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!


thanks so much for the tutorial! i cant wait to try this now!

All these years I've been sewing, I never heard or saw a tape maker. I'll be checking these out next time I make it to the fabric store. Thanks.

THANK YOU!! it seems so simple now...

*smacks forehead*

wow, that is fantastic, thank you so much....

ok this is life changing. I could not figure out how in the world to turn the darn corner!

thanks, you are so good!

Super Alicia!

Great tutorial. I've often wondered how this tool was actually used.

Since I never can seem to get an awl or pin to help when I'm starting to pull my fabric through the tape maker, I just cut my fabric into a small point at one end and that usually allows me to push it through without needing any additional help.

And now it makes perfect sense! Thanks for the great tute!!!

Hi Alicia,
I'm just beginning to start a new craft business and read the Woman's day article about you and this site. What a great personal touch this gives to the crafting process. My mission for the next 3 months is to make enough merchandise to sell and the local monthly tradedays weekends, but I also want to do a website very soon. Is there any advice that you care to give a "newbie" to beter ensure success???

Thank you so much for the tutorial! With Amy Karol's binding tape tutorial... they work perfect together!

Kristie Wenzrel says: April 03, 2008 at 12:24 PM

My name is Kristie and I just happened upon your site and love to read and look at all the fun stuff you have. I did have a question for you if you didnt mind. I have been thinking about taking a beginners sewing class and was wondering what kind of sewing machine do you think would be good? I would like to someday do a quilt but for the mean time it would be smaller projects. I have seen some very cute ones that look to be reproductions of vintage ones but in different colors. Do you have any ideas?
Thank you

Wonderful tutorial. I have bias makers that I bought years ago and never really used them. Your cute towels make me want to embroider some and bind them up!

thanks for detailing how to do the corners with the binding :) I've always had trouble, but now I'm off to try again properly!

Thank you so much for this tutorial!
Thank you foy this offer
Thank you _ Thank you

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

wow this is a wonderful tutorial! i didn't even know there was such thing as a binding maker until last night and you have the perfect tutorial on how to use it. it will take some practice for me, i'm sure but with your tut i will know what to do now. thank you!

Great explanation on mitered corners. I always got the distance to stop sewing near the corners wrong. Thanks. That tool for folding the binding is great where can I buy it?

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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




Since August of 2011 I've been using a Canon EOS 60D with an EF 18-200mm kit lens and an EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens.