The one thing I get asked about more often than anything else is how to do chunky, big-stitch hand-binding. I’ve fielded every question, such as: does it go through all the layers? Do you use a special needle? What thread is best? I’ll be answering all your questions and more today!
Big-stitch hand-quilting is my absolute favorite. It adds such a unique touch to your finished quilt, and becomes a conversation starter. Plus, it is super addicting!
If you enjoy hand-binding, check out the hand binding variation tutorial!
You don’t need too many special supplies for this type of quilting, which makes it ideal for beginners or people without access to a local quilt shop. Pictured above is all you need.
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- Thread – When hand-binding, I use Perle Cotton thread in size 8 or 12. With thread sizes, the bigger the number, the thicker the thread. There are many brands out there, including Aurifil, Wonderfil, Valdani, and DMC. My favorite weight is size 12, since it gives a chunky but not-as-thick look, but I’ve found less colors in size 12, so I’ll use either one. I will caution you, though, to stick on one size for a project, or else you’ll notice the difference. You can find it online, in local quilt shops, and even craft stores like Joann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby.
- Needle – honestly, I feel needles are such personal preference. What I like to work with might not be what you like, and that’s okay. Find a needle that feels right and gets you the results you want, and stick with that. Sometimes, I’ll try 3-4 different needles until I get the one I like. For binding, since you’re dealing with a lot of layers, I prefer a stiffer needle that won’t bend too easily. Just make sure it isn’t too thick, and you can thread it easily with your perle cotton.
- Thimble – not needed but HIGHLY recommended. a thimble is a lifesaver if you’re doing a ton of hand-quilting, it will save your finger from bruising, you put it on the finger that you will use to push the needle through the layers. My absolute favorite thimble (and it took me a long time to find one I like) is this Clover brand all-leather thimble. (it comes in 3 sizes, too!). Don’t have a thimble? I’ve found a couple of Band-Aids work in a pinch!
- Scissors for cutting your thread. Any old pair will do.
Got your supplies ready? Let’s get started!
Cut a piece of thread to start binding. Most tutorials say about 18″ length, but I don’t like to switch threads that often so I’ll start with about 36″ in length. Use what is comfortable for you. Tie a knot about 2 inches above the end of your thread, and push your needle through the backing of your quilt ONLY, and bring it back up about 2 inches further. You will do this every time you start a new thread.
The purpose of this, and finishing a thread away from your completed stitch, is to keep the right tension through your thread. I’ve found that if you try to tie a knot too close to where you start and stop, you’ll either end up with a thread that’s too tight above or too loose, because you’re in a cramped spot. By carrying the thread a few inches away, you get a smoother finished product.
Bring your needle up through your binding so that it faces the outside of the binding.
This is what it should look like:
Start hand stitching the binding. I like to load up my needle with about 3 stitches. You’re going down into the middle of the quilt. The idea is to only catch your backing and maybe your batting in your stitches. The stitches should not go through to the front of the quilt. If you’re new at hand-stitching, start with one stitch at a time, and increase the number you load on your needle as you get more comfortable.
Periodically, flip your quilt over and look at the front to make sure your stitches aren’t showing. Sometimes if you catch just a bit of the front it will produce a pucker, which ideally you want to avoid.
It is also a good idea to lift up the binding to check that you’re catching the backing in your stitches. Once in a while I’ll miss a stitch, and that’s okay, as long as most of them are securing the binding to the backing.
Once you get close to a corner, start planning your stitches. You want to catch the mitered corner right on the edge. This secures the corner of the quilt.
Start stitching the next section, continuing as before.
When you have about 6″ of thread left or so, it is time to secure this thread and put a new one on your quilt. You’ll start by bringing your needle down through your binding, but don’t go through your backing just yet.
Now bring your needle through your backing, carrying your thread about 2″ away from your last finished stitch.
Pull the thread to take out any slack, but don’t crank on it, then double knot. Cut your thread. I like to leave a 2″ tail, which I don’t bother burying, since it will get covered by my binding as I keep stitching. You’ll add a new thread as explained above, and continue binding.
On the last knot, you’ll do things a bit differently than the previous ones, because you can’t carry your thread. Bring your needle down through your binding, but don’t go through your backing, and tie a double knot.
Because your knot is between two stitches, we’re going to go ahead and hide it. Bring your needle between the backing and binding, and come up through the binding about 2″ away. Pull so your thread no longer has slack in it, and clip the thread with your scissors. You can also use a seam ripper to cut your thread if you’re afraid of cutting your binding.
And finished! You can probably tell below where my last stitch was, since I didn’t plan my stitches out perfectly, but it doesn’t matter! No one will see that but you. Enjoy your snuggly, newly-bound quilt!