Christa’s Quilt Along 4.9 – Sea of Squares Binding by Machine

Machine Binding

Today I am going to show you a quicker way to bind your quilt – by machine. Sometimes when I am in a hurry (like this week trying to finish all my quilting tasks before heading off to QuiltCon), a machine binding is just what I need!

It took me a total of 2 hours to bind this quilt using my home sewing machine. I love how it looked outside today with the quilt against the cloudy sky. A cool juxtaposition…

Sea of Squares Finished

Step 1 – Trim Your Quilt (10 Minutes)

Before binding, you want to start with a nicely trimmed edge, flush with your quilt. I don’t leave any batting peaking out. My method ends up with a fully stuffed, flat binding.

Using a large square ruler, I trim up all 4 corners first. If anything is out of alignment, I gently tug it back into place. Then I trim up all the sides with a long ruler.

Trim Corners FirstTrim the Sides


By starting with trimmed corners, I can match up the cutting lines so that things stay straight (as possible). You can throw your trimmings away or recycle them as pillow stuffing. 🙂

Step 2 – Calculate the Length of Binding Needed & Cut Strips (10 Minutes)

My favorite binding is called double fold straight grain binding, and it is super easy to make. You start off with strips of fabric, cut them on the straight of grain, then fold them in half twice to get the double fold. It holds up well especially on quilts that get a lot of use.

Measure the Perimeter

First, measure the perimeter of your quilt and add on 10 inches for corner folding, seams and “insurance.” In this case, my Sea of Squares quilt measures 50″ x 58″. It shrunk about 2 inches due to the intensity of the quilting on it.

I need a total length of 226 inches (50+50+58+58+10). If I divide this by 40 inches (the length of a fabric strip), I end up with 5.65 strips which I round up to 6 binding strips needed for this quilt. I cut all my strips 2.25 inches wide.

Binding Strips

Cut Six 2.25″ Wide Strips

For those of you sewing along using one of my Sea of Squares kits, binding fabric is included.

Step 3 – Sewing the Binding Strips Together (5 Minutes)

Join all of your binding strips into one long piece. Sew the ends on a mitered angle so that the bulk of the seam will be distributed more evenly. Be sure to cut one end of the binding on the same 45 degree angle. Fold the strips wrong sides together and press along the length with a dry iron.

Sew Continuous StripsFirst Fold

Before attaching to the quilt, I will pin part of the binding to one side, starting somewhere in the middle. Loosely walk the binding all the way around the quilt to ensure there will not be any mitered seams falling on the corners of your quilt.

Step 4 – Attaching the Binding to the Quilt (30 Minutes)

Sew from the front.Whether finishing the binding by hand or machine, this part is the same. Using coordinating or matching thread in top and bobbin, sew the binding to the front side of the quilt.

Starting with the binding on the angled end, leave a few inches of unsewn “tail” and use quarter-inch seams.

Be sure that you are sewing with the raw edges of the binding and the raw edges of the quilt in the seam. These will be covered with you flip your binding to the back.

You may wish to add a few pins to secure.

When you near a corner, be sure to mark a line 1/4″ away from the corner. Stop sewing at this line, then turn your quilt 90 degrees and sew off the edge.

Stop 1/4 inch from end.

Sew perpendicular to edge.


Flip the binding strip to create a 45 degree angle, pinch the excess, and then fold it back down. This creates the excess fabric allowing for a nice miter on both front and back of the quilt. Begin sewing the next side starting at the corner of your quilt. Repeat for all 4 corners.

Flip binding up.Flip binding down.


Leave about 6 inches of tail when you finish sewing. This will be joined next to create a continuous binding.

Step 6 – Joining the Ends Together (5 Minutes)

This is probably the trickiest part of the whole binding process. You want the ends to be joined with a nice miter seam that does not give any extra slack.

Leave a Tail

Open the Blunt End


Open both tail ends. Place the angled tail on top of the blunt tail and draw an erasable line along the edge of the angled tail where it meets the blunt end. You will need to account for both seam allowances, so cut 1/2 inch away from this line, keeping the 45 degree angle.

Trace the Angle

Now join the two ends together with 1/4″ seam. Use pins if needed and offset each of the triangle tips by about 1/4″. Finish attaching the binding to the front of the quilt.

