Sunday, April 8, 2012

Binding Corners

Binding about 1860





We bind our quilts today quite differently than in the past.


The biggest difference may be that they used a single layer of narrow, straight-grain binding, while most of us use a double layer of wider binding.

Recent quilt from
Diary of a Quilter blog

You can find many How-to's on quilt binding that will tell you exactly how to get the current look, which is often the final contrasting frame for a quilt.

Quilt Dated 1855
Quilters in the past used contrasting binding but they were also fond of binding that disappeared---white binding on a white border.


Those of us looking to determine a date for a quilt are glad of the differences, as wider binding helps us date antique tops that have been quilted later.

A mitered corner in a recent quilt



Becky taught a workshop in binding corners recently---how to get this sharp, square mitered look that is a necessity today. And she asked me if they did this in the past. I told her I'd throw a study on it. I had noticed that a lot of antique quilts are bound with a curve at the corner.


I remember that in the 1970s when the church ladies would quilt my old tops (for $30) they'd often cut the corners round. It's a tradition that's been forgotten, I think.


They tuck and turn that straight-grain binding around the curve.

And stretch a little. Here's a mid-19th century binding with an inserted cording.

Another corded, rounded corner


This would, of course, been neater with a bias-cut binding rather than straight-grain.

But you really don't see a lot of bias binding until the 20th century, when the bias-tape manufacturers began advising quilters to use it. But I didn't find any pictures of mitered corners.

I did find this which I think is a corner cut off and bound separately---the binding strip does not really go around the corner; the quilt is bound with four strips, which is the way I learned to do it by looking at old quilts.

When did quilters start using mitered corners?
While I was looking through pictures Becky went through her old quilts and found this one.

"This gorgeous Broken Star sorta has a mitered corner. It definitely has the mitered fold on the front and the back uses a gathered technique." 


"Narrow bias binding with pieces joined at a 45 degree angle. 3 corners are mitered and 1 was done with a squared off fold. Very interesting."

"I'm not sure when these kits were produced, but it was made by Eva Strait, Wamego, Kansas and given to my Aunt and Uncle at the time of their wedding in 1941. Eva was the groom's grandmother. It was never used and still has faint pencil lines.  My aunt gave it to me in the late 1980's and I'm it's current keeper which is fun...," she writes.

So Becky's antique is an example from the late 1930s-early '40s with a sorta miter.
I guess we are going to have to look closer to find out more. The 1852 quilt above with the shaped edge looks to be straight grain pulled and tucked around the angles.

18 comments:

sewprimitive karen said...

Love the narrow bindings on the early ones. Oh, Barbara, do you have more pictures of the last quilt? So pretty.

ann hermes said...

I have always done the binding using 4 separate strips, but really want to try the rounded corner technique. I see that on a lot of antique doll quilts.

Lee Prairie Designs said...

Lovely work thanks for sharing!

Carolyn :)

Sue said...

This is so interesting. Though we try hard to make our corners neatly mitered these days, I rather like the look of the curved ones!

What great information and such neat quilts!

YankeeQuilter said...

A couple years ago I made a repro of a quilt in my collection that had rounded corners. I put it in my guild show. The judge had a meltdown..."why take a quilt with such wonderful workmanship and fabric selection and apply a lazy binding." Yikes! Personally I'm with Sue and like the look of the curved corners...

taylorsoutback said...

A very informational posting with closeups of some wonderful quilts - especially that last one!

I agree with Yankee Quilter - when you strive to reproduce an antique quilt and remain true to its elements, surely judges (and quilt police)must recognize this?

WoolenSails said...

I like the narrow binding, but I am lazy and use my border to bind with. I fold mine back and then do an envelope style corner.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful Easter.

Debbie

Fran said...

Very interesting, thank you.

Dora, the Quilter said...

My family quilts were almost always finished with either the front or back turned to the other side. The ones that were bound, had rounded corners. When I entered a couple of wall-hangings in the Smoky Mtn. Quilt Show back in the early 80's, the judges note told me to learn how to make mitered corners.
Back then I also came across an instruction book from Sterns & Foster that had been written several decades earlier that showed how to use four strips to bind and how to fold the ends in to look like mitered corners. (Sorry, don't remember what year that booklet was published.)

Donna K. from N. Texas said...

Enlightenment about bindings so very interesting. Thanks so much for your continued efforts in sharing quilting history.

Alice said...

I never seem to have enough fabric to do a double fold binding. I use four strips and do a neat little fold at corner to tuck in the edges. I wouldn't have thought of doing a rounded corner with straight grain binding - will have to try that. Thanks.

Jennifer said...

This was so interesting to read! I had no idea about the previous history of rounded corners {or bindings in general}. I obviously like rounded corners, since I did a tutorial on them, and I will enjoy sewing the next binding even more thinking about your post!

Jennifer :)
That Girl... That Quilt

Suzanne said...

Thanks for showing us antique bindings and opening this area up for discussion. The apparently uniform rule in today's judged quilt shows that bindings should be at least 3/8" wide and should have mitered corners is very odd considering the masterpieces that were made in the past. I have a friend who makes glorious repros of antique quilts but who, like the commentor above, has always been marked down in shows because of the silly prevailing binding rule(per AQS certified quilt judges' standards?). Maybe it's time for a change? I hope so.

woolywoman said...

I usually round my corners. I am not such a fan of the mitered look. I will have to figure out how to do a single layer binding. The main reason I do two layer is for that nice finished fold to sew down.

Becky in VA said...

Comments by others are always interesting, and I too, like the look of a well done rounded corner. The close-ups give a look at bindings as well as quilting and I especially liked the close look at the various ways they were dated.

Barb in PA said...

Having learned my quilting techniques by studying antique PA German quilts, I have been using 4 applied strips as my binding technique since 1968. For a very long time, I didn't know about the "current" method of mitered corners, and I find the 4 strips method produces a nice crisp edge on my historic reproduction doll quilts.

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Barbara, my first Blog comment ever so I hope this works. We have found the binding issue so interesting here in Maine that we had to edit our documentation form to add the line "number of mitred corners" as we found so many 19th century Maine quilts to have 3 mitred corners and one butt end (or starting and ending) corner. Personally, I have always used straight, single binding (never bias or double). Guess it is hard to teach a Maine dog new trincks. Thanks for your comments and hope I can do more Blogging in the future. So much info out there. Yum!
Wendy

Wendy Caton Reed said...

Barbara, my first Blog comment ever so I hope this works. We have found the binding issue so interesting here in Maine that we had to edit our documentation form to add the line "number of mitred corners" as we found so many 19th century Maine quilts to have 3 mitred corners and one butt end (or starting and ending) corner. Personally, I have always used straight, single binding (never bias or double). Guess it is hard to teach a Maine dog new trincks. Thanks for your comments and hope I can do more Blogging in the future. So much info out there. Yum!
Wendy