Category Archives: borders

Triple finish

Done, done and DONE! Finally, I finished two UFOs and all eight Santa place mats. I hadn’t done any machine quilting since before we moved in 2014, so I chose smaller projects to ease myself back into the groove.

I admit, shame was the motivating factor for crossing the finish line, particularly since each of these projects was started around the turn of the century. First is the 42″ x 42″ Fences ‘n Firs wall hanging.

Designed by Susan Preglow and Cathy Slatterly, the pattern for this was featured in the January 2000 issue of McCall’s Quick Quilts.

I loved the scrappy nature of the design, but as a newbie quilter back then, I had no stash and no scraps, so I used fat quarters and standard, quarter-yard cuts to piece the top. Now, 17 years later, I can’t imagine my quilting life with no stash, although I could definitely embrace the no-scraps aspect of it!

Quilting this little project was an exercise in one step forward, two steps back. Besides not knowing for the longest time how to quilt the tree blocks, once I did figure it out, I ended up re-quilting all 12 of them because I hated the way they looked. The nylon thread I had used just didn’t look right, so I ended up using matching thread. Tension issues led me to quilt nearly half of them yet a third time.

On top of that, I’m hoping the stain in one of the rail fence blocks hasn’t permanently set in.

I’m not exactly sure how it got there; it’s possibly an acid stain from the packing paper the quilts were wrapped and stored in while we moved and built our house. More likely, it was caused by a Texas cockroach (no amount of pest control keeps them ALL away). Disgusting, I know.

The backing is pieced with leftovers from the top:

I used a simple cable design for the border:

Here’s a look at the free motion machine quilting of a tree from the back:

and a maple leaf:

The vertical lines running through the leaf are the ditch quilting lines inside the rail fence blocks.

My machine quilting is definitely improving, but I still find it intimidating.

My second finish is this simple, 46″ x 54″ quilt:

There must’ve been a perfectly good OCD reason for the last square in the bottom row to be red instead of blue, but so much time has passed, I don’t remember what it was.

The squares are quilted with diagonal lines spaced two inches apart and the sashing strips and border are quilted with a single cable design.

It’s made with Aunt Grace Christmas prints, which were available between 1996 and 2001.

Check out these vintage cuties:

Here is the backing fabric:

The only two places I could have bought these prints is Houston or a little shop in Estes Park, Colorado. The striped fabric used for the binding was purchased at the Houston Quilt Festival in the early 2000s.

Completing the binding for all eight Santa place mats is the third and final finish. Here they are with their matching table runner:

Although the curved edges in this project required it, I discovered that I’m not fond of working with bias binding!

It feels good to say “done,” but there’s still a lot on the list, so I’d best keep on keepin’ on.

Thanks for checking in!


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Filed under binding, borders, Christmas, fabric, machine quilting, quilting, scrappy backs, thread

The best border

Something that frequently gets me into unnecessary trouble is my habit of questioning everything. Twelve years ago, I purchased a magazine with the instructions for making the scrappy Aunt Grace quilt I’m working on. (If you’ve been following along here for a while, you’re familiar with my goal to make 10 Aunt Grace-themed snowball blocks per week.) As block production winds down, I’m looking forward to the other aspect of finishing the top: the border.

The pattern calls for three narrow borders: a 2″ green, a 1″ white and another 2″ green.

AG border1

Simple, right? Right, but I am unable to leave simple alone; it must be questioned.

I didn’t like the busyness of the butted border strips,

AG border corner

so I revised the layout to show them mitered. I think it looks much better, particularly since it mimics the 45-degree angled corners of all the snowball blocks. If I’d checked the pattern more thoroughly, I would’ve learned that the sample quilt pictured in the magazine featured mitered corners, but I do these things the hard way.

AG border2

Still, the border seemed not quite right; it was too chunky. The snowball blocks measure 4½” square but the three borders together measured 5″ wide, so I reduced the size of the white border from 1″ to ½”. It surprised me how much that ½” made the difference in bringing things back into proper proportion.

AG border3

Still, I wondered if the trio of borders needed spicing up a bit, a complete overhaul or if the green/white/green arrangement was exactly what the quilt needed: a calm frame for lots of scrappy snowballs.

Rhonda and I often quilt long distance via phone and email, so I sent her an image of the layout and asked for her input. She wondered what the border would look like with corner squares: one version with solid white and another version with hourglass blocks to pick up the alternate design that is created when the corners of the snowball blocks come together.

AG border4

AG border5

As usual, simple is best, so the 4½” wide border set with mitered corners wins. I just wish I could stop taking the long way around to arrive at the obvious.

Meanwhile, these Aunt Grace blocks from last week and this week mark the completion of 300 blocks, with 23 left to go!



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Filed under borders, piecing

When snowflakes fly sideways…

Sunday snow

…all day Sunday, you make a prototype of the triangle border for your spring quilt.


