Quilt ADD in therapy

My photo
Colorado, United States
Other than my family, the passion of my life is quilting. An eclectic, I love a wide variety of styles and techniques encompassing both machine and hand work. I am a longarm quilter who can work for you. I enjoy any style, from pantographs to all-over to full custom, ranging from traditional to modern. I love bringing vintage tops to life and am willing to work with a challenging quilt top. Instagram: lyncc_quilts

Saturday, May 1, 2021

~ Puffed Silk Binding Tutorial ~

Puffed Silk Binding 

Unique details can add a lot to an otherwise run-of-the-mill quilt. I wanted to put a puffed binding on my wool-and-silk quilt, but couldn't find instructions for this - so I've recorded how I made mine.

The quilt I'm finishing up now is nothing more than a Jelly Roll Race, yet it's a personal favorite because my daughter had gifted me the wool flannel jelly roll for my birthday. I knew then that I wanted to pair its soft fuzziness and terrific autumn tones with a deep gold silk radiance backing.

The terrific pantogram, "Autumn Oaks" from Willow Leaf Studio, gave the quilt a gorgeous organic feeling that definitely needed something more unique than a plain old normal binding. A flanged or piped binding wasn't the answer for me. Beaded piping was closer to the feel, but I didn't want the solid core of that approach. 

So I thought, what about a puffed binding without beads inside? That's the ticket! 

I played with scraps, and found that a simple approach works just fine with the fabric I'm using. **Please see my notes at the bottom about fabric choices for this technique.

How to make Puffed Silk Binding:

- - This is not a fast binding, as it involves hand finishing. It is best suited for special quilts where the unique detail is worth the time involved. - -

Cut your binding out.

This technique uses double fold binding, which you cut 1/2 inch (or 1 cm) wider than you normally do. 

So for mine, instead of cutting my strips 2-1/4", I cut them 2-3/4".  

Since I only had the cut-off strips of silk from the overflow of backing for the longarm, I did this with strips cut on the lengthwise grain. It worked very prettily in this case. (Next time, I would like to try this with bias strips to see whether it enhances the puffs even more.)

Prepare your binding and sew it onto the front of your quilt.  

Silk loves to slide on itself, so use your pins! Also use a walking foot. And if your machine can do so, lighten the presser foot pressure as well (I lowered mine from its standard 6.0 to 3.0 for this job). 

Those measures will keep the layers from shifting on you and making a rippled edge in your binding. 

Use good quality pins that won't snag the silk fibers. (Slender and sharp "silk pins" are perfect!) Put the pins nice and close together. I found 2 inches to be great at keeping it perfectly stable as I sewed.

(By the way, I always run a fast elongated zigzag around my quilt edge before attaching the binding - this always helps make a nicer finish.)

Another binding trick, that gives you nicer corners, is to remove the bulk of the triple fold in the binding's seam allowance. Never cut your quilt's corners to accomplish this! Only snip the binding. I'll be adding photos to show you what I mean.

Snip open the folded seam allowance at the corner turn

Fold back the seam allowances of both the quilt and the binding
to expose the inside triangle of folded binding bulk.

Snip off that triangle without going so close that you might snip anything else.
Here, I have cut away the triangle and allowed the quilt seam allowance to pop back up so you could see what the cleaned-out corner of binding allowance looks like.

When you close your binding, the corner bulk will be much, much nicer, and your quilt itself has not been altered.

Now stitch the binding down in the back. 

Do this task by hand, not pulling it taut, but keeping the fold right at the sewing line, so that your stitches go through the backing just barely past the attachment thread. 

You're creating a purposeful pocket of slack along your binding, that will end up about 3/16" deep.  Here, my nail is pinching the slack closed against the outer edge of my quilt:

Use smaller stitches than a lot of people use for binding! You do NOT want 1/4" - 1/2" stitches here. You need good, small stitches to handle the tension load of the puffs so you don't get gaps on the back that show the attaching seam. My stitches fall between 1/8 and 3/16 inches, and this was perfectly sufficient for this puffed binding.

Make sure you stitch the corner folds closed, as well. (Always do this with any quilt that is special or that will be judged for a show or appraisal. You will always get dinged for not doing so.)

Now make your puffs. 

This is going to involve plenty of TV time, so plan accordingly if you're aiming for a gift date or show deadline. For this 48 x 62 inch quilt, it took me about 18 hours of stitching to put in the puffs all around.

