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Rippled Borders

Sandra Hatch

Help Needed for Rippled Borders

Daryl asks for advice. "I added a border on my quilt and it is rippled. Is there any way of correcting this other than taking it off?"

I don't think there is a way to avoid taking off the borders. There are ways to prevent it from happening in the first place. To begin, accurate sewing of seams is a must. Secondly, careful ironing so that pieces don't stretch is important. Finally, before cutting border strips, measure through the center of the section to which you are adding borders to find the stitched width or length. Border strips should be cut before adding to the top rather than adding them and trimming off. Cutting before sewing guarantees that the quilt will end up square.

You may still end up easing in areas when stitching if both sides of your center are not exactly the same. If this happens, use lots of pins to ease rather than pleat. There is much more to learn about this subject, but this is the short version. I typed "Adding borders to quilts" into my Google search box and got a whole list of sites with helpful hints about this topic.

Myrtis tell us: "Another reason that borders ripple is that they might be cut across the width of the fabric. The fabric width stretches more than the length. Measure the width of the quilt through the center and do the same with the length. Then cut the material along the length of the fabric after you cut off the selvage edge. That will help solve the rippling problem."

Myrtis is right. Fabric does stretch some across the width of the fabric, but it won't stretch at all along the length. Most of the time I do use fabric-width strips for borders, but when a fabric is directional, I have to cut the strips along the length of the fabric. If you prefer cutting lengthwise strips, you can cut and join them the same as for fabric width strips, if you don't mind having seams in the finished strip. If you don't like seams, then you must buy enough fabric to cut the longest strip in one length. This is a personal decision, but all the instructions in Quilter's World and our books use the fabric width method unless the fabric is directional.

Lois has a hint.
"Regarding the notes about rippling borders -- cutting the border the length of the fabric is one sure way not to get ripples. It must be the stretch in the width of the fabric that creates ripples. I have very little trouble with ripples even though I've seen several people who do.

"Be sure to measure the quilt on each side and through the middle; average these numbers and make your border that size. Make it fit the quilt whether you cut it across the width or along the length of the fabric. When stitching, sew with the border strip on the bottom and the quilt on top."

Cate has a few ideas to help readers from past newsletters.
"Regarding the rippling of bindings on borders -- shirring is the solution. The trimmed quilt can be shirred before the binding is sewn on and that makes the edges behave beautifully.

"Turn the machine stitch length to 3.0 on a European machine, and stitch 1/8" in from the outer edge of the quilt. I hold my hand behind the presser foot so that the quilt cannot easily advance. Shirr (yes, it's a double 'r') 2"-3" at a time. Do not shirr within 2" of any corner or the corners will flip up. This will make the edges lie flat and is easier than doing an invisible basting stitch around the edge of the quilt. That technique involves getting down on the floor -- and no one wants to do that!"

Cate says shirring is similar to staystitching for those with a background in making clothing.

Margaret shares: "Regarding rippled borders -- I have no idea if this would work, but with patterns for garments we are instructed to stay-stitch (run a line of stitching inside the seam allowance) around curves or bias-cut pieces to stabilize the piece so that it will fit into place without stretching. This can entail snipping around some curves.
"I know that this method will work for garments; however, being what I call a 'spectator quilter' thus far, I cannot guarantee that this would work on a quilt. I usually use a larger stitch when stay-stitching."

Stay stitching will work if the piece is cut the right length to begin with, provided you don't stretch the strip during the stay-stitching process.

Loraine sends her solution for rippled borders or bindings. "I am answering about rippled bindings. I usually use the strips from the width of fabric for bindings, and I pin-baste closely to keep the rippling to a minimum. I put long sewing pins crosswise to the binding after folding it and the hem allowance under. I put the pin through twice so it holds the fabric in place. I ease in the sewing of the binding between pins and also mildly stretch the quilt seam underneath."

For some reason, I don't have a problem with stretching with my binding strips. I think that is in part due to the fact that I always use a double-layered binding. I cut the strips across the fabric width, join them with diagonal seams (so the bulk of the seam is not in one spot), and then press the long strip in half with wrong sides together along the length of the joined strip. By the time the strip is ready to sew onto the quilt edge, if it was going to stretch, it has stretched already in the pressing process. My binding never ripples.