Treadle On 1999 Summer Mystery Quilt
Putting On the Border
Neat borders make neat quilts! It took me a long time to learn that. I was, for my first few years, very careless in putting borders on, and this resulted in quilts with 'wavy' edges. So, here's the way I do it now.
There are numerous ways to border and edge quilts. My favorite was is the 'front to back' or 'back to front' technique, in which either the front or back is used to create the edging as well as the border. For this project, I am going to describe the front to back technique.
First, the quilt top needs to be square and neat. Iron it, back and front. Make sure the seams are all lying as neatly as you can get them. Now step back and look at the front. Does it look square? If it does, that's good, but even so, you may be able to improve it. Measure it across at three points. Does it measure the same? If not, use your iron and 'push out' the narrow spots. Try to get the two sides as parallel as you can. Repeat this process vertically. When you think you have it measuring right in both dimensions, find something large that is actually square- a large cutting pad is pretty good. If you have a really large plastic cutting triangle and a 24" x 6" cutting ruler, you can combine these to produce a good working "T" square. Check the corners. Get the whole things as square as you are going to get it, then stop.
Now, decide on the dimension of the finished border you want. For my semi-miniature piece, which will be a dresser runner, I did not want a wide border. I decided on 3/4". For your quilt you will probably want more. That's your call. Quilts are just like pictures... you can frame them narrow or you can frame them wide. I've seen stunning arrangements of patterns within really wide borders. Your next step will be to decide on your border width and cut the border strips from your border fabric. The border can be a contrasting fabric to the quilt, or can 'pull' one of the colors, usually the darkest, out of the quilt pattern. I chose this approach, and my border fabric is the dark fabric from the quilt.
In cutting the border strips, if you can, cut them on the length of the fabric, rather than across from selvage to selvage. You will get less stretch this way, resulting in flatter borders. Cut strips that are 1 3/4" wider than the finished border dimension you decided on. For my project, wanting 3/4" borders, I cut 2 1/4" strips.
Carefully measure the width of your quilt top and cut two strips of your border material that length. Carefully pin a border to the top of the quilt, as usual, good sides together, 1/4" seam. Sew the border on. Now, a word of very special caution.
The nature of this particular pattern is such that across the top and bottom, there is one column in each three row 'set' that has a sharply contrasting fabric piece left in the border.
In this picture, note the tops of rows 2, 5 and 8, which are thin, dark strips. Note also the bottoms of rows 3, 6 and 9, which are thin light strips. When you sew the border on, you will want to get your seam to the INSIDE of the seam that is already there on these pieces, but just barely. If you get your seam to the outside, when you open up the border, a bit of that thin strip will show. So in pinning and sewing, sew with the border down and the back of the quilt top up, so you can follow the seam edges very closely.
I did this particular operation rather poorly on my quilt, and ended up with a problem. I am going to go ahead and finish this page of basic bordering instructions, then I will create a page showing how I corrected and 'saved' the piece.
Once you have the top border on, do the same to install the bottom border.
Iron and repeat the squaring process described above.
NOTE: At this point, check your seams- do tiny strips of the wrong fabric peak out from the edge of the border at a few places, as in the picture below?
If so, you didn't get the seam right as I described above. This is a problem only on the top and bottom seams. If you have the problem, go to this page to learn how to correct it:
Go to "Captain Dick Screwed Up"
OK, we'll assume you have the top and bottom borders all done to your satisfaction and move on.
Measure the piece from top to bottom and cut two border pieces long enough to cover that distance, which now includes the measurements of the top and bottom borders. You may need to join pieces, that's fine.
Pin and sew these side borders on. IMPORTANT NOTE: Up until now, we have operated on the basic quilting theory that backstitching is not necessary, because the seams will ultimately be crossed by other seams. I always backstitch (or otherwise lockstitch) the beginning and end of these last border seams. I know that around here, a quilt top may lay around for a year or more and will get opened and re-folded many times showing it to people. If you don't lock these seams, they will start to pull open.
OK- you have bordered your quilt. Give it a final square check and ironing and pat yourself on the back.
Here is my finished top:
If you carefully follow the inside edge of the bottom border, you will see the slight dip (actually a rise in this orientation) at the dark block in column 6, where I fixed the major goof!
Assuming you are ready to do so, you may progress to Part Nine via the link below. Part Nine describes how to layer and pin your quilt.