Tuesday, December 24, 2019


and Errors

Have you ever turned a binding to the front and stitched by machine?

I have done it on small projects like mug rugs or minis, but never on a quilt -- until Friday.  

Picnic quilt - pattern inspired by Jo Kramer
I needed to bind two picnic quilts for Christmas gifts but due to a series of early errors complicated by a busy social schedule, I wasn't able to get to it until Friday.  I knew I didn't have the time to whip down the binding by hand.  And I knew these quilts would have a rugged life in and out of cars, on the ground at picnics and outdoor concerts, so I figured a machine binding made more sense.

I normally cut my bindings at 2 inches.  That was my first error.  The thickness of the back, a heavy chambray-looking fabric, along with the batting was just too much for 2" to cover the stitching on the front.  Plus the weight of the fabric I had chosen for the binding, the poly-cotton grey used in the quilt, didn't look like it would hold up to a lot of wear.

Poly-cotton grey chambray
 (BTW, the shirts were mostly poly-cotton, too, so why not in the background?) (And also, BTW, isn't the quilting pattern perfect for this?)

So back to the cutting table. This time I used the backing fabric, cut at 2.5".

Backing fabric - heavy!
I estimated how many strips I would need for both quilts and that was my second error.  I forgot to allow for the overlap at the joining point and so I was one strip short for the second quilt.  At least I had the presence of mind to measure before I started stitching it on!

Thinking (always gets me in trouble) that I would need the walking foot, I stitched the binding to the back of the quilts without any problems.  But when I started stitching on the front side, the walking foot would hang on lumps and bumps and I found myself pulling the quilt from behind to keep it moving.  Talk about uneven stitches!  And with all my attention on moving the fabric under the needle, I couldn't keep a consistent stitching line.  Some of my stitches didn't even catch the edge of the binding!  AND my thread matched so well I had a hard time seeing the stitches to rip out!!

Not to mention all that yanking around got my thread wrapped around my sewing-room angel that hangs from my supplemental light.

With my anxiety level at an all-time high -- I couldn't quit now because these quilts were promised two Christmases ago -- I put my trusty quarter-inch foot back on the machine.

Not only did it work better than the walking foot, the 1/8" side of the foot on the left was the perfect stitching guide.  However, it was still dragging a bit over lumpy seams.  Then it occurred to me ... I can adjust the foot pressure on this machine!

Presser foot pressure control
I increased the pressure a bit above normal and all was well with my world.
Edit:  Both quilts finished in time, wrapped, and delivered!!

Full disclosure:  If I had thought of the foot pressure earlier, the walking foot may have worked.   
If I hadn't been too lazy to clear off the Pfaff machine (with dual feed),
I probably would not have had any problems.


  1. I always bind my donation quilts this way. Glad you got it all worked out in time. BTW, I love that pattern with the dark background.

  2. For years I sewed bindings to the back, then pulled over to the front. I used zigzag stitch as a "signature." But then I tried sewing to the front and pulling over to the back. I've pretty much got that mastered now.....All that said, you're nearly finished with the quilt! Good for you!

  3. SEW??? Did you get the 2nd quilt done???

  4. Nothing like a deadline to make the gremlins come out and play!
    The only time I've sewed bindings to the front, I've used a flange binding, so the stitching was part of the effect. Plus, the flange made a nice wide target to stitch on!
    Glad you finished! Have a very merry Christmas!

  5. I've started sewing the bindings by machine most of the time now. It takes a bit getting used to and I cut my binding strips at 3" so it's easy to turn. I'm not a perfectionist so it doesn't bother me to have the stitching show on the back. Merry Christmas!

  6. So glad you got it all figured out just in time! Merry Christmas, Libby!

  7. Glad you got it all figured out and accomplished in time. The weight and thickness of the fabric must be what gave you trouble. I'm sure the recipients will love and use these picnic quilts.
    I only bind by machine - no hand stitching for this girl. I'll send you my cheat sheet on machine binding. I find that either dual feed with reduced pressure, or the walking foot (depends which machine I'm using) works well for me, although I prefer the dual feed.

  8. I’m one who always sews bindings by machine and always to the back first. Usually I cut the bindings 2.25” wide, but I’ve just done two quilts with 2.5” bindings, and they came out so neatly! I’ve never had issues with using my walking foot with bindings, but I sew the binding strips together at 90-degree angles to minimize bulk. Glad you got yours done in time for gifting!!!

  9. I love the quilt and especially the gray that gave you so much trouble. I had to adjust the foot pressure on my Janome the other day. I found the suggestion in the manual, I think, which is usually the last place I look! Your post made me smile this morning, especially the "anxiety level at an all-time high". Oh how I relate!


Comments make me smile; I would love to hear from you! I respond almost exclusively by email, so be sure you are not a "no-reply" blogger. Or include your email address if you need an answer to a question.