Applying Borders (The Right Way!)

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I have learned a lot about quilting since getting my longarm. Probably the most important lesson — and error that people make — is applying borders.

I have heard people say that Eleanor Burns deserves “credit” for the “hack and sew” method employed by most people. Basically, this method lets  you hack off a piece of fabric the correct width and then sew it to your quilt. Then you slice off the excess on the top and bottom with your rotary cutter and — voila! — instant borders.

The problem with this method is that you can introduce a lot of fullness into the border. I’ve heard of people who’ve added up to 7 inches of fullness into a full-size quilt. That means that you began with a quilt edge that was 72″ long and added a border that was 79″ long.  The result is puffing or waving in the border.

Here is the correct way to apply a border: Measure the length of your quilt in 3 places, then average the length. Say we’re dealing with a quilt that averages 40″ long. Cut you border exactly 40″ in length. Now mark your quilt and your border at 10″ increments. Match the border with the quilt. It will be applied evenly and there will be no added fullness.

Last week I was rushing to complete a small quilt and decided to use the “hack and sew” method. Yeah, I saved some time — until I got the quilt onto the longarm. This particular quilt was composed of bias pieces, so there was a lot of stretching. I introduced a lot of fullness into the borders.

Fortunately, there are ways to fix this, but they are all time consuming. The first way is to rip out your full borders and do it the correct way. Since I was too lazy to do it correctly the first time — and I already had the quilt loaded on the longarm — this wasn’t happening.

The other way is to use a method to contain the fullness. Smooth out your quilt and pin each piece of the border into its proper location. Depending on the amount of fullness, you may have pins up to 1″ apart. When you get it all pinned, do a piano key border (shown below). The spacing of the sewing lines will depend on the amount of fullness you want to contain.

In closing, I have to admit that my laziness in preparing the border took me an hour or so to fix on the longarm. Hopefully I’ve learned my lesson.

Piano-key stitching to contain fullness

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