Crossing the NotQuilt Border

dragon princess banner


This post is part of a series about sewing NotQuilts. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, The NotQuilt series begins here.

I’ve been filling in the border, that strip of empty real estate a few inches wide that runs all around the edges of Dragon Princess. This border is actually in eight separate sections. Because of how I sewed the original grid, I have four blank squares in each of the four corners. I had extended the top and bottom and leftmost and rightmost strips to meet the edge of the blue blanket. Between these grid extensions are four much longer empty spaces.

notquilt border

The current state of the NotQuilt: Interior filled but the border and binding waiting to be sewn in.

When I planned the grid layout, all those months ago, I wanted something to demarcate the corners. When I sewed down the border on the back of Dragon Princess, I found what I would use for the front. You may recall that when I filled in all the empty space around the edges of the Dragon Princess fabric, I used a medium dark purple and, of course, ran out of this cloth on the bottom edge. I had to fill in the gap with a brighter purple, one that I didn’t have much of but it played well with the first fabric.

I had some of this fabric left (it was a small piece) and I hoped it would be large enough to fill in the four blank corners on the fashion face.

Glory be, it was. Amazing. Dragon Princess cooperated at last.

Then came the four long, skinny spaces along each side. I dug around in the stash. I have many choices as you can see from the pictures.

notquilt border fabric

What to use …. what to use …

The problem is selecting the fabric. I wanted a solid color. Dragon Princess is so busy, with every bit of cloth patterned, that a solid color would give the eye some relief. I had to stick with pink or purple as that is the theme in this NotQuilt and something other than pink or purple would have been too jarring.

A difficult concept, I know, looking at Dragon Princess in all her glory and being concerned about jarring, clashing colors. Nonetheless.

Whatever I chose had to contrast strongly between the pink of Dragon Princess and the darker pink of the butterfly binding fabric. In laying down the various choices of pink and purple, it became quickly apparent that the fabric fell into three groups.

1. I loved it but I didn’t have anywhere near enough.

2. It was ugly, the sort of pink that reminds one of raw liver.

3. It didn’t contrast well with both Dragon Princess’s overall pinkness and the darker pink butterfly binding. It was easy to find cloth that stood out against one or the other; doing it with both was harder.

notquilt border fabric

Muffy is not interested in your problems.

I settled on a light purple. It looked like I had plenty, in several dozen pieces of various sizes. The one drawback was that every one of them came out of the scrap box a mass of wrinkles. Sometimes, those wrinkles won’t come out without a good washing and ironing. Fortunately, this particular light purple solid fabric was very cooperative; it ironed like a dream and every one of those wrinkles disappeared. Ironing also disclosed that the scraps were not as large as I could have hoped and that they were shredded at every raw edge.

This light purple solid really looked well with Dragon Princess and the butterfly fabric. Would I have enough? Of course not. What to do, what to do.

So I got started at the top left-hand corner. I took my longest purple strip (after trimming) and pinned it down. This did not make it to the halfway point. I rotated Dragon Princess to her right side and pinned down the second-longest strip in the same orientation, by starting in the left-hand corner.

I could now see where I was going. I didn’t have enough cloth to cover each side with the light purple, and I did not want each side to be a different color from the rest: that is what would have happened if I had tried to fill in each side with a single color. I might have filled in two sides but not more than that.

So I chose a rotating, regular pattern of blocks of color, working its way around the four sides of Dragon Princess. I filled the left-hand corner of the bottom side (as if it were the top) and the left-hand corner of the left side (as if it were the top). Then I took the smaller pieces of purple that were left over and pinned them to the opposite sides of open spaces, that is, the right-hand sides.

This gives me a long rectangle of light purple at one end of each narrow border and a short rectangle of light purple at the opposite end of each narrow border. The space in between will be filled in with something else.

Once these eight strips were pinned and sewed, it was time to take a look at how it came together. Dragon Princess got spread out on the floor again. Hmm. The long rectangles varied wildly in length although the short rectangles did not. I still had small amounts of light purple scraps left over.

It was time to take measurements and draw another picture.

notquilt drawing 1

A rough draft of the problem, the first stage in finding a solution.

My first attempt was so off-scale that I drew another one. I wrote down my measurements, and I could see that the first, longest rectangle of light purple was so much longer than the other three that it didn’t look as planned as I hoped. The fix was easy, but tedious. I pinned and sewed down more scraps of light purple fabric to the shorter long rectangles until all four were about the same length. That means that the open, uncovered space between the short and the long light purple rectangles are, more or less, the same length too.

When it seemed about right, I measured again and wrote down the new numbers.

notquilt border

Another attempt at a solution. The drawing at the bottom shuffles some of the fabric around to make it look more balanced.

If you study the picture, you will see that none of these measurements are exact. I rounded to the nearest whole number to make the math easier. I need to be close but I don’t need to be exact. If I was trying to design a quilt pattern for sale, I would have to be exact and precise as that is what people expect from directions they paid for.

You will also notice, from the photograph, that I am taking care to sew down the light purple fabric right up to the edge of the blue blanket. I normally don’t worry too much about sewing my NotQuilt borders right up to the ragged edge as the binding will cover up any gaps. I cannot do this with Dragon Princess as she has been so contrary during her construction. The blue blanket I am using as the batting layer had those rippled edges. I steamed them until they shrank but I don’t know that they will stay that way as Dragon Princess is used and washed. Sewing the border fabric down, right along the edge, matching the backing fabric sewn right along the edge, should help ensure that the blue blanket doesn’t cause problems later on. The stitching will force it to stay the size it is supposed to be.

By now, it would be just like Dragon Princess to cause more problems, to go along with all the aggravation she has already brought to my life.

I used up most of my light purple fabric filling in the border rectangles. I have a few scraps left. That means choosing another color to, hopefully, finish out the borders. My favorite of the colors I had available was a dark purple. I knew I didn’t have enough to do the four long border rectangles which is why I didn’t bother using it to start.

But now, when I have much smaller acreage to cover, I can use my dark purple solid. It is even remotely possible that I will have enough to cover the gaps between the light purple areas. I can hope. However, as always, the proof is in the sewing. I won’t know until I am either finished, or I run out of cloth. If I’m able to finish, then I will go on to the binding. If I run out, then I get to root around and find another shade of coordinating purple.

Will I have enough? We’ll find out next week.