Cut 1/2 inch wider.Pin ends and sew.


Step 7 – Binding by Machine (1 Hour)

I have a tendency to pull on my binding as I’m sewing, stretching  it and creating a wavy edge that needs to be blocked. By pinning first, this can eliminate most of the stretching.

Pin Binding

There are several different ways you can finish stitching the binding on by machine. For example, you can stitch in the ditch from the front side but only if you are absolutely sure you are catching the binding on the backside, too. You can stitch using straight lines or decorative stitches. Just sew slowly and be sure to catch the corners as you go around the quilt. A decorative stitch can hide a lot of mistakes!

For Sea of Squares I chose to use a reverse blanket stitch (similar to the regular blanket stitch I used for my machine applique table runner). The stitching won’t line up perfectly on the back but if you use a blending thread it won’t matter too much.

Sea of Squares Binding

Often times I have finished by quilting a decorative stitch from the backside, too.The picture below shows the binding I did on my first quilt-along, the Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt. I used one of my favorite stitches on my machine, a wavy serpentine stitch.

Jolly Jelly Roll QuiltI hope you have enjoyed following along as I made my Sea of Squares Quilt. I learned a lot from it and I encourage you to give this quilt a try. If you are currently working your way through your own version of Sea of Squares, I’d love to see it! You can share photos of your work in progress on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along.

Here is a picture of the back of Sea of Squares, showing all that machine quilted texture.

Backside of Quilt


Complete Quilt-Along Schedule for Sea of Squares
Click any of the links below and follow along at your own pace.

Sharing is Caring

Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . 🙂

Christa’s Quilt Along 4.8 – Sea of Squares Extra Quilting

Can you believe this quilt is almost done? Next week I will show you how to bind it by machine. The following week I will start all over with another brand new quilt-along. Here’s a hint for my next quilt: it requires 1 Jelly Roll and a 1 1/2 yards of background.

Extra Quilting

This week I added tons more quilting to my Sea of Squares quilt. I spent an extra 7 hours gleefully quilting along, adding loads of texture with straight slightly wonky lines using my walking foot. If I had planned ahead I would have quilted about an hour a day for 7 days. Instead, being the procrastinator I am, I did it all in one day, but it was still fun!

Step 1 – Quilting the Sash Rows (1 Hour 45 Minutes)

First I started with what was easy. I quilted parallel lines all going the same direction through all of the skinner sash rows. I worked my way across the quilt, one row at a time, flipping the quilt when there was too much bulk under the machine.

Quilt Parallel Lines

Step 2 – Quilting the Rest of the Rows (5 Hours, 15 Minutes)

Now it’s time to fill in the rest of the space. I quilted the rectangles with lines running perpendicular to the previous quilting lines. For the big squares I alternated directions. I quilted the print squares all one direction, and the solid squares the other way.

Quilt Perpendicular Lines

It was cold that day so I bundled up while quilting!

I wanted to try out the continuous reverse feature on my machine. I can push a button once and it will sew backwards until I push it again to stop (and I don’t have to keep my finger on the button). So I would quilt one line of quilting, then push the reverse button and quilt a line backwards without having to turn the quilt all the way around. It was great!

Reverse Quilting

It took about 1000 yards (2 spools) of thread just for the top. I used the same color in a thinner weight for the bottom so I wouldn’t run out of thread.

Quilting this quilt was very liberating for me. I did not mark the quilting lines because I wanted to add a touch of modernity to the quilt with more organic-looking texture. Once I let go of my perfectionist tendencies and got into the “waviness” of the lines, it set me free to enjoy the process. Jason is always telling me to go bold and let out my inner artist. So now I’m giving you the same permission!

Quitling Makes the Quilt

Be sure to take a look at my flickr group so that you can see the wonderful quilts being made by everyone else. And if you are working through any of my quilt-alongs, I’d love to see your progress!

In fact, Judith shared her version of Sea of Squares in beautiful brown and cream. Notice the wonderful quilting she did with wiggly lines across the surface and quilting motifs in the blocks. I love it when you can really make your quilt your own. Nice job, Judith!

