Marking Border Quilting Designs

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Since Joyce asked, here’s a short tutorial about fitting border quilting designs when marking a quilt. This is the Swanky quilt, which is about 24″ x 29″ and the border stencil is 2″ wide. For a first try at this method of border marking, use a small-ish quilt, so that the borders aren’t really long. Here’s my slap-dash method for border marking:

Mark a 45° diagonal line in each border corner, and a line in the middle of each side.

Lay the stencil on the border (start with a short side on the quilt) to get a guesstimate idea about how the design will fit. This stencil came pretty close to fitting well on this border, but the stencil was just a bit to short to really fill the space from the diagonal line to the middle line on the border.

Start marking in the center of the border, centering one of the stencil motifs on the center line you drew on the border. Mark the first “repeat” of the stencil design.

Since the stencil is actually a bit short to fill this space, I moved the stencil about 1/16″ to the right (toward the corner) before marking the next repeat, to add in some length to the design so that it will fill the space better. You can see in this picture how much the stencil was moved after each repeat was marked. The design will now fill the space and turn the corner in a visually pleasing way.

To mark the longer side, lay the stencil on the border and match the corner design at the diagonal line.

Take a look at where the stencil design will fall at the middle line of the border, and decide how best to mark the design so that it flows well and looks continuous. In the example, the design ends at a fairly odd spot, kind of in the middle of the repeat.

To fit the border, the design will either need to be lengthened the same way it was for the first side, or shorten the design by about the same amount. Since the design was lengthened on the first side, do the same for the second side, to keep things as consistent as possible. The design will not meet in the center of the longer side of the quilt at the same place as it did on the short side, but as long as the design flows together, it’s not a problem.

Begin marking at the corner and mark toward the center line, moving the stencil toward the center line slightly between each design repeat. I moved the stencil about 1/8″ between each repeat this time, so that the design would fill the longer space and end at a logical place in the middle of the border.

To fill in the blank spaces from the stencil and connect all the lines, make the lines flow together smoothly, redrawing them slightly if necessary. Mark all the borders of the quilt so that they match and the design flows continuously around the quilt.

Want more? Pepper Cory explains her method in her book Mastering Quilt Marking, which is a bit more technical and involved and includes drafting on paper before putting marker to the quilt top. Even so, as she says, there’s no magic formula for marking the borders perfectly, but no one will notice slight dissimilarities in the pattern repeats of the border. This great book is probably out of print, but you can still find it through the Amazon Marketplace and other online sources.

I hope this is helpful to you the next time you need to mark a border for quilting. If you have anything to add or another method to share, leave a comment!

Nadine Quilting smiley from

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