Learn all about quilt borders. A border is a strip of fabric that will form a beautiful frame around the artwork of the quilt you have created. It is the finishing touch to your masterpiece. The choice of quilt borders is extremely varied. You can add one simple strip of fabric for your border, a few strips in varied colors, or even a pieced border, or an appliqued border. It should, however, always compliment your quilt blocks. If you have made a scrappy, busy quilt, choose a calm, neutral border. If you have chosen simple, toning blocks, your border can be more elaborate- multiple strips of color or a pieced border.
Are you looking for a way to create a stunning border for your quilt? Here are the simplest options for designing your perfect border. As far as the actual construction goes, there are three main methods:
- Simple Quilt Borders - These have easy squared corners.
- Mitered Quilt Borders- If you are feeling a little more adventurous, mitered corners on your border give a very pleasing appearance.
- Cornerstone Quilt Borders - When you have created a masterpiece quilt, you can go all out and create a cornerstone border. This means you add contrasting squares of color in the corners of the border. It is actually not any more difficult than a simple border, just requires a few more steps!
Supplies for Quilt Borders
The supplies for quilt borders will be the same as you needed to piece your quilt.
- Fabric - Fabric that tones or contrasts with your blocks, depending on your desired effect.
- Thread - Cotton or polyester blend thread in matching colors or toning neutrals.
- Cutting Tools - Rotary cutter, self-healing cutting mat, quilters ruler. If you would like to make mitered corners on this border, your ruler must have a 45 degree marking.
- General Supplies - Sewing machine, tape measure, straight pins, iron, and ironing board.
How to Make Quilt Borders
Here are the formulas and instructions for working out your quilt borders:
Method #1 - Simple Quilt Borders
Step 1 - Border Width
Decide how wide you would like your simple quilt borders to be. It should be proportional to your pieced blocks, but sometimes you have to adjust it to reach the required size of your completed quilt!
Step 2 - Quilt Borers Size
Add up the size of all your blocks on each side of your quilt, and then add your seam allowance.
EXAMPLE: So, for example, if your quilt is made up of 4 x3 blocks each 10” (25cm) square, you will first add up the blocks on each side of your quilt. Which will be 4 x10” (4 x25cm) = 40” (100 cm) Add on your ¼” (6 mm) seam allowance on each side to give you a length of 40 ½” (112 cm)
Step 3 - Strip Sizes
This gives you the length of your side strips. You will have already decided how wide your border is going to be, so add your seam allowance of ¼”(6mm) to each side of this width, and cut two strips to this measurement.
EXAMPLE: If you choose to have a 6” (15cm) border, your strips will then be 40 ½ “(112cm) by 6 ½” (16.2 cm).
Step 4 - Quilt Border Calculator
Now to work out your top and bottom strips of your border.
Using the above example of a quilt made up of 4 x3 blocks you will add the measurement of those three blocks, PLUS the width of your side borders (very important not to forget this extra measurement!) plus your seam allowance.
- Your length will thus be 3x 10” (3x 25cm) + 12” (30cm)+ ½ “(12mm)
- That gives a total length of 42 ½“(117 cm)
- Your width will still be the same- 6 ½” (16.2 cm)
If you don’t have enough length of fabric for these long border strips, you can piece together as many bits of fabric as you need to reach your total length.
This may sound very mathematical and confusing! An easier way, especially if your blocks are not all precisely to size, is to sew all your blocks together, then measure the length of each side of your complete quilt. Add ½”(12mm) seam allowance. That is the length of your strip. Then decide on your width of your border and add ½” (12mm)seam allowance to get the width of your strip.
Now you must sew those side strips onto either side. Once you have done that, measure the top and bottom of your quilt with those side borders added, and add your ½” (12mm) seam allowance.
Work out your width of the strip as above.
Step 5 - How to Sew Simple Quilt Borders
Once you have calculated and cut your border strips fold each of them in half and press a crease or place a straight pin at that half way point. Then fold your quilt top in half, vertically and horizontally, and mark the halfway points in the same manner. Align the marked points on your side borders and on your quilt.
