I despise putting on quilt borders. Note the quilt in this blog’s banner – no border! It seems like the border should be the easiest part of creating a quilt and technically speaking, it is. They are easy to measure, cut, and sew. I despise them for no other reason than they are BORING! There is not one creative element to putting on a border other than picking it out. That part can be fun. But there is even an art to that and it has taken me years to learn it: one must wait until the entire quilt top is pieced before purchasing the border fabric because the quilt will tell you what to put on the border. I know this sounds crazy but it’s true. Trust me.
It is actually one of the first lessons my quilting mentor taught me – always get the entire quilt top made before you pick out the border fabric. She was my instructor for the second quilt class I ever took. She had even printed this bit of advice on the course supply list. I, of course, ignored it and purchased several yards of a green flowery print for the border of my quilt that I was going to make in her class. This was in the fall of 1998.
The quilt is on my bed and has been for years, and I still have that green yardage. It’s not on my bed. It’s on the shelf, waiting for some sort of quilt call its name. Or when I die, my daughter, who hates to sew, can figure out what the hell to do with all my fabric, including the lovely green print.
Despite my teacher’s verbal and written instructions, which I chose to ignore, and the knowledge of the green yardage still sitting on my shelf, I have continued to purchase border fabrics too soon. It is a lesson I have had difficulty learning. I also have stacks of already cut border strips. This happens when I not only purchase but also cut the borders out before I’ve even sewn a stitch on the quilt top. When the top is done, the border doesn’t work, and I’m left with eight or nine 7” strips. Lovely.
More often than not the border fabrics I have purchased thinking they were perfect end up being awful, as in “what the hell was I thinking” kind of awful. I fold up the fabric or the strips and set them on the shelf next to the other giant chunks of border fabric. They look at me, mock me, and ask me, “when will you learn?”
In my defense, the ladies at the quilt shops always agree that the fabric I am considering for the border is just right and would be perfect for the finished quilt top. And these are generally really nice ladies. I am sure of it. Really.
For many people, buying giant pieces of yardage might not be a problem, NOT for me. I make almost all scrap quilts. My motto is the more fabric in a quilt, the better. I usually use fifty or more fabrics in any given quilt. I never need two or three yards. Fat quarters are this girl’s best friend.
I think I’ve ignored the lesson of a quilt telling me what it needs for its border after the top is complete because I hate putting borders on. I don’t want to give them any more thought than necessary. Why would I drive all the way to town just to audition fabrics for a border when I can get it all in one shot when I’m purchasing the fabric for the quilt top? This seems like a complete and utter waste of time. However, I still get frustrated that my sixteen year old son hasn’t learned to eat his entire dinner with his fork, and we’ve been working on that for over fourteen years. Slow learning is apparently genetic, and I unfortunately passed it on to him. Maybe I should just give myself a break.
I finally came up with a use for these giant pieces of fabric and decided to piece them together for quilt backs. I actually like it. It turns any quilt into a two-sided quilt and generally the colors hide the dirt much better than plain muslin backings which, despite valiant efforts, tend to turn beige after the kids and dogs snuggle under them, toss them off the couch onto the floor, and then walk on them. I’ve tried to teach them to “fold the quilt when you’re done with it, don’t walk on it,” but we’re still working on that one too.
Here’s a picture of my most recent quilt back. I like it.