Why I hand-stitch my bindings

In blogland lately, I’ve noticed there has been a lot of discussion about machine-binding quilts versus hand-stitching the bindings.  From my perspective, there are two main advantages to machine binding:

1.  It’s faster– most people seem to want to make a quilt in the shortest length of time possible, and that translates to doing everything by machine.  Many people don’t hand-quilt, hand applique, or hand embroider simply because it takes too long.

2.  It supposedly holds up better.  I do believe this is true.  Almost anything stitched by machine is going to hold longer simply because there are so many more stitches in a machine stitch, and they lock together so much better.  Try ripping out a seam sewn by machine and one sewn by hand, and you’ll be a believer.  While this is a definite advantage, I can easily repair a strip of binding that comes undone, so it’s not a deal-breaker for me.  On the other hand, if the quilt is a gift, the recipient might not be able to sew.

Despite these two major advantages of machine-binding, I still choose to hand-stitch my own bindings.  Why?

1.  I like the look.  With time and practice, your hand stitching on the back of a quilt binding becomes almost invisible.  Even if it’s not totally invisible, it gives the quilt a nice hand-made look, and overall, the effect is cleaner than a line of sewing stitches that show through on the front of a machine-bound quilt.

2.  I enjoy the process.  After speedily machine-quilting a project, it’s nice to sit and “bond” with it afterward.  I know that sounds silly, but binding is the last step of the process, and a part of me is always sad to see a project come to an end, so binding by hand is a way to drag it out a little.  Furthermore, although some people despise hand-work, I actually really enjoy it.  I also cross stitch, which is a hobby that does not give immediate results, so I’m used to hand-work and the extra time it takes, so the slowness of the process doesn’t bother me that much.  I usually bind a quilt while snuggling under it watching TV.  Who wouldn’t enjoy that?

I hand bind every quilt I make, whether it’s a gift, to sell, or for myself.  I use hand-quilting thread for extra strength, and I hope for the best as far as the hand-sewing holding well.  So far, I’ve never had a binding fail.  In fact, I’ve had seams in the actual quilt fail before a binding, so that’s good enough for me.

I do believe there’s room for many different techniques, and if others prefer machine-binding, then more power to them.  Personally, I haven’t found a machine technique that produces a look I’m happy with, but I may find one in the future.  You never know!  For now, though, I’m perfectly happy to continue hand-stitching the final part of the quilting process.

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