Quilt Borders: How to sew borders to your quilt

Borders have many different functions in quilting

First and foremost borders are designed to enhance the quilt.  They often create a balance to the quilt design and help showcase and enhance the quilt blocks.  For many quilters borders are there to make their quilt larger.  This is also true, but the size of the border should not overwhelm the quilt design.

In my quilt designs I use a variety of borders.  Many times I use straight borders, often multiple borders to frame my quilts and make the colors pop.  This was my intention for my latest quilt:  The bear quilt.  There is a certain art to sewing on straight cut borders, especially to larger quilts.  

We never stop learning and I learned recently that staying up late at night, sewing on multiple borders in a limited space and low light is a bad combination. 
The result:  My borders were too dark, not as straight as I wanted and of all things in the wrong order.  What was I thinking?? - or was I sleep-sewing??

I have to make another confession.  Teachers often teach the right way to do things, but sometimes (just sometimes, in extreme time crunch situations) we take a short cut or two which oftentimes works out great, but other times can turn into - well - for me a time eating disaster.  Always on a deadline and trying to beat the clock, I decided to take some unfortunate short cuts with the multiple borders on my bear quilt, which I then had to un-sew - multiple times of course - making me think I should write and share this little border primer.  It might be useful to other quilters under pressure and save them from making mistakes. 

How to attach borders to larger quilts.


We've all done it .....

.... sewn on borders, then cut and trimmed after each addition. 
I fell into this fast and easy trap, sewing borders to my bear quilt and had to spend much more time fixing my borders than if I had done it right the first time - the way I teach it of course!

Step 1:  Square up your quilt! If you have a large square ruler, this is the time to use it.  Square up each corner to 90 degrees to make sure your quilt is square to start with.

Step 2:  Take three measurements.
I measure through the middle and on both long sides of the quilt.  Compare the measurements and if there is a large discrepancy it is an indication that something is not quite right.  The measurements should be the same or very close.  Use the center measurement if possible, provided you are not off by an inch, then of course there are other problems to fix.

Step 3.  Sew and cut the border-strips to the measured length.  Sometimes you need to sew border strips together to make them long enough.  Sew them together end to end.   Then measure the strips and cut them to the measurement in step 2.

Step 4:  Pin on your border strips equally.  An easy way to do this is to fold the border strips in half and half again, mark with a pin or chalk and do the same to your quilt.  Then line up the border-strip on the quilt, match the registration marks, pin and sew.  Repeat for the other side.

Step 5:  More measuring.  Do this as described in step 2 and include the first border strips in this measurement.

Step 6.  Repeat step 3 and 4.
Now that border 1 is sewn to the quilt on all sides, start again with step 1 and square up the quilt.
This will prevent your corners from stretching and make your quilt nice and straight.

Quilting will be so much easier and make you or your favorite long-arm quilter happy. :)

...and the lesson is:  The fast way may work for small projects such as table runners, but for larger quilts it is better and faster to play it safe.

Curvy Borders to enhance your design


I use a lot of different styles of borders in my quilts.  My favorite borders are pieced using my easy dimensional curves.  These curvy borders enhance the overall design of the quilt and are a lot of fun to piece.  In some cases the border blocks match the size of your quilt blocks so every seam acts as a registration mark and helps match up the borders for a perfect fit.  This is not always possible, but as long as some points match, sewing on the borders is a snap.

 Dance of the Dragonflies

Dance of the Dragonflies has flowing, curvy borders that fit the overall design.
Dimensional curves make borders interesting, easy, and fun!


Another great example of a pieced curvy border is shown on this quilt:

Fishy Fishy.
The borders are pieced in a wave designs to enhance the quilt and carry on the movement of the fishy blocks.

 I hope you enjoyed my little border primer. If you have any questions about borders, feel free to ask or comment on the blog. 

Happy Quilting.... Annette


  1. Informative piece . For what it's worth , if people wants to merge two images , my secretary discovered a service here http://goo.gl/UOtj10.


Post a Comment