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 Quilting Techniques : Quilt Borders

Many quilters focus the bulk of their energy on the creating a quilt's central design. More often than not, thoughts of adding a border occur after the quilt is pieced. A well-chosen border, however, can have a sizable impact on a quilt's appearance, and is worth consideration from the start of the design process.

Why Use Borders?

There are several benefits to including a border in your design. Consider it if you need to:

- Extend the size of your quilt. When a particular size is needed, but a quilt's blocks fall short, a border, or series of borders can supply the additional length or width needed for any project.
- Frame quilt blocks. Borders can increase the impact of a quilt by directing the eye to the central design.
- Increase interest. Quilts featuring subdued designs can be brought to life by a well-chosen border.
- Enhance color. Borders can enrich a quilt's color scheme, playing up tones from the center design.
- Use an On-Point Setting. When quilt blocks are set on the diagonal, a border of setting triangles fills in the edges.

Types of Quilt Borders

There are many possibilities from which to choose. Often times, shapes used in a quilt block or the desired effect of your design is the best guide in selecting a border.

Borders can be single strips of fabric or pieced like a quilt block. Some can even be foundation based. Simple borders can include more than one fabric of varying widths and colors to create a multiple-frame effect.

The range of border choices includes:

  • Borders with diamonds. This pieced border is best for On-Point settings, sawtooth edges or used in rows to accent a quilt's central design.

  • Borders with triangles. This pieced border creates a fence-like effect around the central design. It can also be used to echo patterns from your blocks.

  • Borders with squares. A simple pieced border of squares creates a basic frame that compliments more intricate block designs.

  • Appliqué border. Appliqué enhances the visual effect of your quilt by adding another dimension to an otherwise flat surface.

  • Borders with rectangles. Pieced rectangles create a piano-key effect which either echoes a design or color theme from the central motif.

  • Multiple borders. More than one border can be added onto a quilt to increase it's size or provide more dramatic impact. Multiple borders can be pieced or solid strips of fabric.

  • Mixed borders. Some quilt designs benefit from the use of both pieced and strip borders. A pieced inner and outer border separated by a strip border can add color and increase the impact of an otherwise neutral quilt, for example.

  • No border. In some cases, such as a scrappy quilt, a border may not be necessary.

    Border Design Tips

    Although there is no single "right" way to choose a border, there are a few things to keep in mind:

    - Border designs should repeat a pattern, shape or fabric from the quilt blocks.
    - Changing the scale or fabric in a border can change the effect it creates.
    - If a border uses more than one print, make sure the background color differs between them.
    - Complex pieced borders work best when made with from fabrics with a strong contrast between the border's background and design.
    - For quilts featuring multiple borders, be sure the smaller border is an even fraction of the larger borders. A 2-inch wide inner border, for example, would work well with a 4-inch outer border.

    Solid Border Construction Tips

    - Use the lengthwise grain when cutting fabric for borders.
    - Sew side border strips to the quilt top first, then the top and bottom strips.
    - Mark the center of each strip and each side of your quilt top. Use this mark for aligning the two.

    Pieced Border Construction Tips

    1. Measure the length and width of your quilt through the center.
    2. Subtract half an inch (the total seam allowance) to determine the finished size of your quilt.
    3. Calculate the number of border design units needed to cover the measurement from step two. Round up any partial units.
    4. Multiply the number of units needed by the width of a single unit to determine the finished border length.
    5. Calculate the width of "coping strips", if needed. This is fabric added to the quilt top to extend it to the border dimensions.

    Related : Free Border Patterns - More Quilting Techniques

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