Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How To Calculate Yardage for Quilt Borders

"How many yards should I get to add a border to my quilt?"

This is one of the most popular questions from my retail quilt shop days. Let's remove the mystery from those calculations today by talking through the options. Hang with me. This might start feeling a little like math class but I promise to help you every step of the way. At the end of this post there is a worksheet you can download and save. Just print the worksheet, answer the questions and you will be able to easily calculate your own border yardage every time.

Before we get too far, please remember that I am here for you. As you are reading, if it gets to be too many numbers or you start thinking I must be crazy (me crazy, not you crazy), stop there. I will be happy to calculate your border yardage for you. Send me an email and we will figure it out together.

There are some basic facts that you need to collect to get started:
Width (the green arrow) - How many inches is the shortest side of your quilt top?
Length (the red arrow) - How many inches is the longest side of your quilt top?
Border Width (the blue arrow) - How wide, in inches, will the border be? Add half an inch to allow for seam allowances.
To make things easier, let's go ahead and calculate the Quilt Top Width including Borders (the purple arrow). It is simply the quilt width plus the border width plus the border width. Yes, I added the border width twice on purpose.

With those four numbers, we can determine the number of yards required to complete your border. The calculations we are doing result in exact yardage. You will want to add to that to make sure there is a little bit of room for error in cutting, stitching, or calculating. I would add a minimum of a quarter yard to any final calculation.

Things are really easy if your quilt is small. So, first question:

Is the largest number from the four we have figured out above less than 40? 

If the answer is YES, then you only have two more steps to go.

Since each border can be cut from one strip of fabric, you only need four strips that are the width of your border plus seam allowances. Use the number you calculated for the border width (the blue arrow) and multiply it by 4. Hold on to your answer. You need to plug it into the last step.

Divide your answer by 36 and you are done. This is the exact yardage needed. Remember to add a little extra for wiggle room in cutting and stitching.

So, now what? What if you have a big quilt? Personal preference comes into play a little bit here. Next question:

Do you mind extra seams in the piecing of your border?

Some quilters prefer borders without extra seams, which generally means the border is cut from the length of the fabric rather than the width. If you don't want extra seams AND your border is less than ten inches wide, one calculation will do the trick:

All this calculation does is take your absolute longest measurement from the quilt length, quilt width, border width, and quilt width plus borders (which will be in the top two boxes on the bigger worksheet) and convert it from inches to yards. Easy! And if you happen to have one super wide border that is bigger than ten inches wide, just take the answer above and multiply it by 2.

Last set of calculations coming. This set is for a quilt bigger than 40 inches where you don't mind having extra seams in the border. This is going to be the most common way to calculate your border. First, calculate the sum of all your border sizes in two steps:

That is two sides of your quilt. Plug that answer in here:

That is all of the inches of border fabric you need. Now, we'll figure out how many widths of fabric that is.

Round that answer up to the next whole number. So 3.25 would be 4 and 4.8 would be 5. Always go up, not down.

Next, multiply that number by the width of your border:

Now, convert inches to yards and you are done!

Here's what the whole worksheet looks like. Just click on it to download your own copy.

It is a lot easier on paper I think, especially when the parts that don't apply can be skipped over.

Please, leave a comment or send a question by email if you have any additional hints and helps or if there is something that isn't quite clear for you. I am happy to help you calculate border yardage, or answer any other questions you may have.

When I first thought about writing this, I thought, oh, calculating fabric for quilt borders is easy. And it really is when you do it over and over and can run through the math quickly in your head. But when it comes time to write it down step by step, it isn't as easy as it first seems. I love it when I learn just as much as I am trying to teach.


  1. Thank you! This is my first quilt and I had no idea how to do this.

  2. Thank you very much! So helpful One question though, do I round up the. final yardage number? I used the formula that requires piecing the border. Also how do I do the binding number? My top quilt is 58 x 60. With 3 inch borders. Thank you very much

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, round up for the final yardage number to the next quarter yard increment. Please keep in mind this calculation does not include room for miscuts. If you want extra just in case, add another half yard or so. Then you should have plenty to complete your border. For binding (assuming you are cutting with the grain and not on the bias): (final quilt width (including border) x 2) + (final quilt length (including border) x 2) = perimeter of quilt. The next calculation will give you your yardage: (perimeter of quilt/40) x width of strips. Again, you may want to add a little extra just in case you miscut a strip. Hope this helps.

  3. Wow this is so useful and clearly explained. Thank you! I'm European and struggle working with inches so it really helped!

  4. Hi my quilt top measures 45 inches by 45 inches I wantt to add a 2 and a half inch border all round then add a 3inch all round how much yardage do I need for each border please x

  5. I have a quilt top that measures 68.5 square. It's a brick block of 6-in squares Plus 3x6 on the ends. (5.5+2.5 finished) I would like two borders but no top borders and a total quilt top of 82 in square. Is this even doable? Could you help me with this? It's a Xmas quilt for a older person. I want them to be able to place on bed without frustration of direction


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