Difference in Art Quilts Compared to Other Quilts:
Art quilts are usually small in comparison to your traditional bed quilts. Usually they are made with the intention that they will be hung on a wall.
A sleeve is attached to the back so that the piece is ready to hang. See my upcoming tutorial “5 Easy Ways to Make Simple Quilt Sleeves” in the near future.
Many times, art quilters will do without a border, as non-quilters don’t “see” the quilt as artwork if borders are attached. By eliminating the borders, this seems to elevate the project to an “art status”. Personally, I think any quilt is a piece of art – borders or not!
Once more, I hate that the uninformed (usually non-quilters) evaluate our work this way. But that being said, today’s tutorial is about how to effectively use and create non-traditional bindings for your art quilts. Let’s get started!
5 Easy Ways to Finish Your Art Quilt
With any of the techniques below, your quilt should be complete, fully quilted, squared up, the extra batting/backing trimmed and ready to bind.
1) Artitst Binding (a.k.a. hidden binding, quilt facing):
This is my #1 go to. In the past, I made my strips the same length as each side and added an extra inch of fabric to turn under edges; but this made the corners too bulky.
If you like the square corner, Cathy Geier does a nice tutorial here. She uses the term "faced binding".
So I came up with my current method below (as I was writing a lecture on quilt sleeves-who’d a thunk it?) which greatly reduces the bulkiness in the corners.
Note: I am using high contrasting thread and binding that is two different colors, so that you can see images more clearly. Normally, I’d use thread to match binding and binding fabric that is close in color to the quilt top. This allows everything to blend together.
- Measure each side of your quilt. Cut each strip 2 ½” wide by the length of the sides less 2”. You may need to piece strips to get the length if it’s a large quilt.
- Then aligning the raw edges and with wrong sides together, press along the long side.
- Cut four squares; fold (wrong sides together) along the diagonal and press.
I use anywhere from 3” to 6” squares for each corner-the larger the quilt, the larger the square’s size. (For this tiny sample, I used 3” squares.)
- First, pin the triangles to the quilt top in the corners aligning the raw edges; then center and pin each binding to the quilt top’s sides. The length is intentionally short to help reduce bulk in the corners.
- Sew binding to the front of your quilt all the way around using a ¼” seam. Cut the bulk away from the corner.
- Flip the binding to the back of the quilt so that the binding does NOT show at all on the front of the quilt.
Push out the corners with a blunt object like the Purple Thang or a chopstick.
You should see some of the front of the quilt on the back side.
There you go, an artist binding to complete a wonderful piece of art work!
2) Satin Stitch Edging:I use this method when I have “unusual” or jagged edges.
Be prepared to use up “mountains” of thread with this technique! When deciding on thread color choice, use
either the same color of thread as you see on the quilt top and change colors as the colors on the edge change OR use a highly contrasting thread color to add another design element to your art quilt.
- I use an applique (a.k.a. open-toed) foot for this technique.
I go around the piece twice starting at a corner. The first time, I will use a zigzag stitch with a relatively small width and the default stitch length just to secure all three layers (top, batting, backing). The needle stays in the fabrics with both zig and zag.
- On second round, use a wider stitch width and a very narrow stitch length to get that satin stitch look. Make sure that the outer edge of the stitch (the zag) “just falls off the edge” of the project.
This is done with the intention that you will cover up the edge of the white batting. As I go around a corner, I will stitch all the way to the end of the first row and leave the needle just off the fabric (on the zag) in the down position. Then turn the corner and start stitching again. You should overlap stitches around the corner to really secure this area.
- When you come back around to the beginning of your satin stitching, you can overlap a couple of sitches. Tie off and hide any loose threads. If this doesn’t completely cover the batting, you can either go around the piece a third time (I don’t recommend this as the thickness with all that thread makes it hard on your machine.) or use permanent markers that match the thread color to “color” your white batting.
3) Couched Yarn or Pearl Cotton Edging:
- Choose a thick yarn or pearl cotton (size 5) with a color that coordinates with your art quilt project. (From here on called product.)
