Border Swags Part 2

Designing the swags for the borders of my quilt “Flourish on the Vine” has been the single greatest challenge in my creative life to date.  Last week, I outlined the many questions and dilemmas that I faced.  This week, as promised, I will explain the somewhat unusual approaches that I used to address my design issues.

First, I needed to figure out sizes:  the length and width of each swag; how many swags would fit in each border; and the length and width of the borders.  To do this, I used EQ6 (EQ7 wasn’t out yet).  The quilt hadn’t been designed using EQ software, but I believed I could use the quilt layout worktable to help me visualize the proportions.

I entered the dimensions of the center panel, added a narrow pieced border, then auditioned a variety of border widths and swag placements.  I realized that three swags along the vertical borders would have different dimensions than the two along the horizontal borders, and that it would be much easier to keep all the swags the same size.  This meant placing only two swags along the vertical borders and leaving a space that would have to be filled with something else.

Having determined the dimensions of the swag, I was able to print it to size from EQ6 to use as a template.

Now I was ready to start filling the swag with fruit, but I quickly ran into trouble.  How could I balance size, shape, color and scale?  How would I handle the way elements overlapped?  After a few false starts, I came up with the following approach.

I printed pages and pages of colored photographs of fruit – different sizes, different angles, different hues.  Then I cut them out and arranged them on the swag template like a collage.  In this way, I was able to create a balanced composition for my swag design.

From here, I traced the collage to produce a line drawing.  I made templates for each patch (over 150 of them!) and chose fabrics.  But I still had some nagging doubts.  How could I be sure of the best background fabric for the borders until the swags were appliquéd?  What if I changed my mind about their placement when everything came together?  To keep my options open, I came up with this final approach.

I decided to appliqué each patch in the swag onto a muslin background, leaving the outside edges just basted.  This had the added benefit of being much easier to work with than long strips of border fabric!

When the appliqué and embroidery were complete, I removed the basting thread and trimmed the muslin along the outside edges of the swag.  I now had a complete unit to appliqué onto the border strips.

These border swags may have tested me creatively, but with persistence, ingenuity, and some good ole’ trial and error, each challenge was overcome.  Don’t give up, because you never know what you can do until you try!


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