Our sashing is on, and the quilt is starting to look like a quilt top! However, it’s not quite big enough for a Quilt of Valor. An easy way to frame the blocks and make the quilt bigger is to add borders.

The first border, or the inner border, in our original schematic is 4 inches wide on the side and 6 inches tall at the top and bottom.

This is a pretty easy part of the project, but please still approach it with care. If you take good care with your fabric and seam allowances, and take time to press and pin, your border will turn out much nicer.

The quilt design with 2 borders

Press your Fabric

A year and a half ago, when I was making my packet for the round robin, I cut a piece around 70” by 26.” I wanted to make sure I had long pieces of border fabric, so I cut that piece out of the main yardage, pinned it, and set it aside for later. The rest of the white fabric went into my packet as background fabric.

Now, it is time to add it to the quilt, and I noticed some serious creases, so I ironed it with starch. Starch can help prevent stretching while sewing, but it’s optional.

The ironing, though, is very necessary to get a clean finish on you border.

Iron with starch

Cut your Border Strips

Inspect your fabric for flaws, in case you need to cut around a section. It’s a lot easier to avoid flawed areas before cutting than to fix a section after it’s been sewn into the quilt. As a matter of fact, one of the sashing pieces had a serious flaw in it, and I ripped out several seams to get back to the area and replace the section. I noticed some little blue lines when I was cutting this border strip, and took care to cut around it and prevent rework later.

Cut around fabric flaws


  • Two narrow strips: 4.5 inches wide, at least 58.5 inches long (I recommend making it a bit longer and trimming later).
  • Two wide strips: 6.5 inches wide, at least 52.5 inches long (again, make it longer and trim. later)

It would be awful to cut this border too short! And so, I just cut them the entire length of my fabric, and leave the trimming for later, after I pin the border strips on the top.

Cutting Tip

Remember to cut away selvedges before cutting your strips. If selvedges are left in the seam allowances, they will shrink oddly and make the finished quilt turn out weird.

Pin the Long Border Strips

Pin the long, 4.5” sides. These are supposed to go down the long side of your quilt top – the one with 4 blocks on it.

If you are wondering why to go through the extra trouble of laying the quilt top flat and pinning the strip to it, rather than just add it when you are at your machine: the answer is, it’s a choice. You could do it the other way. If you add the border at the machine, and then add another border the same way, every border will get stretched a little more than the previous one, to the point where your quilt will not lie flat. It will have a wavy edge.

Pinning before sewing prevents the wavy edge and helps your quilt top lie flat.

Pin long border strip

Now that you’ve pinned it, cut away that excess fabric.

Cut away excess fabric after pinning

Repeat the same pinning step for the other long side of the quilt top.

Sew and Press

Sew both strips to your quilt top.

Press your seams to one side.  I chose to press them to the dark side, but it won’t really matter once I add the batting, since that is white.

Square Up the Corners

This is another small but important step to making sure your quilt top is square. Be sure the corners are square. This isn’t about making sure the entire quilt top is a rectangular parallelogram; instead, it’s just about making sure every corner of the quilt is square enough that the project will lay flat once you sew on the next set of borders.

As you can see here, it would be off a little if I didn’t do the square-up step, and that would really show up in the quilt top.

Square up the corners

Pin the Wide Border Strips

Now, two sides are done. Two left to go!

Lay your quilt out flat, and pin your 6.5″ border strips to the top and bottom of your quilt top. As you can see, I don’t have a lot of room to lay my quilt out. But I can lay out the end that matters, and I get by!

Pin wide strips

Pinning the seam allowances down will help the top come out nice and flat.

Pin seam allowances down
Trim away excess fabric after pinning

Repeat the same pinning and trimming step for the other wide side of the quilt top. You’ll have pinned both the top and the bottom.

Sew and Press

Sew both strips to your quilt top.

Press your seams to one side. 

Square Up the Corners

Again, make sure the next seam can go on properly by squaring up the corners.

Square up the corners

The First/Inner Border is On!

Quilt with the First/Inner Border Sewn On

We’re one step closer! Just one more border, and the quilt top will be done.