My NEW favorite quilt facing technique

Some quilts, especially art quilts, look much better without a binding showing.  Instead the binding is folded entirely to the back as a facing.

Corners are a challenge with a facing – they often turn out lumpy or not square.  I’ve tried several different techniques but until recently I wasn’t entirely satisfied with my corners. 

quilt finished frontWhile working on this portrait quilt, I went to my favorite resource – the Internet – and found two facing tutorials I hadn’t seen before.  I combined elements of each technique with my own process, and now have my new favorite facing technique.  I think these are the squarest corners I’ve ever achieved with a facing finish.

 

Reducing bulk and controlling corners

I’ve found the following methods will reduce bulk and control the ‘squareness’ of the corners:

  • Use single layer facings (rather than double layer)
  • Cut the side facings shorter than the length of the quilt – the cut ends do not need to go all the way to the corners, as they will be covered by the top and bottom facings.
  • Do not sew around the corners, then turn them right side out and poke them into shape (this is when I find at least one of my corners is not square).  Instead, I sew the side facings to the quilt separately from the top and bottom facings. This gives me complete control of the corners.  I got this idea from a tutorial by Anita at Bloomin’ Workshop.
  • Optional step (not required if batting is very thin) – reduce bulk in the corners by cutting away the batting and backing about a 1/4″ inside the corner.  I found this brilliant idea in a tutorial by Kathleen at Art With a Needle.

I’ve put all these methods together into a technique that works well for me.  Here’s how I do a quilt facing.

 

Square the quilt

Note:  If you are making a quilt that must finish to an exact size (many challenges specify a finished size), you will need to trim the quilt to the required finished size plus ½” on each edge.  (This allows for the 1/4 inch seam, the ‘turn of the cloth’ and the rolling of the front edge to the back, as described below.)

My technique for squaring up a quilt is to lay a piece of Pellon 1-inch grid on top of the quilt.  It’s sheer enough that I can see the quilt through it.  The quilt in the photos needed a finished size of 8.5 x 11 inches, so I cut a piece of Pellon to that size, then cut a ½ inch away on all sides.

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Prepare the facings

  • I cut my facing strips about 2 ¼ inches wide, but you could certainly use narrower strips especially on a small quilt. 
  • Cut the side strips the length of the quilt less 2 inches (I cut these 2 ¼ x 10 inches)
  • Cut the top and bottom strips the width of the quilt plus 2 inches (mine are 2 ¼ by 11.5 inches).
  • Press under one edge of each facing piece by ¼” (you could press the edges under later, but I find it easier to do it at this stage).

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Sew and press the side facings

Note added November 2013:  If you think you might use the optional step below – trimming the corners – then when sewing your side facings, don’t stitch right to the top or bottom.  Instead, stitch the side facings from 1 inch below the top, to 1 inch above the bottom.  Otherwise, you’ll have to pick out that extra stitching before you can trim the corners.

  • With right sides together, sew the raw edge of the facing strip to the front of the quilt on the two sides.  (I use my ¼” walking foot to ensure a nice straight seam line.)
  • Press the facing strips outwards, then stitch through the facing and seam allowance about 1/8” from the seam.
  • Turn the facings to the back of the quilt, rolling the seams slightly to the back so that none of the facing is visible from the front.
  • Spray with water, or use stream, while pressing to encourage the fold to stay in place.

  DSCN1364  DSCN1366-003  DSCN1377-001

 

 Optional – trim corners of back and batting

  • Optional step (not required if batting is very thin) – reduce bulk in the corners by cutting away the batting and backing about a 1/4″ inside the corner.  I found this brilliant idea in a tutorial by Kathleen at Art With a Needle.
  • I used this technique in the portrait quilt.  [The water reflection quilt has a very thin batting, so I skipped this step.]
  • Before sewing the top and bottom facings, cut the corners of the back and batting at an angle, about a quarter-inch inside the corner seam lines.  (If you have any quilting that goes right into the corner, you may want to pick it out before cutting so you don’t cut the quilting thread and leave a cut end.)
  • After cutting the corners, attach the top and bottom facings as described below.

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Note added August 2015:  When I trim the corners, I no longer cut the back layer of fabric (I had one incident where I cut too much off!); instead I leave the back intact and just cut the batting.    And, instead of cutting a triangle of batting, I cut a square, approximately 1″ x 1″.   I find this reduces bulk even better than the technique described above.  This is the way I did the corners on ‘Circular Thinking’.  The photos below were taken with the back of the quilt facing up.  The corner of the quilt front is lying flat, the corner of the batting has been cut out, and the corner of the backing fabric is pinned back while the batting is cut.

