Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sizing Your Sashing and Borders
The question was asked of me, "How do you decide on the size of your sashings and borders?" It's a very good question. You can find all kinds of guidelines in books - from using "fibonacci" rules for sashings and borders (where each border grows, equivalent to the sum of the previous two, so a 1" border followed by a 3" border would be followed by a 4" border and then a 7" border...) to using multiples of the size of units within the blocks (e.g., 2" squares within a block would dictate using 2" borders or sashings). I don't consciously pay attention to rules, though.
I am morely likely to look at the set of blocks I intend to assemble into a quilt, and ask them what they need. Sometimes a set of blocks says, "don't crowd me!" and other times the blocks may whisper that they want to stay close together. I nearly always "audition" various widths of sashings -- I lay out the blocks and try out different sashing widths and fabrics until I think I have the right combination of both width and color. Often, there is more than one "right" answer, so I may also think about how I am going to quilt the quilt after it is put together.
With borders, I go through the same process: I lay out the same blocks, now assembled into a quilt top, and audition various widths and colors of fabrics. After a good amount of playing, one of the choices becomes the "winner" and the rotary cutter runs to do its job before I change my mind.
In The Night Before Christmas, I knew that the appliqued blocks were all very "busy." There is a lot to look at in each block, and so the blocks really needed to be separated, lest they become a jumble of competing images. The old adage of "No fighting!" works in quilts, too. I chose a 4" sashing because that was the smallest size of cornerstone I wanted to make, knowing that I wanted to use a pieced block in each cornerstone unit. I chose pale off-white as the color because it looked like a bed of fresh-fallen snow, which was appropriate to the story -- and it didn't fight with the images. It gave them some breathing room. I also know that I want to quilt the sashings with a feathered vine -- and that the vine will look better with that same "breathing room" around it.
When it was time to decide on the final borders of The Night Before Christmas, I had the blocks all sewn together with the sashings, and I started laying out fabrics in varying colors and widths. Reds were too domineering for the quilt. Multi-colored prints (e.g., a Christmas print) were distracting. A single border did not frame the quilt well. Inset pieced borders seemed to fight the cornerstones. The outer borders of any quilt are, for me, much like mats and a picture frame: you want them to showcase what they surround and add to it, not subtract from it.
So, in a rather large nutshell... that's how I decide the size of sashings and borders. I often lecture before guilds on "the design process" and describe the set of mental exercises that have gone into many of my quilts. Each time I give that lecture, I focus once again on how I actually make design decisions. Much of it is simply what appeals to me visually; wish as I might, I have yet to discover a magic formula!
By the way - if any of you are interested in making this quilt, I have started a Yahoo! Group called "Night Before Christmas." I hope will be a forum to support those of you who choose to make this quilt. You can find it by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/NightBeforeChristmas/.
Happy sewing -