Sunday, October 13, 2013

Make Those Borders Lie Flat

I have said that it is a longarm quilters dream to quilt on a top where the borders lay flat and square while on the quilting frame.  Ask any longarm quilter.  What's a longarm quilters dream? Having all the borders lie flat is what she will tell you.  Believe me.  Accomplishing a flat border is one of the easiest things to do.  So, Let's get our learning goggles on and learn how to make those borders lie flat.  

Junes beautiful quilt with all five borders laying flat and square.  Nice!!

This is where I’m going to become the quilt police and get a little bit mean.  Picture yourself with a long strip of border that you are about to put on your quilt top. You've spent hours, days, years to get all the blocks just right.  You’re ready to get that sucker done, right?  Let's save some time by slapping on those borders, right?.  Wrong!!!!  Your borders lying flat and straight are just as important as making sure your points don’t get lost and your seams match.  

RULE NUMBER 1:  Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever, ever (and I mean ever) take a long strip of border, start sewing down one side of the quilt top with no pins to put it on and then when you get to the bottom slash off the excess that was left hanging.  This is my mean Longarmer face (picture me making a mean face).  When you put your borders on this way, especially wide borders, those things are going to flap around just like a waving flag.  They will not lay down flat when you spread out your quilt top, they will not hang well when that beautiful quilt is hanging at a show and your quilter will be very displeased with you.  She will say really mean things as she is trying to quilt down all that excess fabric.  You can't fool her, she can tell when someone does this.  So, the best and easiest way to make sure that you don’t get talked meanly about by your quilter is to follow these steps.  

1.  Take three measurements from the quilt top in the direction you are placing your first borders.  I always do the long sides first.  When you take your three measurement, take one at the top of the quilt, one in the center and one at the bottom.  

Do not take a measurement at the very edge of the top of the quilt because that edge could have been stretched with use.  Now that you have three measurements, average these three to come up with the measurement you will be cutting. 

Do not measure the very top edge as it may be stretched a bit.  Measure a few inches in.

Top of quilt measured 70.25
Middle of quilt measured 70.5
Bottom of quilt measured 70
The average will be 70.25
70.25 + 70.5 + 70 = 210.75 divided by 3 = 70.25

70.25 will be the measurement you will cut for both sides of your first border.  Lay the two strips of border on top of each other and measure and cut them together.  This will ensure that you have the same measurement for both sides of the quilt. 
RULE NUMBER 2 and CRAZY HELPFUL HINT:  It is much better to cut your border pieces the length of the fabric instead of the width (from selvage to selvage).  The selvage to selvage strip is stretchy. This is a big factor in your borders becoming full when you sew them onto the quilt top.  If you cut your strips from selvage to selvage, that edge you're sewing on will stretch while your sewing it.  Cutting along the length of the fabric will ensure that there will be no stretch on your border when you sew it onto your quilt top.   You're on your way to a flat border.

Cut your border strips the length of the fabric instead of the width.  This avoids stretch.

2.  Find the center of your quilt top and the center of your border piece.  Pin the centers together first.  
Find the center of the quilt top and the border.

Next, pin each end of the border onto each end of the top.
Pen the end of the border to the edge of the quilt.

Working your way from the center to the edges, pin in between each section halving the length between pins until you are comfortable with the amount of pins and that your fabric will not shift as you are sewing.  
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.
Add pins halving the distance between each pin as you go.

You may need to do some easing in along the way.  When easing in, the biggest thing to help is to pin, pin, pin.  RULE NUMBER 3: Do not stretch the shorter piece to fit the larger piece.  Pin the larger piece closely together to create no pleats.

If you need to ease in fullness to fit, never stretch the shorter fabric, always pin, pin, pin the fullness out.

3.  Sew along the edge knowing that you're borders will not make your quilter make mean faces.

4.  Repeat for all borders.

So, what did we learn today?  Lots of pins, a little extra time, a beautifully set border and a happy quilter.  OKay?  What are you supposed to do with each of your borders....even when you have five of them?  Measure, measure, measure, average, cut together, center, pin.  Repeat after me!!!  Measure, measure, measure, average, cut together, center, pin.


  1. Thanks so much for the great information! I have just become a better quilter today!

  2. WOW, That was great. I hate to admit that I can get in a hurry just to get it done. Thank you for the great words of wisdom. I will bookmark this page!

  3. I gave a demonstration about this at our quilt guild and the president of the guild told me at the next meeting that she finally put on the flatest border she had ever sewed on.

    I hate those wavy borders on client quilts. Some I have simply refused to quilt.. and some I have removed the border and cut off 3 inches or more due to so much extra fabric.

  4. Great info and I did learn something. I just wish people wouldn't use the term "Nazi" so freely. It's really startling to see that word so used out of context.

    1. Marijke. I am very sorry for my insensitive use of the word "Nazi". I have changed it. It was never my intent to hurt anyone with my words. Thank you so much for reading my blog.

  5. Ok guilty of all at one time or another. Thanks for the tutorial. No more wavey borders for me.

  6. I am so glad to see this! So I always do the 3 measurements, but I didnt know to cut the strips the length of the fabric, and I didnt know not to stretch the smaller to meet the larger. I am SOO glad. I thought I was doing things right and sometimes my borders are flappy and sometimes they are fine. Now I know why and how to prevent it. Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all of this! Kim you are an awesome teacher and amazing longarm quilter.