Lessons: Border Books Review


The other day I presented book reviews of almost all the existing medallion quilt books. Of course, medallions are defined as quilts with a center block surrounded by a series of borders. I find border books quite useful in developing my designs. Unlike with medallion books, there are dozens available. I own five of them and give short reviews of just those five below. If you have favorite resources that aren’t on my list, please feel free to comment. Let us know the book and author, and what you love about it.

The Treasury of Patchwork Borders by Elizabeth F. Nyhan, 1991
I added this book to my library late last year. Aside from an introduction to explain how to use it, the book consists of black and white line-drawing charts to illustrate 40 different borders with variations. The charts include sizing for a variety of unit measurements, with border widths and section repeats. One of the features I like best is the demonstration of how corners meet, which isn’t always obvious on first consideration. The book is great for ideas — though its line-drawing configuration means you must use your imagination for color and value placement — as well as for construction guides. I expect to use this a lot over the years.

Sensational Sets & Borders by Rodale, 1998
I picked up this reference book at last year’s guild book sale. About half of the book is focused on setting layouts for quilts, such as straight or on-point setting, with or without sashings, and other formats. The other half is the meat I care more about, borders. The chapters explore types of borders including mitered, pieced, and appliquéd. Pages are formatted with three different insights for construction and design, with tips sprinkled in liberally. Each chapter also ends with a problem-solving page, such as the “Fudging to Fit” tips for pieced borders. Each time I thumb through this book I see new things, not necessarily new ideas to me but great ways to present them.

Borders, Bindings & Edges by Sally Collins, 2004
This book  presents the outer parts of the quilt as equal in importance to the center. Whether you’re making a medallion or other format quilt, Collins provides great ideas for finishing. Borders receive the majority of attention, but bindings, piping, prairie points, and other edge treatments all are discussed.

Collins includes design discussion (color, proportion, continuity, etc.) as well as detailed technical pointers for how to get different strategies work. Some quilters may find the math intimidating, but it is presented clearly for those of us who just need some brush-up. Overall, this borders book is the best medallion book I own.

Beautiful Borders, Backings & Bindings by Jill Reber and Margaret Sindelar, 2005
Again borders receive the majority of discussion here. There is a great gallery of ideas and a large section of projects. Though the treatment is much more simplistic than in Collin’s book, there are great tips and lots of large photos and helpful drawings throughout. I don’t use this book a lot anymore, but I’m glad I own it.

The Border Workbook by Janet Kime, 2006
Kime’s book gives specific instruction on more than two dozen borders. There’s a little bit of information on problem solving and some technique/math help. Mostly though, it’s just borders. I like the book though I haven’t used it to develop any particular project yet. There are basics such as sawteeth and checkerboards, as well as more unusual ones like kitty faces, interlocking friendship stars, and side-by-side hearts. One minor weakness is the border blocks and treatments are given as specific sizes, so it may be hard for some to translate those to their own needs.

What’s your favorite way to border a quilt? What’s the most unusual border you’ve created? Are borders fun for you, or just a last desperate gasp to finish a quilt?


15 thoughts on “Lessons: Border Books Review

  1. snarkyquilter

    I’ve regifted the two books I had on borders, but still have some border inspirations books though they’re not billed as border books. “Basic Seminole Patchwork” by Cheryl Bradkin has many patterns that would work well in borders, and Kaffe Fassett’s “Passionate Patchwork” has some quilts with great borders. I like Delft Baskets, which takes on point squares into the border; Fonthill and Pastel Bubbles, which are almost all borders; Moody Blues, which breaks up a final solid border nicely; and Gypsy Garden, which used big chunks of checkerboard interspersed with solid chunks.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I don’t have either of those. Seminole definitely gives a lot of options for borderwork. And one of the things I love about Kaffe Fassett’s designs is the piecing is usually quite simple. All the work is in the fabric. Thanks.

  2. knitnkwilt

    The Sally Collins book is my favorite and my go-to book on borders/medallion quilts. (This isn’t a comparison comment, though as I haven’t read the others you reviewed.)

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It is a good one. Thing is, the principles and the math is all the same no matter what style, so a book like this is never outdated. Thanks for chiming in.

  3. Tammy

    Most complicated was a Spikey and Pete border, sort of butt to beak, on a row quilt I made as a newbie. It was a challenge, and since then ‘easy’ quilts seem so simplistic – but FUN! Thanks for all of the reviews-I’ve ordered a couple!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Huh, I don’t know that border. Do you have any pictures to share or link to? And you’re welcome. I’ve been enjoying going through these books again.

  4. katechiconi

    I’ve enjoyed both hexie-edged and prairie points as final borders/bindings for quilts, but mostly I go for the boring plain edge. It’s rare that I make a true medallion quilt, so it hasn’t really been an issue up to now…

      1. katechiconi

        Very true! I suppose I’ve always been arithmetically challenged and the need to make things fit with continually adding borders has worried me past the point of real rationality on the subject. I’ll get there one day!

          1. katechiconi

            Perhaps it’s a metric issue. I was trained to sew and cut patterns in the metric system, and having to revert to inches and fractions of them can be difficult when you’re used to thinking in decimals. What’s 0.73 of an inch….?! If I can keep the figures fairly rounded – to a quarter inch, for example, I can muddle through.

  5. Cjhaab

    I’ve made some Seminole pieced squares on point, which were fun and annoying at the same time, but usually turned out pretty and can make a nice result. My favorite border to add in many quilts is probably flying geese. They look impressive when you count them, but for me, they go together pretty fast. I must think borders are fun, since I do seem to make more medallion quilts than others lately. What I would like to try is the slashed and re-pieced triangle style, though it looks like a lot of cutting and sewing and cutting and sewing. I’ll have to send you a link to what I’m talking about.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, please do send a link. And I’m with you on geese. I tend to use them wing-to-wing more often than beak-to-butt, but they aren’t hard and they add a lot of pattern and movement, regardless of how they’re positioned.


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