Getting a Pieced Border To Fit

Last night I received an email from a lady doing Road to Round Rock and she was having a hard time getting her pieced border to fit.  This border is a good example for getting a pieced border to fit properly.

Don’t forget that I wrote a whole book on border, 60 Pieced Quilt Borders, and in that book, there’s plenty of information on how to make a pieced border fit, as well as how to determine what size your blocks should be, and there are, as you might have guessed, 60 pieced borders you can make fit to your own quilt or use the 12 quilt patterns included in the book.

For this little border tutorial, let’s use the border chart for Road to Round Rock:

Border Chart

If you refuse to do a little simple math, don’t bother to read any farther.  Math is amazing and I’ve never understood folks who just stop and go no farther as soon as they encounter a little math.  Embrace it.  Grab a calculator . . accepting what math can do for you can make a whole lot of things easier.

Enlarge the chart and the first thing you might notice is that for Border #3, the side borders are cut 2-1/2″ wide and the top and bottom borders are cut 2″.  That is not a typo.  Sometimes, in order to get a block to fit correctly in the pieced border, the side borders have to be a bit wider or narrower than the top and bottom border.  As long as there’s not a huge difference in size, it’s not even noticeable most of the time.

When I was doing longarm quilting for other folks is when I realized how terrible some of my own borders must have been.  I had a bad habit of slapping down a long strip of fabric and sewing it for the borders, without measuring and marking and making sure everything lined up correctly.  Without making sure all the borders are the correct size, and without matching the center points, it’s almost guaranteed to result in a quilt with wavy edges.

Please look at Border #4 in the chart above.  You will see that you need 19 blocks for the sides and 17 blocks for the top and bottom borders.  Let’s just use whole numbers and not concern ourselves with the seam allowance right now.  The pieced border blocks are 4″ blocks.  For the side borders, 19 blocks x 4″ = 76″.  For the top and bottom borders, 17 blocks x 4″ = 68″.  That is very simple math.  You can do that!

You will note that the side borders for Border #3 were cut 73-1/2″ so, without seam allowances, that’s 73″ .  Then the top and bottom borders (still #3) were added.  They were cut 2″ wide, which means they are 1-1/2″ without seam allowances.  If we add 73″ plus 1-1/2″ for the top and 1-1/2″ for the bottom, we get 76″ . . which is a perfect fit for those 19 blocks.

You will note that the strips for the top and bottom borders for #3 were cut 60-1/2″ long so that’s 60″ without seam allowances.  Then the 4″ blocks were added for both the left and right side borders (60 + 4 + 4) so now the width of your top is 68″, which is a perfect fit for the 17 blocks in your top and bottom borders.

If your pieced border seems too long, and it well may because it’s quite easy to stretch it when there are all those seam allowances, fold it in half lengthwise so that if we’re talking about the top and bottom border, you have the 68-1/2″ strip folded in half and it should measure 34-1/4″.  If it does not, either your cutting or your seam allowances were off.  Fix it . . do not stretch the borders to make them fit.  Do not stretch — ever!

This may all seem like a whole lot of trouble but once you get used to measuring your borders, marking them at the halfway point or even at the quarter points and then aligning the marks, your quilts will lay nice and flat and you, too, will love pieced borders.

You can see the difference in quilts with or without multiple borders in this post and this post.  So, do you want to make quilts without pieced borders or do you want to make quilts with beautiful borders?  That’s what I thought!  Get out the calculator and stop being a weenie when it comes to just a very tiny bit of simple math.  🙂


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    This is a TIMELY!!!! instruction fro me. BC I do just what u said creates WAVEY borders!!!! I actually stopped and didn’t cut out the 2nd border bc 1 I’m not sure what size width I want and 2 I don’t want wavey borders AGAIN.

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    Marilyn Smith says

    The top I just finished does not need borders. But, I measured and measured to square the top up. It was less than 1/4″ off. I always make sure the top is squared before measuring for borders. I am piecing the backing and strips of binding will alternate. Made the top entirely from scrap stash – a very easy, quick top to make. I have not had a wavy border on one of my quilts yet, but I am very careful to be precise. It takes a little more time but is well worth it. I learned this starting out reading the horror stories from longarm quilters on the APQS forums.

    Judy, excellent post!