Monday, May 5, 2014

Measuring For a Coping Border When You Want to Make Pieced Borders Fit Properly

As you know, my Muddy Creek quilt has not been made from a formal pattern. The lack of pre-planned measuring can cause issues when working with pieced border units, forcing me to find creative solutions. One of the best solutions I've found (and used over and over through the years) is adding a coping border.

1. First you need to find some important measurements, starting with the top width of your quilt.
Top width of quilt
 Next will be the measurement for the middle width of the quilt.
Middle width of quilt
And last, measure for the bottom width of the quilt. Make sure your tape is taut and flat when taking all your measurements! You want them to be as accurate as possible. In this case, my three measurements are 27 1/4", 27 1/4", and 27 1/8". Now I need to find the average which means I have to add those three numbers together (27.25 + 27.25 + 27.125 = 81.625) and then divide by 3 (81.625 divided by 3 = 27.208). Rounding up in quilty language, I get the measurement of 27.25".
Bottom width of quilt
2. Repeat that process to get the vertical length of your quilt. This is especially important if your quilt is not square! Measure the length of the left side of the quilt, straight down the middle and also the length of the right side. The three vertical measurements for this quilt are as follows: 32", 31 7/8", and 32". In this particular instance, I don't even need to do the math to come up with an average of 32".
Vertical length of quilt
3. The best way for me to keep track of which number goes where, is to draw a picture. It's a magic diagram that clears away all the confusion and keeps things simple. Trust me and just do it. Draw a rough looking rectangle and mark the numbers where they belong. One number per direction plus some little arrows is really all it takes. From now on, the current quilt will be called the quilt centerpiece.
The magic diagram with a drawing of the
quilt centerpiece
4. Hopefully you've already figured out what you want your pieced border to look like. Most pieced borders are a set of 'repeats' or units that are exactly the same width. These basket blocks with the corner triangles added on are 8 1/2" each which will never sew onto my quilt properly without add-ons or chopping part of a block off. If I sew four of them together, I end up with a horizontal pieced border measurement of 34" plus seams (34 1/2"), definitely larger than the 27 1/4" width of my current quilt centerpiece (see previous magic diagram).
Horizontal pieced border units
Okay, this is where some decisions need to be made about the coping border. For this quilt, I could have easily added four basket blocks together for the vertical pieced border as well, since the quilt centerpiece is only 32" long (see previous magic diagram). But this would make my quilt square. I don't want that, so I'm going to go with five basket block repeats or 42 1/2" plus seams (43").
Vertical pieced border units
At this point you might want to do a quick mock-up on the wall with your quilt centerpiece, the potential coping border fabric and your pieced border. Do you like it? Now's the time to decide.
Auditioning pieced border with Muddy Creek quilt
5. Vertical Coping Borders are next in this crazy, long tutorial. Remember the magic diagram? Draw a rough outline of your pieced borders onto the paper, leaving plenty of room to draw in the lines for coping borders as well. Don't worry about how precise or in proportion things are--this is just for reference. Take the measurements from your horizontal and vertical pieced borders (refer to number 4) and mark it onto your magic diagram. Use little arrows to keep it all straight.
Adding pieced border measurements onto
magic diagram
Time for the math. Take the horizontal width of the pieced border and subtract the width of the quilt centerpiece (34 1/2" minus 27 1/4") OR 34.5 - 27.25 =7.25. Divide this number by 2. That number (7.25 divided by 2 = 3.625) is the measurement of the width of your Vertical Coping Borders. Don't forget to add the seam allowance onto that number as well (3.625 + .5 = 4.125 or 4 1/8"). Okay, that's the width, the hard part! Now for length.

So you don't totally have a panic attack trying to keep track of all these numbers, quickly look at your magic diagram for visual aid. Draw in your Vertical Coping Borders (pictured in orange). Aha! Now you can clearly see that your Vertical Coping Borders need to be 32", the length of the quilt centerpiece. Easy peasy.
Magic Diagram with Vertical Coping Borders
6. Cut out two strips of coping border fabric @ 4 1/8" x 32". Pin thoroughly, matching middle point to middle point and sew onto quilt centerpiece. Iron and measure. Your new quilt centerpiece should be exactly as wide as your horizontal pieced border but don't sew it on yet!
Quilt centerpiece with Vertical Coping Borders
7. Still with me? You're making excellent progress! Go ahead and draw in the lines for your Horizontal Coping Borders (pictured below in green).

