Thursday, June 13, 2013

Run-On Borders

I've been thinking about border style and how it can be used as a weak clue to help date antique quilts.
In this post I talked about what we call the Spacer Border and how it was popular at the end of the 19th century, particularly with quilters of the Anabaptist religions.

Women in all kinds of quilting communities used multiple strip borders to frame their designs---here four strips and a contrasting binding.

But, as all beginning quiltmakers have to learn, there are design problems with multiple strip borders.

You can't piece the strips together and add them...unless you miter the corners. If you plan on a mitered corner you can piece plain strips and pieced strips first and then attach the whole thing to the blocks.

Which is how you get a neat framed corner.

This quadruple strip border looks to be mitered.

But mitering takes more fabric and it's a little tricky to stitch, so when you look at antique quilts you usually see that the seamstress added one border at a time as probably happened in this one.

Adding one border at a time means you can butt the 
rectangles against one another, which is the common method.

At least, those quilters who liked a neat framed corner did it that way.

Not everyone valued that look in the corners.

Many, many quiltmakers pieced the strips together and butted the corners.
Perhaps not getting an "A+" in home ec.

But creating some pretty great compositions.

These run-on corners do seem to be more common after 1880 than before
so once again the border style can be a weak clue to date.

As in this one where you get the feeling that the blocks and the paisley sashing might be before 1880 but the 3-strip border of solid fabrics (with a red fading to khaki) was added after 1880.

If you are making reproduction quilts you sometimes face a dilemma.
Our aesthetic or theirs?


  1. I usually choose their aesthetic, as the quirkiness and fun of the border is the appeal to me! These are wonderful examples, and I believe I'll be reproducing at least one of them! (The stars with the orange border is now high on the list!) Thanks for sharing these!

  2. Thanks for the post, Barbara.

    However, you CAN piece border strips together -- in pairs. Lets say you have four border strips:

    - Apply border 1 to the sides.
    - Apply borders 1 & 2 to the top/bottom.
    - Apply borders 2 & 3 to the sides.
    - Apply borders 3 & 4 to the top/bottom.
    - Apply border 4 to the sides.

  3. I sure enjoyed your post this morning. Lots of inspiration here!

  4. I had a tutorial on metering borders, but lost it and still can't get it set in my head, how to do them, lol. I usually just lay the strips down and square things off.


  5. I find that I use this style of border design a lot in my quilts. I try to get away from it so I am not doing the same thing all the time, but it seems to sneak back into my work

  6. unfortunate to display a swastika quilt in this day and age. were there no other exemplars?
    i know i'm particularly sensitive to this, but the symbol today is not what it was when the quiltmaker made the quilt.

  7. Question: on the third to the last quilt, I ll call it a sort of pineapple looking design...you say the borders look as though they were added later...yet in the photo the red [now khaki], the green and the mustard yellow appear to be the same fabrics that were used in the piecing of the quilt; the red for ex, is used in the sawtooth arcs and is faded the exact same way...so..do you think someone saved the fabrics and tops all those years, and then finally finished it, in the later manner? Or is more likely it was made all at the same time? How can we know?

    great post, I ve never seen some of these border treatments, love the prim look...

  8. Barbara, what is the name of the pattern of the quilt that is 5th from the bottom? It's red and green on a white background.

  9. Thanks for another great post Barbara. Always interesting and inspiring!

  10. Well, I am beginning to feel a lot better about my "creative " borders. Thanks for the display.

  11. 1. Liz D.: You are right. I think it is the same fabric in the blocks as the border. So the whole quilt blocks and border is probably after 1880.

    2. Linda: Ruby McKim and several others writing about 1930 called that fan pattern Mohawk Trail (BlockBase #3302.5)

  12. Your "border" blogs are truly interesting - thanks for sharing. Love the design of the 4th one down.

  13. I have been reading older blog posts this morning & noticed the comment about the so-called swastika quilt. That block is not a swastika. If you look on page 179 in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, it is the Virginia Reel block, #1339b.