Adding Beautiful Borders

In our brand spanking new Summer issue(out now!) Angela Walters shows how to use her new “Fragmental” panel  in a number of projects, from quilts to bags to pillow covers. It’s a versatile print, and there are a ton of good ideas for using panels!

This "Fragmental" panel also comes in two other colorways!
This “Fragmental” panel also comes in two other colorways!

Angela says,

“Adding to the panel is especially helpful when working with smaller panels, or if you need a quilt of a specific size…a word of warning: Measuring is important! It may be tempting to start sewing strips onto the sides of a panel, but taking a few moments to measure and cut your borders to fit will save you a bunch of heartache in the long run. Don’t ask me how I know!”

This problem occurs when the border is cut to the length of the measured edge, or alternatively, a piece longer than the edge is sewn on then cut off to fit. As easy as it is to add borders like this, it will invariably mean problems for quilting. If you’ve ever seen a quilt with an outer edge that looked like a dust ruffle or frilly lettuce leaf, this is why!

Big thanks to Ebony Love of Lovebug Studios for such a good example! Also: this was what she was asked to fix, not one she pieced herself.
Big thanks to Ebony Love of Lovebug Studios for such a good example! Also: this was what she was asked to fix, not one she pieced herself.

Because of a number of factors (blocks with many bias edges, variability in seam allowance, cutting inaccuracies) a quilt can be different widths and lengths within the same quilt!  So how do you add borders to ensure this doesn’t happen?


First, lay out your quilt so that it is entirely flat. I like to start on the longer borders first. Take three measurements from top to bottom: the first two about 3-4″ from the outer edges and the third through the middle. If you were very accurate with your cutting and piecing, these will most likely be close together. Don’t be surprised if one edge is longer than another, though!

The purple box is the quilt top!
The purple box is the quilt top!

Add these three numbers together and divide by three. The average of these numbers is the length to cut your two long borders. Make sure your border fabric is cut absolutely on grain, as well, for best results. Some quilters even prefer to cut their borders along the length of fabric to ensure there is as little stretch as possible.

For example, if your top is supposed to be 70″, and you measure 71″ on the left, 69.5″ through the middle and 72″ on the right, the average is going to be 212.5 / 3, or 70.83″, which is just over 70 3/4″. That means you will have to ease in the excess of the top just a little on the left border seam, and about an inch over the right border seam.

Divide one edge on the quilt into quarters, putting a pin at each spot.

Do the same with your cut border. This will be easier than for your quilt top, because you can fold it in half, then in half again.  Just be very careful to keep everything neat!


Match up these points right sides together, and pin them together. Also pin the top and bottom edges in place. Ease in the fabric evenly between the pins as necessary, using pins to keep fabric where it needs to be.  I find it easier to ease in the fabric if I have the quilt top laid out horizontally in front of me. Sew as you normally would, and then repeat for the other side.

You can see that the pins on the top are centered in the middle and slightly off on the left and right. To ease in the fabric evenly, you will pin those points together and then ease in the fabric between the pins. If you have a LOT of easing in, consider having more “pin points” to help you adjust evenly.

Repeat the entire process for attaching the borders to the width of your quilt.


This does take some time, but it is totally worth it to save yourself the headache of quilting wavy borders. If you are sending your quilt to a longarmer, that can result in some hefty fees! 

Make sure you check out our newest issue for summer!  It’s got some really wonderful stuff in it you’re sure to love!

Modern Quilts 16-08 Summer Cover

One Response to Adding Beautiful Borders

  1. I got my first issue of Modern Quilts Unlimited today and I am very impressed with it. I really liked Laurie’s Editor’s Letter and all the projects. The Seasons in the Sun and the pages with the new fabric on the market are both really cool as well. It is a great magazine and I look forward to the next issue.

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