Judith's Sea of Squares

Please share your pictures here:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/christasquiltalong/


Quilt-Along ScheduleLinks are Active at the Completion of Each Step:

Sharing is Caring

Please share your work in progress in my facebook group: Quilt With Christa . 🙂

Christa’s Quilt Along 4.7 – Machine Quilting Sea of Squares

For today’s post I will be showing how to quilt this quilt with a walking foot and straight lines. This is enough quilting to hold the quilt together and give it some definition. It took me a total of 5.5 hours to quilt this part of the quilt

I will be adding more quilting to my quilts because one of my quilting mottos is, “Quilt the heck out of it!” I will show that optional extra quilting next week.

Thread Choice

Thread ChoiceFor this quilt, I would like my quilt to have some definition but I don’t want the stitches to stand out too much. I selected a little bit heavier weight thread – a 40 weight polyester with larger quilting needle (size 90) to go with it.

I wound my bobbins with the same color but in a lightweight 60 weight polyester. I chose a cream thread because there is so much white in the quilt. The cream will blend into the white but It’s not quite as “stark” as white so it won’t be too bright against the blue fabrics.

Warm UpStep 1 – Warm Up Session (15 minutes)

It’s a good idea to practice on a scrap quilt sandwich first, even when quilting straight lines.

This way you can check tension, stitch length, and thread color before you begin.

Step 2 – Anchor Quilting (1 Hour, 15 Minutes)

Before you get into any fancy-shmancy quilting, it’s a good idea to “anchor” your quilt first by quilting a few of the major seam lines. This will help stabilize your quilt. While doing this anchor quilting, you want to stabilize your quilt in all four directions. Think of this as a large grid across the top of your quilt. I can quickly and easily pull out the pinmoors as I quilt.

Begin Quilting

With the quilt laid out horizontally, I started quilting on one edge of the quilt. Using my walking foot as a guide, I stitched about 1/4 inch away from the ditch. I used a slightly longer stitch length and quilted continuously in one long row from the top of the quilt to the bottom. Because the lines go all the way across the quilt and the edges will be covered by the binding, I did not need to lock my stitches or tie them off.

Anchor Quilting

When I got the the end of this first line of quilting, I “scooted”  over a whole block width to the right (leaving less bulk under the machine). I quilted 2 more rows in the same manner.
Don’t quilt the very edges of the quilt yet; you can do that at the end.

Next, it was time to rotate the quilt 180 degrees and quilt some anchor lines on the other half of the quilt. Again, I quilted them about 1 block width apart. Now the quilt has been quilted in 2 directions. By the way, I love the Machingers quilting gloves because they provide a good grip on the quilt while moving and squishing it under the machine.

Anchor Stitching

It’s time to rotate the quilt 90 degrees and quilt all of the vertical anchor lines now. Again, start in the middle and quilt about 3 rows, one block width apart. Then rotate the quilt completely and finish off the other side.

The quilting is now ready to be finished.

Step 2 – Stitching all the Vertical Lines (1 Hour, 45 Minutes)

I like the “stitch near the ditch” pattern so much that I am outlining every seam about 1/4″ away from the center. I’m not too worried about whether my lines are perfectly straight so I didn’t worry about marking. My other quilt motto is, “Finished is better than perfect!”

Quilting Vertical Lines

Now I can start in the middle of the quilt and quilt all of the vertical lines halfway across the quilt edge of the quilt. When there is too much bulk under the machine, I rotate and finish the other side of the quilt.

Step 3 – Quilting all the Horizontal Lines (2 Hours, 15 Minutes)

This section took a little longer because there were more rows to stitch. Again, I quilted half of the lines going one way, then rotated the quilt to stitch the other half.

Quilting Horizontal Lines

On the very last row which was near the edge of my quilt, I actually quilted 1/2″ away from the seam line rather than 1/4″. This is to take into account the seam allowance which will be covered by the binding.

Edge Quilting

This is now enough quilting for this quilt, but as I said at the beginning, I will add more. Join me next week to see how I finish the rest of the quilting.

If you’d like to try something a little jazzier than just straight lines, why not play around with the decorative stitches on your machine?

Wavy Quilting

The picture above shows me quilting my Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt which was my first DIY Quilt Along. I used a wavy serpentine stitch which would also work well for Sea of Squares!


