Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Godstone Grannies hexagon quilt - attaching a border to a hexagon quilt

So how do you finish the edges of a hexagon quilt? There are loads of ways. Kath left a comment and she wrote the following: I made enough hexies in my chosen border colour to go right round my quilt, but I adapt the shape with sides 4,5 and 6 forming a square.When I baste them to the papers, I left side 6, the outer edge 1/4" un-basted. I attached them all round my quilt as , then used my machine to attach the matching border. The unbasted, unsewn edge is what lines up with the edge of my border. 

Thanks Kath! This is a great technique and I used it on my quilt Mom's Flower Bed.

Mom's Flower Bed, 2011

Karen (not me) also left a comment. This is what she wrote: I am half way through a baby sized hexie quilt and I've decided to do a shaped border by stitching the last row of hexies and flipping them to the back over the top of the backing material before completing the hexies. They will be top stitched down giving a hexie shaped border. This article explains it better. 

Thanks Karen! I've seen that post by Amy of Badskirt but I haven't tried the technique! Please let us know how it works out when you finish your baby quilt!

My Godstone Grannies (GG) was entirely hand sewn so once the diamonds were stitched together I just wanted to get the border attached and be done with it! So my plan was to applique the quilt top to a narrow border. I used that method to make my Stars in the Loft quilt and it worked perfectly.

Stars in the Loft, 2002

Before we get started a little bit of advice in the form of a helpful tip!

HELPFUL TIP: I remove all of the hexagon papers and basting threads except for those all around the outside edge of the quilt. This will keep the edge stable until after it has been appliqued to the border.

Border strips have to be cut accurately or the border will be ruffled or puckered and it won't lay flat when it comes time to quilt. Believe me, I know this because I am speaking from experience! How do I determine the length of the strips? I could measure the length and width of the quilt through the middle but I don't like doing this because I can measure three times and come up with three different measurements. Instead I measure my blocks and then do a little math to calculate what I will need.

I've decided that I want to applique my quilt to 2 1/2"  border strips and I want to miter the corners so this will have to be taken into account when I do my calculations. 

The Side Strips for the Border
I measured the length of a diamond block from the top point of the path fabric to the bottom of path where there is a pair of path hexagons touching (I've excluded the last path hexagon at the bottom that completes the diamond shape) and the measurement is 20 1/8". I've placed small orange circles on the right and left to show where I stared measuring and where I stopped.

There are four diamonds in the length of the quilt so I will need strips that are:
  • four diamond lengths (20 1/8" X 4) plus one hexagon for the bottom of the path plus the last hexagon that was excluded from my diamond measurement. That hexagon is 1 1/2".
  •  5" which is two times the strip width of 2 1/2". 
The measurement I come up with is 87". I want to have a little wiggle room so that the strip is slightly longer than I need so I'll add another 4" so my strip length is 91". Once I've done the applique and mitered the corners the extra fabric will be trimmed.

ALTERNATE METHOD OF MEASURING: Sometimes you don't have blocks right out to the edge as does my GG quilt. For those quilts I simply measure ten hexagons and use that measurement to make the registration marks on my border strips. 

The Top and Bottom Strips for the Border
Next I calculate the strip length for the borders on the top and bottom. The diamond block width is 11 3/4" from the edge of the path on one side of the block to the edge of the block (excluding the path on the other side) . 

There are five partial diamonds at the top and bottom so I will need strips that are:
  • five half diamond lengths (11 3/4" X 5) plus the last hexagon that was excluded from my diamond measurement. That hexagon is 1 1/4"
  • 5" which is two times the strip width of 2 1/2"
The measurement I come up with is 65". I want to have a little wiggle room so that the strip is slightly longer than I need so I'll add another 4" so my strip length is 69". Once I've done the applique and mitered the corners the extra fabric will be trimmed.

Attaching the Side Strips for the Border
I start with the side strips. I make a mark on the wrong side that is about 4" from the end and them I make marks that are 20 1/8" apart. I place the border on my quilt top with wrong sides up and I line up the marks on the border with the diamonds making sure that the border overlaps the innermost hexagon on the seam allowance. I pin well. 

I like to thread baste the border to the quilt top but you could just pin with applique pins or you could use applique glue if you prefer. In the next picture is a view of the wrong side of the quilt with the border basted to the quilt top. Notice that the papers and basting thread are still in the quilt top. They can be removed after the quilt has been appliqued to the border. When I thread baste I like to start and stop one hexagon in from the ends. This will make mitering the corners easier.

In this picture you see the quilt top from the front; it is basted to the border. I baste the border to the opposite side. If I were hand quilting I would trim the excess border fabric after I had completed the applique but this quilt will be machine quilted so the extra fabric won't present a problem.

Attaching the Top and Bottom Strips for the Border
The next step is to prepare and baste the top and bottom borders. Once again I make a mark on the wrong side that is about 4" from the end and them I make marks that are 11 3/4" apart. I place the border on my quilt top with wrong sides up and I line up the marks on the border with the diamonds making sure that the border overlaps the innermost hexagon on the seam allowance. I pin well. and thread baste starting and stopping one hexagon from the ends. The corners will look like this.

