Ask Jinny!

Is there a trick to attaching borders to a quilt with bias edges?

  • I am relatively new to quilting. Recently I tried a small quilt with squares on point. All the outside edges are on the bias, so when I try to attach the 2 borders, I am finding the quilt stretches. Is there a trick to attaching borders on a quilt with bias edges?  I did measure the quilt from the middle, yet this still doesn't seem to work.

    Submitted by:
    Nova Scotia, Canada

Jinny's Answer

  • Carolyn’s question is a common one because bias edges can be stretchy.  Here are several techniques to try.

    1)    Avoid having bias edges on the outside of your block or quilt.
    Block showing bias edgesThis is actually very easy: to minimize stretching, make sure that outside edges are on the cross-wise or lengthwise grain of the fabric.

    Let’s look at this simple block (the arrows indicate the crosswise or lengthwise grain of fabric.)

    If you cut a square in half on the diagonal once (Square A), the long side is a bias edge. Cut this way, you’ll be sewing the two triangles in A together on the bias edges, but that seam will be inside the block; the outside edges will have minimal stretch.

    If you cut a square in half on the diagonal twice (Square B), you can see that the two short sides will be on the bias, but the long side that will be on the outside of the patch will be on grain.

    Carolyn, in your situation, you want to make sure that the long side of your setting triangles (which will be on the outside of your quilt top) are not cut on the bias. If you want to cut the setting triangles from a square, you need to cut the appropriate size square twice on the diagonal as in Square B and above and as shown below.


    2)    Take care when handling bias edges.
    You can’t avoid bias edges all the time. If your patch or block has bias edges, take care when piecing and pressing.  Use a light touch. Some quilters suggest avoiding steam when pressing. Although I don’t personally use starch, many quilters advocate starching fabric before cutting to minimize stretching. (Only use starch if you plan to wash the quilt after finishing it; starch can attract pests if left in the fabric.)

    3)    Ease to fit.
    As you’ve discovered, when a quilt top has many bias pieces on the outside, the edges of a quilt top can be longer than the measurements through the middle of the quilt. To avoid borders that “ruffle”, you need to cut them to middle-of-quilt measurements. This means you may end up with border strips that are slightly shorter than the quilt edge. When you sew the borders on, the quilt edges will have to be eased back to their proper size.
    Follow these steps:

    • Working with the border on top, pin the mid-point of one of the borders to the middle of one of the edges of the quilt.
    • Now, fold both the quilt top and the border strip in half (separately) to find the mid-point of each and pin those together.
    • Continue finding the mid-points between pins and pinning them together. It may take lots of pins, but this is the best way I’ve found to ease in the fullness.