Piecing border strips on the diagonal

So often, to save fabric expense, we purchase our border fabric intending to piece strips.  I find myself doing this more often now that I’ve learned how to do it successfully.

What does “successfully” mean?  To me that means the end border strip lies flat and square, without bulk in the seams, or waves along it’s path.  It’s not hard to do, but you have to pay attention to detail to attain results (but then what doesn’t that apply to?).

I thought I’d share with you, my readers, my method for piecing border strips on the diagonal.  I am sure it is not the only method, and if you are right handed,  you may need to work in the opposite direction, as I am left-handed and my instructions will be left-handed.  Yes, I can wield a rotary cutter right-handed, but I can’t hold a marking tool right-handed!

The first thing you must do is to press your fabric before you start.  If you wish to use sizing or starch to add some stiffness to your fabric (this is on the diagonal) you can, but these photos were taken on fabric that has been pre-washed and has not had sizing added to it.

After you press your fabric, cut your strips.  For this quilt, I wanted a 4″ finished border, so I cut 4-1’2″ strips.  Note, I did not cut them to exact length, but full WOF (width of fabric) cuts.  I will cut the pieced border down to size when I am ready to apply it to the quilt.  This tutorial is only on piecing the strips.

Your next step is to align the fabric strips RST (right sides together).  To do this, I use the markings on my cutting mat to place my strips at perfectly square alignment.  (this is really important, if your strips are not exactly perpendicular to each other, your border WILL have a wave in it).

Notice, both horizontally and vertically the fabric strips are aligned along inch markings on my mat.

I then PIN these pieces together.  I have found that by putting pins in all 4 sides the fabric doesn’t shift when I am either marking it or stitching on it.

I do put my pins with the heads in the corners I will not be stitching by.  That keeps me from accidentally running over a pinhead while I am stitching. (not that I’d ever do that, but sometimes…………)

I then use my ruler to mark my stitching line.

Align the ruler on the diagonal, lining up the corners.  Use the 45degree line on your ruler to make sure you have a 45degree diagonal stitching line.  This is also extremely important, if your stitching line isn’t 45 degrees, you will be adding excess fabric to your border, making it either wave or full and not flat.

I use an air-erasable marker to mark my stitch line along the ruler’s edge:

Now we will move to the sewing machine to sew our diagonal seam.  When I am sewing the diagonal seam, I align my needle with the side of the line that was ALONG THE RULER EDGE.  I do not sew in the center of the line, but along the edge of the line.

My stitching line, notice my pins have not yet been removed.  My stitching line is on the diagonal and doesn’t wobble.

Next I trim my seam allowance to 1/4″, removing the pins before I cut.

At this point, I like to trim off the dog ears on my corners.

Open your border and press your seam allowance:

Notice how you have no bulk, or dog-ears in the seam allowance:

If you follow these steps, your diagonally pieced borders will lie straight and square, and flat.  Cutting them to length is another post, for another day.

These steps don’t take long to do, it took me longer to write this tutorial than it took to make all 4 of my borders this morning while taking pics of each step.  And I promise you, if you take the time to line up, pin, mark and sew, you will be happy with your border strips.

16 thoughts on “Piecing border strips on the diagonal

  1. Thanks so much. As you know, I really needed this help. I diagonal piece the bindings, but never thought about doing the borders that way.

  2. Judy ~ thanks for the tutorial ~ it is very clear and straightforward.
    I was wondering if I could use a printout of your tutorial for a demonstration I am giving on borders for my guild ~ the Quilting Diva’s of Swedesboro, NJ.
    Our guild is a small, education-based group that has been in existence about 6 months. We meet once a month.
    Thanks for your help!

    1. Eileen,

      Feel free to use it for your guild in NJ. Your guilds website looks great! A fun-loving looking bunch of quilters!


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: