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Quiltville Custom Quilting

Border Hints & Tricks!
Avoiding the wave and ripple!..
(Click here for printer-friendly version)

Lessons in How NOT to create a quilting nightmare! :c)

Believe me, this will NOT quilt out!

THIS was a quilting nightmare! The names have been changed to protect the quilty-guilty! I hope the steps below will help you apply borders that lie flat and give you square corners :c)

It's not really a trick..I've always thought of it as a *cheat*...because I don't use measuring tapes or rulers..

I piece together the border strips together end to end so it is long enough for the whole quilt. If I am wanting no joining seams in the length of my borders, I cut the four borders along the length of the fabric, longer than the quilt top so there is overlap when adding the top and bottom borders. You don't want to run short here.
  To join on the diagonal or not? It is up to you! I will join on the diagonal for narrow borders, anything up to 3.5" like this:

When strips get wider than 3.5", I like to sew them together straight end to end instead of on the diagonal or bias. This is mostly due to the fact that a bias seam is going to be longer than a straight seam, and because the strip is wide, it will be even more noticeable. There is also a lot of waste when you are joining wide strips on the bias.  What are you going to do with a bunch of triangles you trimmed from joining 6" borders on the diagonal? You are going to need more yardage for more border strips if you do this because you are losing that 6" triangle at either end of your strips. That adds up! Other things to take into consideration....a seam on a stripe fabric is less noticeable if it is a straight seam, insead of a diagonal seam. The same thing goes for bigger plaids, which can look way off if you join them on the diagonal. I tend to join stripes and plaids straight end to end for these reasons. The choice is up to you!

Now that you have your borders cut and sewn, here comes the crawling on the floor part!!:

Lay out the quilt on the floor, smoothing as you go so it is straight and flat, but do not stretch...just let it lay flat. Now take your border strip and lay it down the CENTER of the quilt, top to bottom, just smoothing it out. DO NOT STRETCH, just smooth, smooth. Trim it off at the bottom of the end of the quilt. I lay my quilt out on carpet, so I also like to anchor the beginning end of the borders with a couple of long pins stuck into the carpet. It keeps that one border end from creeping as I smooth. Cut the second strip the same way.

It is really important to cut your border strips straight across, or you can compound the problem if that angle is off from 45 degrees. If the angle is too wide, your next border will flare up at the corners. If it is too narrow, it is going to pull the top/bottom border down and your side border will be too short. Keep those angles square when you trim!

If you are doing a square quilt with 4 cornerstones in the corners, you can cut all 4 pieces at the same time.
If you are doing a rectangular quilt with 4 cornerstones, also cut your top and bottom borders across the width of the quilt, measuring through the center before sewing on the side borders.

This has ALWAYS worked for me, because when you are dealing with measuring tapes, they dont drape and lay the way your fabric does....your border fabric is your 'measuring tape' and as you smooth it across the center of the quilt top it will lay the same way as the quilt center with no tension on it.

Sew your borders to the  long sides of the quilt first, pinning the centers and the ends and easing where neccessary. If the border seems bigger than the quilt top, stitch the border to the quilt with the border against the feed dogs. If the quilt seems a bit bigger, then sew that on with the quilt next to the feed dogs to ease it in a bit.

Why side borders first?

For me it is a personal preference :c)

If you encapsulate or close in the top and bottom borders by adding the side borders shortens the top and bottom borders in appearance.  This isn't so evident with busy fabric choices, but  the two long border seams running through the top and bottom borders puts more seams in the top and bottom border so it looks choppy. The seams are at a very visually vulnerable place. And if there is another joining seam anywhere else in that top or bottom border it adds more visual disruptions. It can be even more choppy if your other joining seams are diagonal seams placed anywhere near the straight ones.


It's a subtle difference, but look at the two identical quilts above. Which is more pleasing to you?

 As I said, It isn't so obvious if you have a busy border print, but it is more pleasing to the eye if you do the long sides first, and the top and bottom last. It  looks more finished to the observer..

Now for your top and bottom borders! Back to the floor...lay the quilt out... smoothing smoothing....and lay the border strips across the center of the quilt (including the borders you just added) from side to side. Trim evenly. Pin centers and ends and ease where neccessary as for side borders. 

Some people take several measurements across the quilt and average that measurement for borders. (hear me gasping in fright here!) I *NEVER* "average" when measuring for borders because they can still flare, and where they are going to flare the worst is at the center of the quilt sides...That's why the CENTER measurement is the one to go for. If the 'averaged' measurement is longer than the quilt CENTER measurement, you are GOING to have a flared border. If the 'averaged' measurement is smaller than quilt  center measurement, you are going to have borders that are too tight for your quilt center, and the center of your quilt is going to balloon out. Just use the center measurement and your quilt will lie flat!

  Things to remember!

  Measure through the quilt CENTER ONLY. DO NOT STRETCH!

  Problem: The quilt top is slightly longer than the border.

  Solution: Sew with the quilt top on the bottom, when you put it through the sewing machine. Your          sewing machine’s feed dogs will help resolve the problem by easing in the excess fabric.

Problem:  The borders are slightly longer than the quilt top.
Solution: Sew the border on with the border fabric next to feed dogs underneath the quilt.

Mitered Borders:
Measure the quilt in both directions  through quilt center to calculate a “base” measurement for each     border.

When you are sewing the border strips on for a mitered corner, you must add extra length for the miter.  I write this out each time, including the size for each side.  This reminds me that there is a border on both sides that I must take into account.  I don't want to say I have a short attention span, but when I just add in my head (quilt top + border), I invariably add the border from one side only.

If your main quilt center is 36" and the border is 2" wide,
you must add another 2" on EACH side for the miter. The math would look like this:

miter + border width + body of quilt + border width + miter + seam allowance.

(the seam allowance is 1/2", which is 1/4" on each side and needs to be added only ONCE for the entire piece)

2" + 2" + 36" + 2" + 2" + 1/2" seam allowance = 44 1/2"

If you think of it in small steps, one section at a time, it is not difficult at all.  I actually draw myself a little sketch,  adding each border, and then I can visually SEE that there need to be TWO sets of numbers added, one for each side.

If using more than one border, strip piece the borders together before cutting to length. They are then treated like a striped fabric when joining them to the quilt.

  Find the center point in the length of the border. Now working out from the center, mark half the “base measurement” length in both directions. You should have a "tongue" left over at each end which is equal to the extra that you have allowed for the miter.

Mark quarter points on the border and divide quilt edge into half way point and quarter points.

Stitch border to quilt matching quarter and half way points. Be sure to start and finish seam exactly ¼" from the raw edges.

Stitch one of the adjacent borders onto the quilt in the same manner, remembering to pin first border excess well out of way before adding the next border.

You can stop here and make a miter before continuing to add the other sides or you can wait until all 4 sides are added and then miter all four corners at once. That is up to you.:


To make a miter:

  • Fold the quilt in half diagonally so that the right sides are together

  • Pin match the seams so that they are aligned together. 

  • Use the 45° angle line, marked on your ruler, to pencil a 45° stitching line from the corner of the quilt to the raw edge of the border.

  • Be sure to start the line exactly at the spot where the border stitching finished otherwise you will end up with a pleat. Do not stitch beyond the seam allowance and into the quilt body!   Stitch on the pencil line.

  • Lay quilt corner out flat, right sides up so you can check it out.
  • Line up the 45° angle line of ruler as well as the other lines over miter seam to be sure the corner is square. This is where you can undo and re-do if the seam is not right.

  • Trim excess fabric and press seam open

Questions or Comments? I would love to hear from you!!
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