Quilt-Along ScheduleLinks are Active at the Completion of Each Step:

Quilt Kits are available from my shop for a limited time in these two colorways:

Apple Jacks

Apple Jacks

Sea of Squares

Sea of Squares

Christa’s Quilt Along 4.6 – Basting Sea of Squares

I finished my pieced backing from last week and now it’s time to baste Sea of Squares!

The backing took me 2 hours to cut, piece and starch. The basting also took 2 hours, so it was a very pleasant way to spend my day today. 🙂

Pieced Quilt Backing

Sea of Squares Pieced Backing

I follow these four steps whenever I baste a quilt:

(1) Completely secure the backing to a large flat surface. I use two heavy duty utility tables that I got from an office supply store. They are 8′ long and I keep them up all the time. It’s my work surface and my cutting area, plus the kids use them for art projects and homework. So they get a lot of use!
Secure The Backing

  • You can also use just one table if space is limited and move your quilt around as needed. I use office binder clips to secure the two edges of my backing to the edge of the table.
  • Then I use a generous amount of tape to secure the other edges. You want to make sure that your backing extends past your batting and quilt top by at least a couple of inches.

Batting (2) Next, layer your batting on top of your backing and smooth it out nicely.

I am using 1 layer of cotton batting with 1/2 layer of wool – yes, it actually pulls apart. (For my previous quilt, Charming Chevrons, I used a layer of cotton and a full layer of wool. I loved the “heft” of it but it was a bit thick to quilt through. I’ll let you know I like it.)

  • Notice that there is no need to secure the batting layer.

Sea of Squares Quilt

(3)  Grab a helper to gently lay your quilt top onto the center of your batting/backing layer.

If you are doing this solo, you can quarter your quilt instead and unfold it one quarter of a time. But I prefer a helper if I can manage it! If either your top or backing are directional, don’t forget to check to make sure your quilt is oriented correctly before you begin.

Add the PinsCap with Pinmoors


(4) Finally, let the basting begin! I prefer to use flat flower pins and pinmoors to baste. I insert the pins in the quilt first, one section at a time. Then I cap them all with pinmoors.

  • With my table, I can reach all the way to the center of the quilt, so I can baste half of the quilt from one side; then I finish up on the other side.

Pinmoor Basting

A note about Pinmoors…

Pinmoors are a bit pricey but are well worth the investment. If you’d like to try them, I suggest buying one package and baste as much area as you can. Then, baste the rest of the quilt with regular safety pins.

When you are done quilting, take note of how much quicker and easier the pins and pinmoors were to remove versus regular safety pins!

One note of caution – if you move and scrunch your quilt under your machine like I do, watch for any pinmoors that accidentally fall off so you don’t get poked! Be sure to push the pins in far enough so that they are secure.

Now the quilt is ready for quilting next week. Be sure to post pictures of your quilt top, pieced backing or quilting on my flickr group: Christa’s Quilt Along.

You can also share pictures of any of my previous quilt-alongs that you are working on!


Quilt-Along ScheduleLinks are Active at the Completion of Each Step:

Quilt Kits are available for a limited time in these two colorways:

Apple Jacks

Apple Jacks

Sea of Squares

Sea of Squares

Christa’s Quilt Along 3.6 – Marking and Basting the Chevrons

Grid MarkingAlthough basting a quilt is my least favorite “chore” of the whole quilting process, it’s a necessary step so I can get to my most favorite part which is the machine quilting. I always have better results if I take the time to properly mark and baste my quilt.

It took me a total of 2.5 hours to mark the top and prepare my quilt for machine quilting.

This doesn’t include the time it took to sew my quilt backing which took an additional 1.5 hours.

I wrote a separate pieced quilt backing tutorial where I could show off my “back art”.

Step 1 – Marking The Quilt Top (1 Hour, 15 Minutes)

If I know the design I’m going to quilt ahead of time, I will mark my lines before I baste, using a water-soluble blue marking pen. (Test ahead of time to be sure your marks will come out and that your fabrics are color-safe.)

June Tailor Grid Marker

For my Charming Chevrons, I chose to mark a set of grid lines following the outline of the chevrons. I used a June Tailor grid marker to speed up the process. I drew my lines so that they were about 1/2″ apart. I marked the top at my dining table while watching a movie with the family!

