Evening in the Garden Quilts

Adventures in Fabric Art

I reworked some of the blocks in the Star Wars baby quilt, and here is the finished top.  I inserted strips of orange Fairy Frost into some of the silver blocks, and I think it gives it some pop.

Let me begin by telling you not to make your blocks this way.  The best way to do it is to plan ahead and cut your blocks over-sized, then trim them after you’re finished.  I didn’t do that.  My blocks were already cut 6 1/2″ square, and I had limited fabric to remake them.  So I used the ones it had, sewed them carefully, and they worked.

After slashing your block on the diagonal, sew your insert strip to the largest piece of your block, right sides together.  My strip is 1″ wide, so that it finishes at 1/2″.

Press the seam toward the insert.  

Place the remaining piece on top of the block, right sides together, matching the corners.

Place a ruler across the pieces at a 45° angle (it might help to use a ruler with the angle marked).  Use some type of marker to make a tick mark at the top of each piece.

Reposition the smaller block piece along the insert strip, matching the marks.  Pin, then sew. 

Also press this seam toward the insert.  The result should be close enough to your original block size.  Or right on, like this one!  Just trim the ends of the insert.
I’m going to finish this with some diagonal quilting, then bind it with the orange.  The Force Awakens!


Machine Binding Tutorial


I am a big fan of machine quilt bindings, but I haven’t seen any I like as well as mine.  Talking on Twitter, it seems that many people are doing something similar with decorative stitches (which can be really fun in certain applications), but I really like my blind stitched bindings.  They look close to hand stitched, but are so much faster, and stronger, than hand work.  Not to mention that I am far too impatient for much hand work these days.  So little time, so many quilts to make!


I usually use straight grain binding (better use of fabric, less stretchy), but this works with bias binding, too.  It will just be a little stretchier and need a little more coaxing into place.  I accidentally combined both in a scrappy binding recently, and it turned out fine.


Any width binding would work, but I use 2″ strips of fabric, folded in half, sewn with a quarter inch seam, to form a narrow, tight binding.  I join, press and sew the binding in the standard way (here’s a very clear Heather Bailey tutorial), except that I sew it to the back of the quilt.  I’ve already basted the quilt edges during the quilting, so they are very stable.  Therefore, I use a 1/4″ foot (Bernina 37) to sew on the binding.  I’ve used a walking foot, and it works, but I have trouble getting a consistent 1/4″ with it.  Use what works for you.


After attaching the binding to the quilt back, be sure to press the binding back over the seam (the way the finished binding will be).

At this point, I’m ready to change my machine to a blind stitch, so I switch to a wide, open toe foot (#20).  Again, a walking foot or binding foot works.  Also, make sure to change your throat plate if necessary to the one that allows zigzag, etc.  Don’t ask me how I know this…


I set up my Bernina to look like this.  I choose the blind stitch, reverse it, reduce the width to less than 1 (very narrow, barely bites the binding), and reduce the length.  I use a thin (60 wt.) thread like Superior’s Bottom Line.  Invisible thread is good, too, but it drives me a little crazy because I can’t see it.  I use it when I have a really large contrast between quilt and binding color.


Then, from the front, I fold the binding into place, the edge just covering the 1/4″ stitching line showing through from the first sewing.  I start in the middle of a side.  The trick is to keep the stitching on the quilt, alongside the binding, very close to the folded edge of the binding, so that every few stitches the needle jumps over and nips the binding.  You may have moments when this fails and the needle misses the binding, leaving a gap.  This is easily fixed later.  If you see it happening, mark it with a pin and try harder to do better with the rest.


At this point, remove the cat from your quilt.


As you approach the corner, insert a pin about 3/4″ from the end to keep the binding in place.


Fold to form your miter, then pin that in place.  Sew to the miter, taking a stitch into the new side of binding.  Remove pins and turn the quilt for the new side.  I usually take a back stitch into the binding of the previous side to make sure the corner is really secure.  Then resume attaching binding to the new side.  Three more corners, and you are finished!


When you examine your work you are going to find gaps where you didn’t catch the binding.  Just go back and go over these before you reset your machine.  I tried to find one of these gaps for a photo, but for the first time I didn’t have any!  I find it varies a lot, probably having to do with how tired I am, and also the texture of the binding fabric.  Don’t despair if you have several to fix.


The back will look like this, with a slightly visible line of stitching alongside the binding.  After washing and crinkling, this becomes even less noticeable.


Now get going and finish those quilts!

I’m linking up with Really Random Thursday at Live a Colorful Life.


Blanket Binding Tutorial


Here is the tutorial several readers requested in December, 2012, for finishing a quilt (usually a baby quilt) with rayon blanket binding.  It’s easy, and it really is a favorite for those little fingers to stroke.  The width does require a few design considerations, but applying it is quicker than making and sewing on regular binding, even if you do yours all by machine.  I don’t know if there is a “better” or more standard way to attach this binding, but this is the way I do it, and I’m always satisfied with the result.


