Machine Binding with Decorative Stitches
Ready to take your machine binding game up a notch? Use the built-in decorative stitches on your sewing machine to make your quilt binding a little more special, create texture and pop. The following blog post explores three different decorative stitches you could incorporate to your quilt binding, as well as tips and tricks for successful outcomes. If you’re not familiar with machine binding, go back to my previous blog post on how to machine bind to understand the preparation and steps involved, and come back to this blog post for more ideas on how to complete your quilt binding.
The steps outlined in the tutorial assume that you have already prepared and attached the quilt binding ¼in away from the raw edge with the sewing machine on the back of the quilt and that you’re about to fold the binding over to the quilt top and stitch to secure binding in place. See the left of the photo below for example.
Supplies and Tools:
- Basic sewing machine with decorative stitching function – the Brother Innovis BQ3100 from the Quilt Club Series was used in this tutorial.
- Small scrap quilt sandwich – You don’t need to look far for this. You could use a couple of small fabric and batting scrap to make a quilt sandwich to test out different decorative stitches.
- Prepared scrap quilt sandwich with binding attached on the back of the quilt – In addition to the small scrap quilt sandwich, you would also want to prepare a small scrap sandwich with the binding attached to one side of the sandwich, like you would for machine binding. This sandwich can be as small as a 5in square and with at least the binding covering two edges of the sandwich. This is going to be large enough to test out a decorative stitch and practice sewing the corners of the binding.
- Prepared quilt sandwich of the final project with binding attached on the back of the quilt
- Coordinating thread, 50wt cotton – recommend using a contrasting thread to go with the binding fabric for the top thread, and a second coordinating thread that’s as close as possible in colour to the binding and / or quilt back fabric for the bobbin thread. This is going to help hide any wonky seams or seams that show from the front of the quilt.
- Brother Compact MuVit Digital Dual Feed Foot or walking foot attachment
- Quilting gloves (optional)
Before we get going with the showing fun, here’s a couple of tips for successful outcomes:
- Test it Out: Even though you’re able to preview the decorative stitch on all of the Brother Quilt Club Series sewing machine displays, it’s still important to test it out on a scrap quilt sandwich with and without the quilt binding attached to the back of the quilt.
- Take Your Time: Compared with straight-line sewing, decorative stitches may take a little longer, especially if the selected decorative stitch has more intricate and dense details. Therefore, do not force or pull the project through the machine while operating the foot pedal. Guiding the quilt too fast or pulling the project may cause the decorative stitch to stretch and lose its effect, and by guiding the quilt too slowly, it may cause the decorative stitch to scrunch up. It’s all about finding the sweet spot between the speed of the needle and the movement of the quilt sandwich.
- Quilt Glove: Whilst machine binding your quilt, you may have noticed that the heavy weight of the quilt project on the left of the machine needle makes it hard to control and carefully guide the project.
- Bobbin Check: You may find that sewing with decorative stitches uses up more bobbin thread than if you were doing straight stitching. So be sure to have at least one bobbin wound up to go. And as previously mentioned, use a bobbin thread that is similar in colour to the binding and / or quilt back to hide any wonky seams or seams that show from the front of the quilt.
- Needle and Presser Foot in the Down Position: Ensure your machine settings are set so that the needle and presser foot are in the down position when the sewing machine needle is stationary and that the pivot function is not activated on the screen where the stitch is displayed. With these settings switched on, it prevents the project from losing its placement and shifting under the foot when pivoting the quilt project at the corners and making slight adjustments.
By following this step, this is going to allow you to:
- try out different built-in decorative stitches before stitching it to the final project,
- play around with different sizing of the decorative stitch, stitch lengths and widths,
- figure out how fast you should be operating the machine and guiding the fabric at the same time, and
- gauge where to position the quilt sandwich with the binding relative to the presser foot and needle.
The walking foot attachment, in particular the Brother Compact MuVit Digital Dual Feed Foot in conjunction with Brother’s Automatic Height Adjuster function, is going to help better guide the various thicknesses of the quilt sandwich and binding; and ensure the stitch lengths remain consistent.
Wearing a quilt glove is entirely optional. Personally, I like to have a quilting glove in my left hand to give me extra grip to better guide the quilt through the machine. My right hand stays gloveless as it works to fold the binding over from the back of the quilt to the quilt top.
Below is an example of the back side of one of my tests. I have chosen an off-white thread to blend in with the binding and backing fabrics.
When it comes to adding the decorative stitches, the following steps can be applied to all decorative stitches. In the example below, I have used a scrap quilt sandwich with binding attached to two edges, and the Couching Stitch (decorative stitch # Q-21).
Of course, there are other ways, but this is what I’ve found works for me. At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a few of my favourite decorative stitches for machine binding, and the machine setting details, i.e., number and name of stitch, stitch lengths, etc, including the decorative stitch used in the example below.
Step 1: Attach Brother Compact MuVit Digital Dual Feed Foot or walking foot attachment.
Step 2: Turn the quilt sandwich over so that the quilt top is facing up*. Then fold binding over from the back of the quilt sandwich to the front of the quilt sandwich. Position the binding centrally, relative to the presser foot, lower the needle and presser foot. Then hold down the ‘Reinforcement / tie-off stitch’ button (button with circle icon). By pressing this button, the machine sews 3-5 stitches in the same spot and it provides additional enforcement. Try not to reverse stitch here. In doing so, the decorative stitch overlaps, creates a clump of stitches and the finish doesn’t look as clean. If you do choose to go with this route, try to do this at a more obscure spot of the binding.
*Optional: Clip and/or press the binding over to the front of the quilt prior to securing the binding with the sewing machine. This would make this step easier and less fiddly.
When you reach approximately 2in from the corner of the quilt, stop and leave the needle in the presser foot in their down positions.
Step 3: Gently fold and hold down the finished edge of the binding on the quilt so the quilt top so there is a 45-degree angle overhang of binding at the corner of the quilt, and then continue stitching to secure the binding in place. When you reach the end, hold down the ‘Reinforcement / tie-off stitch’ button (button with circle icon). Remove the project from the machine.
Step 4: Then fold the binding perpendicular to the edge you have just attached, toward the centre of the quilt to form the corner of the quilt. Temporarily secure this corner fold in place with your hands, pins or clip. Hold down the ‘Reinforcement / tie-off stitch’ button (button with circle icon) and then continue sewing.
Step 5: Repeat steps 2 to 4 until binding is attached to all four sides of the quilt. When you reach the start of the binding, don’t forget to hold down the ‘Reinforcement / tie-off stitch’ button (button with circle icon). Again, try to not reverse stitch here; same reason as provided in Step 2.
Step 6: Trim any loose threads and enjoy!
Examples and Details:
Here are three of my favourite decorative stitches and the stitch details when it comes to machine binding. The binding strips shown in these examples are 2in wide, folded in half lengthwise. But with that said, please don’t skip the testing part. As machine settings vary from machine to machine, personal preferences and width of the binding strip.
#Decorative Stitch: Q-10 – 2 Steps Elastic Zig Zag
Stitch Width: 5.00mm
Stitch Length: 1.2mm
#Decorative Stitch: Q-21 – Couching Stitch
Stitch Width: 5.0mm
Stitch Length: 1.4mm
#Decorative Stitch: Q-40 – Decorative Stitch
Stitch Width: 5.00mm
Stitch Length: 3.00mm