Step 1 – Preparing to Baste (30 Minutes)

Be sure your backing is at least 3″-4″ larger than your quilt top on all sides. (Professional long-armers need even more space than this but since I know you will all be quilting your own quilts, you can get away with less space if you are careful with your layout!)

Roll of Batting

Roll out your batting if cut from a roll, and cut it a couple of inches bigger than your quilt top. If you are using a packaged batting, be sure to unfold it and air it out a day or two before you begin to remove as many wrinkles as possible.

Be sure you have a nice big area for basting. You can use the floor, your kitchen table, a couple of utility tables, or even some tables thrown together at your local library or quilt shop.

Give your backing a final pressing before laying it out. Remove any excess threads and smooth it out a flat as you can onto your basting surface. Clamp or tape down all sides of your quilt backing. I use binder clips on two sides of the quilt where the backing meets the edge of the table. I tape down the other two sides.

Layer 1 Quilt Backing

Layer 1 – Quilt Backing

Spread out your batting onto your quilt backing. Again, smooth it out so there are no wrinkles and puckers. You don’t need to clamp down the batting. For my quilt I am experimenting with a double batting. I laid down a layer of Warm-N-Natural Cotton, then a layer of Wool on top of that. I’ll let you know how I like it when it comes to quilting!

Layer 2 Quilt Batting

Layer 2 – Quilt Batting

Finally, spread out your quilt top as smoothly as possible. Since I use two tables to baste, I use the center between the tables as my reference point for where the middle is. This helps me keep the quilt top straight.

Layer 3 Quilt Top

Layer 3 – Quilt Top

Step 3 – Pin Basting (45 Minutes)

Pinmoors for Quilt BastingI mention this every time I get to this step of the quilting process, but I really love Pinmoors for basting!

They go into the batting quickly and come out super easy when machine quilting.

You get 50 per pack and it took just over 3 packs (168 to be exact) to baste my Chevrons quilt. I put one pin and Pinmoor anchor in each colored triangle and that was enough for this size quilt.

Because my batting was a little thicker, the longer flower pins worked great for getting through all the layers.

Trim the Excess

The last step before I begin quilting is to trim up the extra couple of inches around the quilt.

I don’t cut off all the excess, but I do trim it up pretty close so I have less bulk going under the arm of the machine.

I am super excited to quilt this puppy!

Be sure to email me pictures of your progress – it’s so fun to see all the variety!


Quilt Along Schedule (Links are active once each step has been completed.)

Christa’s Quilt Along 2.4 – Marking and Basting Baby Bricks

I finished the pretty pink version of Baby Bricks this week to go along with the baby blue top that I will be basting today.  (Kits are available for both colors for a limited time.)

Before I get to the most fun part of making a quilt in my opinion – the machine quilting – I’ve got to get them marked and basted! Today’s demo will be shown on the blue version.

Girl Baby Bricks

Step 1 – Marking Diagonal Lines

For the boy version of Baby Bricks I am going to quilt straight lines with a walking foot.  I used a water soluble blue marking pen to draw the quilting  lines. (If you are afraid of fabric bleeding or do not want to mark your quilt, you can use low-adhesive painter’s tape instead.)

Straight Lines

Using my longest ruler, I marked straight lines across the surface of the quilt. I started in one corner and drew a line from corner to corner of a rectangle brick. I extended the line so that it goes across the entire quilt including the borders. I spaced them 3 1/2 inches apart.

Additional Marked Lines

I added an additional line half-way in between so that the spacing of the lines is now 1 3/4″.  It took a total of 45 minutes to completely mark the top. Now the quilt is ready to baste.

Step 2 – Piecing the Backing

I enjoy pieced backs much more than plain ones. This satisfies my urge to go a little “wonky” with some improvisational piecing on the back. It took about 1/2 hour to sew together.

Pieced Backing

I put the back together sort of like a puzzle, adding chunks of fabric until I had a large enough piece. For this quilt I used up my the rest of my light blue solid, a few leftover bricks, and some pieces from my stash. It took about 2 yards total.

For more detail on sewing a pieced back, refer to my previous tutorial here.

Step 3 – Basting With Pinmoors

My preferred basting tools are Pinmoors and straight pins. It took about 1 hour and 100 Pinmoors to baste this baby sized quilt. You can read my previous basting tutorial here.

