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The Art of Quilt-making, Part 4 -- Adding Borders
by Mary Asper, Green Mountain Designs
A Seasoned Quilter Shares Her Tips


In this article, Mary Asper of Green Mountain Designs shares her tips for successful quiltmaking. Although it is written especially for the beginning quiltmaker, even more experienced artisans may find valuable information. See Part I, Part II, and Part III for more tips.

Mary’s Tip: Straight Borders make straight quilts!

One of the easiest ways to avoid problems with quilting -- and to get your quilts to hang straight -- is to add the borders properly! Once your quilt top is completed, follow these steps for nice straight borders:

1. Measure the quilt top (laid flat on a hard surface) vertically down the middle of the top. Cut the first two borders (sides) exactly this length -- piecing if you have to to get the correct length. If you are going to miter the borders, the inside edge (which is shorter than the outside, because of the angle of the miter) should exactly match this measurement.

2. Use long quilting pins to mark the border and the quilt top in quarters along each vertical side. (For instance, if the quilt top is 60 inches long you will mark with pins every 15 inches.)

3. Attach the side borders to the quilt, matching up the pins where you have marked in quarters.

4. Measure horizontally across the quilt, in the center, including the two side borders you just added. Cut the next two borders (top and bottom) to this measurement. Again, if you are going to miter, this is the inside (short side) measurement.

5. Mark the top and bottom of the quilt, and the top and bottom borders, in quarters as you did above.

6. Sew these borders to the top and bottom of the quilt, matching the pins where you have marked the quarters.

7. You may find that the quilt is not exactly the same measurement as the borders -- it can vary as you reach the outside edges of the quilt. That's OK -- this is why you are adding the borders in this manner. Simply MAKE the quilt fit the borders by:

a. Hand-stitching a few block areas to increase the seam allowance, easing in the fullness (only necessary if the border is VERY much too big).

b. Conversely, letting the seam allowance out a little of the quilt is too small for the border - you can do either a or b quite easily if you are careful, and take or add little bits out of several areas rather than in one big hunk.

c. If the top is only SLIGHTLY (like 1/4 to 1/2 inch) too small, you can carefully stretch to fit.

d. If the top is only SLIGHTLY too big, you can ease in the extra by pinning closely in areas where the extra won't show.

In any case, if you adjust evenly along the length of the top (which is why you divided it into quarters) you should be able to make the quilt fit the borders and not have it affect the overall look of the quilt. Quilting will cover many a sin when you get there!!

8. If you are adding more than one border, repeat this process as you add each successive one. I have tried sewing all the borders into one big hunk and adding it all at once -- doesn't usually work! It worked once with a herringbone border that was surrounded by solid borders, which I was mitering, but that's the only time! I've found that just adding each border in succession saves me time and effort -- I don't have to figure it out, and I don't have to fix it when it goes wrong!!

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