Assuming you’ve read our blogger profiles, you should all be familiar with my sewing skills — and by that I mean LACK of sewing skills. I’ve dabbled in cross stitch and I can wrangle some knitting needles just fine, but the complex system of fabric and sewing machines and somehow putting it all together in a neat little quilt with corners matching and all that?? It’s new to me. As I work in a quilt shop, it didn’t take long for my dear quilting friends to sign me up and get me started — and I mean that literally. Only a week after my first day at the shop I found myself sitting in the beginning quilting class, trying to figure out how to get that dang thread onto a bobbin, how to sew a ¼” seam and why the heck it mattered, and desperately trying to remember if that pack of 10” squares sitting next to my machine was called a jelly bun, sugar roll, or a layer pack.
Thankfully, my quilting skills are coming along nicely and I’m just about to finish my first quilt top. My last task was to put on borders. With clear instructions from Karen and Della, I set to work.
So, listen up, ladies! Maybe you’re new to quilting like me, or maybe you’re tired of your borders looking like wavy ruffles. There’s a better way to do it. This step-by-step guide will help you finish your quilt top perfectly. Let’s get started.
1) Step one. Cut your inner border fabric into strips according to your pattern. Don’t forget to trim off the selvage. Beginner’s tip: don’t rush! Cutting became a disaster when I was anxious to get sewing and did my mental math wrong. I ended up with a handful of shorted strips. Like they say, “measure twice, cut once.” I also recommend starting your measuring on a whole number — you’re bound to lose an ⅛” here and there if you’re trying to add or subtract complex fractions and are starting on a ⅝”. Do yourself a favor and make the math easy.
2) Next, sew the ends of your strips together and press in one direction. As they tell me, “sew a seam, press the seam.”
3) Spread out your quilt top on the floor or a large table. Measure the quilt from the top to the bottom through the center of the quilt. Cut two strips off your inner border fabric in this length.
Why do we do it this way? Once you’ve pieced your quilt together, it can end up all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sometimes the ends are longer than the middle, or vice versa. If your borders aren’t put on correctly, the problem grows exponentially and it becomes a huge pain to quilt. Your quilt becomes puckered and can resemble a trapezoid. By measuring through the center of the quilt and having opposite borders be the exact same length of fabric as that measurement, you can ease in slouchy fabric, or stretch it out if it’s not as long. The result: a closer to perfect rectangle. That sounds nice!
4) Fold the quilt top in half and one of your inner border strips in half to find the centers. Pin the centers together. Next, pin the ends together and everywhere in between, easing (stretching one or the other to fit) if necessary. Lots of pinning is as important as measuring through the center to be sure you don’t have a wavy-bordered, trapezoid quilt.
5) Now that you’re pinned together, sew away and press when you’re finished. Repeat steps 3-5, this time measuring from side to side (through the center) for the top and bottom inner borders.
6) Doing more borders? Repeat this process as many times as necessary and you’ll be in great shape!
–Posted by Stacy
All photos by Mike Herbener