How to knife-edge finish quilts

Here, we’ll show you how to achieve a knife edge or 'butted' finish, as used in historical quilts and coverlets. Follow our step-by-step guide to give it a go.

How to knife edge a quilt

Unlike most modern quilts, old British coverlets and quilts usually have a knife-edge finish rather than a binding. Like the original early-nineteenth century Sidmouth quilt from The Quilter’s Guild Collection, Susan Briscoe’s Sidmouth Revisited reproduction quilt (as featured in Issue 15 of Today’s Quilter magazine) was finished in this way, which gives the quilt a firmer, flatter edge.

You’ll find it easy to try this technique with Susan’s step-by-step instructions in our free quilting tutorial.So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Sidmouth Revisited reproduction quilt

How to knife edge finish a quilt

Step 1

To make a knife edge, trim the backing and batting to the same size as the patchwork. Hand or machine quilt all around the quilt, 1in from the edge (the original and Susan’s version are hand quilted).

Separate the edges of the patchwork top and backing fabric and trim ¼in off the edge of the batting all round with scissors, taking care not to clip the backing or patchwork as you do so. If it helps, pin the patchwork and the backing fabric folded away from the edge. Don’t worry if the edge of the batting is slightly wavy, as tiny amounts of excess batting will be hidden in the edge finish.

Step 2

Turn in the ¼in seam allowance all round the quilt. Turn in the backing first, overlapping the batting. Place the pins at right angles to the quilt edge, pointing towards the quilt centre, so you can pull the pins out later. Fold under a ¼in hem all round the patchwork and pin, lining up with the edge of the backing and keeping the edge as straight as possible.

Slipstitch or ladder stitch the edge of the patchwork to the edge of the backing. At each corner, fold in the seam allowances of the back and front of the coverlet square but in opposite directions and overlap them before tucking them in, as shown below.

How to knife edge bind a quilt

Step 3

This step is optional – quilt another line all around the coverlet a ¼in from the edge or midway between the edge and the previous quilting line. Many traditional British quilts have a second line or third line of quilting, which helps give a firmer, flatter edge. Don’t forget to add a label to help people identify your work in the future.