Now lets do the math. Take the measurement of the vertical pieced border length (43") and subtract the length of the new quilt centerpiece (still 32"). 43 - 32 = 11. Divide this number by 2. That number is 5 1/2. Don't forget to add seam allowances. 5.5 + .5 = 6. That number is the width of your Horizontal Coping Border. Referring to the magic diagram should quickly remind you that the length of this coping strip will be the same as your horizontal pieced border (34 1/2").
Magic diagram with horizontal coping borders
8. Cut out two strips of coping border fabric @ 6" x 34 1/2". Pin thoroughly, matching middle point to middle point and sew onto quilt centerpiece. Iron and measure. The left and right sides (or the vertical length) of the quilt should now be 43", the exact same length as your vertical pieced borders!
Muddy Creek with all coping borders added
9. Sew vertical pieced borders onto each side of the quilt. Match middle point to middle point as usual and pin thoroughly before sewing.
Muddy Creek with vertical pieced borders added
10. Sew one more repeat or unit onto each end of the horizontal pieced borders. Sew them onto the rest of the quilt, matching points and pinning as usual.
Muddy Creek with borders!
Wallah! Now you have perfectly fitting pieced borders! Feel free to run around the room and do a victory dance.*wink  I have another tutorial about pieced borders that might be helpful as well. You might want to try this first on a smallish quilt, but if your numbers are correct, the size shouldn't ever be an issue. Really, it's just about formulas. Insert the numbers and see your ability to make personalized quilts increase dramatically! I dare you. lol


  1. Looking very nice! I like adding borders to the sides first then the bottom. In my sensibility it gives a better foundation to the quilt.

    Thanks for sharing your process.

  2. What a great tutorial - thanks for taking the time to show your working there! I find sketches with measurements very helpful too. It is lovely finish - and beautiful warm colours.

  3. Love your quilt, first of all...that basket border is wonderful!! Thank you for sharing your talent and teaching this technique too!

  4. Pretty amazing. Thanks for the information.

  5. You make that look fool proof! I just may have to try it. I think the last step is the best. :)

  6. I love that name - coping border. Thanks and i love the way this is looking! Take care, Byrd

  7. Your tutorial was perfect and your quilt top is looking awesome. The pieced baskets really added another great dimension.

  8. Muddy Creek has turned out beautifully, I love it. Coping borders, excellent idea! Thank you for the explanation.

  9. Awesome tutorial. I appreciate that you continue to share your creative process and listening to your own voice. Thanks!

  10. Great info! You broke it down really well and made it understandable! Thanks for the great tutorial! Muddy Creek is looking awesome!

  11. You know how much I love this quilt and watching you build it. It's exactly how I work on an original design. Great job of sharing the process.

  12. This quilt is just looking wonderful. Nice tutorial about borders. They can get confusing sometime.

  13. great!! I did this on one of my quilts and some told me I did it wrong - thinking I put in extra borders where they shouldn't be - I had to point out to them that there is a quilting book out in quilt land that shows how to do this - that it is not wrong - but right! Great looking quilt and love that you are managing to get your pieces how you want them

  14. The pink baskets make a wonderful border. Thanks for e tutorial!

  15. Ooh! I love this quilt. ;)

  16. Brilliant!! Beautiful quilt and a great informative post! Thanks for taking the time to show us how you did this!!

  17. un trabajo maravilloso, precioso !!!!!!
    el tutorial de frontera fantástico
    buen día

  18. I'm loving this quilt!! Thanks for taking the time to do a tutorial. I find drawing diagrams really helps me otherwise it's too easy to forget a measurement here or there.

  19. Quilt math, the only kind of math I have ever been able to master!
    I love how this quilt is turning out!

  20. Wow, I love this quilt. Looks wonderful.
    Grit from Germany

  21. I am in love with this quilt. I anticipate each border. You don't disappoint. Hugs

  22. Fantastic tutorial - you are a clever girl! I'm bookmarking this one!! Thank you!

  23. Beautiful quilt and your coping borders tutorial is very interesting. I love the newest set of basket blocks too, they add so much interst and scale.

    lizzy at gone to the beach

  24. This is so so beautiful... I have no words! I love those soft antique style colors. Also your mesuring explanations are very helpful for people like me who have difficulties in maths!

  25. Muddy Creek is lovely. I love your fabric choices! Thanks for sharing how to work out the coping border. I think using the sketches makes it so much easier to figure it out!

  26. What a great tutorial - step by step, this is a wonderful quilt

  27. Ooo, love your Muddy Creek quilt with it's borders! It's looking wonderful!

    And your tutorial is "spot on"! I learned to do that too, and it has stood me in good stead for many years. You're so right - it's just simple formulas, and the sketch/drawing of the quilt with the numbers there is what makes it easy to grasp quickly. Good job!

  28. Only wish I had seen this tute sooner! I've had a quilt...and a pieced border, waiting for years for this exact explanation. Really. Thank you!


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