Sunday, March 31, 2013

Machine Binding

Washer-friendly machine binding, ready for action
I think I'm in the minority here, but I really love a machined binding. I'll admit that my appreciation stems from living in a home where machine-washing isn't optional -- it is an absolute necessity. Having two cats (one of whom is morally opposed to good hygiene) , a dog, and a toddler under foot will do that to you. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that sewing the binding on by machine is more than a little tricky. Just look at my earlier quilts.

But I think I finally cracked the code on my SeasScapes Quilt. There was definitely a lot of practice involved, but a few changes to my machine's settings really made things much easier. After so much experimenting, I thought it would be good to write up what I did this time -- both for myself and for anyone else with a Janome Horizon.

But first a little background. I'm using Rita @ Red Pepper Quilts' binding tutorial. With her technique, the binding stitches are almost invisible from the front, and look like decorative top-stitching from the back. It's seriously ingenious.

Binding and the quilt, both zig-zag stitched and ready to go
Like Rita, I prefer a narrow binding. I start with 2.25 inch strips, sewn together and pressed in half. If you don't like that look, feel free to use 2.5 inch strips. Starting about 15 inches into the strip, run a zig-zag stitch down the unfinished/outside edges of the binding. I also choose to run a zig-zag stitch around my trimmed up quilt. Not only does it prevent fraying, but it prevents the layers from sliding around when you fold over the binding. Sure, all the safety stitching takes a few extra minutes, but it's a good insurance policy. Well worth it in my book.

Next attach the binding to the front of the quilt. I use my quarter-inch accufeed foot for this phase. I also put my machine on a piecing stitch (#93 on the Horizon), set to a scant quarter-inch seam allowance (needle position at 6.5 on my particular machine). When it's time, join the ends together exactly as Rita describes (I swear I'll be going to her site to look that up until I'm 120 years old). Then press the binding over, using a little steam.

This is where things get a little intense, but here is the basic premise: You're going to fold over the binding, stitch in the ditch from the front (the "ditch" here being where the binding meets the quilt top), and "catch" the binding on the backside. Catching the binding on the back is entirely blind. And entirely terrifying the first time you do it. But, once you get a little practice, it won't be so bad. Promise!

To make the whole ordeal infinitely easier I use  Clover Wonder Clips. They hold things perfectly  and don't distort the fabric like pins do. Oh, and they won't poke you, either. Treat yourself to a 50-pack and you can thank me later.

But anyway... fold your binding over to the back, nice and tight, clipping every two inches or so. The clips have marks on the back (the clear side) which I use as a guide to make sure that there is a generous 1/4+ inches of binding on the back. Remember that you'll be "catching" the binding on the back, so it's important that you're consistently over 1/4 inches on the back. Anything less than a quarter-inch means you'll "miss" the binding, causing a bit of a headache.

Once you have a good section of binding clipped down, it's time to make a few small changes to your machine. I switch to my open toe foot for accufeed, and turn the foot pressure down to "3." If you don't have an accufeed foot, don't worry. Any open toe foot that lets you see what's going on is just fine. I keep my machine stitch settings the same as before, but depending on the density of your quilt you may need to adjusts the needle position a bit (more on that in a minute). Now, take a deep breath. It's time!

Get your quilt comfortably on the machine bed, and put your needle "in the ditch" between the quilt top and the binding. If you can't get your needle in the ditch because your binding is being flattened, reduce your foot pressure some more. Now, put your needle down and pull up the bobbin thread. I like to tie the threads off and bury the knot, but you can do whatever you're more comfortable with. Take a few stitches and "feel" the back of the quilt with your hand to make sure you're catching the binding. If at some point you notice that you've missed the binding, try to get back on track and then go back and fix the gap with a second pass.

When you get to a corner, get as close as you can before pivoting. I recommend using a seam ripper to nudge the binding out of the way of your needle.

And that's really all there is to it! Just keep chugging along until you're done, and then enjoy machine-washable, pet proof quilty goodness!

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