If you've been a quilter very long, you know what I'm talking about when I mention a quilt binding. But did you know that a traditional binding is not your only option for finishing the edges of your quilt? Another great option that finishes your quilt edges beautifully is a facing. Not sure what a quilt facing is? Let's take a look at the photo below for an example.
What do you see around the edges of this finished quilt?
If your answer is "nothing" you are correct. That's because I used a facing instead of a binding to finish it.
So what, exactly, is a facing? The main difference between a binding and a facing is that, (contrary to what the name "facing" seems to imply,) a facing doesn't show at all on the face of the quilt. It's all hiding neatly on the back.
At this point you might be wondering why you might want to use a facing instead of a traditional binding. A facing seems to work best for art quilts and wall hangings--quilts that aren't going onto a bed or getting heavy use.
Because a facing doesn't break up the space between the edges of the quilt and the wall where it's hung, it gives an effect similar to a painting on an unframed canvas. Unframed art and unbound quilts feel more simple and informal. A facing feels especially appropriate for modern art quilts, since the modern art aesthetic often values this kind of simplicity.
Faced quilts can also feel more expansive, since the composition isn't enclosed by a frame. The colors and lines in the quilt can extend into the wall surrounding--especially if the colors in the painting and the wall blend together well.
Now that you know a little more about facings and why they are used, let's get into the nuts and bolts of how they are constructed.
You're going to need a few basic tools to get started. I used the following:
chopstick or similar tool for turning corners
small scissors or snips
long cutting ruler, 6"x 12", 8"x 24", or similar
square cutting ruler, 12" x 12" is a good size
small ruler for marking--mine is 2.5" x 6".
ironing board or pressing mat
taylor's clapper (optional, see photo below)
about 1/2 yard cotton quilting fabric--the amount needed will differ depending on the size of your quilt but this is plenty for most wall hangings. A dark solid is usually a good choice.
thread to match your facing fabric
sewing machine that sews a good straight stitch
walking foot (optional but very helpful)
Trimming and Squaring
1. Before trimming my quilt, I marked my sew line around all edges of the quilt. I wanted to make sure that none of the areas outside the quilt top would show after I stitched my facing to the quilt and turned my facing to the back.
I used my 12" x 12" cutting ruler and my @Clover marking pencil to mark my lines. First, I placed my ruler at the bottom right corner of my quilt. I made sure the edges of the ruler fell inside the outer edges of my quilt tops and drew around the bottom and right edges of the ruler. A large square ruler is great for marking you quilt because it will ensure your corners are square.
I marked my sew line around all four edges of my quilt. Since my quilt is small, my 12" x 12" ruler was long enough to mark all the sides and keep them square. If your quilt size makes it difficult to line up the edges of your square cutting ruler with your previous marks, extend your lines from where they ended to near your next corner using your long cutting ruler, then line up your square ruler at your next corner and finish marking.
2. Next I trimmed my quilt 1/4 inch from my sewing line marks on all four sides of my quilt.
Cutting Facing Fabric
Then it was on to the next step, cutting my facing fabric.
I chose a solid, medium gray fabric for my facing. I wanted something that wouldn't call attention to itself if it did happen to show on the front or sides of the quilt. I thought this fabric would fade into the shadows quite well.
You can choose any fabric you want for your facing. You might prefer to go with a print you used in your quilt top. My facing doesn't show at all from the front or sides of my quilt so a print probably would have been fine.
I recommend you have at least 1/2 yard for your facing fabric. This will give you plenty of fabric for most wall-hanging sized quilts.
3. To start, I lined up the selvage edges of my fabric and trim off my selvages.
4. Then, I turned my fabric so that my selvage edge was up and my folded edge was down (closest to me.) I lined my ruler up so that it was square with the fold in my fabric. I lifted my top layer of fabric before I cut to make sure that the ruler fell to the left of both raw edges of my fabric before I trimmed. I wanted to make sure the entire edge would be straight and square after I trimmed the raw edges away. (See photo below.)
After I knew everything was lined up correctly, I trimmed away the raw edges with my rotary cutter.
5. After I trimmed this edge, I flipped my fabric so that the edge I just cut was to my left. I kept the fold in my fabric down. Then I lined up my ruler and cut a five inch strip.
