Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let's Talk Quilt Borders ~ Again!

Quilt Borders!  It's the one topic us quilters love to talk about or avoid it all together!  I feel it's a VERY IMPORTANT topic and this post will probably be one of many I do up on Quilt Borders!

First off, here is some simple instructions on how to apply borders to a quilt:

Directions for applying borders:

  • Determine the length of the quilt border by averaging the two or three center measurements of the quilt body.
  • Cut two borders that length and pin them to opposite sides of the quilt.  Match the ends and centers, then gently ease in any fullness.
  • Pin, sew, and press
  • Repeat for the top and bottom borders.
Before I became a longarm quilter...the only way I added borders to my quilts was by simply sewing them on and then cutting off the excess left at the end.  This is what can cause wavy borders....meaning to much border fabric for the body of the quilt.

We all come across these pesky, wavy borders.  Sometimes they are our own and sometimes they are not.  Regardless, they are a reality and the best way to fix them is to re-do them or have the customer re-apply them the correct way.  

...but sometimes you will come across a customer that just wants you to quilt the quilt up and will be happy with any end result.  This is where it's helpful to know some tips and tricks to fixing these borders.

I'm using Betty's quilt today as an example.  Betty is the sweetest and nicest lady I know.  Her quilt is a good example of some border issues.  It was a very large quilt with multiple borders, one being a very large outer border and it's easy for there to be wavy borders on a quilt like this one.  I'm going to show you the "tuck method" of fixing borders today.

  I had 3-4 inches of extra fabric on this outer borders and it was a perfect candidate for the "tuck method"!

 I needed to find a good place to make my tuck.  It just so happens there was some inner piecing I was able to line up with the beginning of my tuck. (blue fabric above)  The start of my tuck will only start out at 1/8" then as I go outward to the side of the quilt, I will end up with a good 2-4 inch tuck.  I baste the tuck down with a big basting stitch.  Once basted I quilt as I normally would.  I try to make the tuck go straight across from left to right without slanting....that way it will look like a seam when I'm done.

After quilting, I take out the basting stitch.  It appears to be seams in the fabric!  You wouldn't even know there was a tuck!  I will of course let the customer know about the tuck and that she can hand stitch that down better if she'd like.  Most the time it's stitched down good enough.

Here is another picture of it.

Here is a picture of the other border.  I ended up making my tuck on a seam that was all ready in the border.  I didn't have convenient piecing to match up for the start of my tuck in the center area...but started my tuck at the beginning of the white border.  It was a little bit trickier, but still manageable.

I came across another problem area when quilting this quilt up and it was in the quilt center.

I should have taken step-by-step pictures of what I did, but I will try to explain it best I can.  The white handwork center of this quilt was too big.   As I was quilting the center and getting toward the bottom, I noticed it.  This is what I did to fix it.  I made a tuck at the bottom of the white center under the blue border.  It was a good 2-3" tuck.  After making that tuck I basted down the top edge of the blue border, quilted both the white center and border.  I then removed the basting stitch and then stitched down the top edge of the blue border....(like I was stitching in the ditch) but just stitched on the border instead of in the ditch.  The ends of the tuck on both sides were a bit tricky to work in....but by doing the piano key quilting on the blue border, it really helped make it easier and less noticeable.  (piano key quilting is an excellent type of quilting to use on borders...very forgiving and eases in extra fabric you may have to work with)

I only had to make the one tuck on each side of the outer border towards the beginning of the quilt and by doing that it really helped the rest go much smoother.  I knew before quilting the quilt up I would have some border issues and that is why I picked a meander quilting. (meander quilting is very forgiving and a good choice for wavy borders)

Try to determine what bumps you may come across on a quilt before starting.  This will help you decide on your quilting design for the quilt and not make the quilting job as frustrating as it could be.

These tips and tricks are not all mine and I've learned from the best.....and if you have any other tips or suggestions or questions on this topic, feel free to comment and share them with the rest of us.



  1. Wow -- not only is your longarm quilting to die for, but you really go above and beyond the call of duty to make sure your customers' quilts come out beautifully! They are lucky to have you and I hope they appreciate the extra time and effort you put in. Merry Christmas, Jenny!

  2. Jenny, thank you so much for sharing this. I don't think I would have thought of this work-around on my own. My cousin's quilt is like this, and I've put off finishing it for her because I wasn't looking forward to unpicking borders from a queen. I think this'll do the job quite nicely!

  3. You are amazing! Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to more tips.

  4. You are AMAZING!!! I can't believe you are so smart and I am so happy that I have found your blog. I just got a long-arm last month and I am having so so so much fun. I have had tucks in the back and two small borders and a lot of unpicking but you are definitely inspiring and I am just determined to learn all the tricks and make all the mistakes, lol. Thanks again.

  5. Jenny, I have linked to this post on my blog, because I think it says so well the need to measure and pin borders. Please let me know if you prefer I didn't do this, and I will take it down.

  6. So glad i'm not the only one that has done this! Life saver for those wavy borders on quilts.

  7. I use the same method you described above for measuring and attaching borders. I rarely do my own quilting so I hope I am making it easier for my long armer.