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How to Add a Border to a Quilt



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"How to Add a Border to a Quilt"
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While a border for a quilt is not necessary, it can be essential in some circumstances.  Often, a baby's quilt, perferctly sized for the crib or toddler bed, can use a border to remain appropriate for use when the child moves up to a twin bed.  An old quilt that is stained or damaged along one or more edges can be remade into a new piece, merely by trimming away a portion and adding a border.  Of course, borders can be added to new quilts before they are bound, to add interest or to accentuate a color in the fabrics used.

When adding a border to a quilt, the opportunities are endless.  You can choose long strips of fabric or pieces smaller than your blocks.  You can use fabrics that contrast with the colors, yet are still complementary, or use fabrics that follow the current theme.  You may want to follow the guideline that the more elaborate the quilt, the more simple the border should be, and the more simple the quilt the more elaborate the border can be.  However, in the creative arts like quilting, you should always follow your creative spirit.

1.  Choose your border-  This is your personal preference.  If you're a beginner, you may want to start out with just strips of fabric.  Experienced quilters might want to use quilt blocks in a complementary pattern around the entirety of the quilt, or patterned blocks alternating with solid blocks.

An example of the former might be a log cabin quilt in a blue and purple color scheme.  Use one continuous strip of solid blue along each side, and one continuous strip of purple across top and the bottom.

An example of the latter might be one beautiful large Mariner's Compass taking up most of the quilt area.  One might want to put a 2" border of a fabric used in the points of the compass around that, then a border made up of small Mariner's Compass blocks, alternated with another of the fabrics used in the main Comapass, then a final border around that of the first border fabric.

2. If using a quilt that was previously finished and bound, or damaged, prepare for adding the border-  If you're adding size to an existing quilt, either use a stitch-ripper to remove the binding, or cut away the binding, retaining as much of the original as possible. 

If you are adding a border to restore a damaged quilt, plan your cutting well.  Cut away the binding all around, then cut away the damaged portion.  Trim away additional undamaged blocks until the quilt is in your desired proportions.  For example, if two blocks on the end of the right side of the quilt are damaged, cut off the entire row to which they belong. Reserve the trimmed away, undamaged blocks for pillows or complementary throws to be made later.

If the backing was simply tufted on, you may want to remove the quilting tufts, and use a new backing and batting that will accomodate the new size of the quilt.

3.  Measure quilt and cut border fabric- Measuring the quilt after you have trimmed away the binding/damage for a more accurate measurement.  Also, if you're choosing to add blocks, now is the time to calculate the size of the border blocks and make them.  In any case, be sure to add 1/4" to your final measurements for seam allowance.  Piece blocks or strips together now, if necessary.  Also cut the additional backing fabric, if necessary.

4.  Attach border and additional backing (if necessary)-  Place border pieces face down, on the quilt top aligning the edges, and attach to the quilt top, stitching 1/4" from edge.  Next, stitch the border pieces to one another where they meet in the corners.  If repairing an old quilt, flip over, and place backing fabric face down on the back aligning the edges.  Attach to quilt back with 1/4" seam, and join the pieces where they meet.

5.  Complete and bind- If working with a new quilt top, follow the normal method of attaching the quit top to the backing and batting, and bind the quilt.

If repairing a quilt, you will now have the option of putting batting in the border, or leaving the border unstuffed.  If batting is added, you will need to quilt the border. Do this before adding binding.  If you choose not to add batting, you may want to add some iron-on fabric stiffener to the border to give it a more polished look while in use.  Bind the edges, and you've completed your quilt.


Borders serve many functions, from decorative to restorative.  Using borders you will add interest and may even be able to save that heirloom your great-grandmother made.  No matter your reason for choosing one, you will be more than pleased with the results.

More about this author: Stephanie Baumgartner

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