Electric Quilt offered two cutting options for the isosceles triangles in the border of my spring quilt: rotary cutting or a template.

Here is the rotary cutting diagram it generated:

rotary cutting diagram

Hmmm, cutting to a sixteenth of an inch in both directions and ensuring two 39-degree angles…I’m thinkin’—no.

So I printed the template pieces, one for the five large triangles in each border and one corner and its reverse for the other end,

template pieces

and taped them together with the aid of a light box:

light box

Here are the three templates spliced together and trimmed to include the ¼” seam allowance:


Next, I applied pieces of double stick tape to the backside perimeter of each template. This should hold the template in place on the fabric while cutting around the three sides.

double stick tape 

Here is the prototype:


The length was great, but somewhere I messed up and ended up with these:

bad seam2

bad seam1 

Today I made a second prototype and it turned out well:


I’m now ready to cut into the good fabric and make the border for real.

border fabric

Next post, I’ll show you how I cut out the triangle pieces to conserve fabric and still keep the base of the triangles on the lengthwise grain.

Oh, and here are this week’s Aunt Grace blocks:


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Filed under borders, Electric Quilt, piecing

Parallel paths: kitchen and piecing marathons

Piecing for the Cocheco Memories sampler is done! I stitched the last border on about 10:00 Sunday night.

For the inner border, I used a golden brown moiré print. Because the moiré is fairly pronounced and busy, I decided to fussy cut strips in order to center just one section of the moiré in the border’s width. It wasn’t difficult to do, just time consuming, but worth the effort.

inner border

The finished border measures 1″ so I cut strips 1½” wide. Since the moiré design ran parallel to the lengthwise grain and I only had ⅝ yard, I had to piece the border in three sections to get enough length for each side.

First, I positioned a 20″ square ruler over one of the moiré stripes, centering it between two lines of the ruler from top to bottom. Then I marked the width at the top and bottom of the ruler lines:


Next, I used a 6″ x 24″ ruler to mark the cutting lines from top to bottom


This allowed me to make sure the moiré stripe was centered in the 1″ width. (It’s hard to get a great visual when looking through the ruler.)

center check

When all 12 strips were marked, I cut ¼” from each marked line to get 1½” wide strips.

cutting close up

final strips

The outer border ended up wider than originally intended after I auditioned two sizes. I thought the one on the right was just too skimpy for the quilt; it needed a slightly wider frame.

CM border choices

To keep the busyness of the stripe in check, I made sure the flowers appeared right side up in the borders on the right and left and positioned the same flower at the top. Cutting on print/off grain can be a little scary, but it was necessary for this fabric.

blue fussy cut

Here’s the finished quilt top:

The red you see in the corner 9-patch blocks will be used for the binding.

The red you see in the corner 9-patch blocks will be used for the binding.

Yesterday I made manicotti for dinner

manicotti done

and Eric’s birthday cake—five months early, but I don’t think it’s realistic to assume that shipping a cake to Afghanistan is a smart idea.

Tonight Eric requested rosemary chicken with bow tie pasta and steamed broccoli.


Filed under borders, fabric, home cookin', kids, piecing

Fitting quilt motifs to the border corners

Fitting the corner motif to the border of my niece’s baby quilt, Nap Time, presented a challenge. Here is the EQ layout with one border motif correctly sized and positioned (loops facing inward) on each side of the quilt, plus the corner motifs sized to 4½” (border width).

EQ border1

What exactly am I supposed to do here? The double loops straddling either side of the center loop in the corner motif head in the wrong direction. Adjustment seems impossible, and already I’m thinking I made the tragic mistake of positioning the loops inward facing.

Now look at the layout with the loops facing out:

EQ border loops out

Not perfect, but it may have potential. I scooted the side motifs away from the upper left corner a bit and then enlarged the corner motif until the smaller loops in it connected with the loops to each side.

EQ border corner enlarged

It could work, but I rejected it because I wanted more quilting in the corners than the single loop would provide.

Time to fly by the seat of my pants.

Tracing from this printed image,

border corner motif print out

I first drew the large center loop onto my paper border.

center loop in border corner

Now what? As I studied the printed corner motif, I noticed there were three different loop sizes in it. I decided to incorporate two of the smallest loops on either side of the large center loop because they would fill the space best without having to be re-sized. And although two small loops together would interrupt the big loop/small loop sequence playing out on the sides, I was satisfied because, by itself, the corner motif was symmetrical.

I used a circle template (different from the one shown in the previous post) to draw smooth connections between the small loops in the corner and the side motifs.

combo circle template

Here is how it looked when I finished:

final border corner design

Turns out, I ended up adjusting the first corner motif after all.

left corner adjusted

Sometimes you have to go the long way around to get to where you want to be.

