A Thought About Borders

If I had a dollar for the amount of times I’ve heard, “I just need to throw the borders on!” I would be a rich woman.

Often times we spend more time and care in picking out fabrics and piecing the body of the quilt that we neglect to pay particular attention to the borders. It’s the last step and almost an afterthought. How hard can it be?!?

When putting your borders on do you cut a few strips then, starting at one end, stitch right down the side to the end of the quilt? Then repeat process with the other three sides? Ah yes, the result is that of ruffled borders and you may not even realize it!

Borders that ruffle can be a longarm quilters worst nightmare. That may seem like an overstatement. However, when fabric doesn’t lay flat that is when puckers and tucks occur. When you hire a quilter to do your quilting, they often want to do a good job for you. Anything you can do to make their jobs easier is always better!

What does a quilt with ruffled borders look like? When your quilt is laying flat on a bed do the borders lay flat or do they have a wave to them? Is the wave really pronounced?

With a slight wave the quilt top will stretched and little and the wave would, most likely, stretch out. A very distinct wave will never stretch out.

I once had a customer bring a quilt to me that her mother had made in the ’20s. My customer, now in her ’80s, wanted to make the quilt larger for her granddaughter so took a yellow sheet, cut it into strips and then sewed it to the “edges” of the Grandmother’s Flower Garden. When I quilted it there were huge tucks (as in several inches). She was okay with it but it made my heart sick.

To properly put a border on your quilt first measure the side you are going to be working on.
Second, measure your border fabric and cut it exactly the size of the quilt side.
Fold your quilt top in half and mark (either by pinning or pressing) the middle of the quilt. Fold each half in half and mark (either by pinning or pressing the quarter sections of the quilt.
Repeat the marking process with your other borders.
Pin the border to the side by matching the middle and quarter marks and stitch in place.
Apply the sides first then the top and bottom. Or top and bottom first, then the sides.

Why doesn’t the first way work?
When you are stitching your border fabric to your quilt top and it is not pinned down you can (and most likely will) pull the border fabric just enough to give it that wave. The times I’ve reapplied borders in this condition I’ve trimmed off anywhere from a half inch to four (!) inches. No kidding! The stretchier the fabric the worse it will be.

The moral of the story: Borders are a very important part of your quilt. Putting them on properly will ensure a prettier quilt!

Happy Quilting!


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