Mystery Quilt I
"Survival - Rectangle Island"
Step 10 - Border
I really, really, really recommend that you read this section carefully before doing anything. There are lots of choices in bordering a scrap quilt. Sometimes a solid border sets it off very well, other times you may be inclined to continue the scrap theme. If you're ambitious, a thin solid border, then a scrappy border and then dark edge binding, such as black bias edge tape, is very striking, but that's a lot of work and since I was kind of running down, I decided that I'd be happy with a plain scrap border. I wanted a 3" border on the finished quilt, with a "self fold under the back" edging. Below, you'll see how I do this... or at least most of how I do it... the important part.
To make a fold behind border, I used to use whatever border measurement I wanted the finished quilt to have, plus 1 3/4". For instance, here I wanted a 3" border, so I would have cut to 4 3/4". When I sewed the border on, I would lose 1/4" to the seam, leaving 4 1/2"... or the 3" I wanted on the front, plus 1 1/2" to double fold over onto the back and stitch down as the edging. At an appropriate point in the quilting process, I would trim the backing and batting back1 1/2", then I would fold the outer edge over to the quilt top, making the 1 1/2" become 3/4". Then I would fold that over the edge of the quilt and stitch it down, creating the edge. This worked out perfectly, leaving me with the exact border measurement I wanted.
However, cutting to an odd measurement, like "something and 3/4" is harder to be consistant at than when you work with whole or half inches. Most cutting rulers have much clearer markings at the 1/2" intervals than they do at the 1/4" increments. This tends to make cutting errors more common. I decided to stick with the easy markings on this project, for everyone's benefit, including my own. The result will come out to the same appearance, as you'll see later. What this means is that I made the raw border the size I want in the finished quilt, plus 1 1/2". That meant that I would initially cut all my border pieces to 4 1/2" wide, making the cutting easy, but in the sewing process, I'll lose 1/4" to the seam, so either the border width or the edging will will end up a hair shy, but not in any way that matters. I'll show the making and measuring of the border, then discuss how to finish bind it, and this will (I hope) become clearer.
Making the Border
Basically, I rounded up all the scraps from making the top and cut them into widths of 4 1/2".... length was deliberately irrelevant. Some ended up as much as 4 1/2" x 7 1/2" (cut from the solid squares I had cut to show the layout for the Path A quilt) and some were as small as 4 1/2" x 2 1/2". I deliberately varied the lengths a lot to get the scrappy border I wanted.
Here we go...
Here's an odd leftover scrap being cut at 4 1/2" by whatever it happened to come out...
Here I've taken the leftover piece, turned it sideways and cut it at 4 1/2", making a narrow piece. The odd square remaining I tossed.
And here's another odd piece being cut to 4 1/2"
After I had a goodly supply of varied length pieces all 4 1/2" wide I started sewing them together into a long 4 1/2" wide strip, being reasonably careful not to put two very close lengths side by side, or two of the same pattern close together.
Sometimes I'd start several strips, then sew those together.
At this point I'll discuss a little bit about the principals of bordering. You may have seen, or made, a quilt that wasn't square. One corner may have dipped, or the sides may have looked concave. This is caused by careless bordering. A long time ago, Angie Helmann came out from New Orleans to visit me and saw me doing it wrong. I had made a border longer than the quilt, sewn it on and then trimmed off the excess. Doing it this way invites stretching the quilt top. She took the time to teach me how to do it right, and I haven't had an irregular quilt since. Thank you, Angie!
I hate to say this, being a mathophobe, but the secret is calculation and measuring. See if you can follow this:
Your quilt is based on 7" squares, and is (assuming you followed my directions) 8 squares by 9 squares. This means that the finished top will be 7" x 8 units wide, or 56".... PLUS 1/2", across the top and bottom. It will be 7" times 9 units, or 63" ... PLUS 1/2", down the sides. Why plus 1/2"? Because there are still seam allowance at the edges. Now, depending on your workmanship, your quilt top may meet those measurements or it may not quite. If it's really off, you may have a problem, but we'll assume you're reasonably close. In any event, you know that is what it should measure. Both sides should measure the same, or very close, as should both top and bottom.
This means that to add side borders (the longer measurement), which we will do first, you should cut your border strip to the correct measurement, i.e. 631/2".
If you're only a bit off, don't worry about it. You can correct the top to the border relationship when you pin. If you're way off, measure both sides and determine what border measurement would work if you pinned one side just a tiny bit tight and the other a bit loose but with the looseness evened out as you go... rather like the example I showed when you were assembling the rows and all the seams didn't line up perfectly. For the rest of this lesson we'll assume you came out pretty well.
