Border Tips

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.

No Borders

Time for the borders! I used a layer cake from the Panache line to make my quilt top.

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.

Cutting Strips

I neatly folded my fabric in half to cut my strips straight.

2) Next, sew the ends of your strips together and press in one direction. As they tell me, “sew a seam, press the seam.”

Sewing Strips

Inner Fabric

Woo hoo! My inner border is all sewn together.

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.


Through the center!

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.


Pinning the centers.

Pin the Ends

Pinning at the ends.

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.

Sewing Border

Setting the Seam

For effective pressing, first you have to "set the seam."

Final Pressing

Then open it up and press in one direction.

6) Doing more borders? Repeat this process as many times as necessary and you’ll be in great shape!

I did it!

Hooray! I sewed my inner border!

–Posted by Stacy

All photos by Mike Herbener


8 responses to “Border Tips

  1. Honey, you are so fortunate to be working with folks that can “teach” you instead of having to tough through it all by yourself. I can’t wait to see more updates from you. I’m a fairly new quilter, and even though I have the love of quilting, so far I haven’t loved quilting. That probably doesn’t make sense. I “love” the idea of quilting, and get such satisfaction out of the fabrics, and designs, but I certainly haven’t “loved” actually making quilts. It’s been a struggle all the way. I haven’t made a lot of quilts, because of this love/hate relationship I have with the assembly, so maybe I can learn “why” as I go through this journey with you. I’m anxious for you to start applique, paper-piecing, and making flying geese and all those other things I’m afraid to tackle. I’m anxiously waiting for your next post. And you look like you’re having so much fun!

  2. This is a great tutorial and if you follow what it says you will have wonderful squared up quilts!

  3. Thanks for your comment, Deborah. It made me smile. Stick with quilting, please! It will get easier with practice and some good advice here and there. I have my moments, too. Cutting the fabric precisely is something I need to work on. And perfect 1/4″ seams. And…well, let’s just say there’s a list of things I could do better. But, I’m a beginner so we can’t expect to be perfect just yet. When I cut my outer borders short on this quilt, I just had to turn off the sewing machine and take a break for the night. The next day I felt like less of a doof and having smaller borders didn’t seem so bad.

    I’m curious what parts of the quilting process are frustrating for you? I’d love to try and cover those topics since I’m sure we aren’t alone. As for applique, paper-piecing and flying geese….well, I’ll get there eventually!

    Happy sewing,

  4. One of my best purchases was a pressure foot with a 1/4″ guide. Even when asked to make a “scant 1/4 inch seam” the pressure foot acts as a consistent guide. Early in my quilting I found out what a difference accuracy can mean and what being a half inch off square can do to piecing. Hang in there … there are so many creative tools that quilters have invented to make the process easier. And I have almost all of them!

  5. I’m a beginner quilter, too. So far, I’ve just been hoarding fabric and patterns and I’m afraid to cut into the fabrics! I think I’m afraid to cut because my measurements will be all wrong and I’m terrible in math. One of these days I will actually sew something with my fabric-like a pin cushion.
    Beautiful pictures taken–love the colors and that beautiful wood floor!

    • Dig in, Lisa! I cut things wrong all the time — you can only learn if you make mistakes. I’ve learned to never be embarrassed to whip out a calculator to do even the simplest math and as they say “measure twice, cut once.” Even if you cut wrong and are short of fabric, a pattern is not the law. Be in charge and do it your own way. You’ll feel better and it will still look beautiful.

  6. Pingback: Book Review: City Quilts by Cherri House | Quilt Expressions Blog

  7. Pingback: Gone Fishin’ | Quilt Expressions Blog

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