How to  MITER a quilt border

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Measure quilt in the center (yellow arrows).  You will get a more accurate measurement. 

You MUST measure your quilt across the centers to get an accurate measure for borders.  If you measure around the edges, which may be stretched, you will have ripple borders... 

Let us "pretend" that this is a very large quilt on the left!  Take the measurements of the quilt. 

Determine how wide  you want your border to be. 

For the length to cut your strips:

Add the length of  the center
add the width of the strips twice, then 
add several inches for extra measure. Trust me, add the extra!

For example... if your quilt is 80 inches, and your border is 4  inches wide, (finish 3.5) 

80 + 4 + 4 + extra 3" that is 91 inches for the length. Do the same for the width. 


You will match up the pins on the border with the pins on the quilt, even if there is some gaping in either. 
Now take that center measurement for for your quilt and divide in half.

Find the center of your border you cut by folding it  in half.  Put a pin there. 

Take the measurement you got by dividing the quilt length in half, them measure from the center of the border out to each end and mark at that amount.  Put a pin there. 

Bring the pin at the end to the center and put a pin at the fold (quarter measurement) 

Fold the quilt into half then fourths and pin each fold.

This will ensure that the borders don't "stretch" when you sew to the quilt. It also keeps the outside edge of the quilt from rippling if the outside edges are longer than the center of  the quilt. 

The border fabric has to extend beyond the quilt at least the width of your strips, plus your "extra" fabric.
Pin the border to the quilt top matching the pins, and aligning the outside edge of the border and edge of the quilt.  After matching the pins, put more pins in between.  I know a lot of quilters just start at the top of the quilt with border laid loose on the quilt top, put the pedal to the floor and start to sew to the end.  The problem with this is you don't have any control over how much fabric gets put onto each border.  You may end up with two inches more border on one side than the opposite one. Plus, you usually end up with ripples in your borders this way because the feed dogs gather up more fabric on the border if it is on the bottom of the sewing bed. If you measure and pin, your border will fit perfectly.

You gave yourself extra length in the strip, and you should have more hanging over the edges than the width of your border.  (See lower left in photo). 


Ease in any fullness in the quilt as you sew to the pinned borders.  You can do this easily by placing the piece with the fullness (border or quilt)  on the bottom.  If there isn't a great deal of extra fabric, the feed dogs of your sewing machine will take up the fullness.  It helps to "grip' the border fabric and hold back if there is a lot of fullness.  The feed dogs of your machine will pull in the extra fullness.  On the sides of the quilt ONLY, start sewing at the top edge all the way to the bottom. Do this for both side borders 

(only the side pieces will be sewn all the way to the edges.  The top and bottom you will do differently.)

Yes, I know most instructions will tell you to start and stop 1/4" away, but I like this way because it helps  you line up the next stitching line.

Now if you have a lot of points to make sure you sew over properly on the outside edge of your quilt, you will probably want to put the quilt on top so you can see where you are sewing. Ease in the fullness if you have any with a stiletto. 

Now for the top and bottom borders, measure off the quilt top and bottom with pins just like the sides for the border and quilt.

Pin the top and bottom borders in place, matching the pins  and aligning the outside edges. Make sure that the top and bottom borders  extend  the "border width" "and the extra"  beyond the side borders like before. This assures that you have enough fabric for your miter.

If it doesn't, you measured wrong!


You will start sewing differently on the top and bottom borders of the quilt.  This is  where that "stitching to the first edge" comes in handy.

Push both the top and bottom seam allowances toward the border.  Squiggle your fingers in the seam so it is perfectly flat. 

Now you will start to sew on the quilt side 1/4" in from the right edge.  Remember,  EXACTLY where the stitching is!  Do not sew into the seam allowance or your miter will not lay right.

I lock my stitching by setting my stitch length to zero and taking several stitches in one place.  Then slowly increase the stitch length while sewing until it is normal.

Or you could just take one backstitch, whatever you are comfortable with, but don't back stitch  into the seam allowance. 

When you get to the bottom edge, you will stop sewing EXACTLY where the stitching is.  Do NOT sew into the seam allowance. 

Before you get to the end seam, put your fingers in there and squiggle the seam around to make sure the seam is flat.

Stop sewing exactly where the stitching is... do NOT sew onto the seam allowance.
It should look like this where your two borders meet. 

The stitching from the top border does not run into the side border.  both ends beyond the stitching are loose. Since you didn't sew onto the seam allowances, your borders are loose after the stitching ends

If your  miter corners do  NOT look like this, it is wrong!

