Everything You Wanted to Know About Borders, But Were Afraid to Ask!

The quilting questions we hear most often here at Bernina have to do with “How much…?” How much fabric is needed for the 3 B’s: borders, backing, and binding? How much thread is needed to piece a lap quilt? How long will it take to complete this project? Okay, we’re kidding about the last question. There’s always next year, right?


Today we’ll talk about borders. A border can perform several functions on a quilt. It “hugs” your quilt, framing your pieced top and providing a visual stop for the eye and setting off your blocks; it stabilizes the edges of a pieced quilt whose fabrics were cut on the bias; it adds a drop on a bed quilt. While traditional, a border is not required. Many modern quilts do not use borders.


A modern, borderless quilt.
A modern, borderless quilt.

There are several reasons you might need to figure out border fabric amounts yourself. If you piece together a quilt from leftover blocks, or without a pattern, or if you drastically change the length or width of a quilt from the pattern directions—you’ll have to figure out fabric amounts yourself. Yes, yes, it is MATH, but don’t despair, creative quilters! Jill, our wonderful quilting teacher, has some simple steps for you to follow. All you need is tape measure, a calculator, and pencil and paper.

1.) Figure out the total number of inches of the circumference, or outside, of your quilt. You
can measure each side—top, bottom, right, left, and add them up; or simply measure the
length and width, then multiply those numbers by 2.

2.) Our sample quilt is 22” wide and 40” long.
22 x 2= 44
40 x 2= 80
44 + 80= 124
124” is your quilt circumference.


3.) Divide this number by 40, which determines the number of strips you need. This is when the
calculator really comes in handy! 124 divided by 40= 3.1 Take this number and round it up
to the next whole number! 3.1 becomes 4

4.) 4 is the number of WOF (width of fabric) strips you will need. Most fabric comes on the bolt
in widths of 40-44 inches wide.

5.) How wide do you want your border to be? For our sample we are going to say that we want
a 3” finished border. That means we need strips 3-1/2” wide (remember, the half inch will be
used up in the seam allowance on either side of the strip).

6.) 3-1/2” x 4= 14” That is the total number of yardage you will need for your borders—less than
half a yard!

If you want to make an exceptionally wide border, say 8” or more, you’ll have to add side borders first, then measure the width with the borders added for your top and bottom piece. Example: Your quilt top is 60” x 80”. Add a 10” wide finished border to the sides, and your quilt size is now 70

Jill’s Special Tip: It never hurts to figure in an extra strip in your calculations. I would rather have a few extra inches than come up short when I’m working on my quilt at midnight, and the store doesn’t open until 9 a.m.!

I hope these tips help you to “hug” your quilt!

Happy Stitching!