When finishing up our Summerhouse quilt, we wanted to do something special for the border. A Nautical Flag Block had hit the dust for being overly complicated—but the potential for a border really struck us!
It surprised us initially that they all seem to be based on quilt blocks – but thinking it over, DUH!, in the days before cellphones, radios, and even morse code, what did sailors have for communication? Not much more than strips of fabric and needle and thread. And you’ll notice, the rolling deck of a ship is not suitable for curved piecing—only ONE block uses it—can you find it? And I’ll bet they didn’t have Karen Kay Buckley’s perfect circle templates, either.
Don’t worry—no circles in our border—and you will be surprised how easy it is to put this border together and make it fit. If you want to skip that blather, you can download our instructions here:
Our Regatta table runner was crying out for a flag border. We started by adding a 1/4" navy blue border around our ships-- a flag border is nothing if not BUSY so think about it as a bit of visual protection for the main part of your design.
We are using three inch blocks, the perfect size for a table runner. We’re sticking with our teal and yellow theme, so we pulled a bunch of scraps in those colors. Most of the flags worked out to have pieces with a 2" width. So, the first thing we cut was a bunch of two inch strips—many of the flags also use a 2” x 3-1/2" rectangle, so we cross cut some of those, too.
We calculated that we’d need roughly 32 blocks, so here’s our strategy. Make ALOT of easy blocks and then make a couple of very high contrast fancy blocks to add interest and get a good mix of colors and shapes.
First up, “K”: the simple double-striped flag-- so easy to make so we made eight of them, picking a light and dark value fabric for each and using our pre-cut rectangles. Then we made a bunch of flying geese, and stitched them to more of the rectangles.The checkerboards used strips that were then cross cut and rotated—very easy to do as well.
By this time, the scraps were flying... getting tracked around the office like mud... and we can only hope there are no pins in there. My husband always says in my head, “Hope is not a strategy.”
… and here is my scrap catcher strategy-- my friend Tere, who is fully acquainted with "my process," made it for me out of my very favorite Kaffe fabric.... when she gave it to me, I initially thought it was to keep fat quarters in. I don’t know why I thought that, but even as a child I was trying to put the square block in the round hole.
Tere graciously corrected me about its true purpose, but I’m still having trouble using it. But it looks great on our big cutting table, doesn’t it? Until filled with scraps, you might think it serves no purpose there-- but it has an important one... Its purpose is to remind me I have a dear friend who sees a void in me and tries to fill it. XOX
Back to business... we just made of few of these types of blocks below… not that they were so very hard to make, but just because we were trying to expedite the process.
Why use a design wall when you can have a design floor? A design wall is for people with good shoulders.... the floor is for people with good knees. If you don’t have either, try a table.
We reached 32 blocks in no time. We first picked four of the most striking favorites for the corners. Then we just picked one by one from each row, and laid them clockwise around the piece so that none of the same fabric was adjacent—harder to do than you might think!
Once we had our first layout, it was very helpful to take a black and white pic with a smart phone-- you can easily see where dark and light values are congregating and adjust. We made some adjustments and this is actually looking pretty good now.
Here’s the final layout:
We sewed together about 4 or 5 blocks at a time, leaving a space in the middle of the top and bottom borders... the space is to add a final piece to make the border fit! Our sides worked out perfectly, but could have used the same technique. If you only have a small space to fill, just remove one of your rectangle pieces and make one that's wider.
When sewing on your borders, pin the ends to match first, then pin the middle, then in between those pins-- keep doing in betweeners until your pins are about 2" apart. Pin on the border side of the project-- that way you can better see where points are when you sew. We first added the longer borders and then the sides.
Having all those flags butted up against a binding seemed like it was really going to cramp them, so we added an additional dark border around the edges.
And ta-da! Photoshoot time—my favorite! We bought a matching blueberry pie and lemonade—yellow and blue! Unfortunately, it has been raining here forever, so the picture couldn’t be taken outside and was photoshopped a bit. Maybe we’ll get another pie later this week and redo it.
So that’s the nautical flag border—again, you can download a PDF here:
Feel free to “pirate” it—for all of your summer projects! XOX