Quilt borders provide a frame for the main design of your patchwork quilt top. Adding a quilt border is also a chance to square up your quilt top, or to add extra width or length to your quilt top. Quilt borders can be used to highlight a colour used within the quilt design or introduce a different complementary colour. They really can be a versatile addition to your quilt top.
Having said that, the next thing that needs to be said is that your quilt does not have to have a border. This jelly roll quilt was so bright and vibrant that I didn’t feel a quilt border would enhance the quilt in any way.
Making the quilt border
But this article is about when you do want to add a quilt border. You should have the measurement for the length of the sides of your quilt top from squaring your quilt.
Cut two strips of quilt border to this length. If your quilt length is greater than 42″, which is the width of most fabrics, you will need to sew two strips together to get the length. Don’t forget to allow an extra 1/2″ for the seam allowance for the join of the two strips.
With right sides together and using a 1/4″ seam, sew the strips down either side of the quilt top. You now need two strips to go across the top and bottom of the quilt. These will need to be the width of the quilt plus the width of the border that you have just sewn down the sides.
As an example, let’s look at a quilt top that is 60″ square to which you are adding a border strip 2″ wide. the strips down the sides of the quilt top need to be 60″ long. The strips across the top and bottom need to be 60″ plus two times 1.1/2″ for the side borders, so you would cut the top border at 63″. I’ve only allowed 1.1/2″ for the side borders because 1/2″ would be taken up with the seam allowance from sewing the side border to the quilt top.
If you wanted a mitred corner for your border strips, that is covered in a separate article on mitred quilt borders.
Examples of quilt borders
The most simple way to make a quilt border is to continue the sashing on the outside of the quilt blocks so that it forms a frame round the quilt top.
These quilt borders were used to lengthen the quilt so the basic strip runs down the sides of the quilt but there is an extra quilt border across the top and bottom. For the cat quilt on the left I used part of the overall quilt design and added a strip of cats heads, while in the jelly roll quilt on the right I picked out the colours used in the quilt and added thin strips of these colours.
The quilt border on this hourglass quilt was added to all the edges and again I used the fabric from the main design, but this time in a strip of squares sandwiched between strips of the same colour used as a background in the quilt.
In the baby quilt on the left I just wanted one strip of a different colour to separate the sashing from the binding, while in the rosebud quilt on the right I used a narrow strip of all the colours used in the quilt.
For the zigzag quilt on the left the quilt border was a continuation of the background fabric. The celtic quilt on the right has a quilt border strip running running all the way round. Those squares of celtic design run across the width of the fabric so that I just needed to add a strip of fabric (not individual squares). It’s worth looking in your local quilt shop for quilt border fabric.
Another thought for quilt borders would be plain strips of fabric with embroidery or applique on them. I’ve seen some beautiful quilts with vines or roses running along the border. I hope that this has gen you some ideas for quilt borders and shown you how versatile they can be.