How to Create Improv Paper Pieced Borders

 

 

 

I am always on the lookout for ways to add personality to my quilts, and my current favorite way is with an improv pieced border.

If you are not tech-savvy (like me) and you like to play with scale and design in a way that feels doable, this tutorial might be what you are looking for.

 

I absolutely love the look of a slightly wonky triangle border but you could be more precise with your version.

 

For this particular sample, I will be working with a finished block. If you are planning to use this technique, I think it’s helpful to work with blocks as your paper pieced length. It helps keep things straight and lined up nicely, especially if you are using this technique with a very large quilt

 

My block size is 10 x 10” so I will be using a piece of freezer paper ( you could use printer paper or tracing paper) and drawing a rectangle measuring the block length x the height that I like. For this, I want my finished block height to be 2 ½” so I will be drawing my rectangle to measure 10 x 3”

 

Once you have drawn the rectangle, measure down ¼” from the inside of the rectangle and draw another rectangle. The inner rectangle will be the area of the paper piecing.

I like to find the center of the rectangle and make a little mark.

 

Draw your triangles within the inner rectangle making sure that the points meet at the inner rectangle line. They can be any width but do need to meet up at a sharp point.

Starting at one end, number the triangles like in the photo. This is the order in which you will be piecing.

Roughly cut around this pattern piece, I like to cut ¼ - 1/2 “ away from the outer (cutting) line

 

If you want all of the pieced panels to be different, now would be the time to draw them all out. If you will be making a large border, you could simply take this and make photocopies.

 

I like to cut all of my fabric pieces in advance, always 1 “ longer and wider than each numbered segment. I find this helpful, especially when you are paper piecing angled sections.

On my pattern piece, number 1 is green and number 2 is print. With the green on top of the print, I lay the pattern piece with the line between 1 and 2 running a bit more that 1/4”over onto the side of 2.

You could put a dab of glue here to secure the fabric but since this is so small, I will just carefully hold it all together and take it to the machine.

 

On my Janome Continental M7, I set my stitch length to 1.3 and sew down the line between 1 and 2, sewing a teensy bit past the inner rectangle line.

Using a piece of cardboard or in my case my folding friend, fold the paper back on the stitch line and trim the seam to ¼”

 

Open out your pieces and give them a good press.

Next, with the paper pattern facing up, fold back the line between 2 and 3.

Trim the excess fabric to ¼”

Add the next piece of fabric, lining up the straight edges and carefully flip it over and sew along the line.

Continue this way until you have sewn all of the pieces.

Trim down the pattern piece to the outer line.

Continue this until you have made the desired amount of border sections.

I love this method! As a slap dash, fly by the seat of my pants quilter, paper piecing gives me the ability to still do things in my wonky improve way but with a precision that I love!

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