DSCN5043   DSCN5041

 

DSCN1366Sew and press the top facings

  • With right sides together, sew the raw edge of the facing strips to the front of the quilt on the top and bottom.
  • Press the facing strips outwards, then stitch through the facing and seam allowance about 1/8” from the seam.
  • Turn the facings to the back of the quilt, rolling the seams slightly to the back so that none of the facing is visible from the front.
  • Spray with water while pressing to encourage the fold to stay in place.

 

Finish corners

On the back of the quilt, in the side facings in place, and fold the ends of the top and bottom facings to hide the raw edges. After pressing the corner in place, I check from the front to make sure the corners are nice and square.  If they aren’t, it’s easy to refold and press again until they are square.  I usually trim the raw edges to about 1/3”.  (That’s it!  Much easier than stitching the corners, clipping them, turning and poking them – and then discovering they aren’t quite square?)

DSCN1370  DSCN1371  DSCN1372

 

Finishing

Hand-sew the turned under edges of the facings to the back of the quilt, or fuse with ¼” wide strips of fusible web.  Don’t forget to attach a sleeve and label.

DSCN1375  DSCN1377

I’d love to see your comments on how this technique works for you.

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  1. This is great! I also added moulding behind the top and bottom facings to stabilize the quilt further. Made a button hole in the top one to enable hanging the moulding on a hook.

  2. Just finished a small quilt using this technique and it looks excellent. The corners are nicely squared. I would say that it took longer than using binding but for my art quilts, this is a nice finish. Always good to have a choice in how to finish quilts. Thank you for a very clear explanation.

    • I generally store my quilts rolled on a pool noodle. Roll from the top down, with the front of the quilt facing out – this will minimize creases or wrinkles in the quilt top. Rolling has no effect on the facing.

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  4. I have been trying to work out how to do this all morning and after a few unsuccessful attempts decided to search the web for some help. Your tutorial makes so much sense, thanks I am heading back to the Sewing room now to try this out.

    • I did try this out and it worked really well. This is definitely my new favorite way to finish my art quilts. Thanks so much for sharing your method.

  5. Hi Terry, I have just finished the front of my latest portrait quilt and was determined to find a new way to finish the edges. I thought I would have to do a lot more research and wala ! Here is the solution. You are right, there is always a problem with those corners ! It is so nice of you to share what you have learned. This technique looks like it will work for me. Thank you so much,

  6. This is excellent! Thank you so much for the tutorial. I know this will work perfectly for me. I’ve been wondering how to get rid of the binding. On many of my pieces, it didn’t matter, but things change. This will be better. Thanks again.
    Jane

  7. Thank you for the absolute best illustrations and instructions on how to face an art quilt! I am only starting to venture into art quilts and I have a question about the back. Do you add the back to the quilt before or after you quilt your art piece? If after, are you fusing the back onto the batting? Thank you in advance for sharing your art.

    • I’m so glad you like my photos and instructions! (I refer to this page every time I face a quilt!) To answer your question, I generally add the back before I quilt. Occasionally, I’ll do some of the quilting before adding the back, then some more quilting after I add the back – this gives more dimension to the areas quilted before adding the back.

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  9. Awesome tutorial. I followed it word and for word and got the best corners I have ever had. Can’t wait to share your website with my quilt guild.

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    • Sue, I’m happy my tips on facing a quilt worked well for you. I do generally use a sleeve on the back of my quilts. On my Tips & Tutorials page, under the heading ‘Methods for Hanging Quilts’, you will find links to a variety of techniques written by others.

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  13. I’m curious how you hang a faced quilt. Do you add a hanging sleeve on top of the facing? Is there a way to do both in one step?

  14. Thanks for this great tutorial. Love how you reduce the bulk in the corners. I cut the one side of my art quilt a little too close to the edge so that it was square. So, that edge is being “zigzaged” and your method works well in combination with it for the other 3 sides. I’m sure I’ll be able to use your method for my next art quilt on all 4 sides… LOL. It looks like I’ll be on your website for other tutorials. A BIG THANK YOU.

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  18. Hi Terry, I just MUST thank you for this tutorial. I first found it a couple of years ago, when I decided to face my first sampler instead of binding, and I hadn’t returned to facing until now, when I am facing two art quilts in one week)) And again i return to your tutorial, it’s really clear and the results are great!