Here you can see that I nailed it... 63 1/2"
So I cut a section of border strip 63 1/2" and layed it beside the quilt top to be sure...
Having been successful once, do it again... You now have two borders for the sides. Pinning these to the quilt top is a fairly long job... there are lots of seams. Carefully pin one end with at least two pins. Then pin the other end. Now kind of flap the top and the border to get them more or less lined up and line up a section in the middle and pin that. At every seam, no exceptions, pin the seam allowances so they'll like as flat as possible. The seams for this pattern aren't always going to line up and there will almost certainly be instances where you have to pin one side of the seam against the way you ironed it. This will result in some foldover seams when you sew. Try to keep it to a minimum, but learn to live with it. The world won't end.
After you have the ends properly pinned together and a small section of the middle pinned, work your way along, checking as you go to make sure you aren't pulling and stretching either the border or the top overly much in any area. Once you get started, you'll get the feel of it and find it isn't that hard. When the whole length is pinned, sew it.
Do both sides.
Now you're ready to do the top and bottom borders, but look out! Here comes a complication and some more of that pesky math stuff.
You have already established that the top and bottom measurements of the quilt top are, or should be, 56 1/2". But wait! That changed! You added side borders. You ate up the two seam allowances at the side when you added the borders, so your theoretical measurment of the top alone would now be 56" (56 1/2" less the seam allowances that were used in sewing the borders on), but you added a 4 1/2" width to each side. However, that sewing on also took 1/4" of seam allowance out of that 4 1/2", so the increase is actually 4 1/4" twice, or 8 1/2", not 9". The quilt top measurement of 56" plus 8 1/2" comes out 64 1/2". Your top and bottom edge should now measure 64 1/2". Here's how we handle that.
First, from scraps, cut four 4 1/2" squares. Next, cut two border strips the original "correct" top and bottom measure... 56 1/2". Now, add a 4 1/2" square to each end. This will result in a top and bottom border strips of 64 1/2"... the measurement you need. The four squares will also make a nice, even corner setting for the border.
Once again, the measurement, in this case across the top, comes out right... 64 1/2".
I cut the 56 1/2" of border strip and added the 4 1/2" squares to the ends, then pinned and sewed these borders on as well.
And here is the finished assembled and bordered top. Unfortunately, due to the perspective here, you can't see the corner squares very well, except for the lower left corner, but I think you get the idea.
Note that the borders will actually end up narrower. They started out at 4 1/2, but lost a seam allowance, so they are now 4 1/4". They are also going to lose some width to the edging process... see below.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I used to cut in such a way that I ended up with 1 1/2" extra in the borders to fold over to the back. Since I chose to use an even 4 1/2" border cuttings here, I have a choice. I can still fold 1 1/2" over when the time comes, leaving the border 2 3/4" instead of 3"... a difference no one will notice, or I can keep the border at 3" and fold over only 1 1/4". That's still plenty for the edging. You can make this decision later, after you have the quilt layered and pinned.
Making the Quilt "Wafer"
OK... you're now ready to layer, pin and quilt your top. These instructions already exist for a number of quilts on the web site, so I'm not going to do the whole thing again. I'll just briefly describe how I go about it, including the fold to the back binding.
Measure the total quilt top... the whole thing. Make sure you have a backing fabric larger than the whole quilt. Lay that out on whatever surface you are going to pin in on. I use Ann's cutting table. A ping pong table is great. Two or three standard church folding tables will work, as will the floor in a pinch. Smooth the backing out and use masking tape to tape the corners diagonally to pull the backing out just enough to keep it flat. Don't stretch it.
Next make sure you have a piece of batting bigger than the quilt. Smooth it out and lay it over the backing. Again, tape the corners, pulling outwards so it lays flat.
A word about batting. You can use either the cotton batting (Warm and Natural is a good one) or soft dacron. Some people like the feel of one, some the other. The cotton is heavier and warmer than a light dacron, and is much easier to sew if you are a beginner. It lies flatter and moves under the foot much easier with much less tendency for the layers to creep and bunch. The choice is yours.
Finally, lay the quilt top on the batting and backing, again smoothing, smoothing, smoothing. When you're satisfied that everything is as smooth and as square as you're going to get it, start pinning, starting in the center and moving outwards. I pin at about 4" intervals. I'd advise that you study some other quilt projects and instructions if you haven't done this, or get help. Many hands make the pinning much less onerous.