Pin them carefully and sew the sides, right sides together. You may find that one layer stretches more than the other as you are sewing. Be sure to ease any gathers which form as you sew.
Now add your top and bottom borders in the same way.
Press the borders outwards, with the seam allowance facing towards the borders.
Method #2 - Mitered Quilt Borders
What is a mitered corner? It is formed when the corners of your borders meet at a 45-degree angle. It gives a neat almost seamless look to your border but is a little more challenging to sew. If you want your quilt to have a professional finish to it, these are the quilt borders to choose.
How Much Fabric Do I Need?
Measure the length of your quilt sides. Add an extra 12” (30cm) to this measurement to allow for the overlap required to make your mitered corners. This will include your seam allowance.
Choose the width of your border and just add the ½” seam allowance to this.
If for example your quilt is 40”(102cm) long and your border is going to be 6”(15cm) wide, you must cut two strips 52” (132cm) x 6 ½” (16.5cm)
Now measure the length of the top of your quilt. Add in the width of you side border strips. Then add another 12” for the overlap.
So if your quilt is 30” (75cm) wide add 12” (30cm)for borders, then another 12” (30cm) for overlap.
Width is worked out as above.
How to Sew Mitered Quilt Borders
Pin the borders in place by marking half way points on border strips and quilt top, as previously explained.
Sew side borders in place, starting and stopping ¼” (6mm) away from the edge of your quilt each time.
Use your reverse stitch to reinforce these seams. You will have a 6” (15cm) overlap on each side of your quilt.
Now sew your top and bottom borders in place in the same way. Be sure you don’t catch your previous overlaps into these seams! Press seam allowances towards the borders.
Now place your quilt wrong side up. Place the 45-degree mark of your ruler on the raw edge of your border. Mark a line from the quilt edge to the outside edge. Overlap the adjacent border and mark in the same way.
Fold your quilt top diagonally to continue the 45 degree line, and sew along your marked lines. Back-stitch at the beginning and end of these seams.
Open out your lovely corner seams and admire your proficiency! Be sure there are no gaps or tucks between the quilt top and the border.
Trim your large seam allowances to ¼” (6mm).
Press neatly and congratulate yourself once again. Perfect mitered quilt borders!
Cornerstone Quilt Borders
These are not as intimidating as they seem!
- Measure and cut your quilt borders strips as explained in ‘Straight Borders’. Cut your four cornerstones with each side the same width as your border strip plus seam allowance. So if your border is 6” (15cm) wide, your cornerstone must be 6” (15cm) square plus seam allowance all around, so 6 ½” (17 cm) square.
- Sew your side strips onto your quilt by matching centers, as previously explained.
- Then sew your cornerstones onto the ends of your top and bottom strips. Press seams towards the border.
- Add your top and bottom strips, sewing the cornerstones on at the same time as your strip. Match your seam lines carefully.
For a really special effect to your quilt, you can use pieced blocks as your cornerstones, as long as they are the same width as your border.
Quilt Borders - In Conclusion
Quilt borders are a lovely way to finish off your quilt. You will still be adding binding once you have put together all the layers, and quilted your quilt. So plan your binding fabric to coordinate well with your quilt borders! Be creative every step of the way when making your quilt! You must design it just the way you want it to be.
When your quilt is complete, you should add a label with the date and your signature on it. This is, after all as much a work of art as any painting! You may prefer to put your label on the back of your quilt.
“Talent and individual expression are not qualities that just other people possess. You have them too! All of you have a capacity for creativity in your quilting. Let yours happen and realize there are no boundaries to your unique expression.” - Source Unknown.
More Quilting Articles
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- Quilting Terms and Definitions – A to Z
- Half Square Triangles – Easiest 2,4 & 8 Patch Tutorial & Formulas
- How to Make a Baby Quilt – Easy Beginners Quilt
- Quilting for Beginners – Starting from the Beginning
- Quilt Sizes – Best Guide to All Standard Sizes
- Quilting Tools – Best Tools for Making Quilts
- How to Bind a Quilt – EASIEST Binding Methods
- Quilting Borders
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