Mitering borders on quilts: tutorial

Side-by-Side Hearts quilt border
“Side-by-Side Hearts” quilt border from
The Border Workbook

Your quilt top is done and it’s time to add borders. It’s the beginning of the end! But deciding how to border a quilt can be a challenge. From simple to showy, there are as many choices for quilt borders as there are quilt blocks. So many choices, in fact, that many quilters lose steam at this stage of the quiltmaking process. Instead, they add another few pounds of quilt top to the UFO pile.

But borders don’t have to be a chore, and they certainly don’t have to be boring. Whether you’re looking for easy or extravagant results, ideas for quilt borders abound. The quickest choice? Straight-cut borders, like this:

Example of straight-cut quilt border
Example from Simple Style

Then there are fancy pieced quilt-border ideas, like these:

Examples of pieced quilt borders
Examples from Perfect-Fit Pieced Borders

But there’s one border style that’s nestled between plain and fancy—one that can give a refined look to a quilt without much effort. Surprisingly, it involves a technique that many quilters aren’t familiar with: mitering borders on quilts.

Examples of mitered quilt borders
Examples of mitered borders from
Just around the Corner, Eye-Catching Quilts, and Quilt Batik!

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to miter quilt borders, read on. First, find out how to border a quilt—without wavy, puckered edges—by taking a few basic measurements. Then, discover how to make mitered corners on a quilt so that you can give a polished finish to any quilt you create.


How to Border a Quilt: Measuring Your Quilt Top
Excerpted from Borders by Design (get the eBook for $4.79, this week only)

Borders by DesignSuppose you’ve made a quilt from a pattern, and you know how big it’s supposed to be. Before you add borders, measure your quilt top anyway! Don’t assume that your piecing is perfect.

Use a metal, retractable tape measure to find the length and width through the middle of the quilt. These numbers will be your cutting lengths.

Always cut your borders to match the quilt top’s length and width measurements, and then make the edges  fit the border. Simply cutting a long strip, sewing it to the quilt, and trimming the excess length results in wavy edges, skewed corners, and a quilt that is longer on one side than the other. If one side of the quilt is slightly longer than the other, the time to correct it is before the border is applied.

Measuring for quilt borders

Cut both side borders the same length, and make the quilt top fit them by easing or gently stretching the quilt top where necessary. Cut strips for the top and bottom borders equal to the quilt’s width measurement, and make the top fit the borders. If two sides vary in length by more than ¾", find a place to correct it in the piecing of the quilt.


Mitering Borders on Quilts
Excerpted from Borders by Design

Before adding a border, be certain each corner of the quilt top is absolutely square. A skewed corner is the most common problem quilters encounter when adding mitered borders. Check your corners with a Bias Square ruler or drafting triangle.

Square up quilt corners

When cutting strips for a mitered border, it’s a good idea to cut them extra long. To determine the cut length for mitered border strips, add two border widths plus 6″.

Calculating quilt border strip length

1. With wrong side up, place a dot at each corner of the quilt, ¼" from each raw edge.

2. Fold the quilt edge in half and mark the center point with a pencil or safety pin.

3. Use a tape measure to find the distance between the center mark and the corner dot. Write down that number.

Marking a quilt top for borders

4. Fold the border in half and mark the center point with a pencil or safety pin.

5. Measure from the center mark to one end and mark the exact measurement found in step 3. Mark the same distance to the other end.

Quilt top measurement

6. Pin the borders to the quilt edges, matching corresponding center marks and corner dots.

7. Sew a border to one long side of the quilt, beginning and ending exactly at the dots. Lockstitch at the dots. Press the seam toward the border. Add the remaining long border in the same manner.

Stitch the border to the quilt

8. Sew the short borders to the short edges of the quilt, beginning and ending the stitching at the corner dots. The stitching on adjoining border strips should meet but not cross at the corner dot. Adjust if necessary, and then press the seam toward the border.

Lockstitch at corners

9. Now miter the tails. Working on your ironing surface, lay one corner of the quilt top right side up. Fold the quilt diagonally so that the edge of the top border lines up with the edge of the side border and the corner forms a 45˚ angle. Align the long edges of the tails exactly, right sides together.

10. Keeping the tails aligned, open the quilt top, folding the top tail at a right angle. Pin to the ironing board to hold in place. Check the angle with a Bias Square ruler or drafting angle. The outside corner should be exactly 90˚, and the diagonal should be exactly 45˚. Press the fold firmly. Pin tails together.

