What size binding would you like with that Ma’am?

Many times our customers are not aware that they can make their double-fold french binding any width they like – not just the width they were taught for their beginner quilt. 

Perhaps you may have pieced blocks on the border edge, and since you don’t want the binding to cover your points, your binding should be no wider than 1/4″ finished. 

The 3/8″ finished width is very popular in our area and is one that I use extensively as it has a little more substance.

However there are other times when you want a binding that has more impact, and a 1/2″ finished width provides the perfect frame for the quilt.  My most recent quilt was finished off with this binding width.  The quilt has no borders, and this width gave it an “ending”.

You may love the look of a very wide binding of 1 or 2″ finished which makes the binding look more like a small border.

Once you’ve determined what finished width you want for your quilt, you’ll need to know the size to cut the binding strips to make the double-fold french binding. 

So here is the magic formula:

(Desired Finished Width X 4) + 1″

And since a table with this figured out can be handy:


Desired Finished Width

Size to Cut Binding Strips
Sew binding on with Seam Allowance of:
1/4” 2” Scant 1/4”
3/8” 2 ½” Scant 3/8”
1/2” 3” Scant 1/2”
3/4” 4” Scant 3/4”
1” 5” Scant 1”

Now keep in mind that thicker fabrics require a “scanter” seam allowance to get the finished width you want.  Flannels, in particularly, need to be sewn on quite scant – perhaps even down 1/8″.  Batiks need to be sewn on less scant.

And of course batting thickness will play a part in the required “scant-ness” of the seam.  The table above would be a general guideline for a Warm and Natural product thickness.  If you use a thicker batting you need it to be a little more scant.  If you use a batting such as a silk blend, you will not need to be scant in your allowance.

I recommend that you test the “scant-ness” of the seam allowance you need, by lengthening the stitch length and sewing approximately 6″ of your binding on to the quilt.  Remove the quilt from the machine, and fold the binding over the edge so that it just covers your stitches on the reverse side.  The binding should be filled with your fabric and batting, with no empty space near the fold.  If  you have empty space, then you need to increase your seam allowance.  Also, you should not have to tug and pull to get it to cover the stitches.  If you’re finding it tough to make it cover the stitches, then decrease your seam allowance.  Keep repeating this basting test until you get it just right for that particular quilt. 

The easiest way to adjust your seam allowance is by changing your needle position.  Some machines allow you to do this in increments of .1, which means you can very finely adjust the seam allowance.

Don’t forget that your binding should be sewn on with a walking foot unless you have a machine with an integrated dual feed style mechanism, such as the . 

And lastly, don’t sew on a binding with the same stitch length you use for piecing.  I like a stitch length of 3 to 3.5 for binding (and ditch quilting), whereas I use a stitch length of 2 for piecing.  A longer stitch length is easier for a walking foot to work with, but still provides plenty of strength.

Linda Goh
(Helping you break free from any binding limitations you have)

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3 responses to “What size binding would you like with that Ma’am?

  1. Lauren Matheson

    Do you have photos of these widths in action? I can’t seem to find any comparison shots, and don’t want to cut before I have a better idea of how wide I want to go – a visual would be tremendously helpful!

    • Hi Lauren,
      No, I don’t have photos with various widths. I recommend you use some scraps that are 8-10″ long and try the various widths out on your quilt with a longer (basting stitch) on your machine. This way you’ll get to see them. It would be hard to discern the difference in size in photos as there are just slight changes. Best wishes, Linda

  2. The third column in your chart suggests your formula is 6xFW in your first couple of rows, assuming 1/4 will need room for working with loft. 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2 all work in your chart as 6xFW. 3/4 and 1 are off, using a 1/2 SA instead of the SA you have on the chart. Assuming that bindings are meant to be full, a 6xFW formula on low to medium loft quilts would be suggested, with additional width as loft is increased. If you leave the SA as is, the SW for 1″ FW will be 6″ and the 3/4 ” will be 4.5″.

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