Adding quilt borders can be an effective way to frame a quilt top and make it feel more complete. But then when it comes time to quilt your project, you might wonder, “How do I quilt the border?”
We’ll give you a few ideas for machine or free-motion quilting borders, coming from our Midnight Quilt Show star Angela Walters. By then, you’ll have plenty of ideas for making your borders stand out.
There are really no rules when it comes to machine or free-motion quilting border, but these tips can help you get started.
1. Take it easy with an all-over design
There’s no rule that says you must quilt your border differently from the rest of your quilt. If you don’t want to draw attention to the border or if you just want to keep your quilting simple, use an all-over design that extends through the border. That’s what Angela did in her Color Crystals quilt, and we love how it ties the border to the patchwork.
2. Try sketching
If you’re a visual person, try sketching out your designs first. With practice, you’ll become more confident in what border designs you like and which ones you probably won’t repeat. Until then, drawing out your design.
You can sketch your design on paper or draw directly on your quilt. If you do draw on your quilt, just be sure to use a marker that will wash away! For even more precision, you can use stencils or rulers as well.
3. Mark a few guidelines
To best space out your border design, first mark a diagonal line through each corner, and another line in the center of each border. You can use these marks to make sure the lines you trace or quilt are centered along the quilt border.
4. Draw the eye in
You can use your border quilting to move the eye from the edges of the quilt to the center. Choose a design that naturally points inward. In Angela’s Frequency quilt, many of the wavy lines in the border originate on the edge and radiate in toward the piecing, pointing you to the most interesting part of the quilt.
5. Vary the density
If your quilt has multiple borders, how can you make them stand out from one another? Take a cue from Angela’s Carpenter’s Star quilt. This quilt includes two borders: The skinny green border and the colorful pieced borders.
Notice how the quilting on the green border is less dens than the quilting on the outer border, but not so much that one looks completely bare. Varying the density of your quilting is a good way to add interest to your next quilted project.
6. Use more than one design
If you are quilting a pieced border, don’t feel limited to just one design. For example, in her Strip City Quilt, Angela’s geometric piecing includes a little ribbon candy, which brings a light and airy feel to the otherwise sharp quilting.
Varying your quilting pattern from block to block takes practice, and a good tip is to do plenty of sketching with a pen and paper beforehand until you get comfortable drawing the free-motion shapes.
7. Let the piecing shine
If your border includes piecing, a too busy quilting design can distract from the patchwork. To let the piecing take the spotlight, keep the quilting to a minimum. For her Fruit Slices quilt, Angela simply stitched in the ditch on the border. And that means the colorful fabrics and her quilting in the body of the quilt really shine.
What’s your go-to machine quilting design for borders? Do you prefer an allover quilting design or something that stands out?
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and was updated in March 2018.