6. From my 5 inch strip, I cut four 5 inch squares.
7. Next, I cut my 2 1/2 inch strips. I made sure to cut my strips along the straight of grain (the selvage edge). This was to insure my strips would be stable. The selvage edge is less stretchy than the cross grain (width of fabric) , so I knew it would be less likely to get stretched out and wavy when I ironed it and attached it to my quilt.
The number of strips you cut will depend on the size of your quilt. Measure the length and width of your quilt. You will need two 2 1/2 inch strips that are the length of your quilt minus 3 inches and two that are the width of your quilt minus 3 inches. If your fabric isn't long enough to achieve this, cut more than 4 strips. Piece the strips together and trim them to size.
Attaching Corner Squares
8. The next step was to fold my 5 inch squares in half diagonally. I used a solid so it didn't matter which side was out. If you are using a print fabric, make sure your right sides are out.
9. Then I pressed along the fold.
10. Then I pinned my triangles to the top of my quilt in each corner. I lined up the raw edges of my triangles with the outer edges of my quilt, as shown in the photo below.
11. Using my small ruler and marking tool, I marked the pivot point on each of my corners.
I did this by drawing two intersecting lines 1/4 inch from the raw edges at the corners. My pivot points would be where the two lines intersected.
12. I set my sewing machine to a straight stitch at my machine's default stitch length. I set it to stop with the needle in the down position. I attached a walking foot to my machine. If you don't have a walking foot, I suggest you use a quarter inch piecing foot.
13. I started to stitch the first triangle, beginning at a folded edge. I secured my stitching and sewed toward the corner. When I got about one stitch away from my corner pivot mark, I stopped stitching with my needle in the down position.
14. I lifted my presser foot and pivoted my quilt 45 degrees to my left. I took one stitch diagonally across the corner of my quilt at the pivot mark. Then I lifted my presser foot again and pivoted my quilt 45 degrees more.
15. I then stitched from the corner down the other side of my corner triangle until I got to the folded edge. I secured my stitching and cut my thread.
16. I repeated steps 13-15 at the remaining three corners of my quilt until all four corner triangles were attached.
17. To prepare my strips, I folded and pressed them lengthwise. Again, if you are working with a print fabric, make sure your right sides are facing out.
18. I centered my strips along each edge with the raw edges facing out. The ends of each strip were about an 1 1/2 inches away from my corners. The strips overlapped the triangles I had already sewn to my corners. I pinned the strips in place.
19. Still using a straight stitch, I attached my strips to my quilt using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. When I got to my corners, I sewed off the ends of my strips, following the previous stitches I made when I attached my corners. I followed the stitches to the corner and took one stitch across the corner as I had done before. I then pivoted my quilt and followed my previous stitching onto my next strip.
20. My next step was to open up my facing strips at the seams and press them flat.
21. Still using a straight stitch, I top-stitched my facing strips, stitching through the facing strips and the quilt at about 1/16 inch away from the seam, as shown below.
Turning and Pressing the Facing
22. To reduce bulk, I trimmed my quilt corners close to the stitch I took across the corner when I attached my corner triangles.
23. I then flipped all four of my corner triangles to the back of my quilt, first turning them with my fingers and then using a blunt ended tool to turn them out completely and make the corners crisp and sharp.
24. Then I worked my facing around to the back of my quilt so that all the top stitching on my facing strips was facing the back. I pressed my facing flat to the back of my quilt using a hot iron first, then pressing down for a few seconds with my taylor's clapper while the fabric was still hot. The taylor's clapper helped me press the facing and the seam allowance down flatter.
25. I used some binding clips to hold my facing in place.
Hand Stitching the Facing
26. My final step was to hand-stitch my facing in place. I used a blind stitch. Notice that I stitched across the folded edge of the corner triangles. I wanted to make sure all of the facing was sewn down securely.
There was a little extra fullness in the facing fabric in some areas--mostly at the corners. I just eased it in as I stitched the facing down. The pucker in the photo below is the only area that I wasn't able to flatten out.
Here's the close-up of my finished quilt that I showed you in the beginning. I'm really happy with how my facing turned out.
Share your thoughts with me. Do you think you'll ever use a facing instead of a traditional binding?
I'll be posting the full video tutorial for this on Youtube and IGTV after I finish with some small edits. Watch for the links here sometime in the near future.
I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below. I am glad I learned about this technique and I was so excited to share it with you. Stay tuned for future tutorials!