For demonstration purposes, I chose to make a cat mat.   My cats don’t really need an additional mat (it will keep your furniture clean), but I needed to use up this frisky cat print fabric and this..ahem…bright yellow blanket binding that has never complimented anything else.

Design Considerations

Blanket binding is nearly two inches (four inches folded in half) of solid color around your quilt.  While it doesn’t have to be nearly as loud as this example, it does add a lot more color and is a much stronger design element that narrow binding.  Be sure to addition your binding to make it accentuate the rest of the quilt, and be aware that there are several shades of most colors available.  Wrights make several shades of pink, for instance, and I think the dye lots vary, so you should be able to find the perfect one.  One package contains 4 3/4 yards, which is perfect for the size baby quilt I usually make, 36″ x 42″.  If your quilt is larger, be sure both/all of your packages really match each other.

Urbana-20130129-00603This two-inch finish will change the design of your quilt.  If your blocks go edge to edge, quite a bit will be covered up and the design may look “cut off”, probably a bad thing.  Three- to four- inch borders that once finished your quilt will now be cut way down to very narrow borders, possibly a bad thing.  Narrow borders or patches of different colors will show through the blanket binding and look funky.  I usually like to use a six-inch wide border, so that when two inches are covered up, four inches are still showing and it looks intentional.  It will look odd to put such a wide border on a small baby quilt, but much better when the binding’s attached.  I forgot what I was doing when I quilted this example and put rows of quilting near the edges.  It won’t hurt, but these will be covered by the binding.  Plan ahead.

Notice how smooth and flat the yellow binding looks on my cat mat?  That’s because I have not washed the mat.  When I do, the mat will shrink a bit, but the binding will not, creating a slightly ruffled effect on the binding.  This is just lovely on a little girl’s quilt.  If you don’t want this effect, zigzag the edges of your quilt and wash it first, then bind it.  I don’t think my cats will mind.


I like to finish the edges of my quilt first with a basting or zigzag stitch.


Baby quilts wear out, and sometimes the rayon binding wears through, so I don’t want raw edges and batting ever hanging out.  It also makes a nice stable edge to work with.


Then I set up my machine with something resembling a blanket stitch.  You can use any decorative stitch.  Test it out on a quilt sandwich scrap and adjust the width and length until you are happy.  On my Bernina 440QE I used stitch 45.  I flipped it to put the solid line of stitches on the quilt inside of the binding and to let the “rays” catch the blanket binding.  I changed the stitch width to 5 and increased the length a little.  I used a walking foot with good results, but I don’t think I always do, so experiment to see what you like.

I used 50 wt. thread in the same color as the binding so that it blends well.  I backstitched each time I began and ended.  I often use more decorative thread for this.  If your thread is slippery/silky you may want to pull the ends through and knot them, as they can come undone otherwise.


Open the package of binding, unroll it, and line it up even with the top of one edge of your quilt.  You are placing the edge of the quilt between the two halves of the folded binding, sandwiching it.  The binding is usually folded pretty evenly, but if there seems to be a little extra width on one side, place this side on the bottom of your quilt to be sure that your stitches catch it well.  I am not a pinner, but you will want to use a least a few thin, sharp pins when you first do this.  Make sure the quilt is pushed all the way into the binding, but just barely.  Let it ride in there easily, not pulled tight or stretched to one side or the other.


Sew the binding on along the first edge of the quilt, sewing all the way to the bottom edge.  Backstitch and clip your threads.  Check the back- the bottom stitching should look nearly the same as the top.


Remove the quilt from the machine.  Fold the binding to create a miter.  Pin this on the front and back, making sure to form both miters neatly.  Pin the binding along the new edge of the quilt.

Begin sewing the miter down from the top corner (backstitch).  Pivot, and sew the next edge, all the way to the bottom of the quilt. Repeat for the last two edges, stopping a few inches away from the final corner.


Mark the edge of the binding where the edge of the quilt hits it.  Cut off the extra binding an inch or so below your mark.



Fold the binding straight across where you have marked it.  It will fight you, so you may want to press it.  Then fold the corners in to form a “miter” (half miter).  This takes make a few minutes and a few tries to get right.  You may want to press it.  I used pins to secure it.  Now put the binding into place on the quilt, overlapping the binding where you began.  Make sure it comes all the way to the corner, covering any raw quilt edges.  If necessary, adjust the folding until it fits well.  Pin securely on both sides.  (This is a little bulky.  I keep thinking there is a clever way to clip the extra bulk, but I have’t found it.  More important to keep those raw edges under wraps.)


Return the quilt to machine to finish sewing until you reach the miter.  Pivot and sew along the miter out to the corner.  Backstitch securely  and admire your bound quilt!


Honestly, this binding is easy!  Writing about it took much longer than doing it!  This my first tutorial, so I have no idea if any of that made sense.  Please let me know what you think, and ask questions about anything that wasn’t clear.

Urbana-20130127-00597I’m linking up with Tuesday Tutorials on The Kurtz Corner.