THE BORDERS of quilts are seldom given the prominence that they
deserve. To often we say, "I want my quilt about 72 inches wide by 84
long so I'll use blocks 12 inches square, that's 6x7—42
right, that's that"; and the quilt may be ever so much work,
beautifully done, and yet look disappointingly ordinary when finished.
Personally I'd as soon hang my pictures unframed, as to finish my
The simplest and often most effective way is to use a wide band of
white, say 5 inches wide at the sides by 8 or 9 at the ends. This,
beautifully quilted, and bound around the edges with a color repeating
from the pattern, is one solution. Color bands, white and two colors
from the pattern make a handsome border, especially with mitered
corners. Or the wide plain border may have pieced stars in the corners,
or repeats of whatever block is used in the quilt center. Very
distinguished looking coverlets are achieved by having a center square
or oblong closely pieced, like Arabic lattice, Spools, Square and
Compass, about a foot smaller than the bed top. Surround this with a
10-inch band of plain for display quilting, then a pieced border
repeating the design and a narrow darker border to complete. This takes
less blocks and makes a more effective top than when pieced clear to
Commonest of the pieced borders on old quilts is the "Saw Tooth." This
is simply a row of squares, each square made of two triangles, one
light and one dark, so placed that the darks all go to the outside and
the whites in next to the white of the "set." A triangle border in
better design is made by using isosceles triangles instead of right
triangles; such a cutting unit may be found with the block pattern
called "Spider Web." When a white strip is place between two rows of
Saw Teeth, with the dark to both outside edges, the "Double Saw Tooth,"
a really handsome border, is formed. "Zig-Zag," like the quilt design
of that name, is another triangle border; "Flying Geese" or "Wild Goose
Chase" yet another. This one takes two sizes of triangles as shown in
the block pattern "Wild Goose Chase" and has a decided movement not
found in the other staid designs. A border that "stays put" is
preferable to one which leads the eye relentlessly on and on. By
alternating the colors in each little pieced oblong, as shown in one
fourth of "Swastika" one gets a different border entirely, but built on
the same two sizes of triangles as used in the "Goose Chase."
Diamond blocks sewed into a strip alternating dark and light make a
neat little border, or two rows that lead in different directions and
jog the color placing produce a very good one. This plan is sometimes
called "Laurel Border" and does look like a laurel wreath when pieced
of green and white. One similar to this, with the ends clipped to look
even more like leaves, is shown on our original design No. 661, the
Trumpet Vine. Ribbon border block, one of our hundred and one, is an
excellent pieced border to use next to a plain one, either around a
whole plain center or with a pieced center.
Almost any pieced block can have a special border unit evolved from it
which harmonizes with the design—triangle borders exactly
others could use alternate color squares or pin wheels and squares;
there is an old-fashioned one called "Tile Border" which is really just
little "Necktie" blocks with the center square only in dark or
contrasting color. "Spools" also makes a clever patchwork border, as
does diagonally placed dark squares, filled in to the outer edges with
light triangles on either side.
One of the most elaborate quilts that I have ever seen, a real museum
piece, has no less than ten borders around a gorgeous applique and
embroidered center. The owner calls it "Framed Medallion" and surely it
is. One border is a double row of light and dark Zig-Zag so placed as
to give a dark ric-rac effect on light, another flanks triangles with
diamonds, alternating position each time and meeting in four most
precise corners of two diamonds each. There are bands of print between
pieced borders, one border is even appliqued and the widest one pieced
of eight-pointed stars is about seven inches wide.
A pieced border which scallops is given with the "Friendship Ring"
Applique borders are more usual on quilts of their kind than pieced
ones are on patchwork. There are the scallops that sometimes add onto a
straight edge quilt and sometimes match a cut edge. These may run a
sequence of color overlays as green for an outer scallop with rose and
pink over it for a rose applique. There is a scallop cutting pattern
with "Double Irish Cross" which may be extended to become an exact
multiple of your quilt edge. If your quilt is 90 inches long the
scallop might be 9, 10, or 15 inches, or even 13, by a trifle of
manipulating. The scallop itself is often scalloped into little
unevennesses, or may drop in a sort of triple curve. These are apt to
be rather heavy, awkward looking additions, rather reminiscent of the
funeral hearse when ponderous tassels hang between. Sometimes the tops
met in a totally inadequate little tulip looking like a crowned tooth,
or other times this join was weighted down with princess plumes or
great green oak leaves.
Most satisfactory of all applique borders, in my opinion, are the
running vine types. These may have a stem cut on a continuing "S"
shape, or use regulation bias tape which accommodates itself to any
cure. On this foundation beautiful borders are built, with leaves at
precise angles with flowers above the bend or grapes below. Tulips made
of three petals and 3 layer roses notched around like a cooky-cutter
are favorites in keeping with the antique feeling in appliques. These,
with certain buds, big and little, were favorites always.
Usually an applique border is best on an applique quilt, and a pieced
one with pieced blocks. I have seen artistic pieced work around
applique, especially when there is some piecing in the block, but an
ornate vine or scallop border around a homey pieced center is as out of
keeping as a massive gold frame on a chaste little etching.
There are original borders on many quilts of later day resulting from
women's developed sense of design. An inclosure around angular or
erratic forms, such as pieced blocks often are, sustains the whole. I
well remember a testy old art teacher's example of that; the question
was on rug design, as to what relation the border should bear to the
pattern. We students must have all looked blank because he immediately
hammered a desk with his cane and queried, "Well, well, if you had a
bull in a pasture, should the bull or the fence be stronger?"
So we have designed "strong" borders of twining vines, of little
flowers with spreading leaves and such.
On our embroidered flower garden quilt there is a patch picket border,
and around the "Farm Life" group of picture patterns a pieced rail
fence, which literally holds in their places all the pigs and poultry.
This quilt is far from a conventional classic, but for a child, a boy
who loves the farm, or even for a man who thinks he does, it will
receive more appreciation than a "Wedding Ring"!
For a high four poster, the valance or flounce like they originally
used to hide the stored chests or trundle bed beneath, is a finish in
keeping. Many well dressed beds choose this fulled finish which adds to
the quilted counterpane for beauty's sake. A 3-inch plaited ruffle is
lovely on silk quilts or comfortlike puffs. Bound scallops are good,
even on wash quilts and some antique quilts as well as quilted white
counterpanes boast a fringe.
However the usual final finish to the quilted top is a binding. One
yard of material cut on the true bias into strips about 1 1/2 inches
wide will bind a straight edge quilt, but allow one half yard more for
scallop edge, or if you want less, piecing. This is usually machine
stitched around on the wrong side, to bring over the top, crease back
to seam and whip down on the front.
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