Hey Everyone, welcome to Technique Tuesday and Happy New Year. Last week I shared with you, Ruth’s cool border calculator and this week I figured I would talk about measuring, cutting, sewing and attaching borders.
It is very important to be just as precise and meticulous with the borders as it is with the blocks to ensure that the quilt stays square. There is nothing worse than a wonky quilt unless of course it is meant to be wonky.
Just right is perfect. Too long and the quilt won’t end up square.
When I first started out quilting I figured that making the border piece longer than the quilt was better as then I knew for sure it would fit and I could just cut the excess off once I had it sewn on. Since then I have learned that this practice really isn’t the best habit to get into as it can easily lead to a quilt that isn’t square. Instead, I have found it much more effective to make the border strip exactly the same length as the side of the quilt it is being sewn on to.
The rest of this post details how I go about getting the borders perfect.
Check the actual quilt length
Even though the pattern says the quilt should be a certain size it is a very good idea to measure the actual length and width of the quilt as sometimes it just doesn’t come out quite the same size. Measure the vertical length of the quilt three times – once on each vertical side and once in the middle from top to bottom.
Use the average length of three measurements
Hopefully all three measurements come out the same but if not that’s okay. Take the 3 numbers and add them together then divide by 3 and this will be the length of the vertical border. For example, one side is 43.5″, the other side is 43.25″ and the middle is 43″. Added together they equal 129.75″ and divided by 3 the average is 43.25″.
By using the average of the 3 numbers it will help keep the quilt square when the borders are put on. The side that is a bit longer can easily be eased into the border.
Now that the length has been figured out, cut the border pieces from the fabric. Depending on the fabric, the pieces may be cut as one long piece down the length of the fabric – usually done if the fabric is a directional print as they are very difficult to piece together and match exactly. If cutting across the width of fabric then the border will probably need to be pieced. I always piece my border pieces on the bias. I just find that the seam isn’t as noticeable with this piecing method. Piecing straight on though is quite acceptable as well.
Trim the excess from the border strip
Once the pieces have been pieced together then I lay out the border piece on a flat surface and measure from one end to the other.
Calculate what needs to be cut off to have the exact length needed for the border. For example, the long piece of fabric is 79″ and the vertical length of the quilt is 71.5″. The amount to cut off is 7.5″.
Pin the border to keep everything under control
I am in the habit of pinning my borders onto the quilt – this just makes it easier to handle the long pieces and large amounts of fabric around you. It does take a bit more time but I always find it worth the extra effort. Start by pinning one end of the border to one end of the quilt.
Repeat on the opposite end.
Lay out on a flat surface and pin the border in approximately the middle of the quilt.
Continue pinning the border fabric to the quilt by cutting the area not pinned in half and in half again and so on until the whole border is pinned to the quilt centre.
Sew from the back side of the quilt centre
Sew into place. I also tend to sew with the quilt centre on top and the border fabric on the bottom. This way if there are any points to ensure remain as points I can see where to sew the quarter inch seam.
Press the seam
Press the border, by setting the seam and starting in the middle press the seam to one end then go back to the middle and press it out to the other end. This method of pressing from middle out for long pieces helps to ensure that the seam stays straight and has no wobbles in it.
Sew on the other vertical border and then repeat the whole process with the horizontal borders.
Until next week, Happy Quilting!