Fairy Border 3

Though I struggled some to find border 2, border 3 was easier for me to envision. It finishes at 3.5″, so whatever I did had to be petite in scale. I decided on plus blocks using all the colors from the center. In particular, I wanted to include the acid yellow.


I Found the Housework Fairy But She’s Not Coming Back. Through 3rd border, crooked on my design wall. Finishing at this stage at 35″.

Color in Medallions
Why add the yellow in border 3? It’s found in the center block in some of the flowers surrounding the fairy. In fact, if you look at the center block carefully, you’ll see lots of colors you might not have noticed at first glance. There are several variations of greens and purples; strong dark red and bright orange, aqua and shell pink. Those are all repeated (in some form) within borders 1 and 2. The aqua is alluded to with the turquoises; the shell pink is echoed in the darker pinks.

Adding the yellow in border 3 repeats the color from the center block. Its use allows it to be used again, at any time, in outer frames of the quilt. If it didn’t show up until the final border, you might think, “Huh. I wonder why she used yellow. That doesn’t make sense…” 🙂 Though it is in the center already, it will look more natural used multiple times.

One quilt design expert has suggested that colors need to be used within the central third of the quilt, in order to use them later. This quilt will finish at 60″. That would mean everything would have to show up in the center 20″. Frankly, that’s a lot stricter rule than I’ll use. But it’s good to keep in mind.

You might notice I’ve added blue in the third border. There isn’t any real blue in the center, though the other cool colors stem from blue. That batik corner block in the second border is as close as it comes to adding blue (and golden yellow appears there, too.) But I did put it in this border, specifically to “reserve the right” to use it again later. I have a great print I might use, and it has a little blue in it. Added into the rest of the array in the third border, it fits right in.

Medallions are great vehicles for using lots of fabrics, including scraps. With the stash I have and the way I work, I often run out of fabric pieces in the middle of a project. Substitutions occur to the point that I don’t even consider them substitutions. I just figure out what will work instead.

More important than using a specific fabric (which generally is not important, IMO) is using a reference to the color. That means if you’re using purple batiks in your quilt, using another purple batik will almost surely work fine, regardless of placement in the quilt. So all my colors of green work fine together, and I can add any similar green across the rest of the quilt.

In fact, the more variations of a color you use, the better. It adds depth and richness to the look. And it gives you, the quilter, so much flexibility and opportunity for fun. In the plus blocks, I used a number of scraps that simply make me happy to see them again. The lavender with bright butterflies, the light turquoise with tiny flowers, both hold memories for me, as do other pieces.

Value is another design element we can control with the fabric we use. I wrote about it here. You can choose to have high contrast or low contrast between patches and between borders. Both can be very effective, but it is something you should choose, not let happen by accident.

First, decide whether you want a low-volume (low value contrast) quilt or one with higher contrast. I generally prefer higher contrast across the quilt, though I may deliberately choose lower contrast in a particular border. For example, the Fairy’s third border is low contrast, with mostly medium values. To balance that and provide some interest and depth across the quilt, I might design the fourth border to include more lights and darks. In particular, I’ll probably use light values against the third border, to create instant contrast.

Size Issues
When the second border was attached, the center (center block and attached borders) was 28″ finished. The third border finishes at 3.5″. I chose this width purposely, because I can divide 28 by 3.5 and have an “easy” number to use: 28/3.5 = 8. So if I use (only) 3.5″ square blocks in the border, I’ll have 8 of them on each side. (I could have chosen a 4″ wide border and used 7 4″ squares: 7×4 = 28. But I didn’t pick 4″ because border 2 is 4″ wide. There is no rule for this, but I think adjacent borders often look more pleasing if they are different widths.)

In fact, I chose to use square blocks, but I decided on 3″ squares, and only 7 of them: 7×3 = 21. My little blocks only fill 21″ of the 28″ available. And of course they only fill 3″ of the 3.5″ width.

Let’s start with the width. Since they are only part of the width, I added a half-inch spacer to each. Varying the orientation of the spacer, against border 2 or away from it, allows the blocks to float. They have a more whimsical appearance than if they marched along beside each other, and it suits the nature of the fairy fabric. This floating effect is an experiment for me, as I’ve not done it before. I like the way it looks.

Now for the length. I had room for 8 3″ blocks: 8×3 = 24. I chose 7 blocks because that allows a different layout. Consider:

8 blocks:
This shows one A block against border 2, one B block away, repeating until all 8 blocks are used. The corner blocks would have been situated differently at each end of this stretch.

7 blocks:
This shows a different pattern, with the A block against border 2 at the beginning and ending of border 3. The corner blocks are situated the same at each end of this stretch.

Using 7 blocks took up 21″ of 28″. I had 7 inches leftover. Because I started and ended my borders with spacer units, there were 8 spacer units on each border: 7″/8 = 7/8″. It was easy to do this math, too.

To summarize, each border used 7 3″ blocks. To make them fit for width, I added a half-inch piece to each to finish at 3.5″. To make them fit for length (as a border,) I separated them with 8 spacer units, each 7/8″ long.

Why do I tell you all this? So you can see this is all steps that can be learned. I don’t have any magical talent at this conferred by a wave of the skills fairy’s wand. These are all decisions, and if you care to, you can learn how to make these decisions, too. Your decisions will be different from mine, as they should be.

Break away from patterns. Be powerful. Make your own quilt, your way.


9 thoughts on “Fairy Border 3

  1. Alexandra

    The border is very cool and – to me – draws the eye back to the fairy. There’s a lot going on around the fairy – it would be easy to detract from ‘her’ but you achieve the opposite. Nicely handled!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks, Alexandra. I’ve decided the next border will be a little simpler in appearance to settle things down. But I do like the purple with pluses. It does seem to create a frame I wasn’t getting before.

  2. Pingback: Color, Color, Color…. | Threadcrazy

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