Again there are numerous instructions for quilting included in various of our quilt projects, and in any standard quilting instruction book. I proceed as follows:
First, I roll the pinned quilt from the top and bottom toward the center, then, starting in the middle, I quilt, in the ditch, on one of the middle most seams, out to the border on one side. Do not quilt through the border! Then I reverse the rolled quilt and start in the middle again and quilt to the border on the other side. I have then effectively cut the quilt, and its ability for the layers to shift, in half by sewing the shortest distances I can.
Next, I unroll the quilt and re-roll it from the sides to the middle, and, again starting in the middle or close to it, quilt in the ditch (in an existing seam) out to the top or bottom edge, then reverse the rolled quilt and start from where I started the last time, and quilt out to the other edge. Now I've reduced the quilt to quarters. Next I follow the same procedure and reduce it to eighths. The obective here is to keep reducing the length of the quilting seams, since the longer the seam, the more problem you are likely to have the layers shifting and creating "foldovers". Again, review some of the quilting instructions for other quilt projects in The Quilt Shop and/or in instruction books. I highly recommend the Quilt in a Day series of books. They all have very clear quilting instructions in the back... pretty much the same basic instructions in all of them. They cover making backings, battings, and quilting.
At about this point, I quilt in the ditch along all four inside edges of the border. I usually stop and do the edging at this point, though it can wait. (See below.)
If you are going to continue with in the ditch quilting, just continue until you have quilting all of the seams around the 7" blocks. Then quilt in the ditch around each of the 4 1/2" squares in the middle of each block. Finish off the borders with either a pattern of diamonds or a little free motion quilting.
I plan to stop the in the ditch process when I have the quilt divided into eigths. Then I will free motion quilt the whole top, working individually in each eighth. As an added little touch, given the colors in the quilt, I will do my free motion with variegated or multicolored thread, being sure to let a good bit of it show in all the white areas.
I've already described the basic concept of "fold to the back" edging. At this point, your whole "wafer" or layered quilt extends out past the edge of your finished and bordered top. Turn it over and smooth it out. Trim any backing and/or batting right to the edge of the quilt top. Hopefully, it's still nice and square. Carefully mark off 1 1/4" (or 1 1/2"... see my notes above) all the way around the upside down quilt. Being very careful, using sharp scissors, trim off the batting and the backing at the edges to the the lines you marked. DO NOT CUT THE QUILT TOP! Your quilt top should now be larger than the backing and batting. Fold the quilt edge that is showing in half... up to the edge of the backing and batting. Now, fold the folded quilt edge over the backing and batting, and either pin or clip it in place. This will be your edging. Sew the edging in place stiching close to, maybe 1/8", from the folded inside edge, through the backing and batting.
If you stopped and did the edging at the point above that I suggested, you can now go back and finish quilting. Some folks will have preferred to have done all of the quilting before edging, which is fine. I just like to get the edges under control as soon as I'm comfortably sure the rest of the wafer isn't going to shift on me. Again... consult some books and balance what I say with what makes sense and/or is what seems comfortable to you.
NOTE: THE ABOVE LAYERING AND EDGING PROCESS IS VERY WELL DESCRIBED AND PICTURED IN THE "TREADLE ON THEME QUILT" PROJECT PAGES. HERE IS A DIRECT LINK:
As an aside, the theme quilt is another very easy, quick, fun project. After doing Rectangle Island, the theme quilt should be a romp!
Congratulations. You have successfully solved the mystery and survived Rectangle Island and may now return to the mainland with your quilt as proof of your adventure. I really hope you have enjoyed it and that you are satisfied with your quilt.
Arrgghhh! It wasn't really all that tough. Y'all should have done fine. Ya were a scurvy lot to start with, but ya shaped up to a decent crew! Because ye did, I'll be givin' ya an extry treat... a show o' all the quilts the Rectangle Island survivors made. 'Course, ye gotta solve the clue to see it!Guess who!!! Mwhahahaaahhaaaa!
Yep, it's me, the Captain's Evil Twin Brother (the one who isn't Tom Selleck). Ye'll be wantin' ta see the final, beautiful show the Cap'n put on, now won't ye? Well, ye can see it if ye can solve this here final clue. If'n ye didn't participate but ye can solve this clue, ye'll still get to see the show... what an old softy I be! If ya got this far, ye've most likely become addicted to mystery quilts, an it be right hard to find a cure fer that! Ya gotta know where ta look! An that be yer clue!