I used my sewing machine to sew a zigzag quilt binding on my latest quilt and thought I’d write a tutorial on how I like to do it.
First up let me say if you’re a perfectionist when it comes to quilting and must have everything just so, then zigzag binding is probably not for you. This method of quilt binding is easy and fast but isn’t as refined as a hand-stitched binding with invisible stitches.
Zigzag binding is a design element of its own and really adds a fun touch to a quilt. I especially love it on baby quilts as the zigzag adds a lively little detail and is very robust. With queen sized quilts you can’t go past a zigzag binding as it is just so fast! You can bind a quilt in an hour instead of days.
Because my Green Quilt design has a lot of angles and zigzags in it I felt this binding would be extra suitable.
I like to choose my thread to match my binding as closely as possible, although you could choose a different colour to accentuate the zigzag more. Whenever my binding is a print of various colours, I identify the dominant colour and base my thread choice on that.
I sew my binding on as per usual and then iron it away from the quilt top to make it easier to flip to the back of the quilt.
With larger quilts I like to pin the binding down on the back but with mini quilts I just fly by the seat of my pants and put the binding in place with my fingers as I go (rebel!).
You can either pin with your pins running along the binding (the most secure and best option if you’re new to this method):
Or perpendicular to the binding (easier to place and pull out as you sew, but more chance of your binding shifting as you remove the pins):
Your binding should wrap around the raw edges of your quilt and be pinned down so the outer binding edge is slightly past the line of stitches that join your binding to the quilt. When pinning along the binding on the back you need to keep in mind that you’ll sew with the quilt top uppermost. You want the pinheads to be facing you from underneath. If you have the pin points facing you then you will not have a very nice binding experience.
After pinning, you’ll need to attach your walking foot and choose a zigzag stitch length/width. This is what I used on my Janome:
Stitch width: 5.5; Stitch size: 0.9
Make sure you test your stitch on some scrap fabric to check it’s what you want:
As zigzag is a thread-hungry stitch, you might want to have a couple of bobbins pre-wound. I was able to complete my baby quilt with a single bobbin but if you’re binding a queen quilt, you’ll need more.
Choose midway on one of the sides of your quilt to start. Don’t start on a corner. Once your quilt is under your machine, quilt top facing up, you’ll want to position it under the walking foot so that the stitch will straddle the seam line of binding meeting the quilt top. Once that’s done, start sewing! I don’t backstitch when I start because I capture that starting spot under my final stitches once I’ve gone all the way around the quilt. Go slowly and remove your pins just before that area reaches the needle.
Here’s what the stitches look like coming out the back of your walking foot:
And this is what it will look like on the back of the quilt:
Right, on to the corners now.
I recommend pinning your corners in place before you sew up to them. You know how your needle stitches to the right, then to the left and back to the right, etc to form the zigzag? Well, try to get your needle to come down on the left-hand motion of the stitch, in the inner corner of the binding/quilt top:
Once the needle is down you can lift your walking foot and pivot the quilt 90 degrees so that the next side is in place, ready to sew. Your first stitch will stitch to the right, into the binding again, and you’ll be on your way. It can be tough going for the first few stitches as there isn’t a lot of fabric under the foot for the feed dogs to grab. Just go slow and if necessary help your machine out with a little fabric pulling.
I have also sewn corners by continuing past that inner corner until I’ve sewn across the diagonal fold. I’ve then pivoted right on the corner of the binding and continued on. As you can see below, it’s not as neat as the method above (the fabric is really thick there and plays havoc with stitch width) but it means the corner fold is secured:
When I use my first method, I go and hand finish those corners after.
To do that I’ll thread a needle with a short run of thread that’s been doubled over so that I get a loop at the end.
I take my first stitch under the fold (so it’s hidden) and thread the needle through the loop so there’s no need to knot to secure the thread.
I then take a stitch along the fold of the binding:
And then a little stitch into the binding underneath to secure:
I can usually fit two of these binding-then-secure pairs of stitches in that little corner, then I tie off my thread.
How I tie off (I’m sure there’s a million ways to do this) is by making two small stitches on top of each other, then I make a third stitch and pass the needle through it to catch the thread. I like to pull it all tight and secure and then have the needle exit about an inch from the stitch site:
I really don’t like trimming threads close to the tie-off knot – I feel like it’s more likely to unravel that way (I have no scientific proof to back this up, of course!) But I also don’t like the look of a thread tail. To solve this, I pull the finished thread out quite firmly and then I cut it off flush with the fabric.
Because it’s been pulled taut – once you cut it the thread retracts back into the fabric, conveniently hiding that little tail. Yay!
And so you continue going around your quilt….edge, corner, edge, corner, edge… and eventually you’ll get back to your starting point.
I like to sew a half-inch past my starting point, then backstitch back past the starting point just a wee bit and then tie off. I have a button on my machine that does this (oh joy!) but before I had this machine I would leave long threads when I took the quilt off the machine and then just hand sew and knot those threads to make sure it was all nice and secure.
If you have to change bobbins along the way, you’ll also want to do this or you might choose to hand secure the ends if you don’t like the look of the overlap.
Phew, that was a long one! I hope this is helpful if you’re considering trying a zigzag binding. They are a fun and speedy way to finish up those WIPs you’ve had languishing in the cupboard for years – give it a try!
Have a great week,