Rae pretends she can quilt (and shares a quick quilting tutorial)

Disclaimer: I am not a Real Quilter. I have never taken a quilting class before, nor do I have any other kind of training in the quilting department besides that which my mother dispensed in the rare moments I actually listened to her. I certainly did more eye rolling than listening as a general rule, so what sewing knowledge I was able to get through my stubborn head can only be attributed to her, not me, and is laudable indeed.

With that said, I like to make quilts because I have found them to be pretty intuitive on their own. With very little expertise one can produce a very satisfying end product. Add to that the fact that they are quite simply the best way one can use multiple fabric prints or colors in one place.  I especially like to make baby quilts because they are small and quick and double as play blankets as well as bedding.

So despite the fact that I am a complete Quilting Imposter, I managed to pull together a tutorial for a baby quilt that is quite nice over at Sew Mama Sew.  It’s up today so you can head over there to see it: Crayon Box Quilt Tutorial. This quilt is very similar to the one I made for Clementine last year although hers was 6×7 squares and this one is 6×6.

If you follow Sew Mama Sew at all, you’ll know that many amazing quilters have contributed their expertise in the form of Sew Mama Sew Tutorials. They include but are certainly not limited to: Elizabeth of Oh Fransson!, Alissa of Handmade By Alissa (and founder of Modern Quilt Guild), and Ashley from Film in the Fridge (who I had the pleasure to meet this summer in Vermont!).  If you have time you should visit their blogs. They are Real Quilters and I have learned oodles from them and I am sure you will too.

I think the perspective I can offer as a completely untrained quilter is that there are ways to “cheat” (or as Amy Karol would say, “bend the rules”) when it comes to quilting.  These cheats don’t result in  award-winning heirloom quilts but for small projects like this one (that will probably get beaten up anyway), I’m quite sure it doesn’t matter.  Plus it makes me love quilting just a little bit more when I can make a nice-looking quilt quickly without toiling over it for eons.

So in addition to the tutorial, I wanted to share another trick I use to bend the rules here on the blog, which is that I bind my quilts using the backing instead of making separate binding. I’m sure this has all Real Quilters Gone Before rolling over in their graves, but it makes me feel pretty smug/clever. Here’s a quick tutorial:


This is a tutorial to show you how to use the fabric on the back of a quilt to bind it off.  Most quilts have a separate strip of binding that goes around the outside of the quilt.  Here I’ll show you how to take the backing and fold it over the edge of the quilt to finish it.  This works best for small baby or doll quilts. 

Note: the Crayon Box Quilt Tutorial for the quilt top shown in the instruction photos below was first posted over at Sew Mama Sew. The quilt pictured above is the Storytime Squares Quilt which is available as a free pattern download/tutorial on my blog.

Step 1: After quilting the layers of your quilt together, trim the batting along the outside of the quilt right to the edge of the quilt top.

Step 2: Trim backing (the yellow plaid fabric in my photos) to ONE INCH all the way around the quilt.

Step 3: Starting near a corner and working clockwise around the quilt, fold the backing in half so that its raw edge is lined up with the edge of the quilt top (it will now be 1/2″ wide).  In the photo below, I have folded the edge on the left:

Step 4: Fold backing one more time along the edge of the quilt top so that it overlaps the quilt top by 1/2″.  Pin in place.

Step 5: Mark a diagonal line at the corner.  The base of the line should start where the corner of the quilt top is (under the backing) and end 1″ from the corner along the raw edge.

Step 6: Fold backing along line

Step 7: Fold the backing in half again (I drew a line in the first photo with marker so you can see where) to line up raw edge with edge of quilt top.

Step 8: Fold backing over again at the quilt top edge so that it again overlaps the quilt top by 1/2.” Repeat this method all the way around the quilt until you have the entire quilt backing folded and pinned.

Step 9: Stitch close to edge of backing around entire quilt to finish.

In the photo above, you can see that your quilting lines will be visible past the stitching for the binding since they go all the way to the edge of the quilt top. As long as my stitching blends in with the quilt backing, I don’t sweat this too much, but if you don’t like how this looks you can pull out those threads and knot them where you want them to end using a needle.

Ta-daaaah!  Finished quilt!

61 thoughts on “Rae pretends she can quilt (and shares a quick quilting tutorial)

  1. Thanks, Rae!

    Also, Jennifer over at CraftSanity shared another quick quilting tip.

    I think she said she lays the batting down, then the top quilt and then the backing (face down). After sewing around the edges, leaving several inches unsewn, she flips it inside out so the backing and raw edges are on the inside. After sewing the opening closed, you're done!

    • That is how I finished my first baby quilt/blanket. Then I “tacked” little spots around the quilt to hold the front & back together instead of actually quilting it 🙂 Professional quilting is too expensive and I would screw up machine quilting with my sewing machine 🙂

  2. Awesome Rae! I'm not a quilter either…..I've only done one (which I am quite proud of), but because it took me FOREVER to piece together I sent it out to be machine quilted…..I probably would have messed it up otherwise. I'm dying to get more into quilting…..just have to find the time (and patience).

