Correct Method for Adding Borders to a Quilt Top

The Problem

As a professional Longarm quilter I have the privilege of seeing many lovely quilts.  There is, however, a problem that can occur when borders are not correctly added to a quilt top.  Many times a strip of fabric is laid on the quilt top, sewn from one end to the other and then cut off.  Unfortunately, this results in wavy borders and dog eared corners.  No amount of awesome quilting can change the look of an out of square quilt.

Regardless of the precision taken during the piecing process, because of the nature of fabric, the cut edges and sometimes bias edges, a quilt top will not be perfectly square.  As a result, by adding borders correctly, you can square up the quilt top so that when quilted it will look much better, lay flatter, or if a wall quilt, hang straight on the wall.

The Solution

The correct method for adding borders starts with measuring the quilt top in three places, just in from the top and bottom and across the middle.  Two strips are cut the same length for the opposite borders using the middle measurement easing in the fullness, if any.  The same steps are repeated for the other two sides. Although this method takes a few minutes longer, you will be more satisfied with how your quilt looks when completed.  The video below walks you through the steps to correctly add borders to any quilt top.

Sewing Tip

If there was any fullness that was “eased” in by distributing the fullness and pinning as illustrated in the video, always place the eased or fuller side down (next to the feed dogs) when stitching.  The feed dogs will evenly pull the fullness through.  If you try to stitch with the fullness on the top, the presser foot will push the fullness along and make little pleats.  Always stitch with the fullest side down.

If you have never added borders using this method, I encourage you to try it.  You will be love the results.

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Design Wall Options

Years ago I never thought about the angle at which quilts would be viewed.  I simply laid the pieces on the floor or on the bed, rearranged the blocks to what looked OK, and sewed them together.  Today, however, I realize that how quilts are viewed during construction compared with after they are made may be totally different.  The perspective is totally different when looking at a quilt on an angle on the floor or bed versus straight on when on the wall.  As a result, I have found that using a design wall is essential to audition and make choices on the patch colors in a block, block placement, fabric colors, border and binding choices.  In fact, seeing the quilt take shape on a design has even changed some of the choices previously made because they simply didn’t contribute to the quilt as I once thought they would.

What is a design wall?

A design wall is simply a vertical space that is large enough to audition anything from block

design wall

Design Wall

patches to a quilt.  It can be any size that meets the quilter’s needs.  Some design walls are inexpensive or an easy DIY project, others are more costly.  My small design “wall” is a 18″x24″ foam core board with a flannel pillowcase over it.  I use it to audition block patches and to layer block patches for sewing.  It is close to my sewing machine, keeps the patches organized, making it easy to pick up the patches when stitching them together.  My other design wall is larger and attached to a wall in my studio.

Design Wall Options

  • Flannel backed table cloth. Very inexpensive and easy to tack up on any wall surface.  Flannel backed table cloths can be purchased in a range of sizes.  The largest size, however, would not be big enough for a large quilt.
  • Flannel covered insulating board. This is a relatively easy DIY project made from 2’x8’ or 4’x8’ insulation board available from a home improvement store.  It is light weight, yet strong enough to lean or fasten on a wall.  Use this link for instructions to make this project.  http://christaquilts.com/2013/11/11/a-new-design-wall/  Instructions for other similar projects are also available online.
  • Portable design walls. Offered in different sizes, this design wall is made of a light weight framedesign wall portable design wall retractable with flannel stretched across it.  This type of design wall would be ideal if it needed to be used at a class, moved from one room to another, or had no permanent location.  http://www.cherylannsdesignwall.com/
  • Mounted retractable roller design wall. When delivering a Longarm system a couple of years ago, I discovered this unique product at our customer’s studio.  Mounted on a wall or over a closet, this design wall pulls down, like a shade, offering space to audition a quilt.  The beauty of his product is that it takes up very little space and can easily be rolled up out of view or allowing access to whatever is behind the design wall.  It can even be rolled up with the patches or blocks still on it as illustrated in the photo.  This would make an ideal design wall in a small sewing area where a larger fixed design wall would not be possible.  http://www.design-a-way.com/

Regardless of how much quilting you do, the design wall is an important “tool” that allows you to visualize the finished quilt helping you make good design choices.  Besides having a design wall, make sure you also have good lighting.

Other links:

http://blog.shopmartingale.com/quilting-sewing/9-quilt-design-wall-ideas/

For those on Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/explore/quilt-design-wall/

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How Needles and Pins are Made

As a former science teacher, I enjoy learning the “how” and “why” of many things.  I find it fascinating to see how products are manufactured, especially things that are used in quilting.  We often take for granted these products not realizing the many steps that are involved in their manufacture.  Or, we complain about the cost without knowing the time and effort involved to make them.

This video from the Science Channel shows the steps involved in the manufacture of needles and pins.  Since I just bought a package of self threading needles with gold around the eye, I now know how these were made starting with a coil of wire and ending with a precision sewing tool to use with my quilting.

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