt will be right sides together with all raw edges at the edge.
Position the project under the presser foot of the overlocker where you wish to begin the stitches. Sew until you are just about ¼” from the edge, then stop and lift the foot to remove the work. Lower the press foot and chain off a small amount to allow for room to fold the mitered corner in the binding. If you sew right to or off the edge, it’s not the end of the world, it is just a bit harder to achieve a precise mitered corner.
Step 3. Fold the mitered corner
Turning the corner is easy and requires some folding, the slide-on table for the L 460 provides a great space for this. First fold the binding perpendicular away from the quilt edge, then fold it back in the opposite direction along the next quilt edge. This will create a flap in the fabric to create a mitered corner.
Now position and clip the binding in place along the next quilt edge. Once the binding is clipped, position it under the presser foot. This time begin at the corner of the edge you will be sewing and sew the entire length of the side, stopping ¼” from the end. It may be helpful to keep a clip on this corner until you are ready to sew.
Repeat the process along the remaining sides and corners until you come back to the first side.
Tip: There will be some thread tails at the corners, which you may choose to snip and secure into the seam before sewing the binding down.
Step 4. Tuck binding to finish
Now you are back to the edge you started with and will need to finish the binding. A simple way to do this is to tuck the binding into the folded edge where you started. I hope you left yourself enough space to feel comfortable doing this.
Overlap the end by about 1-2 inches and trim the binding on a 45 degree angle. Use the clips to help position the binding into place and sew just past the point where you started.
Gently move the remainder of the fabric to the left and out of the way of the presser foot and chain off a small thread tail to end.
Tip: The binding will be slightly more bulky where it is tucked into place, so adjust if necessary when you get close to the joint to avoid a pucker. I sometimes hold or pull my quilt tightly here, as I would do when easing a neckband into a garment.
Step 5. Press binding and stitch
At this point the binding is attached to the quilt and will need to be secured by sewing either with a machine or by hand. The overlock stitch provides a neatened edge that makes for easy pressing.
This process gets faster with practice and really can be quicker than using a sewing machine. If you do hand stitch your binding in place, I hope you notice and appreciate the tidy fabric edges that are not fraying and getting in the way when you sew.