    I don't think there is anything better feeling than a good quilt.

    Great job – love the solid colors with the white. Go girl!!


  3. i love the very simple pattern you chose to organize white and coloured fabrics, i think i will use it for a quilt i want to do.

  4. This is BRILLIANT!! I cannot thank you enough for posting this! I too, and NOT a quilter, but, I've decided to try, I have the quilt front mostly done – just a couple more seams to sew, but I've put off finishing it b/c I don't know how to do the binding edge. I am so inspired to finish that dang quilt now!!


  5. I'm not a quilter either, but have a quilt top all finished and ready to go, but have been fearing binding. I'm going to give this a shot! Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the binding tutorial. I had noticed that my great aunt (a very prolific quilter) bound her quilts this way and since she is no longer here to ask, I was trying to figure out how she did it! And you did it for me, so thanks! 🙂

  7. Rae thank you so much. Especially for how to do the corners. I am getting ready to quilt a baby quilt this morning my first and had decided to use the backing for the binding but hadn't figured out how to do the corners, yet.

  8. Coming from the SMS blog to say thanks for the tutorial over there & this one here. Your methods make the process so much appealing for me & there's actually a chance that I might now start & finish a quilting project!

  9. Fabulous! I am in the process of creating (um, in my mind for the time being) a quilt for my son. Never having done this before, I'm completely intimidated. I'm excited to try this binding trick and read the Sew Mama Sew! article as well.

  10. Don't call yourself a quilting impostor! I think many of us have never taken a quilting/sewing class and have just learned by the fly (definitely my method). Just think of yourself as one of those talented, self-taught geniuses!

  11. Great quilt – such cheerful colours! I might have a go myself! (Never quilted in my life!)

    Love your blog 🙂

  12. Turned out fabulous, I love the colors, they match your blog header! So cheerful and inspiring. I've only done one quilt so far but am addicted now. That binding trick is awesome!

  13. i love this method of binding. some don't, but i find it fast and finished easily– instead of waiting for me to do it by hand.

  14. Rock it girly. 😉 My first quilt was when I was 16, and my mom bound it for me. She's not a quilter, and this is how she did it. I think I may have to try it!

  15. I love you for that binding tutorial! I frequently use the backing for the binding, but I've never found a good technique for mitering the corners. This problem has been known to bring my projects to a screeching halt for months at a time until I'm willing to tackle the problem (usually with very little grace). Hopefully this new technique will get me going again!

  16. thank you so much for sharing this "cheating" method. i have plans to make my first quilt and i think this "cheater" binding method is awesome and makes so much sense! it will be much easier to give this a go rather than the traditional way.

    thanks for everything you share!

  17. Totally used this today when I sewed up 6 Christmas Tree "Wall Hanging" Blocks (UGH!!) … it worked very slick. And I noticed if I didn't quilt right up to the edge (I was doing free motion) I could pull back the backing and trim the batting using my rotary cutter.

    Thanks for the new trick ;).

  18. Hi Rae,
    Just a couple of hints to help you with your quilting. I loved the simplicity of your tutoral. A hugh difference between sew and quilting is the seam allowance. To sew we do 5/8th of a inch and with quilting its 1/4 of a inch. quilt is more exacting and its like putting a puzzle together. It is so important to square up all the blocks to be exactly the same size. They go together easier and lay better. You also need to stitch it together after you turn it so it don't move all over. Start in the middle and work out with a stitch in your seams better known as stitch in the ditch. When you make your sandwich tape the backing face down in place on a table or whatever. Then cut the batting a little smaller and then put your top down face up; Or you can do the envelope thing you did. You no doubt could become a good quilter and it also helps you with making even better garments etc. Keep trying or take a few lessons. It is so much fun when you can do both and now I am doing both for great grand babies. VB

  19. Rae – thank you! This is a brilliant binding method…I've always been frustrated by binding quilts (well, the 1 I've made previously) and this made my quilt binding so much easier!

  20. thanks again! i left a comment a few weeks ago, and am now back to say that i tried it and it works great! thank you!!!

  21. Hey, this is a fabulous tutorial! We think this project is great, and we want to share it with other sewers and quilters by featuring a link on http://www.WeAllSew.com! We’ll be featuring a link to your project right here at your blog at the "Free Stuff" page of http://www.WeAllSew.com all next week. Please let me know if you have any questions about being featured at WeAllSew.com. Thanks so much-Erika

  22. What a fresh-looking quilt, and a nice binding method! I am also not a trained quilter and love learning things that make the process less intimidating.

  23. I'm not a quilter, although I could probably manage something like this as this was, hands-down the BEST quilting/binding advice EVER! I struggle with binding and this should take away some of that anxiety. And, some of us just like to craft and sew and don't want all the calculations and precision work of traditional quilting. This is somewhere in between but still allows us to create something we love. Thanks, thanks!