Press the seams toward the quilt and smooth out the loose ends so that the TOP and BOTTOM strips overlap on top of the side strips.

IMPORTANT: the top and bottom seams, the seams that that you  DID NOT sew to the ends of,  are the ones you MUST fold under to mark your miters. 

If you use the side borders to fold under to mark the miters, the stitching that went to the ends will  give you a wrong stitch starting point.  Fold under the top of the quilt  and the bottom of the quilt borders only!

Grab the end of the top border strip and fold it under and around so the the sides align with the strip under it. 

This is why you want extra fabric in the length, otherwise, you would not have enough extra to align.

(If you use the method of sewing to the ends on the side borders, you always want to "miter" the top of the quilt  and bottom of the quilt borders! The "stitching to the end" on the side borders will give you wrong place to start your miter stitching since you sewed all the way to the end.)


The borders will align and that forms your angle to sew on. 

Press the crease.  Make sure it lays nice and flat. This is your 45 degree angle.

You will use the crease as a sewing guide.

Fold the quilt on the diagonal and smooth out the strips so they lay flat and the sides are aligned. 

You want to be sure that the top and under seams of the strips  are pushed  toward the quilt. 

Squiggle in the area where the two borders meet with your finger to make sure the fabrics are snug in the corner and one seam isn't higher than the other.  Pull it, tug it, squiggle it... make it snug.  This is probably the most critical step for a good miter!!

You will start to sew right where the stitching from the border stopped.  (red arrow)

An alternate way to make the 45 degree seam line is to fold your quilt on the diagonal and line up a ruler with the diagonal fold, extending the ruler into the border.  Draw your sewing line with a very sharp pencil as close to the ruler as you can get it.  That will be your sewing line.

Make sure your borders align on top of each other. If your quilt is a rectangle, the top edges will not meet (1) when you fold it on the diagonal, but your borders (2) must line up on the sides to get the correct angle. 

However, if your quilt is very large, this will be hard to do. The crease method will work much better.

This ruler method would work okay for a small wall quilt or if miter bordering quilt blocks. 

In order to have the crease on top to use as a guide, you will sew the  quilt right side  miter from the quilt to the outside of the border, and the quilt left side miter from the outside of the border to the quilt.  It will all end up the same but to have the crease on top to follow, you will have sew them that way. 

No matter which direction you sew in, you want to be sure that the top and bottom * border seams * are pushed  toward the quilt.

Once again, squiggle in the area where the two strips met with your finger to make sure the fabrics are snug in the corner and one seam isn't higher than the other.  Pull it, tug it, squiggle it... make it snug.  This is probably the most critical step for a good miter!!

In sewing from the quilt to the outside edge, you want to start sewing exactly where the stitching ends from the borders and  sew  on the 45 degree crease or pencil line to the outside edge.

When sewing from the quilt to the outside edge of the border, lock the stitching by putting your needle down into the fabric exactly where the stitching from sewing on the borders ends.  Take several stitches on zero stitch length, then increase the stitch length as you sew until it is normal.

You can  backstitch, but I always seem to stitch into the border seam allowance and you DO NOT want to stitch into the seam allowance of the border.  Your miter will be goofed up if you do.

In sewing from the outside edge to the inside edge,  Backstitch at the outside edge, sew on the 45 degree angle made by the crease or pencil line toward the quilt and border seams.  When you get exactly to the stitching from the border seams, backstitch to lock the thread.  That is an easy one to backstitch. 

Trim seam 1/4" away from the stitching. 
Press the seams toward the strips and press the miter in one direction or open, which ever you prefer. 
Square up and trim your block.

Now, just try to tell me that is hard to do!  Hugh, hard or easy???

Miters are easy as can can be... do not be afraid... do not be afraid!!!

Now, I think I will stuff this little quilt and use it for a pillow at the summer house! 

(this is a Hoffman fabric that I just love. I have shorts and tank top made from it, I made some small quilts from it, and have yards and yards to use "someday" in a large quilt.)

Want to know how I made the "quilt" from one block?  I opened a new WWW page and picked the single quilt block above, tiled it for my "background" and then took a "screen shot" using a graphic program.  The background  tiled it like a quilt.  You could do the same by right clicking in windows on the single block graphic and in the drop down menu, click, "set as wallpaper". Set it to "tile" and you will have quilted wallpaper for your widows desktop!  And through the magic of computer art, I can turn one little finished block into a whole quilt...
Now, go and miter some quilt borders... don't tell me you "can't"... I don't even want to hear it...
See Jinny Beyer's tips for using border prints to frame a quilt or block. Can only be done with miters!!!

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