Binding panic

Annlee called last Friday afternoon in a state of panic. She was in the final stages of completing two commissioned quilts for a cabin resort. To speed things along, she had sent one of the quilts out to be bound and was in full distress upon its delivery back to her. She needed help. Pronto.

Saturday afternoon, she brought the quilt over so I could join her panic fest. The binding was to finish at ½”, which can be achieved one of two ways:

  • Cut the border (or your perimeter blocks if there is no border) slightly bigger to accommodate a ½” seam or…
  • Sew it with the usual ¼” seam and trim the backing and batting ½” from the seam line.

Annlee’s subcontractor had sewn the binding on with a ¼” seam and trimmed the backing and batting even with the raw edges of the quilt top. This would leave the binding empty when it was turned and stitched to the back. To remedy this, the subcontractor zigzagged a piece of cording to the edge…and things deteriorated from there.

We discussed at length how to tackle it and before she left, we removed the cording. While I was itching to remove the binding and start anew, Annlee was reluctant. We exhausted our discussion of solutions for the quilt and set it aside, turning our attention to the other quilt.

Annlee left both quilts at my house. Looking back, I hope that physically separating her from the source of her stress for 24 hours was a good thing.

Late Sunday afternoon, I gave Annlee the second quilt with binding attached so she could begin hand stitching while I worked on the other quilt. We talked some more about how to handle the other one and at one point she said, “If you take this binding off, I’ll be really mad at you.”

Sunday night after trying to fix it without removing the binding, I caved and spent about 2½ hours picking stitches while listening to Return of the Jedi.

Monday morning, I was well into the groove of getting the binding back on to the other quilt, using a good number of rulers and chalk markers in my collection. My goal was to

  • avoid stitching over triangle points
  • maintain a relatively consistent block dimension
  • keep the edges straight and square in spite of no excess to work with as it had all been trimmed away—argh!

squaring up

I emailed Annlee about 11:30 asking her to give me the entire day. I needed peace and quiet to measure, mark, pin, sew and concentrate. She wrote to say okay and that she’d had time to manufacture a small flange consisting of a length of muslin to which she machine basted a strip of batting.


The plan was to butt and stitch the flange to the edge of the quilt to provide something to wrap the binding around when it was time to turn it to the back.


She called a little later and said, “You took the binding off, didn’t you?”



But I just couldn’t work with it any other way but off!

I realized that in asking her to give me the entire day, I was also asking her to trust me 100 percent and yield control. Doing so at that point I suspected might have been counter to her instincts, given she had just done that with her subcontractor and was now dealing with such a negative result. I was grateful for her confidence and it made me even more determined to help make things right for her.

On Tuesday night I handed off the second quilt to Annlee with binding re-attached, this time sewn straight with properly mitered corners, diagonally joined ends, square edges and no chopped off triangle points.

the beast

Attaching the binding to this quilt was an exercise in compromises.

The biggest concern was dealing with the points of the triangles around the perimeter of the quilt when all the excess had been trimmed away. There were points that barely had ¼” of layers extending beyond them while the one right next door might have a generous ⅜” beyond it. This made me wonder if the binding had been sewn on accurately to begin with.

Add to that the need to make sure all the blocks measured 15½”, it’s no wonder Annlee was so stressed.

Now though, we were confident she could attach the flange with relative ease (relative because the quilt measures 80 inches square and it is a beast to support and guide through the machine).

We traded quilts again so I could continue hand stitching the binding to the first one while she worked on the other one.

the other one

Yesterday, despite my best effort, I handed it back to her with about 18 to 20 inches left to go.

Here's Annlee holding one of the quilts.

Here’s Annlee holding one of the quilts.

When she arrived at my house to pick it up, she came to the door carrying this bouquet of gorgeous peach colored roses to say thank you:


It felt good to put the quilts back into her hands, but it felt even better knowing I was able to help.



Filed under binding

2 responses to “Binding panic

  1. Rhonda

    Wow! What a task. Well done girls. I know first hand Annlee’s frustration. I am glad she had you to help fix things and make them right. The quilts look amazing. I know you are both glad to have them done and delivered. Whew!

  2. What an interesting story and so nice to see a picture of my old friend Annlee. Sounds like you two have a great working relationship, and I could just hear her asking you if you took off the binding. She has a sixth sense sometimes! The quilts look wonderful!

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