Pieced borders for panels: QUICK and EASY for any size!

Hi there! It’s so great to be back writing for QUILTsocial!! This week I’m showing you how to use any size panel to make a lap-size quilt. I’m using my trusty Brother NQ900 sewing machine and a panel with coordinating fabrics I’ve wanted to use for over 2 years!

Brother NQ900

We’ve had a lot going on at our house over the last few months and to make things even crazier we got a puppy two months ago. Although she’s super cute and I wouldn’t trade her for the world, I found it’s a lot harder to get into my studio to do anything creative. As soon as I get into something, I see she’s gotten into something too or about to piddle on the floor! So, I wasn’t all that confident that I’d actually get this week’s project done, but I think Piper and I have reached a puppy milestone… these last few days I’ve actually been able to sew while she either plays or sleeps on the carpet beside me. Here’s Piper, our 4-month-old Springer Spaniel – I think you’ll agree there isn’t anything cuter than a puppy sleeping on a button rug!!

Piper the puppy

So now that Piper and I have figured out how to spend constructive time in my studio, I’m super happy to be back piecing quilts! I don’t think I’ve actually pieced a quilt top since I went to a quilt retreat last November and I didn’t realize how much I missed it!

This bee-themed panel by Gail Pan measures 24” x 44”. Panels come in all shapes and sizes, but one of the sides is usually the entire width of the fabric bolt – most often 44”. Sometimes panels are printed sideways too so that the height of the panel is 44” but the width is 60” or more. I talked about Using fabric panels in quilt patterns in my July 4, 2016 QUILTsocial post. This week, I’ll show you how to add pieced borders to any size of panel you find.

The fabric panel

I also have yardage of 5 different coordinating fabrics, so I decided to make a lap quilt I can use on my back deck on chilly evenings.

Coordinating bee themed fabrics

Most quilters love using panels because you can make a fast and easy project for lots of different occasions like baby showers and birthdays. Sometimes, however, panels are not printed squarely on the fabric and this can cause headaches. If your panel has a wide border around the edge, use your cutting mat and rotary cutter to trim your panel so the edges are as straight and as even with the design printed as possible. Keep any printed border as wide as you can as your eye won’t notice small differences in width with a wide border. The narrower a border, the more accurate you need to be.

If your panel doesn’t have a border on it, then you can easily trim it so the edges are squared up and even with the printed design.

Notice when I trim my panel that I’m lining up one of the lines on my ruler with the inner edge of the blue border. As long as I’m trimming so the border width is even, I don’t worry if I’m not trimming off an even amount of excess fabric all the way around.

Trim all four sides of the panel.

Now that my panel is trimmed, I need to decide what borders to add. For my decision process, I always just lay my fabrics on my cutting table and overlap them to show the different widths of borders, and then stand back to see if I like them. I don’t cut anything until I decide which ones go where.

First, I want to see what the black bee fabric looks like next to the dark blue border on the panel.

Auditioning fabrics for the borders

Next, I try out the red fabric with the scattered bee images to see what it looks like between the blue and the yellow fabic. As you can see in the two pictures, the red fabric shows up much better beside the blue, and looks nice with the yellow word fabric, so I’m making my first inner border red.

The bee fabric panel is shown with various red, green and yellow fabrics placed around to simulate borders

When you’re designing your own quilts, pay attention to the width of the borders that are beside each other. For good visual appeal, make sure a border is either wider or narrower than the border beside it – not the same size. Since the blue border printed on the panel is about 2” wide, I’m cutting my red fabric 1½” wide. I almost always attach my side borders first and then the top and bottom borders. I’m cutting 4 strips 1½” x the width of the fabric (WOF).

Cut the red border fabric 1½” wide.

My Brother NQ900 sewing machine has a great foot that I always use for my piecing. I use the J foot and set the machine on stitch 29 in the utility stitches and it sews a perfect ¼” seam.

Setting the Brother NQ900 for a perfect ¼” seam

First, I sew on the two side borders using a ¼” seam.

Sew on side borders first.

Then, using my Oliso Pro Smart Iron, I press the seams towards the border (away from the fabric panel).

Press the border seam away from the panel.

Then I sew on the top and bottom inner borders and again press the seams towards the borders.

Sew on top and bottom borders.

Now my panel is trimmed and I sewed on the first inner border using my Brother NQ900 sewing machine. Tomorrow I’ll show you my favorite technique for making flying geese blocks! See you then.

This is part 1 of 5 in this series

Go to part 2: 12 easy steps to making no waste flying geese – Pick a size

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5 quick steps to calculate yardage for quilt backing [3 styles]

4 steps to adding a floating block border to your quilt top [easy tutorial]

4 tips for adding flying geese blocks to a border with the Brother NQ900