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Filed under borders, Electric Quilt

Fitting quilt motifs to borders

Here’s how I figured out the border quilting motifs for my niece’s baby quilt, Nap Time:

From the Quiltmaker Volume 7 collection of digitized quilt motifs, I chose this loop border for the quilt:

loop border

And this border corner:

loop corner

First, I sized the motifs in EQ to the border’s width of 4½”. Since the blocks were 6″ wide, I sized the loop motif to a 6″ length. Then I positioned the border motif on one side of the quilt with the loops facing toward the quilt and on another side with them facing away from it. I decided I liked the loops facing inward. EQ is great for planning those details before you get too far into things.

EQ border design

Time now to draft the borders.

My friend who works at an architectural firm bundles the trimmings from large sized drawings that come off the plotter. The paper is transparent vellum and it is fantastic for drafting borders. I use it to construct a paper border the exact size of the quilt’s borders and then transfer and fit the quilt motifs to it.

border paper

The trimmings measure approximately 6″ wide by 40″ long. If I didn’t have a friend collecting these for me, I would tape together sheets of tracing paper and it would take much longer to get the lengths needed.

If the quilt isn’t square, I always join enough paper trimmings to create one long side and one short side plus at least two corners, taping the sections together on the back.

taped border

For this quilt, I needed lengths of 47″ and 59″, although I usually include a couple extra inches for insurance. Then I joined them at right angles to simulate the actual border on the quilt top. (Note: The paper length in the photos has been shortened for this example.)

Using a 6″ x 24″ quilter’s ruler and a permanent marker, I drew a line all the way across the bottom of both lengths of paper, making sure the lines were perpendicular to each other.


Then I measured up 4½” from each line and drew another line parallel to it across the top.


This gave me the border width measurement for one horizontal and one vertical border. I drew all the way across in both directions to get a square where the two sides meet. This helps later when fitting the corner design.

registration2 closeup

Next I drew a dashed line ¼” up from the outside edge to indicate where the binding will be attached.

registration binding

I drew another dashed line ¼” from the top to keep the top and bottom margins equal so the motif will be centered in the space.

registration top

At this point, I was ready to print the loop motif for the border (plus the corner) to measure its actual size and verify that it will fit nicely within the 4½” border width.

print of border motif & corner

From top to bottom, the motif measured 3½”. This was perfect, as the distance between the two dashed lines measured 4″.

4 inch border width tape measure

A little more centering would be needed to find the place where the border motif will have an equal amount of fabric on both the top and bottom.

To calculate this, I subtracted the width of the motif (3½”) from the border width (4½”) which was 1″. I’d already measured off a total of ½” for the binding and an equal distance from the top, leaving another ½” to mark off.

Using a 6″ x 24″ ruler, I marked another line ¼” from the binding line, the other ¼” from the first line drawn from the top edge. Altogether, the loop motif would have ½” clearance top and bottom.

final centering lines

Next, I measured and marked the length of both the horizontal and vertical borders. For this quilt, one length measured 47″, the other measured 59″. (Again, I’ve shortened the paper length for this example.)

border lengths marked

Finally, I marked the center of each border length with a black dashed line as well as a diagonal line running through the corner square.

registration3 center and diagonal

With all the registration lines marked, it was time to begin transferring and fitting the loop border into the space.

I taped the border motif to the tabletop using blue painter’s tape.

tape border motif

Then I positioned one end of the border paper over the motif, aligning the bottom registration mark on the border paper (the line just above the black dashed binding line) with the bottom of the loop motif and began tracing–OOPS!

Fortunately, it occurred to me that I was going to have to flip the motif. If I didn’t, the motif would begin with a large loop on one end and finish with a small loop on the opposite end. I returned to EQ, flipped the image, and printed it.

flipped EQ border motif

After printing it, I slipped it into the correct position beneath the paper border and taped it to the table.

I positioned the paper border so the beginning of the first loop was just outside the corner square.

ready to trace, both ends

Now it was safe to trace the motif onto the border paper. For this, I used a mechanical pencil, keeping an eraser close by.

On the 47″ side, I traced one entire motif at each end. When I slid the motifs toward the center registration mark to add the next motif, this is how it was coming together in the middle:

meeting in the middle

You can see that two small loops would sit right next to each other. Symmetrical? Yes. Did I like it? No. I decided to trace a small loop in the middle of the center registration mark to maintain the big loop/small loop sequence in the motif.

small loop in center

Then I continued tracing the motif, working my way toward the center registration mark.

ready to connect

I used a large circle template to create a smooth connecting line on each side of the small loop in the center. I erased a portion of the lines on the large loops to make the connection look more natural.

connection left side

Here’s the final result with everything joined:

final connection

I worked the 59″ border the same way, adding motifs from each end, working toward the center and using a circle template to connect the loops. Here it is finished:

long border solution

The black lines on the photo indicate one motif repeat.

Whew! I know that was a huge post, and they won’t all be that long and tedious. I just think it’s good to know how to do something like fitting quilt motifs to your borders. Not only does it keep your brain engaged, it allows you to make your quilts truly your own.

Thanks for dropping by!

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Filed under borders, Electric Quilt