I used to hate adding borders to my quilt tops. I would just kind of cut some fabric and sew it onto the edges and lop off the extra. But when I would hang it up, stand back and look at it, the borders would be wavy and not square; very frustrating! I would try to tell myself that I didn’t need to do borders; that the top was fine without. But I knew better than that. A border can take a quilt top from great to fantastic, if it is well done.
Since I have learned a method that works for me I actually enjoy adding borders; and the more borders the better! This method determines at the beginning the length the borders need to be to keep the quilt top square, or to square it up if it isn’t square. And then it insures that the borders are sewn on correctly so there is no extra fabric to lop off.
There are a few tools you will need. Your tape measure is your friend. Keep it close at hand, in a place where it can always be found so that you use it a lot. You are going to need a piece of paper and a pencil to keep all of the numbers straight. You will also need an iron, ironing surface, scissors or a rotary cutter and pins.
Give the quilt top a good pressing. Make sure all of the seam allowances are pressed in the direction you want them to go. After pressing, I like to hang the quilt top on a wall but spreading it out smooth on the floor would work as well.
And now it is time to measure. Measure the width of the quilt top three times; once across the top, once across the middle and once across the bottom. In a perfect world those measurements would all be the same. I don’t know about your world, but mine is far from perfect. The measurements are rarely the same. But as long as they are not too different I can work with them. If they are too different, then I try to work with the quilt top, restitching seams, and whatnot to see if I can bring the measurements closer. For my example I came up with 49 3/4″, 49 1/2″ and 49″.
When you have the three measurements, find the average of them by adding them up and dividing by 3. For my example that would be:
This is the length of border you will need to cut for the top and bottom borders. Now obviously I am not going to be able to cut 49.41666 inches. I will just round up to 49.5.
From your border fabric cut a strip the width of your border plus 1/2 inch for the seam allowances. Then cut it to the length you have determined. Fold the border fabric in half and mark the middle with a pin. Fold again in quarters and mark the quarter points with pins. Do this also with the quilt top. Fold the top edge in half and mark with a pin and fold in quarters and mark with a pin.
Pin the border piece to the quilt top right sides together, lining up the ends, and the pins marking the middles and the quarters, easing the border to fit the top. This ensures that the border does not get stretched too long as you sew. Sew the border to the quilt top.
Now do the same thing with the bottom border using a border strip cut the same length as the top border. The top and bottom borders are done! Hang it up or spread it out on the floor again. Stand back and enjoy how it looks!
Now grab your tape measure again and measure the quilt length three times, once on the left side, once in the middle and once down the right side, including the top and bottom borders in the measurement. Take the average of the three numbers and that is the length to cut the border strips for the sides. I got lucky on my example this time and all of the measurements were the same: 63 1/2″.
Again, divide the borders and quilt top into halves and quarters and pin. Pin the borders to the top with the right sides together and sew in place.
And it is done! Now when you measure your quilt it should be square and there should be no wavy borders. Yea!
Thanks to Beth of The Jury is Still Out for piecing the quilt top used in this post.