  24. I am not a someone who has ever quilted, nor thought I would. 'My mum does that', but slowly I feel a draw towards it, hmmm. Maybe this tutorial will help me get off the ground.
    PS. Your blog is inspirational. Thank you.

  25. Tah Dah…Just used your tip for binding in the corners…You Rock! It Worked! Thanks so Much…I will try to post a picture after I gift the quilt!

  26. I am smiling as I read today’s blog and the comments. You don’t need to have had lessons to claim to be a quilter. You don’t need to have followed any rules. A quilter is someone who quilts and so many of you who responded have quilted. So, may I say, and emphasize, that every one of you who has made a quilt is most definitely a quilter! Pat yourselves on the back, and proudly proclaim to be quilters! You deserve it! – And in case you wonder why I am claiming the privilege of making such a pronouncement, I am a quilt designer and editor of The Quilt Pattern Magazine as well as owner of Quilts for Sale.ca. I feel qualified. 🙂

  27. Thank you for sharing this! I love the way this binding works…so fast and fun. I made a couple of mug rugs using your cheater binding and I’m hooked! Thanks again!

  28. Oh Wow!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have two chenille quilt tops in my cupboard hiding them away as they make me anxious every time I see them. You see I made them 3 years ago for my two daughters and after binding just one cot quilt I couldn’t bring myself to binding these larger bed quilts.It was just so dreadfullly difficult for me to do the binding on the cot quilt. I am now going to the two quilts out of the cupboard and get them done using your technique.

  29. The one drawback of this technique is that the binding stands a better chance of wearing thin after repeated washings. Traditional bindings use fabric that’s been cut on the bias, and somehow that makes the binding less prone to wear thin. Or at least that’s what I read somewhere. That being said, most of my quilts have been bound using the “cheater” method. What can I say? It’s definitely easier!

  30. I, apparently, come from a long line of quilting cheaters. All the quilts that I have that were made by old relatives I never met were bound this way. I have been wondering how and specifically went in search of a tutorial like this! Yay! Thanks for taking the time to post this!

  31. If that makes you a cheater, what does it make all of the quilters from the old days when they were cutting up feed sacks and would never have dreamed of taking classes?

    I’m going to try your binding idea on my next mug rug and some Christmas ornaments I’ve got planned. Regular binding always seems too bulky for those.

  32. Here’s what I think about being a “real” quilter: Quilting was a product of necessity. There were no classes or “proper techniques” or rules. It was an art form that was learned and passed down generation to generation, each person bringing their own little nuances to the table. That is the beauty of quilting.

    Did you make a beautiful quilt that your family can cuddle up under while their watching a crazy fun movie? Then you, my friend, are a real quilter 🙂

  33. I came across this post looking at another. Just wanted to say I own quite a few antique quilts that the binding were done such as you did yours! They have the backing folded double over to front as binding. So I do not consider this a No No way to do it and have also done the same!! Quilt on I say!;-)

  34. I just used your cheater binding and it turned out wonderful! Very easy to sew. I ironed the binding every step of the way and hand sewed the mitered corners shut. It looks very tidy.

  35. LOVE IT! I actually think i can do this binding successfully! Is this method on your Pinterest Board?? Can’t find it to Pin?

  36. I can’t tell you how much I love this! I’m about to start a new baby quilt, and I’m definitely going to try this. I’ve been struggling with machine sewing a traditional binding. It is so hard to get it in just the right spot. I usually opt for hand sewing the binding but that takes soooooo loooooong! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    PS: I think you actually ARE a quilter. 🙂

  37. I work with an orgainization that makes comforters to send to refugess overseas ( Mennonite Central Committee). Next week, we are holding a Blitz to tie and bind some of the comfoters. We hope to do 150+. This is the method we will use, just wider. If you want it to be extra strudy, you can cut the binding a little wider and wrap it over the edge doubled up. The corners are a little trickier then. I also cut the batting and back a little wider if I need the quilt to be a little wider, and it makes a more decorative element. Thanks for the tutorial!

  38. Thank you so much Rae, for your brilliant tutorial with regards to binding quilts using back of quilt, you make it look so easy and I will certainly give it a go , maybe starting smaller with placemats, kind regards. valerie

  39. Hello! I used this method for my first baby blanket/quilt and it went very smoothly. Soooo much easier than making bias tape and working with it. Your pictures and explanations were easy to follow and very helpful :).

  40. Please don’t say this is a cheating method. It is just a different and very economical way to do a binding. Way less frustrating also. Especially great for smaller projects like mug rugs, animal pads, table runners etc where you just don’t want to be bothered. And never say you are not a quilter. We can always find someone better no matter how much experience we have. Don’t doubt yourself. If you have made a quilt, no matter how simple, you are a quilter. Also this is a very cute quilt with great use of color. Great for kids or as a bedspread or throw quilt. Might just try one, thanks.

  41. Had I seen this earlier this morning…. 😀 However, the next quilt will be better now! Thank you!

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