I touched briefly on quilt borders, in a post back in December, and about how to coordinate them with your blocks. Now I want to expand the quilt border discussion in this post. I love to play with borders. They can be used for many purposes, including making a quilt larger. So, let’s have some fun!
These are the easiest borders. It’s also the easiest way to enlarge a quilt to the size you want. You can either stick to one color print border, or you can do a few borders of varied widths in different colors. Here’s one of my quilts with just one plain border.
I chose a dark color print border for this quilt to draw your eye to the pieced blocks. This is an example of where the border serves as a “frame” for your quilt, like frames for photos. Below is an example of a quilt with more than one plain border:
I did the center red border inside and then the outer green border to play off the colors in the blocks and to also show another type of frame look. If you want to make this quilt bigger, you can add another red print border that is wider than the green border. I did something similar with this next quilt:
Another great use for plain borders is to provide a “canvas” for appliqué or so you can do a creative scalloped edge, which can’t be done with a pieced border. Here’s one of my quilts with a scalloped edge:
And here is one of my quilt where I used the outer plain border to showcase appliqué.
Talk about adding personality! You can really have fun adding appliqué to a border and frame your quilt with a unique motif.
I call borders that are made up of plain strips and pieced portions “combination borders”. Adding pieced borders can serve two purposes: to make your quilt larger and to use up the leftover fabrics from the quilt top. I like to create a fabric stash with leftover fabric, but I know there’s some quilters out there who like to use everything up. If that’s you… here’s one solution! Use the extra fabric to make a border like this piano key border on my quilt Scrappy North Stars:
I’ll share a secret…. often, you’ll see a quilt where the pieced border is preceded with a plain inner border strip. This is usually when the quilter needed a way to make the quilt top measure the size needed so the pieced border fits.
For example, if your quilt top measures 64″ square, that number can be divided by 2 or 4 evenly so you can add a pieced border made of of units that measure 2 or 4 inches. Note, these measurements I am using in this example are finished sizes. If the pieced border units you want to use on the quilt are 3 inches finished, those borders will not fit the 64 x 64″ quilt unless you can add a 1″ plain border to the quilt so it now measures 66″ square, which is divisible by 3. See how that works? Here is one of my quilts that demonstrates this:
I really wanted the pieced stars for a border on this quilt above but the only way to do that was to add a plain tan print border between the pieced quilt top center and the pieced star border. I also pieced the stars of the border with a small strip of fabric between them which also helped with the fit and look.
Yes… you do need to do a little math once in awhile when quilting. But when the finished quilt top has a magnificent pieced border to frame it, I think you will decide it was worth it.
Pieced Only Border
This option is also a fun way to finish a quilt. Like I mentioned above, this can only be done if the quilt top dimensions are divisible by the size of the pieced border units. Here’s one of my quilts where I was able to do this:
Since this is a bit more difficult to do unless your quilt measures perfectly, I usually do it on smaller quilts like wall hangings and table runners.
Now there is a way to do a pieced only border even if your quilt top is not divisible by a particular unit size… make it a completely crazy, scrappy border made up of different width units. I did this for my quilt here:
The photo on the right shows a close-up of the border so you can see how the pieces that make up this border are not uniform. This was a fun way to use up the leftover fabric from this quilt project.
Measuring the Quilt Top
After reading this post, you will notice that I mention knowing the size of your quilt top so you can decide on a border. Even if the pattern you are making gives you measurements for the border strips, this is a good step not to skip. Here’s a brief explanation on how to do this.
- Step 1: Measure your quilt top vertically in 3 places. On the left, in the middle and on the right. Add those numbers together and divide by 3 for the average. (See diagram below) That will be the length of the border strips for the sides.
- Step 2: Attach the side border strips and then measure the quilt top horizontally in 3 places. Through the center and on the right and the left. This will be the length of the border strips for the top and bottom. (see diagram)
- Step 3: Add the top and bottom borders:
So now you are ready to border that quilt! What do you like to do for borders? Share in the comments below and be in a drawing to win a copy of my quilt pattern Star Struck.
The drawing will be on Monday, January 16th. ***We have a winner! Congrats, Barb Jansz!***
Gail Hester says
I’m a beginner quilter on my second beginning quilting set of classes. In class for the current quilt we are adding 3 different borders. But I like the idea of using up scraps by piecing the border. You have a lot of good ideas here for me to try. Thank you!
You have many wonderful ideas, thanks for sharing them. Have a great week.
I tend to go for plain borders, whether a single border or muitple borders. I like them to accentuate the top. Adding cornerstones is another way to dress up a border.
I like adding cornerstones as well as sashing with cornerstones.
Wonderful ideas, thanks! I have done lots of plain borders, piano key borders, and pieced ones included in a pattern.
Teresa Romzick says
Such nice variety of ideas and options.
Donna S says
You have several border options ideas. Thank you for explaining the “how to’s”. Math is not my favorite, but necessary. Thanks.
Gale Hutton says
Love these ideas! Pieced borders are my favorite. Piano key is my usual go to border, as it seeem to be the most adaptable. Fudging a little on a few of the strips is not usually noticeable and there are no points to cut off with the binding.
“Fudging a little on a few of the strips is not usually noticeable and there are no points to cut off with the binding.”
So true! Glad you like my ideas. 🙂
I have only done plain borders but you have inspired me to try something different. Love the star border and all your quilts. Thank you for the very informative article.
Nanette Chopin Cook says
You are providing such great information to beginner quilters. Everything you are providing is so important for a young newbie quilter to know as they grow in making their quilts. Hugs
Elaine A says
I have done plain borders. My sister has been experimenting with different pieced borders and they are making me want to try piecing borders.
Barb Jansz says
Thank you! Saving this article for future border ideas.
P.S. Is there a pattern for the (second quilt) red green pieced and appliquéd quilt?
That quilt is called Christmas Dreams and you can find it here:
I love the borders on your quilts. They are so interesting and really add to the quilt. I have done plain borders and plain borders with applique.
Leona Phillips says
love your boarders. I haven’t done a scalloped border yet as much as I love them because of the fear of not having a perfect fit but some of your hints make it sound more doable. Thanks for sharing your knowledge