- Cut the product to a length that is approximately 1” longer than the perimeter of your art quilt. To find the perimeter of a typical rectangle/square, add the length of all four sides together (and then add that 1” to the number you came up with).
- Starting in the middle of a side, leave a tail of about ½” long
and then line your product up with the outer edge of your project.
Using an applique foot (a.k.a. open-toed foot), Picture start stitching using a wide zigzag stitch. Make sure that the outer edge of the stitch (the zag) “just falls off the edge” of the project.
This is done with the intention that you will cover up (hide) the edge of the white batting with your product.
As I go around a corner, I will stitch all the way to the end of the row and leave the needle just off the fabric (on the zag) in the down position. Then turn the corner and start stitching again.
- When you get back to where you began, overlap that ½” tail that you originally left dangling with what you have left. Finish sewing down the edge and tie off/hide any loose threads. (See the 3rd image under step 3.)
- Terry Grant has a great tip in which she threads a hand needle with a 3” heavy-weight thread (like jean thread) through each corner of the project. As she comes to the corner, she grabs the thread tails to gently guide the stitching around the corner and at the same time avoid having the corners get “sucked” into the bed of the machine. When finished, she pulls the thread out and tosses it away. Genius!
These last two options don’t really give you that “artsy” quality that people are looking for in art quilt mentality; but I thought they are just too cute to not pass on to you my friend!
Both of the following techniques use an edging definitely for a piece of artwork that you don’t plan to handle too much (as handling will tend to fray the edges). You will need a rotary cutter blade that has a scallop or wave edge like the picture below.
4) Curved Edge Binding:
This gem I got from Susan Carlson during one of her workshops..
- Measure each side of your quilt top and add 1” to each of those measurements. Cut a strip for each side 1 ½” wide by the measurements you just computed.
- Using a rotary cutter blade with a wave, pinking or scallop edge, cut the length of one edge from each of the four strips. (I highly suggest trying to use a ruler (although akward) to save finger tips!
- Center (remeber strips are longer than sides) and then glue the right side of the fabric of the curved-edge strip to the back side of the quilt using a water soluble (fabric) glue. Approximately 1” should be glued to the back of the quilt (the straight edge) and ½” (the curved edge) should be left free of glue and hanging beyond the edge of the quilt.
- Whichever decorative stitch you use, you’ll want the majority of the stitch on the quilt top when the stitch “swings in” and when the stitch “swings out” you’ll want it to just “fall off the edge”. I prefer the blanket stitch for this technique. Once all the way around tie off and hide any loose ends.
- "Finally, you may want to “fix” the corners by adjusting the curves with your rotary cutter (or scissors).
5) Fused Curved Binding:
I suggest only hand washing the quilt (ONLY if necessary) as the wash will certainly fray the scallop and wash away the fusible. It’s not durable but well worth the effort as it won the quilt below a ribbon for creative borders!
- Measure the two sides of the quilt and cut 1 ½” wide strips by this measurement.
- Cut a fusible web product of your choice (we have a few in the notions here) to the same size. I suggest a product with paper to give it stiffness for the next step. Fuse the web to the back of the fabric. A tutorial is coming soon to show you how to work with fusibles.
- Fold the fabric in half, right sides out, along the length and aligning the raw edges (fusible with paper is on the inside).
- You need a rotary cutter blade that has a scallop or waved edge.Cut along the raw-edge sides using the scallop/wave blade rotary cutter. Tear off the paper. By folding the strip in half and then doing the scallop cut, each edge gets done at the same time.
- Sandwich the quilt top in the fold of the binding and then fuse the binding to the quilt.
- Repeat the above steps again, this time measuring the top and bottom of the quilt. But this time fold the corners to the center of the back of the strips after the wave has been cut to form a point. This will give the quilt a mitered, finished look.
- Sew a seam down the middle of the binding using a matching thread color so that it becomes invisible.
You can get many of these quilt patterns here. New ones will be coming in the near future.
Quilty quote of the day:
Well that’s my 2 cents worth on fabric panels. If you’d like to chime in on how you feel about borders and bindings please leave a comment. And while you're at it, sign up for my newsletters if you like what you read.