Choosing the right type of binding to finish a quilt or other sewing project can literally put you in a bind. Should you go with straight or bias cut? Single- or double-folded? Pre-cut or DIY? And then there are all the different combos of the above!
Don't let it put you on edge. We've got your back! Here's everything you need to know to pick the right binding for any kind of raw edge.
What is Binding, Exactly?
Binding is a long strip of fabric used to neatly cover raw fabric edges. In a quilt, binding holds together and covers the outer edges of the quilt sandwich (the quilt top, batting and backing) and can add another element to the design. Binding can also finish raw edges in clothing (round armholes, necklines, hems) and in bags, accessories, aprons, toys and more.
A Quick Word on Terms
The words "binding" and "tape" both describe specially cut and folded strips of fabric. In general, the difference is this: "Binding" typically describes a quilt finishing, while "tape" more commonly refers to pre-made binding strips used in other sewing projects (though quilters may also use these strips!).
Choosing the Right Weave: Straight Grain or Bias
Deciding which type of binding to use is simple once you know how they're cut.
Straight Grain Binding
If the strips of fabric are cut along the crosswise grain of your fabric (from selvage to selvage) or the lengthwise grain (from raw edge to raw edge), they're straight grain bindings or tape.
How can you tell? Take a close look at the fabric weave; it should run across the strips from side to side and parallel to the long edge. You can also give your binding the "tug test" by gently pulling the ends of the fabric strip; if it's cut on the grain, the fabric will not stretch.
Due to its lack of flex, straight grain cut binding or tape is best for covering straight edges and should be mitered at each corner.
Bias Grain Binding
Binding and tape can also be cut along the bias grain of the fabric, 45 degrees to the crosswise or lengthwise grain. Woven fabric stretches most in this direction, allowing the finished binding to lay nice and flat on curved edges.
You tell if a binding is bias cut by checking to see if the weave of the fabric runs diagonal to the edges of the strip. You can also give it the "tug test" — if the binding is cut on the bias, it will stretch a bit when you pull on the ends of the strip.
Binding Cheat Sheet: 4 Most Common Types
French Quilt Binding
French quilt binding is the most common and durable type of binding used for quilts. This binding is made from strips of fabric, usually 2 to 2½ inches wide, that are folded wrong sides together with the raw edges touching to create a double layer of fabric. This makes it a great choice for a quilt you plan to use and wash a lot. It can be cut on the straight grain (best for straight edges) or bias grain (ideal for curved edges).
Single-Fold Quilt Binding
This type of binding, as the name suggests, covers the quilt's edges with a single layer of fabric. It's easy to attach but, because it's only one layer, not as durable as French binding. It's a good pick for quilts that will be hung on display or used lightly and washed just once in a while.
As with a French quilt binding, single-fold binding can be cut on the crosswise or lengthwise grain (no stretch) for straight quilts, or on the bias grain to provide the needed stretch to neatly finish curved quilt edges.
Single-Fold Bias Tape
This is a strip of fabric cut on the bias with both edges folded in. It's typically used for trim, casings, facings and hems in sewing.
While single fold bias tape can be used for quilts, the single layer of fabric isn't strong enough for a quilt that will see a lot of action.
A note about DIY: While pre-made strips are cut on the bias, you can make your own single-fold bias tape on the crosswise or lengthwise fabric grain for non-curved application.
Double-Fold Bias Tape
This is the most common type of bias tape. Each raw fabric edge is folded in toward the center of the fabric strip; then the strip is folded in half along the center, matching the folded edges. Similar to single-fold bias tape, pre-made double-fold tape is cut on the bias and often used to finish raw edges on garments, bags, accessories or toys.
Like single-fold bias tape, double-fold bias tape isn't great for for binding a quilt. Despite being called "double fold," the edges are folded into, but not over, the center. This leaves only a single layer of fabric to cover the raw edge.
You can buy pre-made strips cut on the bias. But if you make your own double-fold bias tape, you can cut it on the straight grain rather than the bias, so it'll work for covering a straight raw edge.
Pre-Made vs. DIY Binding
You can find every permutation of pre-made binding in your local sewing store. But making your own isn't hard and lets you customize the grain, color and pattern. Learn how with this easy tutorial .
Once you get your binding figured out, you're well on your way to finishing your sewing or quilting project — and ready to enjoy those beautiful edges.