Today, we are going “back to basics”! We will be talking about how to piece long strips together using a diagonal seam. Most often, we piece strips together for binding- because you need a looooooong continuous strip of fabric to go around all the edges of your quilt. However, you can also use this method for piecing together strips for quilt borders. If the side of your quilt is more than about 41″ long, you have 2 options: you can piece together strips which have been cut across the width of the fabric (from selvedge to selvedge, which is about 40-42″ for most quilting cottons) OR you can purchase enough fabric to cut one long continuous border along the length of the fabric (parallel to the selvedge.) While cutting the border parallel to the fabric selvedge means that there is no piecing involved, it results in a lot of leftover fabric! So, I always piece my borders.
For binding, using a diagonal seam has the bonus of distributing the bulk of the seam allowances, so you don’t end up with a big lump in your binding where you pieced your strips together.
A diagonal seam is less noticeable than a straight seam. The only time I don’t use diagonal seam is for striped fabric- the seam is much less noticeable if you just do a straight seam. You could do a diagonal seam and try to get your stripes aligned- but why bother? LOL. Notice in the photo below, that the strip with the straight seam (on the left) looks much better and less noticeable than the one with the diagonal seam (on the right)- even though the stripe repeat isn’t exactly lined up in the photo on the left.
So here is how I piece fabric strips with diagonal seams:
Cut the strips from the width of the fabric (selvedge to selvedge), adding 1/2″ to the desired border width. So, for example, if you want your borders to be 4″ wide in your finished quilt, cut them 4 1/2″ wide. (You can leave the selvedges on for now, we will trim them later.)
Your cutting mat, with measurement grid, is your best friend for this process! Place a fabric strip on the mat RIGHT SIDE UP, with the edge of fabric lined up on one of the horizontal cutting lines.
Now place another strip, WRONG SIDE UP, on top of the first strip (so the 2 strips are now Right Sides Together), and line it up along one of the vertical cutting lines. Let those selvedges hang over the edges a bit.
To keep the strips from falling off the table or slipping out of place, I sometimes place something heavy on them to hold them down. (I put the weights on the ends of the strips, out of the way.)
Use a straight edge to draw a line from corner to corner where the strips overlap- you will be drawing a line with a 45 degree angle.
Carefully pin the strips together, making sure that the fabrics are still lined up on the cutting mat lines. I like to set my pins back away from the line, so they don’t get in the way while I’m sewing. Make sure that you pin well- due to the weight of those long strips, it’s very easy for them to wiggle out of place! It is crucial that the strips are perfectly perpendicular to each other (90 degree angle).
Sew on the line.
Open up the strip to make sure that it is straight and that the edges of the two strips are well aligned at the seam.
Trim away the excess fabric, including the selvedges and little “dog ears.” Be sure to leave a 1/4″ seam allowance for borders, and about 3/8″ for binding.
For borders, press the seam allowance to one side. For binding, press the seam open (this will result in less bulk at the area of your seam in the binding.)
Piece together as many strips as you need until you get the required length. For borders, cut to the correct length after you’ve pieced them together.
That’s it! Easy peasy, right?
never thought of joining borders this way how silly am I as I do the binding using this technique. Thanks for sharing
Such great directions , thanks alot@
Thank you! I now ‘get’ how to piece together along the diagonal. Struggled with this before seeing this video.
Is it considered wrong to sew two or more pieces of fabric together to make the top and bottom sashing strips as well as the sides?
Thank you for sharing this post!
I have done it both ways, for me, it depends on the quilt itself and how wide the borders are and how much fabric I have.
Along with how to make perfectly pieced borders, could you please discuss with the quilters how to measure their borders strips correctly.. As a longarm quilter I see this done incorrectly so often. It makes a much more difficult job for me and a much less than nicely done job for them. Love your web site.
Hi Becky- where do you encounter the problem? Are the borders “wavy” because they are not measuring across the center of the quilt?
