FREE Quilting Patterns, Tutorials, Magazine

Home » HA Kidd » H.A. Kidd sewing notions » Making beautiful borders with your walking foot

Making beautiful borders with your walking foot

by Julie Plotniko

Welcome to step 4 of our series on using SCHMETZ needles and Gütermann thread to create a whole cloth quilt with just straight line stitching and your walking foot.

Yesterday I layered the quilt, showed you how to bring up our bobbin thread, anchor stitching, quilt a grid and pivot to change directions.

Today I’ll share some techniques for creating beautiful border designs.

Let the magic begin!

Create beautiful quilted borders with a few simple steps.

Create beautiful quilted borders with a few simple steps.

Defining quilted borders

Many pieced quilts have one or more borders applied to the interior portion of the quilt as an accent or frame.
These borders may be a simple long strip of fabric, a complex pieced design or anything in between.

The first step to quilting these borders is often to quilt ‘in the ditch’ just to one side of the stitching that attaches the pieced border to the body of the quilt.

Stitching in the ditch is also known as ditch quilting, quilting in the ditch or stitch in the ditch.
The term refers to the practice of stitching very close to a seam to stabilize and define an area.

Whether hand or machine piecing, we commonly press the seam allowances to one side.
One reason for doing this is that it gives us an area where we can quilt without going through the multiple layers formed by the seam allowances.
The area close to the stitching line where there’s only one layer of fabric is referred to as ‘the ditch’.

Quilting in the ditch results in a nice flat even stitching.

Ditch quilting is used to define and stabilize a border.

Ditch quilting is used to define and stabilize a border.

The quilt I’m making in these posts is what is referred to as a wholecloth quilt. This means that there is no piecing, the design is created solely by the quilting.

We’ll be using our walking foot and straight line stitching to give the impression of pieced borders.

In the Tuesday post, I used UNIQUE fabric marker and drew a series of lines around the outside of the 18″ square grid. Yesterday I stitched the first line 1″ away from the center grid.

Now it’s time to stitch the remaining lines.

Stitch each square separately starting on a different corner each time so that your starts and stops aren’t too visible.

These lines will act as our ditch quilting for the wholecloth quilt borders.


When stitching long lines it’s important to have your stitching as straight as possible.

  • Stop your machine with the needle in the down position when you need to reposition your hands or the weight of the quilt.
  • Try not to look at the needle.
  • If you look about an inch ahead of the needle you’ll stitch a straighter line. Just like driving a car, look where you want to go.

Outline stitched borders give the impression of ditch quilting.

Outline stitched borders give the impression of ditch quilting.

Our SCHMETZ 90/14 quilting needle is expert at this kind of stitching.

The sturdy blade will stop the needle from flexing too much with the weight of the quilt – even as you reposition to pivot when changing directions.

The shape of the eye protects the thread and the point pierces the fabric and batting quickly. These features combine to result is nice even, trouble-free stitching.

Drawing grids for complex looking borders

Un-pieced borders on quilts are often overlooked when it comes to the quilting designs.
By drawing a few reference points we can quilt beautiful and complex looking border designs with very little effort.

The UNIQUE 2 in 1 marking pen will make the drawing easy.

Re-draw the horizontal and vertical centering lines from step 2 if they have faded. Remember that these are reference lines only and will not be stitched.

Today I’ll work on the 2″ wide space between the 1″ lines. This is the second border around the stitched center.

Draw a centering line on all four sides 1″ from the outside running parallel to the stitching lines.

Allow the four lines to cross at the corners.

Start by drawing centering lines.

Start by drawing centering lines.

We’ll draw a 1″ grid all the way around the border.
This grid will only be used as a base to create or design and won’t be stitched.
You could just put positioning dots but I find it far easier to work with a full line grid.

No matter how careful we are our drawn lines will never be perfect.
We’ll average out any little discrepancies to make slight variations in the pattern much less noticeable.

Start at the horizontal centering line and draw a line 1″ towards the corner.
Next, draw a line 1″ in from the same corner.

Alternate back and forth this way until you have 3 or 4 inches left unmarked.
Adjust the placement of the remaining lines as needed so that the spaces are fairly even.
If you make a mistake simply moisten a cotton swab and daub the quilt to remove any unwanted lines.

Repeat the process until the whole border is filled with a 1″ grid.

The border is filled with a one inch grid.

The border is filled with a one-inch grid.

We’re doing great! Now it’s time to draw the actual stitching lines.

Start at the inside center of any side and draw a diagonal line from the previously stitched line to the first intersection where two 1″ lines meet. Draw a second diagonal line connected to the first and slanting in the opposite direction.

Start drawing at the inside center.

Start drawing at the inside center.

Continue in this zigzag pattern working only in the bottom 1″ of the border.

Stop two squares from the corner.

Repeat for the other three sides of the design.
The corner pieces will join up as a half square.

The inside portion of the design is complete.

