Three Ways to Make Rag Quilt Borders – New Quilters

Three Ways to Make Rag Quilt Borders

I have tried several different ways to create the outer edges of my rag quilts.

First Try: Fringe the Outer Squares

It isn’t strictly necessary to include any border at all on a rag quilt. You can use your rag snips to clip the outer edges of the quilt in exactly the same way you clip the seams between blocks. Before you clip, simply stay-stitch a seam all around the quilt’s outer edge, leaving the same seam allowance as you did between blocks. It’s straightforward, but I wasn’t happy with this technique. I thought the edges looked too skimpy. Here’s an example:

Second Try: Make a Narrow Fringed Border

The next approach I tried is adding a narrow border all around the quilt and putting a deeper fringe on the outer edges of the borders. Adding the border is a bit time-consuming, but the fringe itself is very easy to make, and I think it looks better than the first approach.

To make this outer fringed, I simply machine-stitched a line of stay stitching a few inches from the outer edge of the quilt’s borders, all around the quilt. Then I used my rotary cutter to freehand cut the fringe  in the outer edge, leaving about half an inch between the stay stitching and the cuts. Doing both steps only took a few minutes.

You can make the fringe deeper or shallower by simply changing the location of your stay stitching. Here’s another example:

The Solution! Make a Knotted Fringe Border

This is my latest approach, which I copied from those fleece blankets everybody was making a couple of years ago, and the one I like the best.

A knotted fringe  requires adding a wider outer border to the quilt. The one in this example was  7-1/2″ wide before knotting the fringe, although it is much narrower after it’s finished. Here’s what to do:

  1. After sewing on the border, you cut out a square from each corner of the quilt that is the  same depth as the fringes. The fring on this quilt was 5″ deep, so I cut a 5″ square from each corner of the quilt.
  2. Use a rotary cutter to and a ruler to cut a fringe of 1″-wide, strips all around the quilt. I also stay-stitched a seam around the inner edge of the knots just to make sure nothing would unravel, although I don’t think that’s strictly necessary.
  3. Knot the quilt top to the backing layer(s). Tie a double knot in each section.

I like this approach so much that I think it’s going to be my standard from now on. Here’s the border of a baby rag quilt. The border started out 9″ wide, but after knotting it is more like 5″ wide. It was emotionally challenging to cut off so much of this lovely owl flannel, but I comforted myself with the fact that the border is wide enough to still show off the owls, and my stash is now that much smaller!

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Felicity Walker

Felicity Walker is the author of the best-selling Quilting for Beginners book series and other books for quilters. She has been quilting for nearly twenty years and loves finding easier, faster, and more fun ways to make quilts.

  • Rae says:

    Four corners “SeamsRaggy” baby quilt has a border. I cannot figure how to sew the border. I can’t understand instructions and no illustrations. The corners are the problem. Can you help me or lead me to an answer? Thank you

    • Hi Rae,

      We make each border for our rag quilts as a separate section. We quilt the sections one at a time, then attach them to the center section of the quilt using a wide rag seam. I haven’t seen the pattern you refer to, so can’t give any specific advice about the corners. If you’d like to see more of our approach to rag quilts, we recommend our book, Rag Quilting for Beginners. Hope that helps.

  • Kathryn Shirlock says:

    I am a working on my first rag quilt.
    Would you please be so kind as to inform me if there is batting in the border?
    Thank you

    • Felicity Walker says:

      Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks for writing. When we make rag quilts, we put the same layers in the borders that we do in the blocks in the center of the quilt. So if your blocks include batting, you should put batting in the borders too.

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