Basted with Pinmoors

I get better results when I use lots of pins and am careful not to pin through any quilting lines. It’s easier to stick the pin in the quilt and cap it with a Pinmoor, than it is to open and close lots of  safety pins. The Pinmoors are easy take out while quilting, but they stay in place until I’m ready to remove them.

I am going to take this quilt with me to my guild’s quilting retreat this weekend. With any luck, I’ll get it finished quickly and can start on the pink one.

Here is the schedule of tutorial posts for my Baby Bricks do-it-yourself quilt along:

Christa’s Quilt Along 1.4 – Backing and Basting Your Jelly Roll Quilt

Welcome to part 4 of my do-it-yourself quilt along! So far we’ve gathered our supplies, sewn the blocks, and completed our quilt tops. This week we will piece our backings and baste our quilts so that our Jolly Jelly Roll Quilts are ready for machine quilting next week!

Step 1 – Piecing the Backing

Backing DiagramIf you use one fabric entirely for your backing, sew together two lengths of fabric so that your piece is at least 5 inches longer and wider than your quilt.

For a 52″ x 52″ quilt top you would need 3 1/2 yards of fabric for the backing. Cut that into 2 equal pieces, each measuring 63″ long by 42″ wide. Sew those together on the selvedge edges with a half inch seam and you’ll get one piece that is about 63″ x 80″ – plenty of room!

I wrote up a post a few weeks ago on how to make a pieced quilt backing. With more than one fabric. You can read about that by clicking here.

Pieced Quilt BackFor my backing, I chose to use up all of my leftover jelly roll blocks plus some other chunks of fabric, about 3 yards total, to make it a little more artistic.

I sewed two rows of leftover blocks, then filled in with strips of pink and grey fabric from my stash.

The pink on the sides is much wider so a bunch of it will be trimmed off later.

(Don’t mind the wrinkles – I finished it just last night!)

Step 2 – Layering the Quilt

Basting TablesThe most important thing you need for successful basting is plenty of room! I have two 8-foot tables set up in my sewing room at all times. I use them for cutting and basting.

First, you need to secure your backing; this is why you want it to be larger than your quilt top.

I do this by using office clips to secure the backing to the table. I use tape when the quilt backing does not reach the edge.

Clamp Down the BackingTape the EdgesNext, it’s time to spread out the batting. I used Warm-N-Natural cotton batting which does have a right and wrong side. The side with the flakes is the front side and the whiter side is the back side. Layer it right side up.

You can start with your batting folded up in one corner, then unfold the batting one step at a time if you are basting by yourself. Be sure to smooth it down so there are no wrinkles.

Batting 1Batting 2Batting 3You can click each of the pictures for a larger more detailed view.

Finally, it’s time to add the top! I don’t clamp down the top, but I do smooth it out and line it up as much as I can so that it is as straight and square as possible.

Layered QuiltStep 3 – Basting the Quilt

Now it’s just a matter of pinning the layers together so they won’t shift during quilting. My favorite basting tools are Pinmoor pin anchors. They are little  rubber tips that fit on the end of straight pins. You can use any types of pins with them and the pins can jab anywhere into the hard rubber piece. They last forever and are so much easier to use than safety pins.

Pinmoor BastingIt took me about 150 Pinmoors to baste this quilt in under 20 minutes. If you are not ready to buy enough for a whole quilt, start with one package and baste part of your quilt. Baste the rest of your quilt with safety pins. Then, when quilting, take note of how much easier the pins and Pinmoors are to remove and you will be converted!

Here’s a great video you can watch on how to use them, made by the makers of Pinmoors.

Next week  we will machine quilt this baby! That’s the best part of my do-it-yourself quilting tutorial; you are actually going to do it all yourself – no quilting by check here!!

Remember to send me pictures of your completed quilt tops. You can email me directly at Christa@ChristaQuilts.com. It’s “sew” fun to share!


Here is the complete Jolly Jelly Roll Quilt-Along Schedule:

Week 1 – Supply ListJolly Jelly Roll Quilt

Week 2 – Sewing the Blocks

Week 3 – Completing the Top

Week 4 – Backing and Basting

Week 5 – Machine Quilting

Week 6 – Machine Binding to Finish