Do you know how to avoid rippling borders? After careful piecing your quilts you want to take as much care in cutting borders. There are some basic rules to accurate cutting of different types of border treatments.
The most basic styles of borders are the following four types:
Long horizontal borders -- two side borders are stitched first, the top and bottom borders are stitched on last.
Long vertical borders -- top and bottom borders are stitched first, the two side borders are stitched on last.
Corner square borders -- borders are straight with a "cornerstone" square in each corner of the quilt
Mitered borders -- borders are cut at an angle at each corner simulating a picture frame.
How to measure your quilt
Different seam allowances and other variations of different stitchers can cause the length and width of the quilt to fluctuate slightly. For the same reason cutting the borders according to the pattern instructions is not always accurate. Also randomly cutting a long border and then stitching it on without measuring will almost always cause a rippling border because the fabric stretches as it is stitched. Be sure to press your fabric before cutting. If the fabric is not pressed before cutting, it might be inaccurate after it is stitched to the quilt and pressed.
To plan the length of your borders you need to measure the quilt top. Measure the quilt both vertically and horizontally through the center and again about half way between the center and the edge in all directions. Write the numbers down. If there is a slight amount of discrepancy, average the numbers. Don't measure the edge of the quilt because patches can stretch from the weight of the quilt and give you an inaccurate measurement. This measurement is the length you will need to cut the first borders -- either the sides or the top and bottom -- depending on what border treatment you choose.
You may cut the borders on the length of the fabric and piece as necessary depending on the length of your yardage. You may also cut borders across the width and piece as necessary. Borders pieced with a diagonal seam show the seams less after quilting than borders that are pieced with a straight seam.
Stitching borders to the quilt -- long horizontal borders or long vertical borders.
Place the border strip and the quilt right sides together. Pin as much as you need. Place pinned border and quilt top on the machine with the wrong side of pieced area facing up. This way you can make sure that the seam allowances are turned in the direction you pressed them as you are stitching. After stitching the first two borders -- either the sides or the top and bottom -- measure your quilt again in the other direction. Include the measurement of the borders you just added.
Again cut the remaining two borders the measurement of your quilt top plus the first borders you stitched already. Stitch using directions in the previous paragraph.
If you have a part of the quilt or border that needs to be "eased" place the longest part on the bottom toward the bed of the machine. The action of the feed dogs will help the longer part ease into the shorter part.
Corner Square Borders
Corner square borders would be cut the same way as horizontal and vertical borders. Measure carefully and piece strips as necessary to get the needed length. The length to cut the top and bottom borders would be the exact measurement of the quilt top width -- including the 1/4" seam allowance at each edge. The side borders would be the exact measurement of the quilt top length -- including the 1/4" seam allowance at each edge. The width of the border determines the size to cut the corner squares. The four corner squares are cut the same size as the width of the border measurement.
Stitch either the top or side borders first. Then stitch the corner squares to the ends of the remaining borders. Stitch the borders with the corner squares to the quilt.
Mitered borders -- miters cut before stitching
Many mitered quilt instructions have you stitch the borders to the quilt first. Then fold, press, and stitch. This method you will cut your mitered borders before you stitch.
You'll need an acrylic tool or ruler that is shaped with a 45 degree angle. This would be a rectangular ruler that has a 45 degree angle cut off. A rectangular ruler with the 45 degree lines printed won't be as easy to use for this purpose.
Visualize your mitered corners like a large picture frame or draw a small sketch of a picture frame on a piece of scrap paper to help visualize. Picture frames are mitered with a 45 degree angle and the angles always point away from the picture or center of the quilt.
Planning the length of your borders
When figuring the cutting length of your borders, be sure to allow enough fabric. Mitered borders take up the entire finished width and length of the quilt so you need to add the side of your quilt plus 2 times the total cut width of the border (include width of all borders stitched together). Add an extra two or more inches for insurance.
Piecing borders strips
Machine piece all your border strips in the widths desired. The miter is cut all at one time. Press seams toward the outside border.
Measure your quilt
Measure the length of your quilt edge to edge. Measure it in the center and another place as described above. Don't measure at the edge. Remember the edge can stretch. Subtract the seam allowance -- minus 1/2" (two 1/4" seam allowances). This is your length. Write this number on a scrap of paper as length. Measure the width the same way. Write this number on a scrap of paper as the width.
Cutting the miter
Measure the border strip allowing enough border fabric to extend beyond the first measurement to make the "picture frame" angle of the miter. Mark a dot exactly 1/4" from the edge at the seam allowance. Remember to leave enough fabric to make the diagonal miter. Use the number of inches of width or length of the quilt and measure from this dot to the opposite end of the border strip. Place another dot exactly 1/4" from the edge at the seam allowance. These two dots are at the seam intersections of your miter. Don't cut yet. If you wish you may draw a fine pencil line from each dot using the 45 degree angle. This is not your cutting line. This is your stitching line.
Place your 45 degree angle ruler 1/4" toward the outside end of the border at one end. You may draw another line if you wish. Be sure to make sure the angle of the cut is angling out toward the top -- remember the picture frame look. Make the cut -- you are adding 1/4" seam allowance to this end. Go to the other end of the border strip. Place the 45 degree angle 1/4" toward the outside end of the border -- draw another line if you wish. Again make sure the angle of the cut is angling out toward the top -- and cut the 45 degree angle. Always cut your angles away from the center of the border -- keep the mitered picture frame in mind. Your border strip will look like a very wide V. You can also cut these angles with a regular ruler using the 45 degree line as a guide -- but it would be less convenient.
Stitching borders to the quilt
You will need to mark corner dots in each corner of your quilt. With a small ruler, measure 1/4" from the corner in each direction and mark an X for the corner dot. The center of the X will match the dot that is 1/4" from your miter cut on the border strip.
Pin your dots on the border to the dots on the quilt -- accurately matching dots. Pin the border to the edge of the quilt top. Stitch 1/4" seam -- remembering to stitch from "dot to dot". Backstitch at the dots at both ends. Continue with the remaining three borders. It doesn't matter what order you stitch them on. Once they are cut accurately you won't have the problem of getting a border on the wrong side.
The diagonal corners of the miters are still unstitched. Fold quilt in half on the diagonal bringing raw edges of border/quilt seam together. When this is folded the two angled ends of the border strips will come together. Match the dots near the border/quilt seam, the seam intersection of border strips, and the outside edge. Pin.
Stitch 1/4" seam - start one stitch away from the inside dot so you don't catch the main part of the quilt in the corner of the mitered seam. Stitch a few stitches and backstitch. Stitch slowly and pull pins as you sew. Back stitch at the outside edge.
Repeat the same for the other three corners. Press corner seams open and border seams toward outside. This method produces very accurate borders with a very neat miter because the angles are cut before stitching.
This method is so easy because all you have to do is cut. The angle is perfect. You don't have to fold, press or stitch on lines that are hard to see. This miter is cut perfect and is ready to sew using your 1/4" sewing machine foot as a guide.
Choose the border treatment that works best for your particular quilt. Very traditional quilts might need vertical or horizontal borders. Center medallion quilts would look best with miters and some quilts really need corner squares. If you are familiar with all methods you will be able to choose the border best suited for your quilt.