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08/09/2011 / thriftomancer

Pillowcase Binding Tutorial

So I got into a making frenzy over the past few days (understandable enough), which led to the swift creation of my needle tome (to be showcased later) and the near-completion of the scrap quilt I’ve been working on for the past few weeks.

Last I checked in, the strips of quilt top were pieced, pressed, and ready to be joined to actually make a top. I had five of the strips put together, but that was it.

Now the entire top has been pieced, pressed, and basted to the batting; the backing’s been attached, and the whole thing’s been turned inside out, basted again, and is about 60% quilted. Like I said, frenzy.

If those steps sound a little off to your inner quilter, it’s because I don’t use the traditional binding techniques on my quilts. I go for a pillowcase binding instead. It’s a relatively painless technique that gives a simple, clean look to the quilt without me ever having to touch any bias tape. Which is the best part. (I hate bias tape.)

While I raced through the process, I still had the presence of mind to take some pictures so I’ll walk you through how to make a pillowcase binding on a quilt.

The first thing to remember is that, unlike other styles of binding quilts, this edge treatment is done before any quilting so:

1) Spread out your quilt top right-side down and lay your batting on top of it. The batting should be in contact with the wrong side of the quilt top. I find this easiest to do on the floor.

Pillowcase binding tutorial 1

2) Baste the two layers together. Be sure not to rumple them. If they don’t lay flat together now, you’re doomed to run into quilting problems later on down the line.

In fact, putting as much time and effort as possible into basting securely and well is key to making a nice quilt. Keeping your various layers in order should be paramount in your concerns.

3) Pick up the basted top/batting layer gently and set it off to the side, then lay out your backing fabric right side up. Spread the top/batting layer over the backing.

Make sure that the right sides of the top and backing are touching, the edges of all the layers line up neatly, and there aren’t any wrinkles.

4) Once everything is perfectly aligned, pin around the edges of the quilt to secure them, then sew around the outside of the quilt. Be sure to leave a gap in order to turn the quilt inside-out. I usually leave at least 10″, more if it’s a larger quilt, and back-stitch at each side of the gap to reinforce it.

Another consideration: While a 1/4″ seam allowance is traditional for everything in quilting, you’ll probably want to give the edge a little more. My average seam allowance for the edge if between 1/2″ and 5/8″.

5) Make absolutely sure you’ve removed all the pins and that your stitching caught all three layers of fabric.

The top and backing layers are really the only two that matter in this (so don’t worry too much if you missed the batting in places), but if there are spots where the stitching missed them, when you turn the quilt right side-out there will be holes along the edge. Also, if you accidentally leave pins in the edge you’ll either have to turn the quilt back wrong side-out to remove them or occasionally get stabbed by your quilt.

If all’s well with no holes or pins to speak of, clip the corners of the quilt to reduce bulk and turn it right side-out through the gap.

Exhibit A:

Pillowcase binding tutorial 2

And B:

Pillowcase binding tutorial 3

6) Now that the quilt is right-sides out, flatten it out by straightening the corners and edges first, then pulling the sides to get it into shape and smooth out any wrinkles.

Pillowcase binding tutorial 4

Straighten the corners.

Pillowcase binding tutorial 5

Pull it all flat.

Pillowcase binding tutorial 6

It helps to put a yard stick through the gap you use to turn it all inside-out and lift the top/batting layer up as you pull so the batting and backing won’t bind to each other.

After all’s straightened out and laying flat and wrinkle-free you can baste all the layers in place, whipstitch the gap closed, and get to quilting.

Congrats, you just made a pillowcase binding. Now you’ll never have to touch bias tape again.



Leave a Comment
  1. Beth / Aug 10 2011 8:41 pm

    Somewhere, sometime, in my life, I’ve seen a mosaic floor made with cubes of glass — this quilt makes me think of it. Beautiful!

    • thriftomancer / Aug 10 2011 9:35 pm

      Thank you! And it’s funny you should mention a mosaic floor…

      I was recently in the old (built in the 1930’s old) library in Port Huron, MI. It’s been turned into a museum since and the building itself is still incredibly ornate. One of the things that struck me then and came back to me when I decided on the ‘squares on a background’ design for this quilt was a floor panel in the original foyer of the building. It was a grate that, instead of having open spaces to let light through to the lower level, had squares of glass set into a concrete matrix.

  2. oneenglishteacher / Feb 13 2013 11:42 pm

    Thanks for posting this tutorial. The pillowcase binding wound up being the perfect way for me to finish a baby quilt:

  3. Lisa Inlow / Jun 26 2013 9:48 am

    When you quilt an item with this method, does it bunch up easily? Do you still have to baste with pins or sewing? or does it quilt up nicely?

  4. coupon vps / Feb 15 2018 12:16 pm

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