Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Borders 101: A flat quilt is a happy quilt

Pin It Whether you are a novice or expert quilter, chances are there are things that you have not been taught, or you've been taught incorrectly.  Have you ever been taught the right way to put borders on your quilt?
Being a longarm quilter, I quickly became acquainted with the reasons why quilting rules are so important.  Of course the three obvious rules:  proper and accurate cutting, proper seam allowance and proper pressing (not to be confused with ironing).  One rule that seems to get overlooked most often is proper border attachment.  This causes a lot of problems for your longarm quilter.  A good longarmer (you know, like myself!  haha!) can ease in problem borders with too much fabric.  But you can't be guaranteed that you won't have pleats or puckers, and why would you want that when the solution is so simple?
There are a lot of people that "sew and slash" their borders, meaning they take a strip of fabric, sew it on their quilt, and then cut off whatever is leftover.  This stretches the fabric and causes waves.  You wouldn't notice it unless you laid it out on the floor flat and you'd see what I'm talking about.  I am always trying to preach how to properly apply borders.  But because I'm 50 years younger than a lot of quilters, have pink hair and holes in my face, I couldn't possibly know more about quilting than them!? (In their defense, if the tables were turned I would probably feel the same way)
So anyway, back to this simple solution:
That's it!  Just measure for borders!  That will keep you from having wavy, ruffly, unruly borders and you will have a square quilt.  And I'm going to show you how.
First it helps when your quilt center lays flat.  If your center doesn't lay flat, it means that you didn't follow one (or all) of the three rules I mentioned above.  That's another tutorial in itself.  To measure for your borders, first measure each side of your quilt at its edge.
Then, fold your quilt in half and measure it along the middle seam through the center.
My quilt's sides and center measure 36.5 across the board so there isn't much work for me to do.  We're going to pretend it was off.  Say it was 36.5 through the center and 37 on each side.  Add the three, 37+37+36=110.  Then find the average of the three.  110/3=36 2/3".  This is what you should cut your borders at (round off to the nearest 1/8").
Now I will say that if you have minimal difference in your measurements (up to 1/4-1/2 inch) between the center and the edges, it's usually okay to use the center.  If all else fails, use your center measurement.
Once you've cut your border pieces, fold them in half and mark their centers, and do the same with the side of the quilt that it will be attached to.
When you attach your borders, first match up your center pins between your quilt top and your border piece.
After you've done this, pin your ends together.  From there, pin the rest of your border on, working your way in from the outside edge to the center, easing in any fullness.
The second most important part of this process (you know, next to the measuring part) is to not stretch your fabric when you're sewing.  If your quilt top edge is longer than your border piece, sew the seam with the border piece on bottom.  If your border piece is longer than your quilt top edge, sew the seam with the border on top.  It is easiest to ease in fullness on the top with the feed dogs feeding the "correct" length through the bottom.  I use a pin to push my fabric forward gradually as I sew the border pieces on.
Repeat these steps for all four of your borders and you should have a flat, happy quilt! (I could've lined up the lines but didn't feel like it).
That quilt looks much happier than this sad quilt with too much fabric in its borders (that I have to ease in when I quilt it).
That is your lesson for the day!  =]


  1. yeah, I always am too lazy to measure. And it shows. i need to work on that more. Love that quilt.

  2. I find it hard to preach to other quilters that they should not slash and dash when that is exactly what I do!
    Although, in my defense, I have never had a problem with my own borders, doing it that way.
    I don't know why, according to "the rules" my borders should look like hell and be pleated all over the place.
    I "know" the rules, I just don't follow them :p

  3. Sabra, I can forgive you because everything you make is awesomenicity anyway!
    Tammy, NAUGHTY!! I'm tempted to delete your comment just so people don't think they can get away with it! hahahaa!!
    I had a pattern that actually *said* to sew and slash and I threw a fit. I almost emailed the company. Seriously! :P

  4. Hey! Is that my quilt in the last picture? Just joking, mine was worse! I did measure, in my defense, but I've never measured to the exact 1/8, more like to an inch. I'll try your way next time . . .See you soon! Maybe I can help you lay out the blog if it's still having trouble.

  5. You are the first I've heard say this but it makes sense! When you know better-you do better! Thanks for speaking up!

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  15. my quilt is off 1 inch after adding borders . Can i leave it like that and send to quilter?

  16. i remeasured my quilt , it is off by 3/4 of an inch . Can i leave it?