How to make a diamond border for a quilt

To make a square border for a quilt, you usually start with the center and work out. That way, you are adding borders with “nice” numbers in the measurements. Numbers that are easy to cut, e.g. 18.5″ for a quilt side that is 18″ long when finished. To make a diamond border for a quilt, the numbers aren’t quite so “nice”! Instead of starting with the center and working out, you have to start with the border and work in.

So how do you make a diamond border for a quilt?

Brigitte made this gorgeous version of the Feathered Christmas quilt:

Feathered Christmas by Brigitte

Instead of using the “dotted” border as in the pattern, she added a diamond border to her quilt (as seen in The Butterfly).

This is how she did it:

The original Feathered Christmas quilt measures 24″ x 28″. The center of the quilt, inside the “dotted” border, measures 18″ x 22″.

Feathered Christmas with embroidered applique

First of all, you need to decide how many diamonds you want to have in the borders – which will determine how long the borders are.

The diamonds in the diamond border are 1″ squares alternating with 2″ squares. When laid out as diamonds, the 1″ squares measure 1.414″ across, and the 2″ squares measure 2.828″ across. That means that the border will be 2.828″ wide (one 2″ square laid as a diamond).

To start and end a diamond border with a 1″ square and alternating 2″ squares, you’ll always need one more 1″ square than the number of 2″ squares. This table gives you the dimension for the lengths of border you can create:

Diamond Border 1in 2in alternating

Option 1

Given that the size of the original quilt center measures 18″ x 22″, here’s one option:

Feathered Christmas with diamond border 1This version has 4 x 2″ squares across the top and bottom borders, with 5 x 1″ squares, making the center about 18.5″ wide – very close to the original quilt.

It has 5 x 2″ squares down each side, with 6 x 1″ squares, making the center about 22.75″ high – also very close to the original quilt.

Option 2

Brigitte went with one more 2″ square across the top and bottom borders, and one more 2″ square down each side – and then she added a 1″ wide solid border inside the diamond border:

Feathered Christmas with diamond border 2This makes the center (inside the solid border) about 20.625″ wide and 24.875″ high. There’s quite a bit more background surrounding the tree, but that leaves room for some gorgeous quilting.

How to piece the border

To piece the border, it’s much easier to turn the border and look at it as squares, rather than as diamonds:

To make a diamond border

For the 2″ squares, cut a strip of fabric 2.5″ x WOF (Width of Fabric).
For the background by the 2″ squares, cut 2 strips of fabric 2.5″ x WOF.

Stitch a background strip to each side of the square strip. Then cut the finished strip set into 2.5″ wide pieces.

For the 1″ squares, cut a strip of fabric 1.5″ x WOF.
For the background by the 1″ squares, cut 2 strips of fabric 2.5″ x WOF.

Stitch a background strip to each side of the square strip. Then cut the finished strip set into 1.5″ wide pieces.

Lay the pieces out as shown in the diagram above, alternating 1.5″ pieces with 2.5″ pieces. Start with a 1.5″ wide piece. Stitch a 2.5″ wide piece to it so that the top left hand corner of the 2″ square is butted up against the bottom right hand corner of the 1″ square. Continue adding each piece until your border is as long as desired! You will need to add a 2.5″ square of background to the top end of the border, and one to the bottom end of the border (see diagram above).

Now you need to trim the border. Using your rotary cutting ruler, align the 1/4″ mark with the corners of the 2″ squares. Cut away the excess using your rotary cutter. Repeat for the other 3 sides of the border.

How big should the center be?

I have found that when using diamond borders, it is MUCH easier to create the border first and THEN trim the center to match. That way, you’re not going to be trying to add a too-long border to a too-short center or a not-long-enough border to a too-long center.

For the version of the Feathered Christmas quilt without the solid border in between the center and the diamond border, it’s as simple as measuring the length of the diamond border and then trimming the center to match.

For the version of the Feathered Christmas quilt with the solid border in between the center and the diamond border, measure the length of the diamond border and then trim the center to match. Because you will be including a 1″ wide border all around the center before adding the diamond border, you now need to cut off 1″ on all 4 sides of the center. Cut your 1″ wide borders at 1.5″ wide.

Alternative diamond borders

What if instead of alternating 1″ and 2″ squares, you want to use all 1″ squares or all 2″ squares? Use the following tables to determine your measurements. There’s also a table for using 3″ squares and one for 4″ squares, just in case!

1″ squares diamond border:

Diamond Border 1inch squares

2″ squares diamond border:

Diamond Border 2inch squares

3″ squares diamond border:

Diamond Border 3inch squares

4″ squares diamond border:

Diamond Border 4inch squaresHave you made a Feathered Christmas quilt yet? Click here to purchase Feathered Christmas with Embroidered Appliqué. There’s still plenty of time to finish it before Christmas!


NOTE: All seam allowances are 1/4″ or 0.25″. 

10 Comments

  1. Many thanks for working this all out for us Sarah. Sometimes working things out can be a little daunting, hence things don’t get done. I am definitely going to make this as I love the design and I already have it in my collection. Many thanks to Brigette as well, for sharing her quilt.

  2. Thank you very much for providing us with all the math behind the diamond border. This will save me a lot of trial and error for future borders.
    I love your instructions!!!!

  3. Thank you Sarah for doing all the math and the diagrams. You are the best! I am now motivated to make another Feathered Christmas wall hanging.

  4. Lovely version, many thanks for the mathematical heads up on the dimensions!

  5. I’m struggling with following the “finished” vs. “unfinished” cutting and piecing instructions. It looks to me that the cutting line for the border is right on the corner of the 4″ square with no 1/4″ of fabric present at those corners to catch into the seam when you sew the border onto the center. Perhaps I just need to do it once to get it…..

  6. Thank you so much! I have so much to learn, and this is a wonderful tutorial. Thanks to Bridgette for sharing her beautiful quilt with us.

  7. Roxanne Sposato

    Wow! Your instructions are awesome. Thanks for the diagrams as they made the directions easier for me to get it.

  8. Awesome Sarah Thanks!! We appreciate all your hard work!!

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