Thursday, April 7, 2016

Medallion Quilt Challenge: A Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial

This year, my quilt guild chose to challenge its members with a medallion quilt. The challenge really is to be creative and to challenge your skills. The first month, each member was suppose to make a center block - no other instructions. Each month following, an 'instruction' will be drawn for the next round. Oh boy, let the fun begin!
Medallion Quilt by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com

I decided to use a paper piecing pattern for my center block. I wanted something that was really striking and other than a few feeble attempts at paper piecing when I made my Farmer's Wife quilt, I haven't really done much of it. I found a beautiful book of paper-pieced stars by Carol Doak that I used and enlarged one of the patterns from a 12" to a 16" block for my center square.
Medallion Quilt Center made by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.comI am using a fat quarter bundle from my stash of "Antique Fair" by Blackbird Designs for Moda. I bought some extra yardage of a Bella Solid that matched the best, and between the two I hope I have enough fabric to make it through all the rounds. I love the muted burgundy, brown and dusty blue colors of this collection.

The second and third rounds were assigned while we were traveling, so now I'm playing catch up. Applique was the 'instruction' drawn for the first round. I'm actually very happy that it ended up being the first round so that our applique wasn't a huge endeavor!
Medallion Quilt Applique by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com

Using a couple of prints from the collection, I photocopied and enlarged a few of the flowers and leaves in the fabric and drew my applique design. I chose to use the raw edge applique technique and stitched the edges using a small blanket stitch. I'm okay with the way it turned out although I wish it stood out a little bit better.
Medallion Quilt by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com

The next round drawn was Rail Fence or Fence Rail (I've heard and seen it both ways so I don't know which is the proper term). I wanted to challenge myself and had seen a ribbon border using Rail Fence blocks. The challenge wasn't really sewing the blocks - it was the math to calculate what size of strips and blocks were needed to fit onto my 24" center. Although I was pretty confident in my math, my first attempt ended up being short 1/2". So I decided to increase my rail fence blocks by 1/4" and my second attempt was a perfect match! Whew! I don't have that much fabric to waste and had decided if my second attempt didn't work I was going to abandon the idea - so glad it worked!

To make a Rail Fence Ribbon Border, first you have to determine the size of strips and blocks you need. I don't have any wisdom here since my math wasn't successful. But I can share my thought process, which got me close. Since the size of the center block was 24", I decided I needed a block that had a diagonal finished size of 6" (divides evenly into 24) which ended up being a 4 1/4" finished block. I added 1/2" seam allowance, making the block size I needed to cut as 4 3/4". I divided 4 1/4" by 4 (the number of strips I was putting in each block) which was 1.0625" and then added 1/2" for the seam allowances. So I cut my strips 1.5625" or 1 9/16". Then I sewed my strips together and squared up each block to size. To create the "V" in the ribbon, I sewed my strips in the same color order, with my darker colors - blue and burgundy - on the outside. I'm not quite sure why I was off a little, maybe my seams were a scant too large. In the end I increased my strip size by 1/16" to 1 5/8" and my block size to 5" and the strips fit perfectly.

Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
Square up the blocks then cut the blocks in half diagonally to create triangles. Be sure to cut half of the blocks from lower right to upper left, and the other half from lower left to upper right.

Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
Arrange the triangles so that a 'V' is created with the darker fabrics.

Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
Sew the triangles together. Be sure to offset the triangles leaving 'dog ears' on each end.

Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
Sew the border onto the quilt center. Again, be sure to offset the ends leaving 'dog ears'. Work around the quilt, laying out your 'V' pattern around the corners and sides. Sew the side borders on first, leaving the corners until last.
Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
After sewing the borders on all four sides, sew the corner triangles together and then attach to the border.

Rail Fence Ribbon Border Tutorial by Thistle Thicket Studio. www.thistlethicketstudio.com
I really love the look of this border! Can't wait for our quilt guild meeting next week to see what round 3 will be!

Have you made a Rail Fence Ribbon Border? Please add any tips that you can share!

~Sharla

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