Worn Binding

Worn Binding Discussion

I have read online many times that quilters chose not to hand stitch down a binding and favor machine binding for quilts that will receive “heavy use”. I am an advocate of doing what is best for you and your quilts, but I have to admit that I have never understood this reasoning or logic.

For the purposes of this post, I photographed a quilt that my husband and I sleep under every night and has been on our bed, used, and washed for over 7 1/2 years.

Worn Binding

Worn Binding

My husband and I have many quilts that we keep in regular rotation on our bed, and the binding does wear and fray after years of heavy use. But it’s never been due to the finishing technique I selected (in this case you can see on the back of the quilt that I hand stitched the binding down). Instead, the double fold wears and eventually gives way.

Worn Binding

Worn Binding

So, more than anything, this affirms for me that a double fold binding helps hold things together longer than a single fold binding. I’d suggest making sure you use a double fold binding if a quilt is going to get heavy use, then.

And if you like machine binding: finish your quilts with machine binding! If you like hand binding: go for it! If you want to try a new technique and learn: I think that is awesome.

I just personally have never seen that hand binding as a finishing technique is what gives way on a quilt binding. But that’s just my experience. What about you? What experiences do you have with worn binding if any?

32 thoughts on “Worn Binding Discussion

  1. Amanda Best says:

    I agree with you! The fold seems to be where the wear takes place, not so much the stitching. I am 90% of the time a machine binder, my quilts would sit in an unfinished heap if not, but a really special quilt, or one I hand quilt I will bind by hand. I think either way is great, and everyone should do it however they like to!

  2. I’ve had binding wear out on quilts. Like you, I use double fold. I usually machine stitch. Not because of wear, but because of time constraints. I will hand attach binding if I am planning on entering the quilt into a judged show where machine binding will count against me.

  3. Arlyn Parker says:

    I think the argument for hand-stitched binding isn’t so much durability as it is ease in replacement. It’s much easier to remove a binding that is hand stitched on the back than one that is attached by machine on the front and back of the quilt. My quilts are neither for show or heirlooms, so I machine stitch on both sides just to get them finished.

  4. I use a double fold on all of my quilts now, irregardless of the wear, unless it’s a mini mini and the bulk will be too much. The main reason I switched is because I didn’t like working with single fold. I prefer to hand bind (because I can watch a movie while stitching), but I have done binding by machine, although I don’t feel like it looks as good (i.e., I need more practice). I agree with you, that you use the method that works best for you.

  5. Alison says:

    I have always always done double fold binding on everything. I have one quilt that has the binding fraying in a few spots, but that’s ultimately more because a bunny chewed on it. It’s an old scrappy quilt, and I have strongly considered cutting the binding off the quilt and adding a new binding.

  6. Suzanne says:

    None of my quilts is old enough to show wear, but I’m with you. I don’t think there’s any difference (pertaining to wear only) between machine binding or hand binding, unless the hand binding has not been done properly. But no matter what, cotton will eventually show wear. And when it does, I’d simply rip off the old binding and sew on some new. I always use double-fold and I like machine binding, it’s quicker, easier, and more fun because you can use decorative stitches that add a little pizazz. So much for my opinion – everyone has his or her preference.

  7. QuiltShopGal says:

    I agree with you 100%

  8. The method (at leasat so far) has not ever mattered on worn binding. It is more often the threads wearing on the edge and a binding done on bias or cross grain helps, but doesn’t prevent it. Its kind of a fact of life, fabric does wear and if it is a quilt to be used and loved, it will happen much quicker. I also repair these for more use, not preservation, as they really aren’t meant for that.

  9. Joanne H says:

    I’m with you on this. I learned to use a double fold binding, and other than facing a few quilts, have never done anything else. I enjoy the binding process, including the hand stitching part, so that is usually what I do. Sometimes I like to machine bind when I’m adding a small flange for a pop of color, but I could easily do that by hand too. I just choose to do those by machine. I also make and donate quite a few quilts each year and most of the facilities (hospitals, veterans’ facilities, etc.), request machine bound quilts. They state that is necessary because of the industrial-type washing and drying machines. It doesn’t really matter to me either way. I just do what they ask. 🙂

  10. Laura M says:

    I agree that binding does wear on the edge over time. I think the thought process behind the stitch the binding by hand versus stitch the binding on the machine is related to skill level of the stitcher and thread used. My local guild donates around 400 quilts per year to the local neonatal intensive care unit. Some of the ladies (perhaps whose eyesight is failing) make the stitches too far apart and a small child could put their fingers in and pull. As a result, the request is stitches 1/4″ apart or machine binding. The quality of the thread used to hand stitch bindings also makes a difference. So perhaps the handstitch versus machine stitch debate is around these issues. Also, issues can happen when the owner of the quilt may not be aware of procedures for washing and drying quilts to reduce damage/wear. In the end, bed quilts are to be loved and used and they do wear out, but that is part of the cycle of (quilt) life..

  11. Tami Von Zalez says:

    I have never seen a worn binding but I am not around many legacy quilts. I finish all of my quilts in double fold French hand binding.

  12. Patty says:

    I had always heard that bindings cut on the bias wear better but I’ve actually not tried this!

  13. coollizzie says:

    I also agree with your experience. I do my bindings as you do, and the hand stitches hold up fine – it’s always the fold that wears through! Thanks for addressing this issue!

  14. I have always heard that machine quilting the binding is better for longevity. It is good to know that the fabric is the limiting factor versus either stitching method.

