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3 essential tips for adding borders to a quilt

by Jennifer Houlden

I’ve gathered up my equipment to use in this project and sketched out a design on a piece of paper as well as cut a few pieces of fabric to create the background of the project. Today I’m going to move forward and highlight 3 essential tips for adding borders to a quilt.

The cutting instructions for the block pieces can be found in yesterday’s post, 5 elements of a good quilt design. The cutting instructions for the border will come later in this post.

Today is all about piecing and sewing so…. let’s get sewing!

Sewing the sashing

I chose to cut the sashing pieces into squares. I could’ve left as strips and sewn strips together but I wanted each sashing piece to look a little bit different with different fabrics in each one.

To begin I paired up my red and gold squares making sure I never duplicated a set and I was successful.

red, gold and green squares on cream fabric with the red and gold squares paired up together

Red & gold squares paired up for sewing

Chain sewing these sets together is the fastest and most efficient way to work.

Red squares lying on cream fabric in a chain and green squares sitting above them

Chain sewing is a fast and efficient way to piece

Pressing can be done with a finger presser or an iron. I chose to use an iron although the finger presser works just as well but I wanted get up and walk – sitting at the machine all the time isn’t a good thing for the body.

Next I paired the green pieces with the red/gold pairs and chain sewed them together to make 12 sets of red/gold/green squares.

Sets of green/red/gold squares on a cream background to be used to make the sashing

Sets of green/red/gold squares

Three of these make up a piece of sashing and I need 4 sashing pieces as I’m putting them between the cream squares and at each end.

Once the sashing is made I’ll attach it to the 9½″ cream background pieces. Pinning them will ensure they don’t stretch and fit onto the background pieces perfectly.

Sashing pinned to a cream square with flower headed pins sitting in a blue magnetic pin holder on a blue cutting mat

Flower headed pins are perfect for pinning pieces in place for sewing.

The center of the runner is completed with 3 blocks and 4 sashing sections.

4 sashing units of red/green/gold fabrics and 3 cream blocks sewn together to create the center of the Christmas runner

Christmas runner center sewn together

Add the borders

I was going to piece the border with diamonds using one of the mini templates that Sew Easy has but then I decided that I’d applique the diamonds on instead. Mainly because I want the diamonds to go point to point and I don’t like sewing set in seams which I’d have to do if I were to piece the diamonds point to point and time is running out to get this project on my table in time for Christmas.

The border pieces have now become very simple – just plain pieces of fabric.

Cut from the cream fabric 2 – 3″ x 9½″ pieces and 2 – 3″ x 36″ pieces.

Sew the side pieces to the center piece and then the top and bottom.

Cream fabric with strips of gold/red/green squares between the cream fabric to create a Christmas runner

Borders added to runner center

3 tips for adding borders

TIP 1 Measure 3 times – across the top of the quilt, across the center of the quilt and across the bottom of the quilt. If all the numbers come out the same then cut the border pieces that size. If one or more is different then total the three numbers, divide by 3 which will give you the average. Use this number as the cutting size. By using the average number the border pieces will be the same size and the quilt top will end up square.

Use a measuring tape rather than a ruler or the grid on the cutting mat. The measuring tape will be the most precise tool.

Curled up measuring tape on a blue cutting mat

Measuring tape

TIP 2 Pin the borders in place – start by pinning each end then the middle adding pins by dividing each section with no pins in half and adding a pin until the whole border piece is pinned to the quilt. This ensures that if the border piece and quilt top aren’t quite the same length that the 2 pieces will match up and be square.

TIP 3 Never use a piece of fabric that is too long for the border and then trim off – this most often results in a not so square quilt.

The top is now pieced and those 3 essential tips for adding borders to a quilt are going to come in handy for future projects as well.

Join me tomorrow as we continue the Christmas runner.

This is part 2 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 1:  5 elements of a good quilt design

Go to part 3: 3 methods to tie off quilting threads

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18 comments

Kelly McGrew December 18, 2016 - 8:05 pm

great article! i will be sharing your blog with my coworker who LIVES for quilting!!

Reply
Shawna Saunders December 18, 2016 - 11:52 am

I never realized when you did the border made a difference. great ideas

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deanna December 18, 2016 - 2:15 am

Thank you for the tips. I am going to share this post with my mother in law. She will be so excited to get help with her borders.

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Sally Bean December 17, 2016 - 7:31 pm

Great information, especially for a new quilter.

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Karen Ferguson December 17, 2016 - 1:13 pm

I love how this would really make a design POP!!

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Gina H. December 17, 2016 - 5:09 am

This is a really good tip “Never use a piece of fabric that is too long for the border and then trim off – this most often results in a not so square quilt”. I usually trim it off, and now I know why my quilts are not always square.

Reply
TA Smiley @sewsmiley December 15, 2016 - 1:50 pm

Thanks for tweeting this, too!

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Lynn M December 15, 2016 - 5:33 am

Thank you for the great ideas.

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Mara December 14, 2016 - 3:23 pm

Some really great tips, can’t wait to try it on my next mini.

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Kathy Meeres December 14, 2016 - 1:13 am

Great tips. Thanks!

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Linda Webster December 13, 2016 - 10:46 pm

Thanks so much for the tutorial and the great tips.

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Allison CB December 13, 2016 - 3:47 pm

Great tip – this is something I have to try out!!

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Carla S December 13, 2016 - 2:35 pm

I’m going to try this the next time I make a pieced border. Thanks for the advice.

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Kaye Wood December 13, 2016 - 10:54 am

Great Tips.

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Donna C December 13, 2016 - 10:32 am

I LOVE you tips for adding borders!!! A lot of quilters don’t do it this way, but they should.

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Terri U December 13, 2016 - 10:03 am

This article just let me know that the way I add my borders is a good practice.

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Becky December 13, 2016 - 9:44 am

I read this at the most opportune time – when I was considering a scrappy sashing and border on a table runner. Thanks for these instructions! Your color choices are beautiful.

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Kim j December 13, 2016 - 7:00 am

Thanks for the tips. I’ve been doing it all wrong. Looking forward to having a square quilt in the future.

Reply

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