Medallion Process — Final Borders


Unnamed top. About 71.5″ x 71.5″. January 2017.

Last weekend I finished this quilt top. I’ve shown you some of my process along the way, through the flying geese middle border. The geese border needed to be contained and balanced. Putting the orange and hot pink edge both inside and outside does that.

That decision was made before we traveled for the holidays. While gone I worked on designing the final border.

Remember the purposes of middle and outer borders are to

  1. build the story by repeating and varying earlier elements such as color, value, shape, line, and contrast; contributing to a motif or theme; and
  2. correct problems with balance and proportion; and complete and unify the composition.

I used EQ7 to try design options. If you ever think that designing with software is cheating somehow, let me assure you it is not. I spent many hours, trying literally dozens of designs, before choosing what you see above. One option that made the finals was a border of variable stars on point. Those variable stars, in fact, are what inspired me to begin this project, so it was hard to let them go. The star proportions are the same as the variable star in the middle of the Carpenter’s Wheel center block, so would echo it. (The EQ7 drawing below uses a different version of the center block than I used. See the photo above.) The on-point setting also repeats the 4-patches’ setting in the first border. Another benefit is the ability to use all the colors again in a natural way.


Pretty, yes? But I like the boldness of the components that come before, and the stars are small and the detail gets a bit lost. To me the design did not seem well balanced or fully unified.

Long ago I played with a number of quilt designs, which used a repetition of a center block motif in the corners of both an inner and an outer border. Here’s one example (and see more here and here.)

wraparound corners 4

I tried this idea in a variety of ways, and I liked the direction it was taking. I chose corners the same as the corners of the center block. They are the same size, and the pinks are the same fabrics. They made sense, continuing the floral motif and unifying the design in ways the variable stars did not.

However, with all the blank space between those corners, it didn’t balance well with the busyness and boldness of the flying geese. What it needed was more.

Next I tried more. I tried adding a flower variation in the centers of the border. Several iterations of that later, I stopped with my final choice. But still it looked too bare.

Once the chain blocks, made of double 4-patches, were added, I stopped. The 4-patches repeat the inner 4-patches. The chains’ stair-stepping shape also imitates the line of an on-point setting. Finally, they present the notion of floral stems or vines, or even swags, very traditional ways to border a medallion.

I have fabric for the back and will quilt it soon. I’ll show you final photos then.

21 thoughts on “Medallion Process — Final Borders

  1. Quilt Musings

    I am a big EQ7 fan. It makes it so much easier to test ideas. I can see how your end design makes so much more sense than the variable stars (much as I love those). It’s always fun to see how designs evolve from initial ideas to final creations.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I love having EQ7. Though I’ve rarely designed a quilt from start to finish there, it helps me most as it did for this one. When I get to a border that needs more than the obvious, or when I need help with sizing decisions, it works great for me. Thank you.

  2. snarkyquilter

    I like the way you worked in the flowers theme in several rounds of this one. First, the center fabric; then the purple stylized flowers in the corners of the border just before the first yellow/orange/pink strip; and finally the ending centers and corners. The yellow ground throughout keeps the feeling airy, and repeating the yellow/orange/pink strips gives continuity and a more emphatic statement than the earlier orange half square triangles. Finally, the diagonally set green squares in the final border link the flowers and keep your eye moving around. Sorry your stars didn’t work out, but you made the right choice for this quilt and have the start of another quilt already in hand.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thank you. Yes, I like having the flower motif repeated, especially since I didn’t find a way to use the center printed fabric again. (The print is very large and either needs to be used in large pieces or with fussy cutting.) I’m never sorry to have pieces leftover, ready or nearly ready to use. I already have a tentative plan for them, so it’s all okay. 🙂 And thanks for the design comments. I think you see it much as I do.

  3. myquiltprojects

    I always wondered how to make a medallion quilt. I always thought the math complicated the design. I will be seeking out this software. Planning a quilt is the hard part, and your planning paid off. The quilt is balanced and beautiful! I also like the second design.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      You can make a medallion with lots of math at every step, or you can make one with little to none. Both can be as beautiful. I’m considering leading a quilt-along with the math largely done. If you’re interested, let me know. Thanks for taking a look.

  4. katechiconi

    It’s an elegant solution 🙂 I love those flowers in the border, and the chain really does finish it off perfectly. I think this is one of my all-time favourites…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Wow, I take that as high praise! Thank you very much! Yes, sometimes you just know when it’s right. Until I added the chain, I wasn’t convinced. Then it pulled it all together and I knew this was the finish it needed.

  5. Gladys Wahl

    Your new one told me that “Spring is ah coming” or maybe “spring will be Flying in soon” with all the flying geese…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      It can be hard to know where to go with it, even if you know the problem. For example, if I were *stuck* on using the stars, to make their proportion better individually, they would need to be larger. But that would throw the border proportion out of whack, especially with the on-point setting. Even though this project actually started with the stars (and I cut A LOT for them!!) they had to go. Thanks for taking a look.


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