9 tips & tricks for how to sew curved binding

Our free gift this month (with issue 22) is a set of ten handy binding clips. They’re a must-have piece of kit here on the Today’s Quilter team and they’ve given us the idea for this blog tutorial – our Technical Editor Laura is here to share her pro guide for how to sew curved binding to your quilts!

A curved edge adds interest to a quilt, can complement curved piecing, and can be faster than mitring the corners on a square quilt. Whether you just want to round the corners of your quilt, or fancy a fully scalloped border, learning how to add binding to a curved edge can enhance your quilt making repertoire. This is especially easy with our binding clips.* Read on for Laura’s top tips for creating those perfect curves, including her walkthrough guide to sewing wavy, rounded or scalloped binding.

*Our free clips aren’t just handy for binding … we’ve been using ours for everything from paper piecing to pinning our fabric wish lists to our fridges at home. They’re easier to use than pins (especially when you’re securing thick layers of fabric), they don’t leave holes and they’re easy to reposition without the worry of pricking your fingers! Scroll down to the bottom to see how Laura uses hers when she’s not using them to bind her quilts!

1 Use a template to create your curved edge

“I find this easiest to achieve by using a dinner plate or bowl as a template, though you can purchase special “bendy” rulers which can be moulded into arcs or “S” shapes and then drawn around,” Laura says.

“When raiding your crockery, choose something large for a gentler curve or a small dish for a sharper curve. Place the template face down on the quilt and use a marker to draw around it – this doesn’t need to be removable as it will be hidden by the binding, though it’s best not too use anything too dark if your binding is going to be made from light fabric. This technique can be used to create both convex and concave curves by alternating the position of the plate. Mixing and matching dish sizes will create a quirky irregular effect.

When you’re happy with the marked corners/edges, carefully cut out along the line with your rotary cutter or scissors.

You may wish to zig-zag the edges together at this point, before adding the binding but this is a personal choice and isn’t a necessary step.”

2 Cut your binding on the bias

“To bind curves you’ll need to cut your binding strips on the bias as this has more stretch than the straight grain. Trying to bind corners with straight grain strips will create undesirable results as they won’t have the bend and give that the bias has. To cut bias strips, position your ruler at a 45-degree angle. If your ruler isn’t long enough to cut across the full diagonal, fold your fabric as follows…

Fold the bottom left corner up to meet the top raw edge of the fabric. Use your ruler to check this is forming a 45-degree angle. Now fold the bottom right corner up in line with the fold. You can also fold the top left corner down to meet the fold if the piece is still too big. Make sure the folds are all sitting exactly on top of one another.
How to cut bias binding strips

Using a sharp rotary cutter blade, as you are cutting through several layers, line up your ruler just shy of the fold to cut the fold off. Now position your ruler aligning the desired strip width with the cut 45-degree edge. Cut your first strip. Continue to cut subsequent strips along the fabric in this way.

When you open the cut pieces out, you will have a few bias strips of varying lengths.

These should have 45-degree angles at each end. Check the angle and trim if necessary.”

How to make your own bias binding

3 Pattern-match your binding for neat results!

Laura’s put together this quick guide for joining your binding strips when you’re using a print fabric…

“Take two bias strips and rotate them so that the angled ends slope in the same direction.

If you’re using striped fabric, the stripes should also face the same way.

Line up the strips to form a right angle. You will have small “dog-ears” where the corners are offset; this will guide where your 14in seam should start and end. Stitch along the angled edge with a 14in seam then press open.

Continue to add strips until you have a continuous length that is long enough for the perimeter of your quilt plus approximately 15in. Fold the strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and press along the length. Your bias binding strip is now complete.”

4 Roll up!

When you’ve finished preparing your binding strip, store it rolled for easy handling (and to avoid creating accidental creases and folds).

5 Clip it in place

Using your free handy binding clips from Issue 22, clip your binding strip in place around the edge of the quilt, aligning the raw edges. You will find it easier to join the ends on a straighter part of the quilt edge, so keep this in mind when choosing where to start. Ease the binding around the curved parts of your raw quilt edge – because it is stretchy it will do as you tell it. Clip regularly, every couple of inches is good.

6 One bit at a time…

You do not need to clip the full length of your binding in place all in one go. You can work a bit at a time… reusing the clips to attach the binding several inches ahead.

7 Measure up your seam allowance

Once clipped in place, you can either machine-stitch-it to the front and then finish by hand stitching to the back, or you may want to do it all by machine, in which case first clip it to the back. Take your quilt to the machine and begin stitching your seam. When machine sewing binding to your machine, shift your needle position so it’s 13 of the folded binding strip minus 18in. For example, if you’ve cut binding strips 212in wide, this will become 114in once folded. 114in minus 18in divided by 3 = 38in. So, make your seam 38in when you attach your binding. This will mean your binding will overlap the stitching by just the right amount when you fold it over to the other side.

Stitch around the perimeter of the quilt, removing the clips as you go. Stop with the needle in the work, lift your presser foot and pivot regularly to create nice smooth curves and avoid puckers.

8 Use binding clips to mark your seams

You can use the end of your binding clips to mark the seam too. If you combine this technique with a zipper foot, this will allow you to stitch right alongside the binding clip without removing it.

Attach all the binding and join the ends as you would with regular binding. Press the binding away from the quilt centre and over to the back of the quilt. Use your binding clips to hold the binding in place on the back, you will see it easily forms nice curves and should cover the stitching line. Hand stitch in place with slip-stitch using a matching thread.

9 Improve your topstitch accuracy

Alternatively, if you are machine stitching your binding, you can use the end of your binding clip to mark the previous stitch line to make sure your topstitch sits in the “ditch” of the binding on the back.

Your curved binding is now complete! See how much simpler that was with clips than with pins? Your binding clips have a myriad of other uses too, I like to use mine to sort piles of patchwork units…

… as well as holding pieces together for EPP!