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quilting borders causing problems

edited October 2012 in Ask An HQ Expert
The vast majority of the quilts that I sew are edge to edge pantographs or free-hand. On some occasions, it is more desirable or necessary to quilt the borders with a separate design. I just had a quilt with piping between the border and quilt body, which would have caused a real problem with overall quilting. I seem to run into trouble creating baggy areas in the backing, regardless of sewing sequence that I select. I have tried quilting the body of the quilt first, then the borders. I have tried basting the edges (as I do for edge-to-edge quilting) and doing the borders all around, then the body of the quilt last. Neither method works well to prevent the backing from sagging in the unquilted areas as I progress. It is very difficult to tell that problems are developing until I'm past the point of no return.
I would like to do more separate borders and custom quilting, but have found that the only method that works for me is to do a little bit of the borders and quilt body as I work down the entire quilt. This is more time consuming, especially if I want to change thread color. It is also more difficult to maintain the continuity of the border designs and requires frequent tie-offs.
I have never tried turning the quilt to do borders, but feel that this technique might not be the solution anyway.
Is there a more tried and proven approach that won't get me into trouble?


  • i feel your pain. i just had to pick out an entire 12 sq. inch section due to the "sagging" pheonom.
    i tend to over stretch backing and top at times which contributes to that.
    1) make certain your backing is exactly square...not easy on the larger pieces
    2) i have been doing my side borders in 12" vertical sections with all the stops and starts to avoid the sagging and the need to turn and re-pin the larger pieces. Time consuming yes, but preferable to re-pinning and picking out stitching
  • Borders that are applied in segments as the quilt is rolled up turn out OK for me. Trying to do the entire border (or quilt body) before finishing the rest is where I have difficulties.
    The best information that I have found on custom quilting with borders is in the Guide for Longarm Quilters by Linda Taylor. The book is a little dated with machine information and I like my procedure for loading quilts better than hers, but the chapter on custom quilting and turning the quilt for pantograph borders looks to be a reliable guide. She goes into the process of basting and pinning, starting the borders while stabilizing the areas that will be densely quilted, turning the quilt for pantographs and blending the borders into the corners. I plan on trying her suggested "sampler" quilt after the holidays.
    Other recommendations that she makes are worth trying too.
  • Thanks for that book review, Joe. I'd love to hear more about your process of loading the quilt.
  • I have not had this problem of sagging.

    If I'm going to skip an area and leave it unquilted while I work on other stuff, I will baste that entire section with a serpentine stitch.

    I also work my borders as I go; I've only turned a quilt once, and that's because I was using a groovy board to do the borders.
  • Thanks for all the information. The book that I mentioned details the author's sequence for basting, applying borders and stabilizing the areas to be densely quilted last. I don't look forward to turning quilts for borders, but feel that it will be a necessity at some point for detailed pantograph patterns and deserves practice in advance.
  • I almost always do custom borders by turning the quilt, and have found that careful advancing is essential, as well as vertical basting along the way (I use the channel lock to be sure the quilt is staying straight) Also, must be careful not to over tighten or stretch either the quilt top or backing after each advance. I always use the side clamps and massage out any fullness after each advance too. Then when the quilt comes off the frame for turning, it usually behaves :)
  • I, too, have problems with the backing bunching up or creasing. Your tips will help me with my quilting. Thanks.
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