Yes , I come across this problem all the time. Borders just sewn on and not measured and cut to fit. Makes wavy borders a nightmare to quilt. Xx
Always a pleasure when someone comes up with what in effect, is a really great, but simple idea- that no-one ever thought of before! Ha! This is one of them! Thanks for sharing Jacquelynne – this will definitely now play a part in my borders :))
Glad you found it helpful :)
Well, have to comment here. As a longarmer, I have quilted many quilts seamed this way and IF the longarmer that you are using isn’t careful the border will stretch and make your quilt misshappen. Or she will have to work extra hard to keep the quilt square. I really do not see where you are saving any or much material. Yes it makes the seam invisable on a busy fabric but not so much if the border is a plain or stripe.
Shirley- is the problem that the borders are wavy? Could it be because they either didn’t piece using a perfect 45 degree angle, or because they didn’t measure the border correctly? My long arm quilter has never mentioned having a problem with my quilts, and I piece my borders all the time.
Here is how it saves fabric- say you have a quilt with 60″ sides and you want to cut your borders 4 1/2″ wide. You could cut it parallel to the selvedge, and you would use 18″ from the width of the fabric (4 strips x 4.5 inches). You would have to purchase about 1 5/8 yard of fabric, and have 1 5/8 yards of a 24″ wide piece of fabric left over. However, if you cut strips across the width of the fabric and piece them, you only need about 3/4 of a yard of fabric, and you would use most of it with little left over. So I think you do save fabric that way. (I hope my worked my math out correctly here! I did it quickly but I think it’s fairly accurate.)
I really appreciate your tutorials. You make everything look so easy. BTW, love the picture of Alfie in his hoodie in the snow. He doesn’t look too happy having to sit on the cold stuff – just like a kid! LOL
Awesome. It never came to mind to do the borders in this fashion. As always… you rock. Thanks for the time you give each and every one of us. Blessing to you.
I have always pieced mine, but recently, a very seasoned quilter suggested I cut the borders on the length rather than the WOF. She explained that it has less stretch. I frequently had corners begin to look bowed once the quilt sandwich was complete, even with careful pressing. It worked a charm, but I’ll try your way again too.
HI Debbie! Make sure that you have a perfect 45 degree angle- if it’s off, it can result in bowing or waves. Also, make sure that your borders are cut the correct length- measure across the center of your quilt for the length. Many people suggest measuring across the center three times and taking the average, or measuring across the center as well as both ends and averaging those three measurements to get your border length.
What fabric did you use for this tutorrial? I LOVE the print and colors!
Hi Kate! That is from Pat Sloan’s newest line called Hometown Girl for Moda. It is actually part of the fabric kit for the 2016 Free BOM, so be sure that you are on my mailing list to find out when it goes on sale in early Spring. It’s a really cute kit!!
Wow, I use this technique for bindings but great idea to use for borders as well. Thanks Jacquelynne!
I like that fabric print. By the way you went on a FAT recently and I really really liked those fabric as well! What fabrics were they, if you remember?
There are several lines represented in that pile!
Mama Said Sew- Sweetwater- Moda
Wildflowers- Alisse Courter- Camelot
Magnolia- Alisse Courter- Camelot
This is how I’ve always done it. It’s a much better look and so easy!
Great tutorial. Good visuals. Thank you for the ins and outs of making strips and borders.
thanks for this but what I rely struggle with is when the binding is on I use a double one I do not know how to join it correctly where it meets at the end and just botch it, any advice pease, maybe you could share a tutorial on this bit, thanks
Look on youtube for a binding tutorial. There are several but the one by Fons and Porter is confusing. Watch for one that makes sense to you.
Great tutorial. It is so easy now to make my binding or borders. What great information.
What a wonderfully informative tutorial! I began sewing/quilting 10+ yrs ago – made one quilt then stopped. I started quilting again 2021 but forgot many of the basic rules and techniques. Your directions are the best! I know because I watched many videos. Thank you!
Thank you, this makes borders easier for me. I’m new at quilting,
When sewing 2 strips together and it says short end. What does short end mean
Thank you. Just what my mind needed. Simple explanation with pictures.
Does it use more fab. to pc on diag or across short end?