Press and pin mitered corner

11. Fold the quilt, aligning the top and side borders as before. Stitch exactly along the fold in the border, from inner point to outer edge. Lockstitch at both ends. Check angles and corner again before trimming seam to ¼". Repeat on the other corners.

Stitch on crease

TIP: When the fold is in exactly the right place, tape the fold in place with masking tape. Open the fold, creasing the masking tape, and stitch in the fold line. Remove the masking tape immediately.

Use masking tape on mitered corners


How do you typically border your quilts—do you use the same technique every time, or does it depend on the quilt design? Share your border story in the comments!

Find more ideas for finishing your quilts in these books—all 40% off this week only:


16 Comments (leave a comment)

  • Love the tutorial! I might actually try another mitered edge!

    I usually sew the edge, then turn right side out. This is quick and easy for table runners. It also works when corners are not square. Definitely does not work with thick batting, alas.

    —Lynne on January 14, 2013
  • Great tutorial. Thank you.

    Just Around the Corner is a great book for borders too!

    SewCalGal
    http://www.sewcalgal.blogspot.com

    SewCalGal on January 14, 2013
  • Well, I guess that’s not as hard as it seams! Next wall hanging, I’m going to give that a try!
    Thanks!

    —Sheila Craft on January 14, 2013
  • bordering quilts depends on the quilt pattern, how much of what fabric i have, how ambitious i am. so, i do what strikes my fancy … but usually follow the pattern, unless going borderless would make a better size. or subbing for a mitered corner because it would look better with the way i’ll quilt it. have saved the tute, thank you. much better than sewing the borders on, leaving flaps, folding the two sides togther, fronts facing, and sewing the corner flaps together, following the line of the fold to the corner … have been lucky doing this so haphazzardly. they look o.k., lay flat. but, i know better now!

    ritainalaska on January 14, 2013
  • So far I’ve used straight borders. This tutorial sounds worth the time to try. I like the look of mitered borders, I just haven’t had the confidence to try them. Thank your for the tutorial.

    —Diane Wright on January 14, 2013
  • This is timely! I’m working on a top with mitered borders, but miscalculated the lenghts. I don’t have more fabric to recut the short pieces, and thought about cutting down the inner border to make what I have work, but am also contemplating adding a pieced center square to the top and bottom borders, which will give me the extra width to miter the corners. The fabric has a lenghtwise stripe. If you have other suggestions, please let me know!

    —Maryellen on January 14, 2013
  • No, I don’t always put borders on quilts. (I already won Quilts without Borders, thank you again.) I’m struggling with one now that needs to be bigger and I have the fabrics, but getting them to turn the corners as I envision just hasn’t happened yet. A very constipated quilt!

    —Claudia on January 14, 2013
  • It really depends on the quilt. Sometimes, my binding is my border. If the quilt is king size, I add an inch border, to "pull or hold" it together. If it’s a normal double or queen pieced top, my borders can be anywhere from 2 to 3 inches around. Borders, to me, are a way to show off the pieced top, not to make a bigger with borders quilt.

    Keep smiling,

    Lynnita Shipman on January 14, 2013
  • It depends if I just want to frame the quilt or add a fun design. On fun designs, I like checker board borders or applique.

    —Marsha Nelson on January 15, 2013
  • I have made fancy borders, but the quilt has to be needing the fancy border. That means it is plan and needs the "pop". It also takes more fabric to make mitered corners and often makes little difference in the finished border. I leave mitered to picture size quilts. Besides, it is more fun to add special blocks to the corners or make the inside quilt, become part of the border.

    —Linda C on January 15, 2013
  • Thanks! This was just what I need to do my borders and mitered corners on my daughter’s wedding quilt.

    —Diane Q on January 24, 2014
  • When you are figuring fabric needed for mitered corners, does it always stay 6in for the ‘tails’, even if you are using a larger (10 in) border?

    —Barb on March 10, 2014
  • I haven’t been quilting long so I’ve only quilted 2. I’m still in the learning phase. Planning on metered corner for the next quilt.

    —Domaris Foss on July 1, 2014
  • I have mitered a few, especially when I have a chevron/striped border. It is a little tricky to match, but definitely the way to go with that kind of border! For baby quilts, I have used straight borders and curved the corners around a plate or saucer, and put the binding on without "sharp" corners: much softer look for a baby!

    —Carol S on July 14, 2014
  • Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial!

    —Hooly on June 30, 2015
  • I am using your instructions for my first mitered corners. I have made many quilts but i wanted to try mitering.
    These instructions are easy to follow.
    Thank you very much.

    —Barbara A. Grabert on October 29, 2016

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