How to Accurately Attach Quilt Borders

Kimberlee Tanner

How to Accurately Attach Quilt Borders

When we first started quilting, we’d finish a top, sew the border strips together, line it up along the edge of the quilt and add it. After it was sewn on, we’d trim it off to match. This was quick and easy, BUT, we noticed that most of our quilts had extra fabric and waves. The corners were never quite square. We assumed it was just the way that fabric stretches and pulls with no thought of the way we did the borders being an issue. I simply dealt with it during the quilting and found ways to ease in the extra fabric and hide the waves.

Then one day, all that changed. I had someone explain why that was happening and how to fix it. Just a few simple changes made a WORLD of difference. Now we have no more wavy borders and square tops! This week, we are going to share with you our process for attaching borders so you too can eliminate your friendly borders.


Why are my quilt borders wavy?

If you’ve ever finished a quilt with borders that wave at you, we call those friendly borders. While the name sounds great, it isn’t really what we are looking for. Wavy borders can cause issues when you are quilting with extra fabric causing tucks and folds. They can also throw your quilt top off square. While skinny borders can usually be easily dealt with, this problem compounds itself if you have larger borders or multiple borders.

When you sew two fabrics together, the way the feet work the fabric seldom feeds through perfectly even. You can also have stretch in the edge of the fabric. Even when using a walking foot, things aren’t guaranteed to move identical. If you simply sew a border on without measuring and trim to size afterwards, it’s easy to end up with extra fabric in the border without realizing it. When you lay out your quilt, this will show in waves around the quilt.

How to attach quilt borders

To eliminate wavy borders, it really only takes a few simple steps. These steps will take longer than sewing on and trimming, but it will be totally worth it. You won’t need to worry about fixing those issues afterwards in the quilting and it can help make squaring up much easier afterwards.

First, decide what borders you are sewing on first. We usually add the side borders first, then finish with the top and bottom borders.

After you know which borders you are adding first, measure along each side of the quilt and write that measurement down. We like to lay the quilt out on the floor to get it completely flat. When you measure, it’s best to find a seam close to the edge to measure along, but don’t use the actual edge. You can get stretching in the edges of your quilt top and it’s not reliable as a seam. After you have measured along the two sides, measure down the middle of the quilt as well. Then, take these three measurements and find the average of them.


Side 1 – 85 1/2″

Side 2 – 85 1/4″

Middle – 85″

The average of all three of these is 85 1/4″. So, you will then cut your two side borders at 85 1/4″. There will be a little easing in if you have one side that is slightly larger, but usually it’s negligible and is easy to do. When attaching the border, first find the middle of your quilt top and the middle of your border. Pin these two points together. Then line up the ends of the border on the ends of the top. From there, lay out the border evenly and pin it along the side. Repeat for the second side. After you’ve attached your borders, you will now have two perfectly even side measurements.

Now, just repeat the process for the top and bottom border. First measure a seam along the top, measure a seam along the bottom, and measure down the middle of the quilt. Take the average of the three measurements and cut your top and bottom borders to match. Then complete the same steps of finding the center, lining up the ends and pinning the sections together.

Like we mentioned, this method does take a little longer to attach the borders, but the time you’ll save in the quilting and finishing of the quilt top will be worth every minute of the process. This method is so amazing when you start using multiple borders. You’re quilt tops will lay flatter right off the machine than they’ve ever been. It was like night and day when we switched from our beginning method.

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

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