I absolutely LOVE the way that hand sewn binding looks. Good hand sewn binding. This is the step that I absolutely LOVE. I find hand sewing very peaceful and calming. It finishes your quilt so nicely. I know there are people out there that absolutely HATE this step (aka my youngest) -- but this is such a crucial last step.
There are people who machine sew their binding on and love it. My choice is to finish it with hand sewing invisibly so it finishes the quilt. I figure you spend enough time on the quilt that you want it finished as smoothly as you can. I do use the machine to sew the binding on. (See my post on sewing on binding). This is the last step to finish that binding.
Just like you use the proper tools for cutting, you need the proper tools for finishing. In my experience, I find that the people who hate hand sewing are using the wrong needles and their stitches are showing through like stitches on Frankenstein -- they are NOT invisible. The trick to this is to use the proper needle. It needs to be sharp, it needs to be thin as possible and you want it to smoothly glide through the fabric. I have used all sorts of needles, long, short, sharp, applique, all-purpose. I always buy new needles as they come out and try them. I finally found one that I think will be a keeper for a long time to come! "Clover Black Gold Needles Applique/Sharps (No.12)"
I like the way it goes through the fabric. It doesn't stick or pull when it glides through the fabric. It is incredibly sharp so that I can grab a few strands of fabric resulting in those invisible stitches, yet securing the binding on the back. The trick to getting invisible stitches is to run your needle under the binding into the back layer of the quilt, then pick up a few threads on the edge of your binding and pull your thread through. put your needle back into the back layer of the quilt directly under the stitch and run your needle again about 1/8" away from the stitch you just made. Practice, practice, practice to get these small stitches. Match your thread to your BINDING color. These invisible stitches are great to use for your labels as well as your hand-applique.
I have enlarged the photo to show you where you go into the fabric (back layer of your quit) and approximately 1/8" into the binding. When sewing, I try to get as close to the edge of the binding as I can. Take a look again at this photo. The binding is already completed and hand-sewn to the back and you can't see any of the stitches! This photo is just to show you needle placement.
I've been using strips 2 1/2". I found that when you turn it over to the back, there is a larger finished binding (wider) on the back than on the front. I then tried 2 1/4". Same result for me. I have now tried a 2" strip and found it works great!
Remember, the strip width will all depend on how thick your finished quilt is. If you are using flannel and/or a thick polyester batting, I would use the 2 1/4" strip. If you want a rounded finished binding (so it looks like cording) -- use a smaller width binding. Note that you will really need to pull it over to the backside when you are sewing (this can be really tiring on your hands!)
When you pull your binding to the back to sewn on -- you want to make sure the edge of the binding on the back covers your stitches front the front. The narrower your binding strip, the harder it is to pull the front to the back. The last two quilts I have done, I have used 2" binding strips.
I use single fold binding. 2" folded in half = 1" binding. I then sew the raw edge to the raw edge of the quilt using a 1/4" seam. Since there are two layers against the edge, it wears better.
Making binding is easy! There are loads of tutorials on line. I have made continuous bindling and I have also made my own binding using strips and sewing them together. Some people say that bias binding wears better as the grain of fabric is on an angle on the edges. I have cut strips along the grain and have found no issues with it. Try each method and see which one you like the best and the easiest for you!
Hope that I haven't confused you! Happy Quilting everyone!