Sunday, January 4, 2015

Borders....updated archived post

  While I was working on cleaning up the blog yesterday, I noticed the "all-time" button on the stats section.  I was quite surprised to see this post from January 2010, as one of the most read.   I actually sounded like I knew what I was talking about, too.  It is worth the repeat, with a little updating and added photos. 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 unity the 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 not sewn 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. 

Another example of the inset strip used to separate the center 
from the border that creates a mat effect to this watercolor
wall hanging.   Not only did this strip separate the center from
the border, it pushes the focal area back and draws you into 
the center.

 A larger quilt can benefit from an inset strip, too.   This bargello quilt was not quite large enough.  So before the actual border went on, I wanted to lengthen the quilt size.  To the top and bottom I added leftover parts of the bargello strata and framed them with an inset strip.  Then a second inset strip went around the entire center.  Finally the border was added.  

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.

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.

  Potpourri is a more recent quilt made using the Faux Braid pattern.  
The blocks are 9 inch half log cabin blocks.  A 1 1/2" inner strip and
then the 5  outer border  create a good finish.  It's pleasing to my eye
so that means the proportion is about right.   
  Another thing to notice about the border......using a light color border lets the
center design float across the quilt.  A darker border would add weight to
the overall look and create a framed effect...see the bargello above with a dark border.  

Third:  There are always exceptions to the above because each quilt tells its own story and has its own rhythm.    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.   

   And if you are in doubt......skip the border!  Add another row or two of
blocks and then bind it.   

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.


KatieQ said...

I can see why this is a popular post. The information is great. I struggle with borders (along with many other things), so it's really helpful to read your thoughts on the subject.

Shelia said...

Great post, again, Debbie. I always need to review about borders. You have given a lot of great information for us to remember.

Terri said...

Love your quilts!

Dana Gaffney said...

I love the general formula, but keep your seam ripper handy advice, LOL. I lay my quilt out, put the border fabric under it and adjust til it looks right, it's an eye thing for me.

Janet O. said...

You make some good points here, Debbie.

Barbara said...

Great info. I often wonder about this. Thanks.

Deb@asimplelifequilts said...

Great post - I have pinned it for future reference.Thanks!

Lynne said...

Very helpful post; clarifies my own thoughts. Thank you.

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