Friday, October 14, 2016

Tutorial: How to Add a Mitered Border to Your Quilt

There are times when a quilt really benefits from a mitered border, instead of a border with butted or cornerstone corners.  It takes a little more time to do miters, but the effort can really pay off.  It is NOT HARD, just a little slower to accomplish than plain borders.

Sometimes it's the fabric you've selected for your border that tells you to miter.  A stripe or a border print really looks good mitered.  Here are the steps I took this week to add a striped fabric to my   Circa 2016 quilt.

1. Measure the quilt top in both directions:

This was 52" x 43" including seam allowances.

2. Carefully cut the borders exactly the same size in width and placement of the lines.  This almost certainly has to be done one layer at a time to be sure all four borders are the same. I placed the 2.25" mark on my ruler on a specific line on the striped fabric--this is the center of the border.  I cut four borders, 4.5" wide each, 2.25" away from the center line in both directions.  Now the borders have the stripes exactly the same. The longest border I needed was 52" + 8" = 60" so the 2 yards (72") I had of this stripe was plenty.  I did not cut the borders to exact size before sewing.  Some people do, but I wait until the borders are sewn in place to make the final cut to size--insurance in case I measured incorrectly--it happens...

3.  Fold the border in the middle, mark the middle, and mark the outside measurement on both ends--here is the 52" border, marked at 26" and at the outer ends:

4. Do the same thing with other border, 43" is marked at both ends and 21.5" in the middle.

5. Pin the first border to the quilt, pinning at the middle and precisely at each end.  Use as many pins as you need to ease the border/quilt to fit each other:

This shows the back side of the border, where the mark on the border is lined up with the outside edge of the quilt.  I pinned and sewed with the quilt side up so I could see the Half Square Triangles (HST).

6. Start and end the seam 1/4" from both outside edges:

7.  Add all four borders in the same manner, starting and stopping 1/4" in from the outside edge of the quilt.

8.  When all four borders are in place, you will mark the 45 degree miter line with a pencil.  Carefully fold a corner of the quilt so two borders are exactly on top of each other and the quilt is folded at the seam where you started/stopped sewing:

Both borders sewn, from the back

Both borders sewn, from the front

If you have a triangle ruler, now is a good time to use it.  Line up the ruler with the start/stop stitches where the quilt joins the border and the bottom edge, keeping everything in line:

If you don't have a triangle ruler, any ruler with a 45 degree line will work:

Pencil line drawn carefully from start to finish:

I pin and check that the border lines are precisely lined up, this looks good so I'm ready to sew:

9.  Starting at the top where the quilt is joined to the border, sew with a few back stitches, being sure you don't go inside the seam allowance.  Any stitches that go inside the seam allowance will cause a small pucker--you'll want to remove any of those stitches.  Sewn and ready to trim:

10.  Carefully trim the seam.  I cut this slightly larger than 1/4", but 1/4" is fine if you prefer.  Press the seams open and admire how precisely you sewed your borders:

Lather, rinse, repeat with the other three borders.  Your quilt looks great!

Here is mine:

And, because someone will ask, the top border is wider because I did not cut the selvedge off when I cut the fourth border.  It will be trimmed off when the quilt is finished and I am squaring it up for binding.

Just a NOTE:  if you have multiple fabrics in your border, make "border fabric" first before joining the borders to the quilt.  Here is a striped border that I didn't worry about matching at the corners and an inner narrow black border.  The black fabric was sewn to the striped fabric before I marked, pinned, and sewed the borders to the quilt.  I only want to miter four times/quilt. not eight or twelve or however many borders you have on the quilt:

I hope you learned a trick or two here.  If so, please share this with all your quilt-y friends.  It can seem like no one is reading these posts out there in cyber-land!

Let's quilt!



  1. Thank you Barbara for the tutorial. I have not yet attempted to do a mitered border, but do love them.

  2. Thank you ! I alway struggle with mitered corners. I'm sure this will help.
    your quilt looks great.

  3. I do love your tutorials and I share them with my quilting friends. We are loyal followers out here in cyber land! you always show me how I should be doing something instead of the hit or miss way that I tend to do it.

  4. Thank you Barbara for your great step by step tutorial. I love seeing mitred corners on borders but struggle to get them right. Your tips and photos of the steps will help immensely. I love your Circa 2016 quilt, I am still working on mine.

    1. Thanks--please tell your friends--I try to put out clear info that will really help quilters improve their skills.

  5. Really great tutorial! I am saving this, and hopefully will get up the courage to try it sometime soon - you made it look easy!

  6. this actually makes sense! i will try it on a civil war quilt that's in the queue. thank you ;)

  7. Great info for me. Never tried a mitered border.....relatively new to quilting. I was so surprised to see which quilt you were working with, since I did it with your posts each Friday. Kept up weekly and am ready to put it together once I finish binding 6 quilts made for donations. Being able to put a "face" to the posts is fun. Thanks again.

  8. Love this tutorial! I would like one clarification please. The extra 8" that you added to the strips, is that the width of the finished two ends of the border? If so, do we not need to take into account the inner seam allowance of the border fabric for the farthest ends to meet or is there enough fabric anyway? I'm a little rusty on that math. Thanks!

    1. Lisa, yes, the 8" is the two 4" borders. The 52" includes the 1/4" seam allowance on the quilt. BUT I would never cut just the measurement--the shortest I would cut is 53" to have a little fudge factor if needed. On this one I just worked with the 72" length of fabric I had and trimmed the excess off at the end. That excess goes in my 4"-5" shoebox of leftover pieces. Thanks for asking--math can never be too clear for quilters!

  9. Thank you, now the dimensions make sense.

  10. Thank you so much . I love mitered corners .

  11. Thanks to The Quilt Show,I read it and it was very good. Great pictures and directions.
    I think this is one of those things you can never see too often.

  12. Thank you! Your tutorial is straightforward & makes sense. I've bookmarked it for future reference!