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Straight Borders

  • Border Basics

    Quilt Designer: Tammy Kelly
    Quilt Name: Spring Beauty, American Patchwork & Quilting, June 2006

    Just like a picture frame and mat enhance a photograph, borders help show off the center of a quilt. Borders can be as simple as single strips of fabric or intricately pieced or appliquéd. The simplest type is a straight border.

    Borders should be in proportion to the size of the finished quilt. As a general rule of thumb, a small wall hanging should have a border of less than 6" while a king-size quilt can handle a 12" to 14" border. Borders that are too wide diminish the quilt center design. To decide how wide to make a border, begin with your finished block size. If your quilt center is made of 4" blocks, try a 4"-wide border.

    If you want to change the size of a quilt, avoid adjusting the border only. Unless the change is minimal, widening just the border can make the quilt look out of proportion. Instead, consider adding sashing, pieced borders, or multiple borders to enlarge the finished quilt.

    For border inspiration, look at quilting books and magazines for appealing border and block combinations. Study the proportion of the border to the block size and the amount of piecing or detail in the border as compared to the blocks.

  • Keep It Simple

    The simplest border uses a single fabric in strips around all four sides of the quilt center. Add the border strips in pairs to opposite edges. For example, first sew strips to the side edges, then add them to the top and bottom edges.

  • Focus, Focus

    Quilt Designer: Mabeth Oxenreider
    Quilt Name: Daisy Mania, American Patchwork & Quilting, April 2004

    A simple straight border ensures a bright and busy quilt center will be the main focus.

  • Design Detail

    To make the best use of your fabric, cut border strips across the fabric width, then piece them to get the required strip length. Instead of hiding seams, turn them into a design detail by adding a rectangle of coordinating fabric at the center of each border strip.

  • Pieced Together

    Quilt Designers: Nancy Smith and Lynda Milligan
    Quilt Name: Coffee Time, American Patchwork & Quilting, April 1996

    Pieced rectangles complete this border, allowing the wall hanging to continue its scrappy look right out to the edges. Consider using your own coffee mug collection for color inspiration.

  • Corner Blocks

    For more interest, add a solid square to each end of the top and bottom border strips before sewing the strips to the quilt center.

  • Pieced Corners

    Using pieced blocks instead of solid squares adds even more interest.

  • Four Corners

    Quilt Designer: Diane Hansen
    Quilt Name: True-Blue Welcome, Quilting Ideas, Fall 2002

    Pieced Four-Patch corner blocks pull the design right out to the edges of this patriotic wall hanging.

  • Borderless

    Quilt Designer: Deanna Harris
    Quilt Name: City Blocks, Quilts and More, Summer 2006

    There’s no rule that says you have to have a border! Sometimes a quilt is perfect without one.

  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

    Quilt Designer: Kim Diehl
    Quilt Name: Promise of Spring, American Patchwork & Quilting, February 2007

    Use up all the scraps from your quilt by sewing them together for the borders.

  • All Pulled Together

    Quilt Designer: Darlene Zimmerman
    Quilt Name: Fresh Traditions, American Patchwork & Quilting, February 2007

    Sometimes the border is an interesting extension of the pieced top. In this quilt Darlene used as solid color...