So, you finished sewing together the body of your quilt, and you’re feeling like a rockstar. Yeah, I know that feeling. Like you could take on the world… but what you really want to do is just keep quilting. Well, hold on to that feeling, baby, because you still have to finish off your quilt with a killer binding.
Hopefully this whole binding business doesn’t come as a surprise to you – most quilts look great with the finishing touch of a good binding. Put simply, the binding of a quilt is a strip of fabric that is used to cover the raw edges of a quilt. If you want to talk binding basics, check out this tutorial on sewing binding to a quilt, and mosey back on over when you’re feeling comfortable with the concept.
Quilter, Meet Bias Binding
Now that you and binding are getting along, it’s time to meet basic binding’s quirky cousin: Bias Binding. Bias binding gets its name from the way the binding cloth is cut. There are three ways to cut your fabric:
- Lengthwise (also known as Warp) - runs parallel to the selvage and has little to no stretch.
- Crosswise (also known as Weft) - runs perpendicular to the selvage. Because it is made from yarns woven over and under the lengthwise yarns it has more stretch than lengthwise grain.
If you’re holding your fabric with the selvage edge on the left and/or right, lengthwise and crosswise are exactly what you might guess: cutting along the length of the cloth, parallel to the edge, or cutting across the cloth, perpendicular to the edge. Both lengthwise and crosswise grains are referred to as “straight” grains because they are cut along the grain of the fabric.
And then… there’s bias. Crazy, rules-be-damned bias is a diagonal cut across the fabric. I know, it’s pretty wild.
So when it comes to bias binding, we’re talking about using a diagonal-cut strip of fabric to finish off the raw edge of the quilt. I know what you’re thinking: why on earth do we have to bring diagonal-cut cloth into something as straightforward as binding? Well you certainly don’t have to. But here’s why you might want to break out of your comfort zone and give it a try.
Bias Binding Superpowers
From super strength to super flexibility, bias binding is the superhero of quilt binding. Check out these stats:
Bias binding is super flexible. This is especially true on curvy edges. Have you ever tried to bind a tightly curved edge with a straight grain? It puckers up like your grandma on a holiday. The binding fabric cut is super stretchy, and bias binding gives your curvy edges a flat and smooth finish. That’s what we’re looking for.
Bias Binding Basics: How to Make It.
If you're more of a visual learning, there are some really great tutorials on YouTube....You may need to watch it a couple times...it's a bit of a mind melt the first...and second and third time 😉
So how do you get a piece of this bias binding goodness? Let’s take this step-by-step:
Step 1. Crunch Some Numbers
Okay, don’t worry, we’re not talking about Calculus here. Just some easy stuff. Once you pick the fabric you want to use for your bias binding, you need to figure out how much of it you’ll need.
Total yardage needed for bias binding: Let’s take a minute and thank the quilters of yesteryear for coming up with a handy formula for bias binding yardage. Ready for this?
The Magical Math Formula for Bias Binding:
- Find the total inches of bias binding you need by multiplying length x width.
Sample: My quilt needs 156” of bias binding, 2” wide. 156 x 2 = 312
- Get out the ole’ calculator (or use the one on your phone) and find the square root of that number, and round up to the next whole number.
Sample: The square root of 312 is 17.663. Round that up to 18.
- Add 2” to 3” for seaming the strips together.
Sample: 18 + 3 = 21.
- We need a 21” x 21” square of fabric to have enough for our bias binding!
Note: If you’re totally lost, just google “calculate bias binding.” Thanks, internet.
Step 2. Cut. It. Out.
Now that you know how much fabric you need (phew… glad that’s out of the way…) lay out your fabric and get out your fabric-cutting-weapon-of-choice. Now, you could just measure, mark, and cut out diagonal strips, 2” wide… or you could try some of this fanciness.
It’s called “Continuous Bias Binding” aka “Bias Binding for Overachievers.” No joke, it’s pretty awesome. It will make you feel like a quilting superwizard.
Through researching this, I found a handy machine that helps to make it. I can't say that I've tried it, but it looks like it could be a real time-saver.
Step 3. Connect the strips, and bind like you’ve never bound before!
If you went all quilting-rockstar on us and tried continuous bias binding, you may not have very many seams to sew. If not, you may have to stitch together your strips before you finish up the binding process. (And again, if you need to jog your memory a bit on binding, read this post.
Buying Bias Binding Fabric
So, if you’re the kind of person who buys store-bought cupcakes and puts them on one of your own plates… you might want to have someone else do the bias-binding dirty work for you. Welp, you’re in luck! A lot of places sell pre-made bias binding.
You can find some here and here, or check a craft store near you! What do you think? Is bias binding all it’s cracked up to be? Also, do you make and sell bias binding or know of other places to buy it? Comment below!
12 thoughts on “What’s So Special About Bias Binding?”
I’ve always been a bit afraid of cutting on the bias. As of late, all of my binding has been scraps and cutting lengthwise has been the easiest. I haven’t bought bias tape before but if I did, I would go to sobiased on instagram (also on etsy). Their work is flawless!
Thanks so much for the info! I’ll have to check that shop out.
I sell it on my Etsy shop! BessiePearlTextiles
Great article, pretty much sums it all up! And the square root thing was totally new to me!
Bias binding is my favorite and always use bias unless the pattern in the fabric calls for straight grain! In addition to your super powers listed above…there is significantly lest fraying (while you are hand sewing it down). I usually like to reduce the number of seams in my binding, so I usually purchase 3/4 yd. Great post, Suzy!
When binding a quilt that you hope will be used / washed / loved often, is making bias tape enough for the binding, or do you recommend using bias cuts doubled up (so that the bound edge of the quilt actually has two layers of fabric rather than one)? Do you think it makes much of a difference?
I’m trying the bias binding for the first time right now. It’s not cute. I tried to keep things as simple as possible by measuring and marking 2” strips, but my binding will have gaps. I’m a total newbie, so my skill level is likely the problem. Quilt novices beware!
Hi Suzy, love your site and quilt designs. I am making a quilt as a gift for my son’s college graduation though I’ve never made anything bigger than a doll quilt (and that 40 years ago!), so I am really enjoying your tutorials. I’m starting the binding of my first twin-size quilt and in reviewing this post I wonder if there is an error up above. In the photographs demonstrating lengthwise and crosswise cuts, I think you have them reversed?
Hey Dana, lengthwise and crosswise can be pretty confusing, but the way I remember it is that lengthwise runs the length of the selvage and crosswise is the other one. 😉 So in that photo the lengthwise arrows run along the selvage and go on indefinitely, where the crosswise grain runs from selvage to selvage up and down.
Hi! I made bias binding using the continuous method (“tube”) with a 30” square of fabric to start. However, I’m disappointed because there are seams so very close together; like only 6” apart in some cases! It’s also a solid color fabric, so it definitely shows.
Is this method just better with fabric that would hide them better?