How much binding do I need?

October 6, 2020

Download cutting chart

“And now, the end is near, and so I face…adding the binding!

My friends, I’ll say it clear, as I get old, my brain is finding,

My math…is not that great…

It really is…so aggravating

I need, I really need, some calculating! 😊”

Maybe it’s because I hit a “zero” birthday this year, but (with apologies to Frank Sinatra) “my way” of guesstimating how many quilt binding strips I need seems tougher to add up in my head these days.

Yes, a calculator would easily solve the problem. But that assumes that I can find it under the piles of fabric, (and that once I find it, I put it in its proper place for next time!) And it assumes I punch the numbers in correctly since keys are a bit blurry without my cheaters on.

Figuring my quilt’s perimeter isn’t my problem. The formula’s pretty simple:

Quilt Width (in inches) + Quilt Length (in inches) X 2

But when it comes to figuring out how much yardage it will take or how many strips to cut, my eyes glaze over. I end up cutting strips way more strips than I think I need, and then I cut one or two more just to make sure I have enough! Surely, I’m not the only one with a huge bucket full of leftover binding strips?

I keep thinking that I’ll use those strips on another quilt…but I never remember to look in the bucket before I start slicing up yardage again. If I don’t change my ways, I’m going to end up with miles and miles of strips that won’t match even the scrappiest of scrap quilts.

I take solace in knowing I must not be the only binding strip guesser out there, because you can find several different web-based calculators that will help figure out binding strips and fabric needs. The trouble is, I get lazy at binding time and just start whacking off strips instead of using those handy tools.

So I figured if I had a handy “Binding Strip Cutting Chart” slid under my cutting mat that had all the math work done for me, I may not need the 50-gallon drum my hubby threatened to bring in to store the leftover binding strips. (Or at least they’d be small enough that I’d be willing to part with them in the trash can instead of keeping them.)

You can download it so you don’t have to look for your calculator either. The chart includes binding strip widths from 2 inches all the way up to 4 inches wide, and accounts for the inches you’ll lose as you piece strips together. The chart handles binding lengths needed to tackle a potholder all the way up to a typical king-size quilt.

The chart assumes you’ll cut the strips across the width of your fabric (WOF), not along the lengthwise grain. It also does not work for bias binding strips—sorry, you’re on your own there. Since fabric widths vary from 41 to 44 inches, I chose to use a strip length of 40 inches in the calculations to give a safety net. That allows for trimming off selvedge edges, sewing a diagonal seam, and accounts for fabrics that may shrink if washed. That does mean that if your fabric is closer to 44 inches wide, you’ll have some extra inches of flexibility. You might be able to get by with one less strip than the chart indicates, depending on your tolerance for risk. If you start with one less strip you can always add one more if you’re short, provided you have enough fabric in the first place.

Either way, you won’t have to “do the math” and you can quickly decide if you have enough of one fabric to cut your binding before you head out to the quilt shop. Of course, even if you DO have enough fabric for the binding, I won’t hold it against you if you decide a trip to the quilt shop is in order to look for an even more “perfect” binding fabric. 😉 In fact, I may see you there!

Download cutting chart