by Mary Beth Krapil


I was recently at the AQS Fall Paducah Quilt Week, and of course, I took time to look at the quilts. As usual, something caught my attention on one of the first quilts I saw. And, as usual, I started to look at that one aspect on all the other quilts. This time it was borders.

Why do we add borders to our quilts? They can create a nice frame for the piecing, they can add size (so it fits the bed!), they can help to square the quilt up. There are all kinds of borders, from simple strips of fabric to elaborately pieced borders. Some times we add multiple borders. Once the borders are added, comes the task of quilting them. And just like the borders themselves, there are many ways to get them quilted.

Quilting borders poses some unique challenges.  They are long spaces that really catch the eye. So you really want the quilting to be right. If you choose to quilt a symmetrical design, it has to be well planned out, so it fits nicely in the space. This quilt is a great example of that concept. I loved the symmetry of this quilt, the piecing, applique, and the quilting all contribute to that symmetry. I think the quilter chose the perfect border design.

Sonne Blume
by Jill Zollinger of Franklin, TN



Here is another nice example of symmetry:

Autumn Bramble by
Susan Nelson of Prior Lake, MN


Sometimes it’s just easier to not worry about the symmetry. This video by HQ Ambassador, Angela Walters, explores that possibility.

Sometimes, there are no borders, so there’s nothing to worry about!

Ohio Snowball by
Christine Perrige of Erie, CO

But sometimes, even though there are no borders, you can create a border with the quilting.

Paying It Forward by Joan Knight and Southern Belle Quilters of Prattville, AL


Gypsy by
Judi Madsen of
St. George, UT


Ginger Blossoms
designed by Tula Pink
pieced by Tula Pink
quilted by Angela Walters


Sew Sweet Modern Sampler by
Shelly Pagliai of
New Cambria, MO


Fire and Ice by
Jackie Van Houten
of Monroe, MI

Of course that is the case with a wholecloth quilt. The center is framed nicely by a distinct quilted border. Notice how Bethanne left a narrow space with no quilting to create the illusion of a frame and then repeated that space at the outside edge to skillfully define the frame.

Song of Summer by
Bethanne Nemesh of
Allentown, PA


Sometimes the piecing of the borders define spaces for quilting designs. In this lovely quilt, the piecing pokes out into the border. Margaret quilted a fantastic twisted feather design and it seemingly goes under the blocks that protrude into the border and continues all the way around the quilt.

The Twisted Sister
by Margaret Solomon Gunn of Gorham, ME


Here the border design flows beautifully around the quilt  and the shape is defined by the pieced elements of the outer border.

Rejoice by Molly Y Hamilton-McNally of Tehachapi, CA


In this medallion quilt the white triangular spaces in the outer border are the perfect place for a quilted motif. Medallion quilts typically are multiple borders around a center piece or center medallion. It sure gives lots of opportunity for designing border quilting!

Halo Medallion by
Angelee White of Gray, TN


Here the print of the border fabric dictates the shape of the quilting.

Jewels of the Universe by Phyllis Marcum and Terry Marcum of Colorado Springs, CO


In this quilt, the piecing of the border totally defines the quilting. This is an example where you would not want the quilting to overpower the beautiful piecing. The quilted motifs in the solid border are a lovely accent to the pieced border.

Moment in Time by Laurie Tigner of Rapid City, SD


And sometimes it is best to keep the quilting in the border simple and let the main focus of the quilt shine.

Great Balls of Fire by Claudia Clark Myers quilted by Marilyn Badger


Valorie quilted a simple motif in the grey border that mimics the shapes in the applique. Repetition of shapes is always a good design idea.

Rhapsody’s Feathered Flight by Valorie Smith of Enid, OK


In this quilt, the piecing and applique are the undoubted stars, so the simple piano key around the border is perfect.

Blueberry Hill by Nancy Arseneault
of Tuscon, AZ


I hope you got some inspiration and some insight into what designs work well on borders. Do you study quilting designs when you’re at a quilt show? What have you learned? I think it’s the perfect place to see designs that work, and those that miss the mark.

See you at the quilt show!