I found that 7/8" was the most aesthetic spacing for the puffs with this fabric and width of binding. I started the first puff of each side 1/8" away from the inside corner of the binding.

Marking pens were not the answer in my situation, so I put pins at the cinching spots, which you can see in that photo just above.

You'll be working from the back side to do the cinches.

Start with your thread folded in half so you can secure your first gather in the loop instead of having any knot tails to deal with. Go straight through the quilt right next to the binding's edges, and through the looped end of the thread so you can close everything on itself when you pull the thread all the way through. 

Nudge the slack into nice gathering as you tighten the loop. Then stitch around the binding again for a second round of thread. If you lost tension in the first round, pull it taut again as you're tightening the second band. You're aiming for a taut gathering of the slack, but not for scrunching up the quilt itself. 

Put in a tiny double knot to keep the gathering secure. 

Insert the needle between the quilt's layers to travel to the next gathering point and come out on the back side at that point. Because of the tension we need to use to cinch each puff, you need to put in a good double knot so the thread doesn't tighten between gathers. 

Make the next cinching as before and double-knot again. 

Yes, you will have two double-knots at the base of your gather on the back side. If you're working attentively, these will not look unattractive. A keen and searching eye will be able to find them, but they will be consistent and neat.

The pattern of this work is: knot at the base of a cinch on the back; move the needle to the front and stitch through the base point to come out on the back (right at the knotted spot); nudge the gathers as you tighten that first band; stitch a second band with needle going front-to-back; tighten and knot again at the base; travel to the next cinch base and knot there; repeat.

Allow the thread to travel from base to base without pulling it tight between them. don't forget each beginning and ending knot to keep the thread from tightening between the puff ends. 

Thread thoughts: 

I tried a few different threads for this task. 100wt silk thread just broke, even doubled up. Glide thread slipped too much when I was trying to get the knots secured (like trying to tie a badly slipping gift bow). Doubled-up 50wt cotton thread worked nicely for me. 

Putting in the puffs takes more time than stitching down a normal binding. You'll want to fiddle with the gathers as you're going along, and if your quilt top was wool, like mine, it takes a little more fiddling as the wool is grabby with the silk.

But Oh. My. Gosh. !!  It is one super cool edging that feels luscious.

Let's Talk Fabric Choice for this technique:

You need something that will let you bunch it up, but doesn't cave in or crease up flatly. Something supple and strong, yet willowy.

I used Silk Radiance, which is a smooth silk of fairly good weight, more satiny and flowy than dupioni or shantung silk. It's something like a good quality satin, but has a subtler slickness, and a little bit. . . . rubbery . . . spring to it (though it does not feel like rubber). 

I think not-thin poly satins and silk or poly brocades would work very well with this technique as well.  Dupioni and shantung silks would just crease on themselves. Cotton would probably just fold on itself as well, as would taffeta. Although, now that I mention taffeta, I think it'd be worth trying that fabric out with a layer of silk organza or wedding tulle inside it for the puffed binding! Perhaps regular quilting cotton would also work with a tulle lining in it.


  1. If ever I have a quilt deserving enough, I'll give this technique a try. I thought Radiance had been discontinued but see there are several sources. Please keep us updated when your tutorial is completed, it's a beautiful technique.

  2. Oh, fun technique, thanks for sharing! I will wait for the update ;)

  3. Such a unique binding finish idea! Your mind led you down a great path of discovery, didn't it? Looks like it's an effective finish. Good for you to try it, and share it with your readers. Nice work!

  4. What a cool edge finish, Lynette! What kind of silk are you using for your binding? Silk charmeuse? And are you adding any additional stuffing inside the binding as you hand stitch the puffs? I'm looking forward to the updated post with additional photos!

  5. OH my goodness! Gorgeous finished binding!!! I love it. Thanks for the tutorial as well!

  6. This is very cool. Some quilts definitely need a little something special to finish them he right way.

  7. That's one slick trick and makes for a lovely finish!!


Thank you for stopping by! I answer each comment via email. Sometimes, though, the system fails to notify me that a comment has been left, and if you are a "No-Reply" commentor, I cannot respond. Also, I apologize for having to block anonymous users - too much uncivil spam was coming through to leave the comments completely open.