Wavy borders, and how to prevent them

Have you ever seen quilts with wavy borders? The border pieces that you cut according to the charts included with these directions (and other patterns that you have purchased) could be a little bit too longto be attached to the quilt center that you have completed. Everyone uses a slightly different size seam allowance --- and when you multiply the effects of the difference across an entire quilt top, the differences can be significant. If you already have some long border pieces cut and ready to apply to a quilt top, that's OK for now.  We want them to be a little bit too long to make it easier to use the following process.

You're probably thinking "Why can't I just sew a border along one side, and then cut off the excess when I get to the end?" The answer is that you will be stretching your border fabric as you attach it to the quilt top. All of the excess fabric will then end up being a wavy border, which makes it very hard for the person doing the actual quilting to get your borders to lie flat.

Here is a picture of the very bottom of a quilt that is almost finished:


You can see that the majority of this quilt is complete. As the excess fabric has accumulated down the sides of the quilt, it "has to go somewhere". In other words, it all ends up at the bottom. In this case, pleats were needed to remove the excess fabric --- and that's never the best approach.

Please resist the urge to sit down and sew your borders onto your quilt top without taking a few simple measurements first! You will stretch the edges of your quilt top, and you will end up with wavy borders , guaranteed! When you have wavy borders, your quilt is much harder to quilt, it won't lay flat on a bed or table, and it won't look right hanging on a wall. Just a little bit of extra measuring at this stage will save you a lot of frustration later.

We will be following that old advice "Measure twice, and cut once". You don't want to make any mistakes here. First, make sure your quilt center has been neatly pressed, and that all seam allowances are flat on the back. Lay your quilt on a large flat surface (a floor comes in handy here, but a large table is even better!) and use a metal tape measure. Lay the tape measure on the quilt in the center, measuring from top to bottom. Make a note of this measurement. This is the number you will use to cut two of your side strips to the proper length.

Use your tape measure to see how this center measurement differs from the measurement along the edge. You may be surprised to see the amount of difference between the two numbers!

Pin the two side strips to each side of the quilt, making sure the fabric is distributed evenly. Place a pin in the center, and one at each end. Then keep adding pins until you feel that all ease is distributed evenly. Sew the border strips in place. Press flat.

Now lay the tape measure in the opposite direction (going from side to side), but make sure it's in the center of the quilt, not along the edge. Make a note of this measurement. You might want to check again to see how different this center measurement is than one taken at the edge!

Cut your two remaining borders to the proper measurement, and pin as directed above, easing in any fullness.

Repeat this process for the rest of your borders, if your quilt has additional pieces.The more borders you have on your quilt, the more you will love using this method after your project is complete! I've received countless phone calls after teaching this method, and everyone of them is from someone who is now confident when it comes to this final step.  Too often we are in a hurry by the time we get to the end of the piecing process, and just want to get it done. It's worth a few extra minutes when it comes to the long life of your quilt!

No more wavy borders!