Quilting Blog

Here’s Why Your Quilt Borders Are Wavy (+ How to Fix ‘Em)

There's nothing worse than binding your quilt and holding it up only to find that the edges of your quilt are wavy rather than hanging nice and straight. If you've had this happen to you, you're probably a) kicking yourself, and b) wondering why it happened.

Wavy borders and bindings can happen to anyone. Luckily, you can take simple steps to ensure they never again happen to you!

Mitered Borders
FREE Guide: How to Finish Your Quilts in Style

FREE Guide: How to Finish Your Quilts in Style

Frame your quilts like the masterpieces they are! Learn how to add beautiful borders and binding today.Download FREE Today

First, what causes wavy, rippling borders?

1. The quilt top is longer or wider around the edges than it is the middle.

Instead of a square or a rectangle, think of a subtly curved hourglass shape: the sides are slightly concave, making the edges wider than the measurement across the center.

How to check if your quilt is even all the way around

To check if your quilt is even, measure the quilt horizontally and vertically through the center, then at either edge. If there's a difference of more than 1" for smaller quilts or more than a couple inches for larger ones, you might have to make some adjustments.

2. The quilting process alters the measurements of the quilt.

If you're doing very ornate quilting on the border but a lighter design on the interior, you're essentially shifting the measurements in your quilt, making the edges more likely to pucker and ripple.

3. You may be stretching the quilt itself or your binding fabric.

Pulling on either of these can result in one being slightly longer than the other and causing the quilt edges to wave.

So, how do I fix the wave?

Sometimes it's possible to square up your quilt top using a straight edge and a rotary cutter (only if your quilt top isn't pieced in a block configuration). Most of the time, though, you'll need to do some adjustments in the quilting process.

Quilting Borders

Quilting can be the solution to help mold a quilt top into a squarer shape. Here are some tips for adjusting your quilt size with quilting:

  • Choose a quilt batting with a higher loft. This provides a cushier, more flexible quilting surface.

  • Quilting in one direction can further distort your quilt. Instead, select a quilting pattern or pantograph that moves back and forth rather than just one direction.

  • If you're working on a longarm, load the quilt top with a slight bit of negative ease at the top and bottom, and consider a border design that works from the outside edges in.

  • Resist the temptation to "smooth" out the edges of the quilt if they begin to pucker. This only increases the difference between the interior of the quilt and the edges.

Be careful with binding

Binding on a Quilt

Finally, just as the quilting process can help or hurt a quilt top that's slightly askew, binding with care can have a big impact.

If your quilt's edges are a bit puckered from the quilting process, the binding is a perfect place to hide small pleats and imperfections. Choose a ½" binding (or even slightly larger) to enclose your edges and keep any wonkiness a secret. This approach is far preferable to stretching out your quilt borders and ending up with a wavy, skewed quilt.

Having trouble with you borders? Read on!

FREE Guide: How to Finish Your Quilts in Style

FREE Guide: How to Finish Your Quilts in Style

Frame your quilts like the masterpieces they are! Learn how to add beautiful borders and binding today.Download FREE Today

5 Comments

Marilyn Tippett

Being a novice I work on small items and get into trouble with bindings. I’ll continue to watch out for puckers and work more closely. Thank you!

Reply
Marsha

Thank you so much for the free resource, Finishing Your Quilts in Style. Very much appreciated.

Reply
liz n.

Another reason quilt borders come out wavy is if you sew the borders on and then trim them to size later. Cut them the size they’re supposed to be before sewing them to the quilt top center.

Reply
Karen

I don’t see what you mean by “negative ease” when loading on a longarm. Please explain , with pictures if possible.

Reply
LuvMyRide

Pretty sure they meant to type “space” instead of “ease”. Negative space near the binding will allow puckers to ‘diffuse’ as quilting progresses. Stitching all the way to the binding (and inner seam where outer border meets quilt or inner boarder) can absorb the ‘extra’ fabric . Takes practice and if you quilt along too quickly, it can make tiny folds and pleats. If the waving is VERY severe this approach may make things visually worse. If you’re super creative, you might be able to stuff a wavy area with some polyfill, and create a 3 dimensional accent, like a bird or flower, something like that.

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