Nothing beats admiring quilts in person. I did that recently when Shirley Stutz gave a talk about quilt borders. For folks who don’t know her, Shirley has been quilting for 30 years from her rural Ohio farm, and her quilts have won numerous national awards. She has moved with the times, going from scissors to rotary cutters, and from hand quilting to longarm machines. Shirley is a teacher, designer, lecturer, and author of Easy and Elegant Lone Star Quilts; as well as a frequent contributor to various quilting magazines. And she’s funny!
I was fascinated with Shirley’s repertoire of approaches and techniques. Just when I was enjoying her quilts as excellent examples of traditional quilts, she’d pull out one featuring thread painted squirrels. I stopped keeping track of the number of techniques she used in each quilt – applique, paper piecing, paintstiks. Many of the quilt designs she drafted herself in response to some effect she wanted to achieve. Talk about boldly going where no quilter has gone before. Two constants distinguish her work. Her workmanship is excellent and her color sense is painterly.
Here are just a few of the borders she devised for her quilts.
Shirley used a huge elephant print in the quilt above, and worked out the border spikes through hand drafting a pattern. The weird curve is the edge of a table, not in the quilt itself.
Shirley often uses piping and rickrack to add an edge of color. Note the contrast between the swirly feather and the straight line quilting.
Here’s just one block from a basket quilt Shirley made from her mother’s house dresses. That material is poly-cotton, not the easiest to work with. I just love the appliqued birds.
The quilt’s border is made up of all these tiny baskets. The half square triangles are half inch finished. That level of precision is way beyond me.
Some tips from Shirley:
- If there are a lot of points at the edge of your quilt, add a narrow coping border in a fabric that matches the quilt’s background before you add the other borders. This will help disguise any unevenness in the points and give a floating effect.
- When auditioning border fabric, fold the fabric to the border width you plan. A fabric that seems overwhelming in a ten inch width may be just right at two inches.
- For a pop of color just inside the binding, use high contrast piping or wide rickrack positioned so only one of the wavy edges shows once the binding is sewn on.