Sunday, March 31, 2019

Successful Mitered Corners

Taking the tricky out of mitered corners on quilts.

 by Linda Thielfoldt
Many times either the quilt or the fabric determines when to use a mitered corner on a quilt border and today I want to share with you a sure fire trick for perfection when it comes getting the corner square and the pattern match as close to perfect as you can.

While working on this quilt I decided to use this border stripe fabric I found in my stash. I knew I didn't want to add any corner blocks, nor did I like the idea of having the stripe dead end into the side of the opposing border. Straight pieced border corners  just were not an option.

Where to begin

This border fabric is directional and I decided to make the border follow one direction around the quilt. Some fabrics don't require this planning ahead, but this particular one did.  After I decided on the direction and starting point I carefully pinned the border on the quilt, extending the ends well beyond the width of the border yet to be added.  In this case the stripe fabric border pieces were 6.5" wide so I knew I had to leave at least 8" or more on each end past the sides of the quilt. 

There are some key steps to follow:

1) The key to starting is to start the border seam 1/4" away from the edge of the quilt, if you know anything about the process, that is standard procedure. If you are not sure or cannot eyeball that then measure and mark the starting point.  This measurement is critical! Do not sew to the end as you see here in the photo.

2) Be sure to use a small stitch - for my machine that is a 2.0.

3) BACKSTITCH.  Do not skip this step.  

For this quilt I added the borders in a clockwise fashion, working my way around so as to keep the pattern going in the right direction. I mitered each corner as I went around. On normal fabric this may not be an issue, you could conceivably add two long sides and then two short sides and then do the miters all at once.

The process for each border is the same. Pin, sew, leave 1/4" unsewn at each end. Essentially what you end up with is something that looks like this photo. You can see that the border fabrics on both borders in this view extend beyond the width of the opposing border - make sure you don't cut them too short to begin with.

Carefully fold one of the border strips back and under as shown in the photo. To know you have the correct 45° the two border strips should lay nicely one on top of the other, right sides facing and have both edges aligned. Once you have the strip laid out and the match looks perfect press that fold.
Normally you would fold the border that is on the bottom of the quilt in this pic up and away from you and sew on the fold line you just pressed.  However, the tricky part is to keep that position exactly as you laid it out. Getting it pinned perfectly with all the flipping required can be really challenging, even with multiple pins. So what to do?  I needed the white stripe in the fabric to match up exactly as I knew that would be the most obvious point where a bad match would be highly visible.

Ta dah!  1/4" sticky iron-on tape to the rescue! 

There are several brands of this available but I bought this giant roll online.  It is peel and stick but also fusible. And as a bonus it washes out.

So essentially you cut a piece the size to fit that pressed mitered seam, stick it on the fabric, peel off the carrier, fold back over, check alignment and then press.  

 Here is a link to the one I bought but there are others:

1/4" iron on tape

I also use this tape when doing decorative pillows with piping, it helps keep the piping in place so you don't need pins which can be unwieldy.  Plus there are a ton of other uses as well.

Bingo - perfectly matched mitered corner.  For extra security and perfection, I always pin the border fabric that extends as well as the seam I pressed.  Drag the quilt to the machine and sew that seam. 
I prefer to start sewing at the outside of the border and sew toward the inside corner.  I find that an open toe foot is very helpful for this task as you can to be able to clearly see what you are doing when you get near the beginning of the border seam. Again I prefer to back stitch.  Keep in mind you need to fold the quilt border out of the way to get to that Y seam point. Do not sew past the intersection of the border seam you sewed previously.
Open up the seam and check your match, if good to go you can press and then trim to 1/4".

Pretty pleased with the match! Just need to trim the seam.  Once you do that you can opt to press to one side OR you can press that seam open, I usually do what gives me the best results. 

Hope this helps you the next time you need to put a strip or mitered corner on a quilt.




  1. Never would have thought to use the 1/4” tape. Now maybe I can do a mitered border. 👏🏻👍🏻💪🏼

  2. Thanks for sharing this blog. The content is beneficial and useful. Very informative post
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