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Avoid Ruffling! Add Borders to Your Quilt Top Correctly

Written by Denise Martin

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Posted on January 12 2023

Ruffles were trending…once upon a time. But not now and not on quilts! But at Seamless we still encounter ruffled or wavy borders on some customer projects when they bring them in for Longarm quilting.

When borders ruffle on the Longarm, we have no choice but to create pleats or quilt in a way that leaves the ruffles, which makes binding very difficult.

Ruffled borders can occur when you take your border strip and begin sewing at one end of your quilt top to the other without measuring your quilt top. You may be following the pattern dimensions for the border but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the measurements are accurate for your project. That’s because no one’s cutting or piecing is perfect. Small inaccuracies are cumulative in quilting so your quilt top may not end up perfectly square. In fact it may fan out at either or both ends. We see that with customer quilts that ruffle.

diagram showing ruffled or wavy border on quilt top

So here  is the process to avoid ruffling by attaching borders accurately to your quilt top.

Before You Begin
Check your assembled quilt top before you attach a border to see if a little squaring would take out any flaring.

Measuring
Measure your quilt top in 6 places: 

  • Vertically in the middle, and at each end about an inch in from the edge.
  • Horizontally in the middle, and at each end about an inch in from the edge.

Take the average of the vertical measurements. Take the average of the horizontal measurements.

Cutting
Cut your vertical and horizontal border strips to the average measurement number. Note you may have pieced your border strips prior to measuring and that’s fine.

Pinning
Find the center point of each side of your quilt. Mark it with a pin.

Find the quarter point of each side of your quilt. Mark it with a pin.

(If your quilt top is large - twin, queen or king - you should continue marking fractional sections - center, quarter, eighth, and smaller segments if need be - to make final pinning as accurate a possible.)

Now, divide each border strip into the same segments - center, quarter, etc. and pin at each segment.

Match the border segments to the quilt top segments. Start in the center and the ends of each side of the quilt top. Then match the fractional segments in between.

You will be able to see where ruffling may occur by the easing you will need to do when sewing on the border.

Easing
Easing can be a pain. By “easing” we mean fitting the top fabric with the bottom fabric as you’re sewing without making tiny pleats. But if you take your time, sew slowly, and use lots of pins, you can do it. You could also try a walking foot to help move the two layers of fabric more evenly

A word about bias edges…
If your quilt top is assembled “on point” or with the bias cut sides of triangles at the quilt top edge, you have bias edges that can stretch.

To avoid stretching, you can “stay stitch” those bias edges as you’re assembling your blocks. Use a long basting stitch on the bias edge and be sure not to stretch the fabric as you sew. You can easily remove the basting stitch if it shows after you attach the border. Or keep the basting stitch about 1/8th inch from the fabric edge and it will disappear into your final quarter inch border-to-quit-top seam.

Note: If your quilt top does not have a border but does have bias edges, be doubly sure to stay stitch the bias before having it quilted or quilting it yourself.

Final thoughts
You put a lot of hard work into piecing your quilt top. Attach the border correctly and you’ll have a professional looking finish. Ruffles are okay on dresses (maybe) but not on your quilt!

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