Machine Quilting Motifs in Borders Part 1

Last week, we started a discussion about machine quilting with motifs. As part of a custom fit quilting design, motifs can be placed pretty much anywhere on the quilt and can take on any shape, size, or style. Positioning them on borders, however, presents some unique challenges. Our series on machine quilting will now begin to consider how to design repeating motifs to fit a border.  Part 1 will focus on the border corner areas and part 2 will examine the distribution of motifs over the length of each border.

Quilted border designs should relate to design elements in the central area of the quilt. They could repeat a motif or design element, contain similar elements, or be modified from portions of the central design. In the quilt Bridal Tea, the swirly quilted motif circling the Dresden Plate blocks is repeated in the yellow borders. The outer print borders are machine quilted with a half-circle or clam shell design, similar to the shape at the end of each “petal” in the Dresden Plate.

Quilted motif around Dresden Plate blocks

Quilted motif in border

The challenge with machine quilting motifs in borders is figuring out how to make them fit. The main issues are:

  • distributing the motifs evenly over the length of each border
  • deciding how to handle the border corner areas.

Let’s start with the corners. Regardless of the way the borders are attached to the quilt top, a corner area is formed where two borders meet. If the borders are equal width, this corner area is square.

a) The border corner area could be considered as a separate design area from the borders and quilted with its own unique element.

b) The border corner could be considered as a continuation of the border design that turns at the corners.

c) Or, the border corner areas could be treated as a continuation of the border design that extends to the edges.

Which approach was used with the swirly quilted motif in the yellow borders on Bridal Tea? It turns the corner, as described in option b.

Quilted motif in corners


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