Friday, January 11, 2019

Facing for art quilts - straight edges

I've referred to facing several times in my previous blogs.  And I've given credit to Jean Wells, who wrote an excellent article in her book, "Intuitive Color and Design", on how to do it.

Since one of my small quilt groups asked me to teach them how to do facings, I thought that it was high time to show you the pictures and steps.  Be prepared...this is a really long blog posting!

Allow extra on the edges
Facings take up more than 1/4" inch off the edges of your quilt top.  You have to sew the 1/4" seam, then you have to turn the edges to the back.  This takes up at least another 1/4" inch.  To allow for this, I really try hard to oversize my art quilts, then trim them to at least 1/2" from the finished edge.
Here is a picture of a quilt with the extra 1/2" all around.  (This quilt will have straight edges.  For a wavy edge, the directions are a little different).

Stabilize the edges
I use 1/8" grosgrain ribbon and stitch this down to all the edges that will be encased.  Since I like to zig zag this down, the extra 1/2" lets me do this without having problems on the edges.  Have you ever tried to zig zag right on the very edge of something?  If you have, you know that not only does the fabric try to sink into the feed dogs, but it gives you a "lettuce" edge.  That's OK if you're wanting a lettuce edge (like on a slinky skirt hem), but it's not so good on quilts that are supposed to have straight edges.   I order my ribbon from the Hairbow Center.  They carry all kinds of colors in the 1/8" size.

Here is a picture of the grosgrain ribbon pinned and stitched down.  It's pinned 1/2" in from the edge because that's how much extra I left on the quilt.

I use a 2.5 width and 2.5 length on the settings for the machine.  If you have a walking foot, I highly recommend using it for sewing down the ribbon, and for sewing down your facing.  I have found that an even feed foot isn't quite strong enough to keep all the layers moving smoothly.

Cut facings 2-1/2" wide
I always cut my facings 2-1/2" wide; the same as I would for regular binding.  Cut it on the straight of grain, unless you're trying to go around curved corner.  Press 1/4" on one long edge of the facing.

Pin it to the quilt, right sides together.  Pin the opposite side on, then lay the 3rd and 4th sides down, trimming the ends so that they're not caught in the seams.

Sew 1/4" seam all around.

Sew a diagonal line at all 4 corners and back-stitch it a couple of times.

Trim the corners.   Then trim off the extra 1/2" on all sides.

Top stitch
Smooth out the binding from the top and, sewing through the facing and the seam, top stitch close to the seam.

Leave long tails of thread so that you can pull them to the back and tie a knot.  You will find that you can't get as close to the corners on a couple of the sides.  That's OK.  Just top-stitch as far as you can.

Turn the binding to the back and push out the corners.  Make sure that the facing doesn't show on the front of the quilt.

Hand Stitch
Then press with steam and pin the binding in place.

Hand slip-stitch the facing to the back of the quilt.

Final Pressing
Give it a good steam press again and hit it with a clapper if you have one.

And there you go.

I hope this helps you sew facings onto your art quilts too.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing how to do facing at the Mod Quilt Squad group. It was very informative! I thought the samples that you brought were especially helpful.