Friday, October 3, 2014

Worth repeating....archived post

From January 2010.....This post is worth repeating, and a little extra update. wide do I go?

This year I have had emails asking  how to determine the size or width of the border on a quilt.  I have researched it over the years and even have a couple of books on borders.  A lot of inspiration and how to info, but not a lot of help in planning the width or how to decide.   Finally I researched  the principals of design in art, since quilting is my visual art form.   There are 6 main topics here:  unity, variety, balance, contrast, proportion and pattern/rhythm.  From  these I figured out "my formula" that pleases my eye.

First:  I like to use a narrow sashing--usually 1 inch--to stop the  block pattern and for contrast.  Often in my quilts it is black or a strong accent color to bring out a color in the body of the quilt.   Also for unitythe narrowest border should be closest to the center of the quilt.  For my watercolor quilts because they are much smaller in size, I will usually use an inset  "piping style" piece that ends up 1/2 inch. 
The inset piping piece is cut 1 1/2 inches and folded in half wrong sides together.  It is sewn to the body of the quilt top with the raw edges matched and the folded edge toward the center.  The folded edge is notsewn down.  It gives the effect like a  mat on a framed picture.     This photo shows a cream inset piping and  a very narrow dark red sashing and then a dark border. The contrast stops the eye and the color of the piping puts the eye back in the center.   This was a round robin poster project from last year.  Four different quilters created  1/4 of the center, using a variety of techniques. 

Second:  The  width of the  border should be at least one-half to two-thirds the size of the quilt block used in the quilt.  This proportion keeps the eye on the center of the quilt which is the most important.   The overall finished width of the border should not be larger than one quilt block.
 In the scrappy mountains quilt top the finished  blocks are 8  inches by 9 1/2 inches.  So  to be pleasing to my eye, the overall border should be no more than 8 inches and the outer fabric no more than 5 inches.   I finished adding the borders today and very pleased with the result.  I used a black sashing--1 1/2 inches wides to stop the pattern, and a 5 inch outer border.  That makes a total border about 5 1/2 inches when finished.   I promise to quit blogging on about this quilt and get it quilted soon.

The photo on the left shows a scrap quilt I love, but the border is too narrow overall.  Its just not one of my most successful quilts.  The quilt uses 2 blocks, a snowball block and 9 patch variation.   Both were 6 inch blocks.  The first border (the zig-zag area) is 3 1/2 inches and I used a 3 inch final border of floral fabric.  My thinking was the border would be almost equal  to the block size, and I should not make the outer any larger.  Wrong!  When I look at it now, it seems unfinished, out of proportion, off-balance.  Because I did not stop the design with a sashing, the out border needed to be larger than the inner one. Just one more thing to keep in mind.
Third:  There are always exceptions to the above because each quilt tells its own story and has its own rhythm.    See the above photo and description to understand this.  If  I was adding applique (or a type of pieced border)  to the quilt, the outer border  should probably  be wider to keep the overall appearance in balance

So, my general rule/formula is a border about 2/3 the size of the block used, and be prepared to rip it out or add to it if needed!  When I find the absolute for border width, believe me, I will write the book.  Until then, happy stitching.

Update:  I have a board on Pinterest of Border ideas that may help with inspiration and a visual reference to all the above words!  Click here to see it. 

Exceptions that work......I only wanted to increase the length of this scrappy quilt.  I added pinwheel blocks made from leftovers to the top and bottom.   It adds visual interest without becoming too busy.


For Heads Up, I used the  border to extend the design.  I followed the shading or value of the edge blocks when I pieced strips of fabric for it.
This border is not obvious, but it does seem to make the design look finished.

Thanks for the questions and happy stitching.


Janet O. said...

Good info on borders, and this could explain why some of my quilts just don't look right even after the borders are on. : )

LynCC said...

oooo - I really love the floral piece with the subtle extension border. :)

Mary said...

This is great information. I also have struggled with how to plan borders. Lately, a lot of my quilts have had no border at all because of my quandary. Thanks for sharing.

Cheree @ The Morning Latte said...

I just eye it, but I guess if I think about it my eyes have those general rules. Can you tell I HATE math!? LOL

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