  15. Anja @ Anja Quilts says:

    Very interesting. I machine bind for that reason…and also because I’m too lazy to hand bind. LOL I always thought that perhaps my stitching would not hold up. So glad to know that it does. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I would say that the more important issue is to use bias and not straight of grain for heavy use quilts. The edge does get the most wear, and if the threads run the length of the binding, it is easier to break one and have it unravel. With bias binding, the threads cross over the edge, and resist long runs of breakage.

  17. I’m with you, Yvonne. I decide on each quilt whether I want to do the binding by hand or machine, and it holds up just as well either way. I do think we have to be careful not to let our stitches get too far apart with hand stitching. I know I’m a bit extreme with my tiny stitches, but I’ve seen quilts that would be easy to catch a finger or toe between the stitches and pull off the binding.

    What I’ve actually found more interesting over the years is the difference between straight grain vs bias binding. The only quilt I have that is showing significant wear (holes in the binding) was done with straight of grain. Bias binding spreads out the wear because it’s not just one or two fibers running along the edge of the quilt. My quilts with bias binding have held up much better despite getting heavier use and rougher treatment than the one with straight of grain binding.

  18. Quilted Pants says:

    Thanks for your interesting post and the discussion that has grown from it. I’ve never tried making bias binding but maybe I should give it a try… As for how I stitch down the binding? Well! Like others who’ve replied that choice tends to have more to do with the time available, although I had been working under the idea that machine stitched binding is more durable than hand stitched. Still living, learning and revising my thinking! 🙂

  19. Yvonne, I also appreciate you initiating this discussion. I’ve not had good results with machine binding except when I used a decorative stitch. I’ve been wanting to try bias binding for awhile, and after reading some of the comments above, I may need to give it a try sometime soon. Take care, Mary.

  20. catkiz says:

    I used to hand stitch my double bindings, but one thread fail after washing (after I’d made a couple dozen quilts) scared me and prompted me switch to machine binding. Now I always machine bind because (1) the charities I quilt for request machine binding, and (2) I have carpal tunnel problems. After a lifetime of keyboarding and embroidery, my hands doth protesteth too much!

  21. Tu-Na Quilts says:

    I am in charge of Bed Turning at my quilting group’s quilt show and the vintage and unique entries are coming in. One quilt, made in 1875 has been whip stitched over the frayed binding edge to keep it intact. I suspect it is only a single thickness. This quilt came with a book written by the granddaughter of the maker chronicling it’s journey by covered wagon, stage coach, train, moving van, and plane over 2700 miles as the families moved from Ohio to California and then to Arizona through the years. My point is that one never knows when one of our quilts will be loved and cherished long after we are gone.

  22. I’ve always thought that was an odd thing to say, too. I used to hand bind all of my quilts, until I needed to finish one faster and tried machine binding. Since then I’ve machine bound everything. It feels good to be able to move quickly on to the next quilt 🙂

  23. helen says:

    I have had the binding wear through too, but rarely has my hand stitching come unstuck in the binding. I sometimes I think it is my husband’s clean shaven roughness in the morning that wears the binding, but who knows

  24. Jasmine @ Quilt Kisses says:

    I always think that the purpose of binding is to finish the edge. So as long as it is finished it doesn’t matter. I mostly machine bind for speed. I still do hand stitching on binding if there is a high contrast between the binding and backing fabrics. I have only had one quilt hand stitched down where the stitches came loose. Even then it was only a few inches that came undone. It was a picnic quilt and I know it caught on something. The stitches were probably too far apart. I made it over 20 years ago.

  25. Love this post, Yvonne! I’m a hand binder, but I’ve often heard that machine binding is more secure and I never really knew whether this was an accurate statement or not. Thanks for sharing your experience – it’s giving me peace of mind 🙂

  26. Kaja says:

    Couldn’t agree more. I too hand stitch, though I often use button thread, since it’s extra strong.

  27. I think a badly hand-sewn binding might give way, but I always hand sew my bindings and have never had a problem. Like you, I think the first thing to wear out will be the binding fabric itself, from abrasion during washing, not the stitching.

  28. My mother made a quilt that has the binding fraying at the edges, and you’re right, it isn’t due to the workmanship or technique but due to the friction the fabric gets at the edges. A double fold does help with that but depending on the use, it does wear out too. I have replaced that binding – couldn’t find a fabric that was the right color, so I made do with something close. I think the color is probably available now, or at least closer, but I will keep the binding as it is. I guess it’s my signature on that quilt now.

  29. I’ve been mulling this over since I saw your IG post about it. I agree with some of the commenters above: Maybe the real discussion isn’t hand finishing vs. machine finishing a binding. Maybe it’s using WOF strips vs. bias strips. I wonder how bias strips would hold up over the years. (Personally, I always use WOF strips because it requires less yardage and I machine-finish my bindings because I enjoy the process more.)

    Do you rebind quilts once their bindings start to wear down?

  30. Lea says:

    I’m very late to the game on this but I agree with you. I used to always hand stitch my bindings and started machine stitching my bindings for kid’s quilts. I also machine stitched my first quilt (a quilt for us) about 5 years ago. It is the only quilt binding that started to come apart. Maybe I forgot to back stitch. I always do a double binding.

  31. Any tips for fixing wear like this? I have a quilt that’s been used for over 10 years and it looks like yours. I’ve thought of just binding over the top, since like you I sewed it on by machine. Thoughts?

  32. Susan Shannon says:

    Yes, finished by machine sewing is better than sitting on a pile. But reading about bindings I’ve read that cutting the fabric on the bias will insure it lasts longer. Is this common practice?

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)