I realize I haven't posted lately and that is because lately quilting has reached the "chore" stage for me so I have to really WANT to be in there and nowhere else. I know I have mentioned my least favorite step is putting on borders. Don't know why--it just is. So the other day as I was measuring and sewing border #1 on a quilt I thought I would share my border measuring technique and how it evolved from that first quilt to today.
I learned how to quilt using a rotary cutter and quick techniques from the Eleanor Burns books and TV show. For a couple years I watched every week and sewed quite a few quilts from her books. And they all had one thing in common--the borders sucked! They rippled and puckered. Looking back, she had you cut the border the width you want and just sew it on and cut it off. Well, guess what. Side A border might end up a couple inches bigger than side B! So after a couple "unflat" quilts I tried measuring first. Well, I have never had a large sewing area big enough to lay out the quilt to measure or a measuring tape big enough so that technique left me with pretty much the same results! Then I learned somewhere to always measure through the middle of the quilt, not the edge, as the edges may be stretched. That was good advice and I stick with that on every quilt. However I soon realized that I really had no use for a "number" measurement for the border and if you measure the quilt and get a number you then have to measure the border to get the same number and that was a real pain. So I figured out that you can measure with the actual borders. I cut the borders the width I need and I use 2 border pieces (why measure one off the other when you can measure them both the same time--took me a few quilts to realize this!) . I pin them together and pin to one edge at the middle of the quilt. Since I don't have space, I smooth the top and pin every foot or so and keep going to the other edge. If it is a straight edge border, I just cut off even with the second edge of the quilt. A mitered border is just as easy. Cut the first end bias cut and start pinning to the quilt, with the short edge (the part you actually sew onto the quilt--I can't think of a name for this) at the edge. Measure through the middle and mark the end spot with a pencil or pin to show where to start cutting the second bias cut (making sure to get it going the right way!) Bingo-perfectly sized, matching borders. And a bonus with mitered borders is that you can measure and cut all 4 before you sew--with straight cut borders you have to sew the first 2, press, and measure for the second set.
Now that they are cut they have to be sewn on. Do not do it Eleanor Burns style and just start sewing! Fold the border in half and mark with a pin. If it's quite long, fold and measure the middle again. Find the middle and quarters of the quilt top also. Pin to the quilt at the ends, match and pin to the middle, and match the quarter measure if you need it. Holding the pinned places I shake a little and smooth and pin as many more times as I think I need. If it appears to need a little easing or stretching adjust between the pins as you sew and do not remove the pins until you are there. The rule of thumb with sewing is to put the larger piece on the bottom as the feed dogs will naturally ease a little, but if you are sewing a quilt top with lots of seams to a plain border you have to have the quilt top on top so you can get all the seams going the right way. As Tim Gunn says "Make it Work". Trust me, you will have a nice smooth top and the parallel borders will match.
Well, now that I have stalled my border sewing by talking about border sewing I guess I had better go sew a couple borders before Hurricane Sandy hits and we lose power!