Last night I was putting a quilt on the frame with a heavily pieced border. I have a technique for dealing with quilts with heavily pieced borders and/or bias edges that I thought I’d share. I have used this on a backing cut exactly the same size as the top. I did have to cut the top down a tiny bit (less than 1/2 an inch).
To attach your quilt/back to the frame, you will first need to cut yourself some muslin strips. I like mine about 2 or 2.5 inches wide. Then sew the muslin to the edge of your quilt top/back to the WRONG SIDE. Sew approximately 1/4 inch from the edge and use basting stitches. I like to refer to this as a “False border”. As you can see in the picture, it leaves the raw edge of your quilt/top sticking up a bit, with an ugly muslin border that you can then attach to your leaders.
You can now quilt freely right up to the edge–even over the edge onto the false border. You don’t need to worry about the bias edges stretching, or your heavily pieced border seams giving way if you stretch your quilt a little tight, as your false border holds your bias/pieced border in place. If you’ve used it on the backing, you don’t have to worry about running out of room. And because there’s a seam, you can “feel” the edge when it is on the back if you run your hand along it. A little care when positioning to make sure your top lines up with the side seams and you should be able to fit your skimpy backing.
And best of all, when the quilt is done, you just lop off the extra border and leave the muslin layer inside the quilt. If a few of your basting stitches show after attaching your binding, they should be easy to pick out.