Happy New Years Eve! For my final post of 2008 I decided I needed to share some of my tips for hand-stitching binding. I’ve been saying I need to do it, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I hear so many quilters grumbling about hand-stitching binding. In fact, some sound like they really hate it and will procrastinate with finishing that part for months, maybe years! I love doing the hand work on binding. Call me crazy, but I do. It’s a chance for me to put my feet up and put in a movie – one I have memorized, of course, as I don’t actually get to watch it, just listen :-) . Another reason I love binding, is that it means another project is finished and I can start a few more – LOL. After hearing all these complaints, I started asking everyone why they hate binding and it seems the common complaint is that it takes so long. As you may have read in a previous post, I tend to sew at the fastest pace possible. I do the same with binding – though there are several key factors that allow me to do this.
First of all, you need the right Equipment. Remember my post on Tools of the Trade? I mentioned that I love straw needles and hand quilting thread for doing binding? These 2 items are KEY to my method.
Now, here’s why. If you use regular thread to stitch your binding, you have to use a double strand and it’s constantly tangling. That’s SOOO Frustrating!!! If you use hand quilting thread, you only need one strand. It’s coated, so it slides through the fabric very easily. The coating also makes it stronger and more durable.
Next you need a straw needle. They are everything I wish I could be. Sleek, thin, long, bendy and a good used one has beautiful curves!!! I know many quilters like the short quilting needles. I have so much trouble with these and the longer straw needles are easier for me to handle. Their long length makes them easy to load full of stitches, as you will see below. As you use them, they will begin to form to your hand, often incurring a permanent bend. (Don’t throw them at this point, they are just broke in). I recommend using Jenna Kimble’s needles from Fox Glove Cottage in a size 10 or 9. (You can purchase them at our online store here)
Secondly, you need the right Technique. One of the things that makes this process take so long for many quilters, is that they do all their stitches individually. This picture shows me taking one stitch and then pulling it through. Think how many stitches it takes to do binding and how long it takes to lift your arm up OVER and OVER again!
I eliminate all this needless exercising. What I do instead, is a technique I call Loading The Needle - (That’s not technically what I do, but hey, I’m bad with naming things!). To do that, follow the steps below:
1. Take one stitch and pull out about 6″ of thread as shown.
I’m wishing I was a hand model today. Oh well.
2. Then take as many stitches as you can until that 6″ of thread is used up.
Here’s a close up of those stitches
Here’s an extreme close up of an individual stitch. The stitch starts by coming into the backing fabric, right next to where the last stitch ended. The stitch ends by coming up into the binding fabric by just a few threads, then repeat. I usually do my stitches about a scant 1/4″ in length.
3. Next, pull the thread (and stitches) all the way through. Your arm will finish way up in the air as shown in the first photo. As your thread gets used up, this will change a bit though.
4. Repeat Steps 1-3 until the quilt is finished. I hope this helps you to like binding a little bit better. It’s really a simple technique and you will be able to have that binding done tonight, not next month! I should remember to mention that I don’t use a thimble or anything like that. I just find it slows me down. If you don’t already have a toughened or calloused finger from doing binding, you may find that your needle may poke through the skin on the tip of your finger. When this happens, I usually just put a dot of super glue on my finger and let it dry. Repeat if you need a thicker “thimble”.
As my part of wishing you a Happy New Year, I am going to have another give-away (in case stitching binding faster won’t help you in the new year). I think you may need a new BOOK and KIT to get your new year started. Anyone??? To enter for the drawing, all you need to do is leave me a comment – maybe something about your feelings towards hand-stitching binding, if you prefer to do it by machine, or something like that. If you do that, here’s what you will get:
A kit for this quilt, From the Heart, found in my newest book, Living Large.