The first thing to know about binding is that there are as many ways to make it and apply it as there are schools of quilters. This is the method I use most often.
The first thing I do is prepare the quilted sandwich to receive the binding. I begin by using my walking foot to stitch a basting zigzag stitch around the edge of the top. The batting and backing should be extending at least 1" on the outside of the edge of the top. The basting zigzag puts the three layers together so they will act as one as I trim the edges and then apply my binding. You can read the complete instructions for Squaring Up your quilt. Following these instructions means that you are adding the binding to a square quilt and you can use your 1/4" foot because the layers are already stitched together.
Binding can match the border or be made of contrasting fabric. Cut your binding strips 2" wide. Connect them by making a 45º angle join. Make one long continuous strip. (Bias binding is not necessary unless your edges are scalloped or curved.)
Hint: Binding strips can be cut from 2"- 3 1/4" wide, depending on how wide you would like the binding to appear. This is a combination of personal preference and proportion to the quilt. Just remember that the binding should be filled with the quilt edge. In other words, it should feel stuffed.
If you are going to use wide binding, you will have to sew it on at a distance further from the edge than 1/4". Otherwise, when you wrap it around, it will not be applied evenly on both sides or the binding will be empty of batting.
Fold the binding wrong sides together in half (lengthwise) and press. The binding is now 1" wide. When you stitch the 1/4" seam allowance (which actually uses 1/2" since you have doubled the binding), you will have 1/2" left to pull around and stitch to the other side. The ideal is for the batting to completely fill the binding. It looks better and it wears better.
On the average bed quilt, you would stitch your binding to the top (right side) of the quilt and hand stitch the fold to the back side. On something like a table runner or baby quilt, which will receive heavy use, you might want to stitch the binding to the back, then bring the fold to the front and use your blind hem stitch or a decorative embroidery stitch to finish sewing. Not only is this sturdier, but it will take less time. This will NOT be invisible, so you might want to practice on a small scrap piece to see if you like how it looks before putting it on your real piece.
Fold over and press
When folded in half, it makes a finished pocket
Fold the starting end of your binding to create a finished edge. You can do that by folding over a triangle as shown above and then folding the binding strip in half OR by folding under 1/2" and pressing (as shown below) and then folding only the front as a triangle. Cheryl has cut her starting edge at a 45º angle.
Begin stitching your binding on one of the long sides, well away from the corner. You are putting the raw edge of the binding to the raw outside edge of the runner.
You can stitch the bottom layer for several inches and stop before catching the top, as shown in the illustration. Cut the thread and begin sewing again at B, leaving a pocket for inserting the end of the binding.
Beginning by stitching a short line on the bottom layer
Slide end into pocket left at the beginning
If you are lazy, you can begin stitching several inches from the end, leaving both layers of the binding free. Either way, you have created a pocket and when you come back around, you can trim the remaining end to an angle, tuck it into your pre-ironed bound end and no raw edges will show. You have also minimized bulk as much as possible.
You will want the corners of your bindings to look mitered. Here's how. Stitch to within 1/4" of the corner. Stop sewing. Cut thread. Fold the edge of the binding back on itself so the raw edge will now be perfectly aligned with the next raw edge of the quilted piece. Begin sewing right at the edge and stitch down to within 1/4" of the next corner.
Fold the binding edge back (left) and then down, with the raw edge against the edge of the quilt. (r)
When you get back to the first side, you will want to stop when you are about 3"-4" from your beginning fold. Trim off the remaining binding so that you have enough to comfortably tuck into the pocket you have left. I usually cut this at an angle to minimize bulk as much as possible.
This shows one end tucked inside the other. It is obvious because the colors are different. It disappears when they are the same.
When you go to fold the corners back, the fan fold of fabric you have created will allow the binding to go around the corner and be sewn down smoothly on the other side.
Cheryl Petreman contributed tips and illustrations to this page.