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!


TAPE MARKER??!!!! I swear I've actually made binding before, just using my fingers. Yes, they do get burned on the iron, in fact. I swore myself off of quilt making after only two crib quilts! I am SO thankful you posted this, I had no idea such a tool existed. THANK YOU!

Thank you so much for the tutorial. This will help me with so many projects.

Thanks so much for teaching me something I've never tried before ... and for the advice on the folding tool. Now I can't wait to do something totally cool.
You're the best! xxoo

These are so pretty. I can't wait to make some dishtowels with your patterns! I might even frame them. Thank you for sharing them and for the binding tutorial!

Love the tutorial on binding. You make it seem simple (but, I know it's not really). Gonna give it a try. Thanks so much!

Yeah You! This is the easiest tute I have ever seen for binding! Your towels are just the cutest, love the fabric!

That is the coolest tool!!! I have never seen one of those before, and have subsequently avoided lots of neat projects. No more...thanks for the tutorial!

I'm such a noodlehead. Took me the longest time to figure out what *binding tute* meant. ...well, duh!

Thanks for the tute. :)

Gosh darn it girl,why can't you be my best friend, next door neighbor? You instructions are so clear and I can't wait to try it but wish you could look over my shoulder..Just lovely..Val

thanks for the info!

Mitered corners are my nemesis, but I think I just may conquer them with your tutorial!!! Thanks!

Cute! Very cute!

My mom has made hundreds of quilts and has never heard of a tape-maker! I'm totally giving her one now.

I've just stumbled upon your site (through a link in one of Angry Chicken's posts) and wow! Wait, let me make that a Capitalized W-O-W! Thanks for the great tute on bindings--it's really not something you can just pick up and figure out as you go along, as I discovered in my first project. And those dishtowels are awesomely cute. Thanks again!

I love those tape maker things so much, I own six of them! LOL

Hi there, I have been reading your blog for a while now, and super-duper loving it from the sidelines. Last summer I was in Boise and picked up a random little magazine called "Mary Jane's Farm" at the co-op there. I thought you might be interested because the whole issue is devoted to aprons, and there is an article all about SMOCKING, with step-by-step instructions. If you can't find it at Powell's, I could send you the article if you like.

Excellent tutorial! Thanks for posting it :D Your towels are so cute.

Wow. Lovely clean tutorial. Perfect.

This is such a cool tutorial - I can't wait to try it on something (though what I have no idea, since I have too many knitting projects in the works at the moment).

Oh,my goodness, that was an awesome step-by-step class there. I never knew... thank you dearly for that... I will be looking for one of those tools.
Blessings 2 you, Pamela

Just wanted to let you know that I've posted about your blog on my blog! I've listed you as one of my Top Ten Blogs!! Thanks for the good reading.

Thanks for the tutorial! I've just started sewing again and this will help me make my own binding tape for an apron I want to make. None of the stuff you can buy is the right colour!

I am so ashamed that I never knew such a thing existed, and so very happy you just introduced me to it and told me how to use it. Super special star badge for you, lady!

Your towels are just amazingly cute. Thanks for the sewing lesson. You truly are an inspiration.

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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.