Binding Tute

comments: 117


I stopped the smock just long enough to bind a couple more dishtowels. There's something about binding the edges of things that I find very satisfying, though it does take some time, and a bit of practice. There are a few different ways to do this, but this is the way I do mine.


When binding, you are basically creating a strip of fabric long enough to go around the all the edges of your item, folding that strip, then attaching it to the edge of your item. Since the edges of my dishtowels are straight, I'm using straight-grain-cut binding here. (If you were binding the edges of something curved, you'd use bias-cut binding ["bias tape"] made of strips cut at a 45-degree angle to the straight grain, which gives them the flexibility and stretch they'll need to go around curves. It is also more durable, having lots of threads running across folds instead of just one or two. Straight-grain binding, while less durable, is easier to handle and uses less fabric, so, you know — choices. Do what works for you.) With the help of a self-healing cutting mat and a clear plastic ruler, I cut enough strips (cutting perpendicular to the selvedge) so that, when they're stitched together at their short edges, they'll make one strip long enough to go around the circumference of the item I'm binding. Since I'm making binding that will ultimately be 3/4" when finished (before being folded again over the edges of the towel), I cut my strips twice this width, or 1 1/2", to accomodate the raw binding edges I'll be folding in. I stitch the strips, right sides together, at their short edges to make one long strip.


When binding quilts and other straight-edged items, a lot of people press this long strip in half lengthwise, stitch the raw edges to the edge of the item, then flip the binding to the back and secure. I personally do not enjoy pressing that long strip in half legthwise; it always comes out wobbly for me and I'm just not very good at it, so I generally use a tape maker to make neatly folded "tape," and attach it as I would do if it were cut on the bias, by machine and by hand. But that's just me.

Tape makers come in lots of different sizes; they're readily available in the notions section of any fabric store. It's good to have a few in your sewing box. As mentioned, I used 3/4" binding for these towels, and that dimension refers to the width of the tape as it comes out of the maker, but before it is folded around the edge of your item. You just feed the strip through the maker, right side down, pressing it as it exits the small end. (To get it started, I usually push it into the tape maker then use an awl or a thicker pin to sort of fish it out the end.)


With the dishtowel right side up, lay the binding right side down with one raw edge even with the raw edge of the dishtowel. Start a few inches away from a bottom corner (flip the towel vertically, so you're working on the bottom edge first); the long strip of the binding will be trailing way off to your right. Pin the binding to the towel on the foldline (I am a vertical pinner), then machine stitch, starting about an inch from the beginning of the binding (we'll deal with this end later, don't worry), and stopping and backstitching 3/8" (the width of the seam allowance) from the corner (where I've drawn the red line).

Binding5 Take the long end of the binding and fold it straight up, perpendicular to the edge of the towel, pivoting at the point where you stopped stitching.


Okay. Now fold it back down smoothly, keeping the fold (it's there at the top edge) even with the raw edge of the towel, and keeping the raw edges of the binding even with the raw edge of the towel on the right side. Pin and machine stitch, starting and backstitching right at the folded edge through all layers. Contine around the towel this way, stopping to repeat this process at all corners. When you get back around to the point where you started, cut the binding, leaving enough of an overlapso that you can stitch these two short ends together with a 3/8" seam; mark this point with a pin and stitch these ends; press open the seam allowance, lay the binding flat, and continue stitching down edge until you reach the point where you started. Overlap this point by a few stitches and backstitch to secure. Are you with me?


You can trim the edges a bit with a rotary cutter if you need to, but these are pretty tiny so I didn't. Turn the towel over so the back side of it is facing you. Now you'll just fold the binding to the back side and pin it. To miter the corners, fold over and press one side smoothly.


Then do the next side, keeping the edges of the corner smooth and sharp. Continue pinning the folded edges all the way around.

The nicest way to finish the back side is to  tack the binding to the back with slip stitches done by hand. If this is too daunting (it's a lot, and seven towels is a lot, too), you can stitch this edge by machine. It's more durable, so for a dishtowel it kind of makes sense. Match your thread to your binding (I didn't have any green like this yesterday, so mine is off-white), and machine stitch this edge with a scant 3/8" seam with the back side facing, so that you are stitching through all layers of binding neatly. You can also pin on the front side, then stitch in the ditch with the front side facing you, being sure to catch the binding on the back side in the seam. On binding this small, I tend to miss catching the back-side binding in the seam, so I usually do the less-neat thing and make sure I get it by having the back side facing me while sewing. I know there's a presser foot you can buy to apply binding this way to a finished piece this thin. Mabye I'll go get that today, even though I was just at the sewing machine store yesterday getting a new lightbulb and didn't think of it. Naturally.


So that's it! Cute, huh? Now just six more to do!


Those dishtowls are amazingly cute! And thanks for the tute. I though you always had to use a bias binding, i wasn't aware on straight edged pieces you could use a straight binding. what a time saver that will be :)

Bobbie Lynn Duran says: February 21, 2008 at 11:29 AM

Very cute and thank you for bias binding tip. I think these will make some nice birthday gifts this year. I can't wait to get started.

Alicia, I can't wait to sit down and try out your binding instructions. I thought you would enjoy seeing how Autum makes binding...very creative!

The Clover line of binding gadgets are the best bar none.

Wow! I have been doing my binding ALL WRONG! Thank you so much for the tutorial. Now I know why mine always turned out wonky. I'm definitely trying it out your way.

thank you so much for these instructions- i have been afraid to try this on my own but now i feel like i could! the fabric you used for the binding is beautiful too- do you know the name of it?

I love love LOVE this binding fabric and suddenly I desperately wish I had those exact dishtowels. No chance they'll be going in the store all bound just like this, I imagine, since you already put out the PDF? Bummer for me, but I suppose we must allow you to do things just for yourself every now and then.

The answer to this, I realize, is that I could learn to sew and make my own darn dishtowels out of your generous patterns, and I'd like to eventually, but it ain't happenin' this year, that's for sure.

Anyhoo. Any chance you'd share the name of the fabric, so maybe I can get my hands on some and then figure out what to do with it?

Oh, so that's how you do a mitered corner. Neat!

I almost always use bias for binding though. Especially on something that will get a lot of use or stress. I find it's sturdier than straight-grain because it has a little give and there isn't one long single fiber right on the fold.

I'm having a lot of fun making dishtowels (there is a sentance I'd never thought I'd write). I suspect several members of my family will be getting sets for Christmas.

Thanks for the great designs.

Thanks for the tutorial! Great pics and terrific instructions. Now the real question is... do I have it in me to *bind* my dishtowels?

I think that the answer to that is "no," so I'll enjoy these lovely bound dishtowels vicariously through you!

yea! more notions!

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I tried my first binding this weekend and I knew I did it all wrong but I didn't know what the right way was... But now I know, thanks to you. : )

Nice tute. And that fabric you used in these photos? I love that. XO

What a helpful tutorial! I'm a newish sewer and I've just settled for bias tape because I was overwelmed by the thought of making my own. But no more:-)

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I look forward to giving it a try!

I LOVE your dishtowels and have been wanting to embroider some of my own for ages now. Can I ask where you got the towel fabric? I keep looking in stores and online and haven't found just the right cotton... is there a specific type I should be looking for? Is is just a super lightweight muslin? I know I can buy flower sack towels but they are never in dimensions that I want. Thanks foy any hints/tips you might offer :)

I've been procrastinating on my next project because I couldn't quite picture the I can go ahead. Thanks for the tutorial!

LOL I just noticed I typed "flower" instead of flour... DUH :)

Beautiful work and great tutorial; thank you!

That fabric is so pretty! Great, clear tutorial. I really want one of those binding gadgets - mine's a bit hit and miss!

Thanks guys -- added the info about the durability of bias binding to the post, good point. And the fabric is Robert Kaufman Screen Print D#6897 and says Darlene Zimmerman's Clothesline Club 2007: Little Darlings 6. :-)

And just click the "dishtowels" link the post for more info on the towel fabric, etc.

thanx for the tuto, I don't know if I'll have the courage to try it myself... where do you get so nice fabrics! it's always a problem here in France, but I found lot of nice peaces on Equilter... I'm a beginner...

eek! I can't wait! I'm done embroidering Mon-Weds. I've been holding off on the binding in full anticipation of this post (which I haven't read yet, so I don't know if a flickr group has been created?) Thanks, Alicia!

i'm a terrible sewer and i know i'll never ever do this but i thoroughly enjoyed your explanation. thank you!!

Great tips. I do it mostly the same, except once I've cut the fabric, I iron it in half and then fold the cut edges to the middle and iron again. It's anal, I know, but then I top stitch it to the edge with a running stitch. Since I'm not opening it to sew, it's nice and straight and I can see that it is going down perfectly on both sides at once.

Great sewing tips, Alicia.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at