How To Fix Wavy Binding On A Quilt?

After all the hard work you put into your quilt, wavy binding on a quilt can be heartbreaking. We’ll look into how to keep your quilt edges straight and how to fix stretched binding, plus other ideas to get your quilt binding to lie flat.

No matter how much I enjoy making a quilt, there always comes a time towards the end of the process, when I just want to be done! I know I’m not alone and there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re like me, my friend.

Binding to me is usually the light at the end of the tunnel, the final step to making that perfect quilt I’ve been working so hard on. Just do this, and then I’m done. Right?

Well unfortunately I’ve lived through more than one occasion where the binding part got a bit stretched out (pun intended). You see, I’ve had the dreaded wavy binding happen to me more than once.

What Does Wavy Binding Look Like?

To make it super clear what I’m talking about, here are pictures of one of these sad sad events (the pattern of the quilt I was working on is Summer Haze by Suzy Quilts). 

I want to emphasize that the problem I am exploring here is the waviness that happens after the binding is attached. In my case, the quilt itself was nice and flat when laid out before binding (if your quilted unbound quilt’s borders are wavy, that’s a different problem that we’ll have to leave for another time).

Anyway… I’ve decided to investigate. Why is the binding on my quilt wavy? Why does the binding not lie flat? How do I keep my quilt edges from getting wavy? Let me share what I’ve been able to find out.

Why Is My Quilt Binding Wavy?

To find the solution to wavy borders you have to start at the problem. Why are the bound edges of a quilt wavy in the first place?

Turns out, there is more than one possibility, and it’s really impossible to know which is the culprit for your exact situation. It could also be a combination of things. 

But to me it’s been really helpful knowing what the different problems could be, and how they can be fixed, so I could to a better job (re)attaching the binding next time. 

I’ll go through the possible problems causing wavy binding along with the fixes for wavy binding. After all, that’s the whole point of this investigation – to learn how to fix it!

How To Fix Wavy Quilt Binding?

Unfortunately, if you’ve already bound your quilt and the binding is wavy, you will most likely have to undo the whole thing and start over. So first, get your beloved seam ripper out, turn Netflix on and get going. It’s tedious but has to be done.

Once you’ve prepared your quilt for re-binding (is that a word?), read through the possible culprits of wavy binding to hopefully avoid it on your second attempt.

Problem: The Binding Is Stretched

This is what comes up most when searching for wavy binding culprits. Especially if you’re sure your quilt was nice, flat and square before sewing on the binding.

In this case, the binding strip, when sewn onto the quilt, is in fact longer than the actual edge of the quilt. This causes the binding to ‘pull’ on the quilt creating waves and preventing the quilt to lie flat.

Stretched Binding Solutions

Binding can stretch for more than one reason, so to make sure it doesn’t happen, follow these tips:

  • Always pin the binding strip on the quilt before sewing. This ensures the strip is the exact same length as the quilt. If you don’t do this and just wing it, it’s very likely you’ll end up using more binding than needed, which causes the dreaded wavy effect.
  • Make sure the binding strip (especially straight grain binding) is taut when you pin it onto the uilt. It might even feel like it’s pulling a teeny bit and that’s OK. This will again ensure the strip is the same length as the quilt. Pin it too loosely and you’ll get your waves again.
  • Use a walking foot to attach the binding. This will help feed all of the layers through the machine evenly without stretching.
  • Let the machine do the work of feeding the fabrics through (no pulling or pushing the quilt!). Make sure the weight of the quilt is supported on your work surface (so it doesn’t pull in any direction).
  • Make a test run with the walking foot and a test quilt sandwich and binding. Check to see the seam. If needed, adjust the pressure on the pressure foot.

Problem: The Quilt Top is Not Square

The other thing that might be causing wavy binding is the geometry of the quilt itself. If the quilt top is not perfectly square, it might cause your binding to wave even if you’re binding technique is perfect.

There are many things that can go wrong in the quilt making process that cause your quilt top and then your quilt sandwich to become unsquare. My top three suggestions for your future projects would be:

  1. Measure your quilt blocks as you build them, making sure each building block is a square as possible.
  2. Generally, adding a border to the quilt top can help square it up.
  3. Avoid quilting in one direction only as this can distort the quilt (especially if this direction is not parallel to the edge of the quilt).

Of course, if you’re here trying to find a solution to your wavy binding, these probably won’t be an option for you, as you’ve already past these steps. So let’s see what you can do at this point.

Uneven Quilt Solutions

It’s usually a bit harder to square up the quilt once it’s all quilted, but small adjustments can be made. Here are some tips:

  • Always use a rotary cutter and a long ruler to cut off the excess fabric and batting. It’s much harder to make a perfectly straight edge with scissors.
  • You can make minor adjustments by cutting off excess fabric if there are certain areas where the edge of the quilt is pushing out of the straight line. I say MINOR adjustments as I don’t recommend cutting away too much as it can alter the appearance of the quilt top (especially when you’re dealing with a block configuration).
Cut off minor imperfections.
  • In some cases the quilting alters the geometry of the top by forcing the edges out. In this case, you can try machine basting around the edges of the entire quilt top (about ⅛’’ from the edge) using your maximum stitch length. Then, gently pull the stitch every few inches (a bit more where you see the stretching has occurred) to gather the edges slightly. Sew the binding on as usual.
Machine baste around the perimeter of the quilt.
  • Try using a wider binding (for example ½’’ finished), which will help hide the imperfections of the edges.

Problem: Waviness Occurs After Washing

If everything looked great when you finished binding the quilt, and the waviness occurred after you pulled your quilt from the washing machine, there’s probably a problem with the fabrics you used. More accurately, with how you prepped your fabrics.

Fabric Shrinking Solutions

My number one rule in sewing is prep all your fabrics the same way. So if you prewashed and preshrunk the fabrics for the quilt top, do the same with your backing fabric – and, of course, do the same with your binding fabric!

Many quilters don’t prewash their fabrics and that’s completely fine. I, on the other hand, am team prewash, so I always prewash the binding as well.

Unfortunately, if you got your quilt wavy out of the wash, I don’t think there’s any other option than to unpick the binding and redo it, making sure you’ve prepped all your fabrics the same way.

These are the top tips and ideas that I could find to help fix the wavy binding on a quilt.

As you can see, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution here. Hopefully, the tips will help you find the solution to your particular problem.

If it makes you feel any better, I did in the end get the perfect flat binding on my Summer Haze quilt (and on all the others I’ve made since) by following everything that is listed in this article. And yes, getting the perfect finish makes it all (including unpicking the entire binding) worth it in the end.

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