Adding Borders

My border notes got a few comments and questions so I thought I’d explain.  This is what I make for every quilt:

Here’s how I read my little chart.  There’s really no algebra there and it’s quite simple.  The first border pieces I will add will be my side borders for the first border.  According to my chart, those are cut 2″ x 63.5″.  I mark the halfway point of my borders to match up with the halfway point of the quilt top and then the halfway point of the second border will match up to the halfway point of the first border.  Make sense?  The halfway point of this border s 31.75″ so that’s what’s in parenthesis.  That border is yellow so that’s why there’s a “y” next to it.

The second segments I add will be the top and bottom of the first round of borders.  They are cut 2″ x 51.5″.  The halfway mark is 25.75″ and it’s also yellow.

Next will be the second round.  Following along on my notes, the side borders are cut 1.5″ x 66.5″.  The halfway point is 33.25″ and the “a” means it is cut from the aqua fabric.

The picture shown below is one of the side borders for border #3.  You will see that I’ve marked the center at 34.25″ and it is yellow.  (Notice the Bernina magnetic pin holder?  Told you I was a Bernina girl forever!)

I lay out all the border segments, sides first and then top and bottom for each border round.

Actually, I had already added the first border, which is yellow, to the top before I decided to do this blog post so what you see here are border #2 (aqua), border #3 (yellow) and border #4 (print).  Notice that the bird fabric is cut on the length of the fabric for the side borders and on the width for the top and bottom borders so the birds are all going the same direction when added to the quilt.

Once my borders are all cut, I stack them so that the first one I need is on top, then the next one and so on til the last one I’ll need is on bottom.

If I were cutting this quilt to pack up to take along with me somewhere else to work on, I’d roll these borders up, just like they’re shown in the picture, into a tight little roll and pack it so that I don’t have to re-measure or guess which border goes where when I get to where I’m going.

Before someone asks, under my sewing machine are half gallon jars of wheat.

There are several reasons I do my borders this way:

  1. I don’t have to get up and look at my EQ file every time I’m ready to add the next border.
  2. I don’t have to deal with calculating, cutting strips, making seams to join the strips and then measuring each time I go to the next border.
  3. I know me . . and if I didn’t have everything all ready to attach, once the blocks are made and the center of the top is assembled, I just might go on to the next project and this one would never get finished.  With everything all cut, seamed and already sized to fit, the project has a lot better chance of getting finished.

The borders are all done before the quilt blocks are ever started.  And, if I’m going to make a pieced backing, that is done before the top is ever started.  Look how much Moda Marble I was able to use in this backing!  Stashbusting on steroids!  🙂

Knowing me like I do, I also know that the binding needs to be made and ready to attach so that once the quilt comes off the longarm, I’ll sit down and put the binding on and finish it by machine right then or it will go into a stack and wait and wait and wait to be finished.  So . . the binding gets done before the quilt blocks are started.

This particular project was a UFO.  When I opened the box over the weekend, only the blocks and the extra aqua, yellow and print fabric were in there.  No borders, no sashing, no backing and no binding.  I sat down with EQ, figured out how I was going to finish this top.  I wanted it to be a donation quilt and most of those are in the 60″ x 80″ range.  I worked on it til I got it 65″ x 80″.  Then I made the borders, the backing, the binding and then I finished the top.  By the way, the name of this quilt is “Bird of Paradise”.  I’ll explain it later. You may not want to hear that story!  🙂

But, for quilts I start these days, as soon as I’ve decided on a design, I make the borders, the backing and the binding, then I start the blocks.  That’s not the way most people do it but that’s what works for me.

So now you see .  . there’s not really any algebra, just a little addition and division and lots of sewing!


  1. 1

    Carol says

    Beautiful quilt. Someone will be very happy. Yes, you’re a Bernina girl. You left out your Bernina rotary cutter. How old are your Bernina scissors?

  2. 2


    This post is making me think I need to my process. Making the backing as part of the beginning of your quilt is a super duper idea. For me, that is seldom in my thought for a new quilt.
    I like having my border strips all ready to go–again, very clever. I normally wait until it is time to add them before I cut them.

    You are sooo smart!!!! 🙂

  3. 4


    AHHHHH….NOW I understand your notes! That seems a very simple way to do it and I might do that now, too. Thanks for explaining this so clearly to us! I love how that quilt is looking now, too!

  4. 5

    Elaine says

    Am I understanding correctly, you all all borders separately, not treating the three borders as one when adding to the quilt? Beautiful quilt!

  5. 7

    Annette says

    You are so talented and your willingness to share information with all of us is PRICELESS!

  6. 8


    Now that is organization. I try to get all the fabric and pattern together and kit it but sometimes I am not sure I have enough fabric so I don’t cut the borders first. That would be the smart thing to do. I like the idea of having it all together.

  7. 9

    ida lively says

    I try to keep my quilt projects together if I’ve purchased fabric for a specific quilt. For example, I recently finished a quilt for “Version 2” (my SIL/BIL-by-marriage’s second child). I kept all of the fabric together. How I wish I had cut the borders/backing before cutting the pieces for the quilt. I ended up making a ‘Frankenbacking’ … that had no fewer than 7 pieces of the main fabric (for example, your birds). It was/is a directional fabric. Unfortunately, I had made a miscut when doing my borders, and *barely* had enough fabric to add the 4-inches per side to the backing that is required by my long-arm quilter.

    However, there have been ‘unplanned quilts’ where I don’t decide what setting I’m going to use until I have those blocks sitting there on my table nagging at me to make a decision already! 🙂

    But, since reading your blog, I have started planning my binding, and setting that fabric aside w/ my quilt projects. Most of the time it is pre-cut … but sometimes I do just put yardage together w/ the top/back.

    I’m not quite as organized as you … but thanks to you, I am getting better.

  8. 11

    Julie H. says

    Cutting and piecing the backing (and borders) first is a great idea. I’m embarassed to say how many flimsies I have right now that are only waiting on the backings.

    The quilt looks great. I haven’t tried stack-n-whack yet. Once again, your addition of borders “make” the quilt.

  9. 12


    Oh Judy!! I love that quilt! I have been wanting to do a kaleidoscope/stack n whack quilt for years (since stach n whack came out) and never have. I even have fabrics in my stash for it, just never got “a round to it”.

    Do stop by my blog for a visit! I have done a redesign and am posting regularlly again. Plus I have a great give away going on right now 😉

    Have a great day!

  10. 13

    Eileen Keane says

    I just finished a customer quilt that had a lot of fullness in the center which she eased into the borders. I actually had a hammock at one point.
    If you do the borders first, how do you avoid something like this happening?