The inside portion of the design is complete.

This would be a very pretty border design stitched just the way it is.

For this quilt, I’ll go one step farther. Draw a zigzag design in the top 1″ half of the design mirroring the angle of the lines in the bottom half.

This time I continued the repeat all the way out to the corners.

The outside portion of the design has been drawn.

The outside portion of the design has been drawn.

What is different about Gütermann spun silk thread?

The design is drawn and it’s time to stitch again with the lovely Gütermann spun silk thread.

Most silk thread is made from single long strands of silk that are reeled off the silk cocoons then twisted together to form a thread. Though beautiful the process is costly and the thread produced is very fine.

Gütermann spun silk thread uses a process where short or damaged silk filaments that would normally be discarded as waste are spun or twisted together to make our thread.
The result is a soft pliable thread with a beautiful luster that can be used for hand or machine sewing, garment construction, decorative stitching and of course quilting.

Gütermann spun silk thread

Gütermann spun silk thread

Starting at an inside corner stitch all the way around the inside portion of the border design.
Remember to stop with the needle in the down position at each point so you can pivot the fabric to change directions.

When you get back to the starting position anchor and cut the thread then shift up to the top portion of the border design and stitch all the way around again.

This design is now complete. Can you think of any other variations?

The completed border

The completed border

Wow, the wholecloth quilt is looking amazing and we’ve learned so much!

I love the way ColorWorks solid fabric from Northcott makes our stitching stand out.

Join me tomorrow for our fifth and final step to a wholecloth walking foot quilt.
We’ll use the walking foot, SCHMETZ needles and Gütermann thread to work magic with straight line echo quilting for a fun finish.

See you then.

This is part 4 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 3: What to know about grid quilting with a walking foot

[shareaholic app=”follow_buttons” id=”23735596″]



Naomi July 30, 2021 - 12:04 am

Hi Julie, would you recommend FMQ for highly pieced quilts, or only large open areas?

Julie Plotniko July 30, 2021 - 7:56 am

Hi Naomi
Both large open areas and highly pieced quilts (or portions of) can be Free Motion Quilted with a wonderful effect.
My main consideration is always the personality of the quilt. For instance, is it very modern or more traditional, playful or elegant.
Depending on the above you might consider using quilting stencils, FMQ ruler work an all over FMQ design or a combination of techniques.
Remember too that Walking Foot Quilting can be beautifully combined with FMQ.
Have Fun!

Laura Bracken April 24, 2021 - 2:46 pm

What if you can’t complete a full design within the length of the border? I am walking-foot quilting a strip quilt with diagonal lines across the interior of the quilt. I have quilted in the ditch in the narrower interior borders. Now I have to quilt the last 4″ border (the original is 4.5″ so its 4″ allowing for seam allowances). But the length of the quilt does not perfectly match a symmetric design–should I just stretch one of the zags in the middle?

Julie Plotniko April 24, 2021 - 10:29 pm

Hi Laura
Great question!
It is very true that the length (or width) of our quilts do not always divide evenly to create a symmetrical grid border design.
There are two ways to approach this.
1) Shift the base grid in or out over the full length of the border to allow the design to fit within the given space.
This method will be the least visible and will help accommodate the natural distortion that occurs when quilting.
2) Make your adjustment at the mid point of the border. This is more visible than method one however the differing central design adds visual interest to the finished piece.
Happy Quilting !

MARY nell DEXTER March 28, 2021 - 11:01 am

That is so neat how you did the border, thanks

Deborah Delaney December 17, 2020 - 1:11 pm

Hi Julie, I have a question can you applique with a walking foot?

Julie Plotniko December 21, 2020 - 11:45 pm

Hi Deborah
Thanks for your question.
The main purpose of a walking foot is to allow thick items or multiple layers of fabric and batting to feed evenly through your sewing machine.
To do this the walking foot has feed teeth that mesh with the ones on your sewing machine. The fabric is then fed through from both the top and the bottom.
This also makes it a good choice for sewing fabrics like velvet or fleece that tend to slip and slide.
Though you could applique with your walking foot the large size of the foot would tend to obscure your view of the edge of the applique fabric.
The large base would also be likely to distort the applique unless it is quite large.
A better option would be to use your machines applique or decorative stitch foot.
I hope this helps.
Happy sewing, Julie

Theresa May 31, 2020 - 2:08 pm

My longarm is acting unacceptable. I need to get this quilt out tomorrow. Instructions are excellent. I have never quilted on DM. But following your instructions I believe this project will be finished on time.

Julie Plotniko July 25, 2020 - 6:21 pm

Hi Theresa
I’m glad that you enjoyed my post on quilting borders with your Walking Foot and that you were able to finish your quilt.
I would love to see pictures.
Happy Quilting!

Cheryl King June 27, 2019 - 11:17 pm

These are the most complete and easy to understand instructions that I have ever seen. Good job.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.