Mitering the Corners
I fold one strip in the following diagram and pin. I can now thread baste that seam and the hexagons at the ends that were not basted to the borders. The quilt top is now read to be appliqued to the border. I used a thread that matched the border fabric. I also stitch the miter by hand with tiny stitches and then trim away the excess fabric.

The borders are appliqued and the corner is mitered, stitched and trimmed.

So there you have more method of finishing the edge of a hexagon quilt. This one works for me and I hope it will work for you too! I stitched my border down by hand but there's no reason why you couldn't do  machine applique for a fast and perfect finish!

The finished  GG hexagon quilt top!

This is the backing I've selected for the GG quilt. It will be a very tight squeeze. I've got 4 1/2 yds. but could do with an extra 4". You can see I've also made the binding from the path fabric. I'll keep it with the quilt until I'm ready to use it!

For more hexagon inspiration pop over to A Quilting Reader's Garden for Hexie Weekend!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H


  1. Oh! It's so beautiful! You did that really fast!!!

  2. It turned out beautifully Karen!

  3. Thanks for the wonderful border tutorial. You always explain things so clearly and your pictures provide a fabulous pictorial aid. GG is a pure work of art. Beautifully stunning. I love your background fabric too.

  4. Wow this is amazing. How long did it take you to appliqué the quilt to the border. It looks fantastic.

    1. I think it took roughly three evenings and that includes the time to remove the basting threads and the papers. It actually goes pretty quickly. I thread half dozen needles and knot the ends so that I can sew nonstop!

    2. Ok I can't stop looking at this quilt. How many hexagons in each block? Also the total number for the whole quilt? I am such a pest aren't I LOL.
      It is so breathtaking.

    3. I did some quick math. There are 64 in each diamond (4 in center, 12 in round 1, 20 in round and 28 in round 3) and there are 31 whole diamonds. (TOTAL HEXAGONS IN DIAMONDS: 1984) There are 10 partial diamonds top and bottom and 8 partial diamonds on the sides. Each of those has 36 hexagons. TOTAL HEXAGONS IN PARTIAL DIAMONDS: 648) I stitched the path into "Vs" and each one had 17 hexagons. The Vs were stitched to the top edge of the whole diamonds so there were 31 "Vs". (TOTAL HEXAGONS IN Vs: 527). I needed filler strips of path for the side filler hexagons. There were 8 of them and they were made of 9 hexagons. (TOTAL HEXAGONS FOR SIDE FILLERS' PATH: 72). I needed at extra 12 for the top and bottom edges to fill gaps. So the GRAND TOTAL IS: 3243 give or take!

  5. Woo hoo! It looks amazing, Karen! And I appreciate your thorough instructions for appliqueing the border -- that's what I plan to do for my Texas Star quilt too. I can't believe I didn't think of hand stitching the mitre! What a great solution. Thanks!

  6. Beautiful, Karen! It's a masterpiece. I hope you put the link in your tutorial and tips tab.

  7. Can I ask a question? silly me, of course, you welcome all questions :-)
    When you are stitching the hexies down to those border strips, do you keep the quilt flat on the table, or have it on your lap? I would be afraid of not getting it sewn down flat.
    I am just in the process of finishing a large hexy throw, the way the other Karen described, big throw, very slow, but I shall still face the task of appliquéing the turned hexies down to the backing.

    1. Hi Kath! When I do the applique I have the quilt top on my lap. The top was basted to the border so nothing would shift and it stayed nice and flat. It really is a great method to finish a quilt and it gives a nice straight edge for binding!

  8. That is a great idea. I might steal it for my hexie quilt.

  9. Love this quilt! Makes me want to start one!

  10. Another amazing quilt! Thanks for explaining so clearly about how to attach a border and to give us links to alternative methods, I shall need all this information later on this year when I add a border to my EPP mini quilt.

  11. oh so very well done, love that finishing method, i might have to give it a go to complete a quilt that has been waiting a long time for its moment to shine

  12. Such a super quilt, Karen, and you were done so fast! Thanks for linking to Hexie Weekend.

  13. GG is an absolutely phenomenal quilt. Thanks for another great tutorial.

  14. Karen, that is beyond fantastic! You are a master of your craft for sure. :) Just a thought-maybe another border in grey or bind it in grey. That will make the greys in the quilt pop!

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your border idea. I am working on a vintage piece that is not square which was most likely why the project was unfinished. It was impossible to square up this top without cutting into some of the hexagon flowers. I decided to leave it as is and using your method I was able to make it a square quilt. Thank you!

    1. Hi Sharon - I'm so glad that this little lesson was helpful. I wanted to send you a personal note but you are a no reply blogger. :-(

  16. Hi Karen, your quilt is beautiful, I made a similar one and now it Comes up to quilt it, but how? All-Over oder custom-Quilting? What was your decision?


  17. Thank you for such clear instructions with pictures for the border. I've been trying so hard to figure this out. I'll be starting my border soon.

  18. Thank you! I love your handwork!