Decide whether to cut borders on the lengthwise grain or crosswise grain — QuiltSandwich cutting diagrams can help!
1. To determine the length and width of the border strips measure the length and width of the top from the center, not the sides.
Chances are, the center measurement won't be the same as the side measurement. You may have to ease the border on, but there is a good way to do this. Find the center of the quilt top by folding it in half and mark the center with a pin.
2. Match the middle of the border strip to the middle of the quilt top.
To ease the border on, find the center of the quilt top by folding it in half and marking the center with a pin. Find the center of the border strip, and mark that with a pin. Now, match the 2 center points. Then match the ends of the border strip to the ends of the quilt top.
3. Use 3 pins.
I use three pins to help me sew on my border strips. I pin at the center, where the center of the quilt top and the center of the border strip are matched. And then I pin each of the ends, where the end of the border strip meets the end of the quilt top.
4. Take advantage of your feed dogs.
If the border strip is longer than the quilt top, then put the border strip on the bottom so the feed dogs can help ease the border on. If the top is longer, then put the top next to the feed dogs. This is one reason why pins are helpful! Sometimes I have to move my pins to I can see them — because I usually forget to check to see which is longer before I pin — but its only 3 pins — so not too bad!
Borders can be kind of fussy particularly when borders are added on top of borders — whether plain or pieced — so I though I would share with you the things I have learned about borders.
5. Sew in "short spurts".
While it would be nice to just start at the top of the border and then put the pedal to to the metal and sew on the border, you will be more successful if you sew in short spurts. By this, I mean that you take hold of the border and the top about 6-9" from the needle, and guide them into the machine. When your hand reaches near the needle, stop, and then take hold and guide the same amount through the machine. Sometimes, I just sew from block to block.
6. For plain borders, Decide whether to use crosswise grain or lengthwise grain. Know the differences between the 2.
Let's start at the beginning for this one: How do you know which is lengthwise and crosswise grain? I have to confess I have trouble remembering. Here is a picture:
The cut edge is the crosswise grain and the selvage edge is the lengthwise grain.
Why cut borders from the lengthwise grain?
The reason why is because the lengthwise grain is less stretchy then the crosswise grain. If you don't have any selvages to look at, there is an easy way to test. Just grab the edges of your fabric and stretch the fabric. If one direction stretches more than the other, that is the crosswise grain.
Using the lengthwise grain to your advantage will mean that when you are sewing the border strip to the quilt top, it will stretch less and you will minimize not having the end of the border strip not matching to the end of the quilt top. (But I think that if pins are used, and the border is sewn on in short spurts, this stretching is minimized if crosswise grain border strips are used.)
If you are using QuiltSandwich to help with your borders, you can choose whether or not you want the border strips cut from the lengthwise grain or crosswise grain.
Here's the downside: You will need A LOT more fabric to use lengthwise grain. For a 4" wide finished border on 60"x72" quilt you will need 2 1/8 yards and have a ton of fabric left over — askooch over a half yard left over !! Here is the QuiltSandwich diagram:
For the same border cut using crosswise grain (which is how most patterns are written) you will only need 1 1/8 yards. Huuuuge difference.
One of the local quilt shops where I live used to write patterns where borders were cut from the lengthwise grain. This was good for them because they would sell more fabric. Bad for me, if I couldn't use the extra fabric for the binding or other pieces in the quilt, or if I didn't want that much scrap.
So — the good news is that by using QuiltSandwich, we get to decide which one to use. And if we choose lengthwise — we can look at the cutting diagram and see if a binding or other block pieces can be cut out of the remaining border fabric.
7. Decide if strips are joined using a miter (diagonal) or straight seam.
Below, the red fabric has a mietred seam. The blue fabric has a straight seam:
I have read that if you don't want the seam in the border strips to be seen, then a mitered seam is the way to go. I have tried both, and honestly, I think it depends on the fabric. And really, after its quilted, I'm not so sure anyone would notice. Now — I think if I was going to enter a contest- then I would probably go with a mitered seam just to be on the safe side.
With either method- the key to the seam not showing is to press the seam open — not to one side.
One thing to remember when using QuiltSandwich, is that the yardage calculator assumes that if any strips need to be sewn together to get the right length, a straight seam is used. If you want to miter the seam, you will need more fabric, so just look at the cutting diagram to see if you will have enough "left" to accommodate the number of miters you will need.
8. QuiltSandwich uses finished sizes to calculate the amount of yardage needed for border strips.
This is a fine point- but one worth noting. The QuiltSandwich team thought long and hard about whether or not we should use the finished size of the quilt top or the actual top measurement to calculate the border yardage. The difference is that when the actual top is measured, that number includes the seam allowance. If you were working from graph paper, the number of squares would give you the finished border top width and length (no seam allowance). Mostly, we didn't want borders to be the only place where you had to remember that the numbers to put in were not finished sizes.
The good news however is that this is REALLY EASY no matter which way you want to calculate.
If you are working from graph paper, input the width and length of the quilt top from your drawing, without the borders, into the yardage calculator. Measure your quilt top from top to bottom, and left to right as described in hint #1. Go into SuperCalc for the border calculation you want (horizontal, vertical, or mitered borders) and input these measurements. On page 2 of the Cutting Diagram look for the words "horizontal cut" and "vertical cut". These numbers found on page 2 of the cutting diagram should be equal to the measurements you just took.
If the yardage calculator measurements don't match then adjust the size of the quilt top accordingly. You may want to go into Super Calc depending upon what you want to adjust.
Saving the best for last........If you aren't working from a drawing, or maybe you are modifying a pattern you bought.......
Here is the super duper easy way to do it.
Measure the quilt top from top to bottom , left to right. Go into SuperCalc for the border calculation you want (horizontal, vertical, or mitered borders) and input these measurements. Then, just set the seam allowance to 0", so no seam allowance will be added. Double check that the measurements you just took and the numbers for "horizontal cut" and "Vertical cut" found on page 2 of the cutting diagram, match. I have no doubt that they will!
It took me awhile to figure out how to successfully sew on a border. I hope my experiences will help you too!
Here's to joyful quilting!
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