I wrote an entire book on precision piecing so it should come as no surprise to anyone that I love fussy cutting and matching prints. It’s been my experience that quilters either love it or hate it. Regardless of your preference, I’m a fan, and think it adds great interest to quilts and blocks. I used it on this quilt border recently, and just love the look!
I’m also pretty keen on matching fussy cut prints in borders. I mean, if I’m going to spend the time accurately, precisely cutting a border strip, I darn well want it to match along the edges! It’s visually appealing, and once the quilt has been quilted you usually can’t see the seam, anyhow.
Here’s my two cents on how to fussy cut a print for a border, or at least this quilt.
First, look at the print. Once you determine your border width you can pick an arbitrary point to use for cutting for both sides of your border. I knew I wanted to have one fussy cut skull running down the center of my vertical pieces (sides) and one fussy cut skull running through the middle of my border (top and bottom). I also knew I wanted an approximately 5″ border.
The repeat on this print made math simple. I could place my ruler 1″ above the top of the skulls and 1″ below the bottom of the skull that would run horizontally and I’d have a 5″ border.
Use your rotary cutter, and cut along the edge of the ruler, adjusting as necessary. Here’s the trick: YOU WILL HAVE TO ADJUST YOUR RULER. Several times, usually. That also means, cut a small bit, say 6″ or so, where your ruler is correctly aligned, readjust, then cut more. Prints are almost never perfectly on grain. That also means that your border won’t quite be on grain. That’s okay. You’ll have a 5″ border and make adjustments as you sew and quilt, as needed.
The image below shows you, using an upside down ruler, how the print isn’t perfectly on grain. See how it veers off toward the 5″ mark? No worries. Let your ruler do the work for you and adjust it.
See how I adjusted the ruler below? If you do that, your print will line up exactly as you’d like and you’ll have perfect fussy cut borders. This technique works for horizontal and vertical borders. Pick a point, and use your ruler to get perfectly cut pieces running the length or width of the fabric.
While it’s not entirely necessary, I usually use my ruler along the second cut for the border. Under normal circumstances, I’d like up my ruler along the cut edge and cut the border pieces to the size I want. Since this is a fussy cut strip, I want to make sure that the second cut is in the exact right spot. Normally it is, but an abundance of caution here is worth the extra minute or two to make sure your border will have the center skull (or whatever) in the correct spot.
So, what happens when you want to MATCH your fussy cut strips? Let your iron do the work for you!
I have two horizontal cuts.
I pick a point on the fabric to match. I try to make it easy and somewhat obvious. For this print, I chose to use the center of the skull. I can use the center of the skull and have half the face on each side of my seam. Since the spot in the fabric is busy, it’ll be less noticeable when the top is quilted.
I ironed the border strip back onto itself to create a line to sew along on another strip.
Next, place the pieces together, FACE UP, as you’d like them to be sewn together on your border. This one is basted because I forgot to snap a photo of that step, so imagine this without stitches. The skull lines up (almost) perfectly. You will want to sew along that ironed line.
Gently fold back the top piece. I usually keep my hand on the folded part of the fabric being flipped so it doesn’t move. Here, the fold was big enough for me to keep my hand on it, while flipping the top portion. Then I place my hand/fingers on the other edge to keep it from moving, and let the left side of the fabric all the way out.
BASTE along the ironed fold line. I like to baste to make sure the pattern is lined up exactly the way I want. If it’s not quite right, it’s easy to take out the stitches, readjust, then try again.
When you have the pieces lined up as you’d like, sew them together. I usually sew over the basting stitches, and leave them in the quilt. Ideally, I’d have long threads to pull out the basting, but I don’t think it adds enough bulk in the border to cause any problems.
Voila! Perfectly matched fussy cut borders!