Learn how to do invisible machine binding with the stitch-in-the-ditch method. Get a professional clean machine binding finish!
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Sewing binding on a quilt is the last step to finishing your quilt. And as rewarding it can be, it can also be kind of a chore. Especially when you have a whole list of other quilt patterns to make!
But I promise you, taking some extra time to do machine binding right can really take your quilts to the next level!
One of the ways to elevate the finished look of your quilts is by using the so-called invisible machine binding. Because there’s no visible seam on the front of the binding this method gives the quilt a truly professional and minimalistic finish.
There is some skill that goes into sewing binding this way. So I wouldn’t recommend it for your first few quilts. If you’re a beginner, I suggest you stick to our beginner friendly Machine Binding Tutorial.
But if you’re up for (a bit of) a challenge, this is an excellent method for creating a beautiful machine binding finish!
What is invisible machine binding?
Let me first explain what we’re talking about here. Invisible machine binding is of course not really invisible. The binding itself is your normal level of visible.
What’s invisible is the stitch(es) used to attach the binding to the quilt.
With this method, we begin by attaching the binding to the front of the quilt. We then fold the binding over to the back. Then, we use the stitch in the ditch sewing method to attach the binding to the back. We sew from the top, but because we sew in the ditch, this front stitch is practically invisible.
If done accurately (which can admittedly be hard, that’s why I don’t recommend this for beginners) the stitch on the back runs right along the edge of the binding. So you get a neat finish on both sides, as shown in the picture.
Now that we know what the goal is, let me show you how to do it.
NOTE: This tutorial will show you how to attach binding to the quilt. Before you do this, you will need to make a continuous binding strip. We explain how to calculate and sew a quilt binding strip in our tutorial: How to make binding for a quilt.
How To do Invisible Machine Binding
Here’s how to do invisible stitch in the ditch binding. Many of the steps here are very similar to our regular machine binding method, so if you’ve done that before, you shouldn’t have much trouble here.
Machine Binding Tools:
Machine Binding Materials:
Machine Binding Instructions:
Lay out your binding strip along the edges of your quilt to make sure you have enough length. You’ll need about 8-10 inches more than the perimeter of the quilt.
Begin attaching the binding strip to one side of the quilt. Leave about 8 inches of the strip at the beginning (this is needed later for joining the ends of the strip).
Align the raw edge of the binding with the edge of the quilt. Use clips to attach the binding along the first side of the quilt.
Place the quilt under the walking foot and lower the foot. Lock the stitch and sew along the edge of the quilt with the desired seam allowance. For 2 ¼” binding we use a generous ¼’’ seam allowance (about 5/16″) – read our tip for determining the seam allowance below.
As you’re approaching the coner of the quilt, slow down and slowly sew up until ¼’’ from the edge of the quilt. (I recommend you mark the ¼’’ point wih a pin or a marking tool.) When you reach the point, stop sewing and lock the stitch. Fold the tail of the binding over the edge of the quilt (over to your right). Then fold it back over to the left, aligning the fold with the edge of the quilt. Clip the fold to keep it in place.
Rotate the quilt so the next side is ready for sewing. Start sewing at the corner ¼’’ from the edge. This means your needle will go through just the binding and not the fold! You want to position the needle so it starts sewing right NEXT to the fold. Lock the stitch and start sewing along the edge of the quilt towards the next corner. Repeat this method on the remaining corners.
As you approach the point where you started attaching the binding stop about 10 inches before. Fold both binding tails and lay them neatly along the side of the quilt, leaving ¼’’ between them. Press with your fingers.
Open the left tail of the binding (in my case blue) and slip a pin through the center where the creases intersect. The pin will go through on the wrong side of the blue fabric and come out on the right side of the blue fabric. Now, grab the right tail of the binding (in my case yellow) and slide the pin through the centre where creases intersect. Only this time, start from the right side of the yellow fabric, and come out on the wrong side of the yellow fabric.
Pin the binding strips together, and remove the center pin.
Because we used solid fabrics it’s a bit hard to see how exactly to position the binding ends and the pin. We have another binding tutorial where these steps are easier to follow. See how to connect the binding ends (Step 6) in our Machine Binding Tutorial for Beginners.
You will get a cross shape with the binding ends facing right sides together. Check that the binding ends intersect at a 90-degree angle and the creases are lined up.
Sew diagonally from one corner to another and make sure that you hit the center mark. Trim the excess binding tails with a ¼’’ seam allowance (be super careful to trim on the correct side of the seam!). Press the connecting seam open.
Align the binding strip with the quilt edge. Continue sewing along the quilt side until you’ve reached the start of the binding seam. Don’t forget to lock stitches at the beginning and at the end of the seam.
Gently press the binding using a hot iron.
Fold the binding around the quilt edge to the back of the quilt. I like to use clips to keep it in place. When folding corners, fold the right side first and then fold the top over to get a nice mitered corner with a 45-degree fold.
Now it’s time to attach the binding to the back of the quilt. This is really where all this invisible magic happens.
We’ll be sewing stitch in the ditch with the front side facing up. This way the stitch will be barely visible on the front (because it will be hidden in the ditch).
Start sewing in the ditch at about the middle of one side of the quilt. Continue sewing until you almost reach the corner. Before you hit the corner, double-check if the corner fold on the back side is still in the right position. When you reach the corner, stop sewing, but leave the needle down. Lift the presser foot and turn the quilt 90 degrees. Now lower the presser foot and continue sewing in the ditch. Repeat these steps until you’ve reached the beginning of your stitch. Secure the stitch.
Voila, your quilt is beautifully bound and – finished! Yaaay! It takes some time to master this method, but it really produces a perfect finish, don’t you agree?
In case you want to try an easier, perhaps more beginner friendly method, make sure you read our beginner machine binding tutorial.
And make sure you practice, practice, practice. After all, finishing your current quilt is the first step to starting your next one!