I often get asked, “What causes my borders to look wavy?” I am usually tempted to answer they are just being friendly! Yeah, I know my humor is kinda sad sometimes… Joking aside, I do have some thoughts on the subject. And as a long arm quilter, friendly borders are not fun, so let me pass on some tips for you. But 1st let me say, if you apply your borders by another method and they lay nice and flat when you finish, then just keep doing what you’re doing! I am by no means the quilt police…
Let me start with my recent change in opinion about piecing borders. For years we have been taught to stitch a diagonal or bias seam when piecing a border to make it long enough. The theory behind this was the bias seam blended better than a square seam. Since becoming a Longarm quilter, I have noticed that this bias seam is often the only place where a border waves. Makes sense when you stop and think about it, bias seams do stretch. One solution is to cut borders on the lengthwise grain and not the crosswise grain. Some quilters resist doing this as they think it takes more fabric. I have decided if I also cut binding from the same fabric, it really takes no more fabric and is a lot faster to prepare, and of course avoids that bias seam. If I do piece my borders I now stitch a square seam. I have done some reading on this subject and it seems I am not the only one switching to square seams….
I like to add borders to my quilt 1st on the longest sides of the quilt. I measure the quilt in this longest direction in 3 places, down the middle and a couple of inches from both edges. Take these 3 measurements and find their average (add them together and divide by 3). Finding the average helps to keep the quilt square as well as determining the border length. This is the length I cut my border piece. I now mark the center of the quilt and the center of the border piece. Lay the border right sides together on the quilt and match the center marks and pin. Next I pin the both ends of the border to the ends of the quilt. Now I add pins every 3-4”, easing in any fullness as I pin.
When I sew this border on I lay it on the machine bed with the border closest to the feed dogs and the quilt on the top. By doing this the feed dogs will grip the border, helping to keep it from stretching as it is applied. The general rule for pressing is to press the seam toward the border.
Now I repeat the process for the remaining 2 sides.
Let me regress for a moment. When I find the average measurement for a border, if the 3 measurements are more than ½” out, I like to find the reason, usually something happening in the quilt somewhere and fix it. If you ignore large differences in these measurements, you will not be able to apply the borders without a lot of easing or stretching, neither a good idea.
I have always said there is more than one way in quilting to get from point A to point B! This is just the way I do it. The important thing it that the quilt ends up more or less square, and that the borders are laying flat.
Happy quilting my friends…..