Finishing Your Quilt



It is now time to decide exactly what size you want your finished quilt to be and to mark where your bindings are to be attached. The first step in doing this is to lay the quilt out perfectly flat and measure carefully to find out what size it actually is. During the quilting process you will have lost several inches (usually 2-4) from the original cut size.

Next, decide on your finished size. Starting from the center of the quilt, measure out 1/2 this distance to the center of each edge, then subtract 1 inch and mark your quilt. For example, if you want your quilt to be a finished size of 100 inches square, measure out 50 inches from the center and place your mark at 49 inches out. In the same way measure out to the edge from several other points along the center folds and make a mark at the edge. Then connect these marks with a solid line. This line will be the sewing guide for your bindings.

If your quilt has a border, you may choose to use an alternative method of measurement. Just as above, measure from the quilt center to each edge center and mark. Then measure how far this mark is from the inside edge of your border and mark your lines along the edges so that this distance is the same all the way around the quilt. There may be some minor variations in your overall measurements but they are unlikely to be significant and the esthetic advantages of having an even border far outweigh them.


Remember those extra pieces of fabric which you saved after cutting out your quilt design? (Page 3) These are now about to become the bindings for your quilt. Again it is necessary to make choices. Quilt bindings may be either straight -- on the grain of the fabric -- or bias. The two methods will be discussed separately, the choice is yours.

Bias bindings This is perhaps the easiest way to add an attractive binding to your quilt. Start by cutting your surplus design fabric into bias strips approximately 4 inches wide. Sew these together into one continuous strip long enough to go all the way around your quilt. (About 400 inches). Then fold in half and press, wrong sides together, being careful not to stretch fabric.

On your quilt you will want to round off the corners somewhat to make application of the binding go more smoothly. An easy way to do this is to set a small plate (8 -9 inch diameter) upside down at the corner of the quilt and mark a line around it to meet the line you have already drawn on the sides.

Now, with the folded edge toward the center of the quilt, baste the raw edges of your binding along the line you have marked entirely around the quilt. Basting should be about 1/2 inch in from the raw edges. Overlap ends and cut off surplus binding. Stitch carefully along the basted line on your sewing machine. Remove bastings after stitching.

With sharp scissors, very carefully trim entire edge of quilt to within about 1 inch of your stitching line. Turn binding to back of quilt and baste folded edge over the machine stitching. Sew into place by hand using a small overcast stitch like that which you used for your applique.

This method will give you a double fold binding, very resistant to wear along the edges of your quilt.

Straight Bindings For straight bindings you will need to cut your surplus fabric into strips about 4 inches wide along the fabric grain. You will need 4 strips, each of which should be about 8 inches longer than the side of your quilt so some piecing may be necessary.

Baste one side of each strip to the face of quilt along the line you have marked and about 3/4 inch in from the edge of the strip. On each side of quilt start your basting about 4 inches from the end of binding strip to allow fabric for mitering corners. Begin and end basting at the marked corners of your quilt. Sew by machine and remove bastings.

To miter corners, mark and then join ends of binding strips with machine stitching at a 45 degree angle to the edges. A small plastic right triangle is useful for measuring this accurately. Cut off surplus triangles of binding fabric about 1/4 inch from stitching.

As above very carefully trim edge of quilt to within about 1 inch of machine stitching. Turn binding to back of quilt, fold under raw edge and baste to just cover machine stitching. At corners fold under surplus fabric to complete your miter on the back of quilt. To eliminate surplus bulk trim if necesary. Sew entire edge by hand with small overcast stitches as described above.

This method allows for a slightly wider binding and produces neat, square corners.


You think your quilt is finished and ready to use. Not quite yet. One final step is necessary. For months now it has been sitting around the house collecting some dust no matter how careful you are. There are also all those quilting lines you marked, perspiration from your hands, and perhaps a few blood spots you missed removing. It's time for a washing.

The first step is to check for spots. These should be removed prior to washing. Avoid all bleaches except such natural substances as vinegar and lemon juice. Spot removers if absolutely necessary should be checked on a scrap of fabric before using.

Next.fold your quilt into 1/4 ths. Lay it out flat, fold both edges toward the center, then fold again. The edges will now be on the inside.

For those of you with top loading washing machines, fill the machine to its highest level with cool water and add an appropriate ammount of any good cold water detergent. Run agitator briefly to mix well. Place folded quilt in machine and let soak for 2-3 minutes. Do not use agitator for washing. Even on the gentle cycle it can snag stitching. Instead use your hands to move quilt around in the machine for a few minutes. Drain machine and run through spin dry cycle. Repeat above process for at least one and preferably two rinses.

After the last spin-dry cycle, transfer the still folded quilt to your dryer and run on the low heat cycle for 20 -30 minutes. Time will vary with size of quilt, thickness of batting etc. so do check regularly. Remove while still very slightly damp and, if possible, spread on a flat surface to finish drying. If no flat surface is available, quilt may be completely dried in the machine, but may be slightly wrinkled. If so the wrinkles will flatten out in use.

For front loading washers the process is essentially the same except that the machine can be run on a delicate cycle for 2-3 minutes during the washing phase since there is no agitator to snag stitches.


So much time and so much work but your quilt is now ready for use. Now perhaps you understand why Hawaiians believe that a part of the maker's spirit resides forever in each quilt. Admire and enjoy. With care your quilt will last a lifetime. Best wishes. Me ke aloha o Honu.



Page 10
Pictures Page
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Quiltmaking -- Getting Started.
Page 4
Quiltmaking -- Moving Ahead
Page 5
Quiltmaking -- Putting it all Together.
Page 6
Quiltmaking -- Getting Ready to Quilt.
Page 7
Quiltmaking -- Quilting at last.
Page 8
Quiltmaking -- Still Quilting.
Page 11
Patterns Page
Page 12
Links Page
Page 13
A Quilter's Comments