How to Add a Pieced EPP Border

Hi Everybody,

It’s SO cold and icy this winter

I’m posting much later than I meant to; somehow I have missed January altogether.

I began doing what I always do at the beginning of each year, going through each of my projects in progress, sorting them into piles and making a list of everything that is required before I can say they are finished. This year I ended up with a pile that needs more piecing, a pile for quilting, a pile that needs sleeves and/or labels on the back and a problem pile for reworking in one way or another. There were also some that were planned and waiting for fabric, and there were some that had all the fabric but hadn’t been started yet. And none of these included the projects I still had to do for my online textile course. I looked at them all and felt overwhelmed. So I took a small break.

In an earlier post’ Can EPP Go Abstract?’, we looked at the idea of finding EPP shapes in crumpled paper to create an abstract composition. Since then I have come across an artist called Bonnie Sennot who crumples fabric and follows the wrinkles with embroidery stitches. Not EPP this time but a similar idea; so simple and SO effective.

One of Bonne Sennot’s beautiful Wrinkle Embroideries

I do want to return to the Abstract theme of my last two posts at some point in the future but I think there are one or two more useful things to talk about in the meantime.

Today my post is about adding pieced borders or frames around an EPP textile picture or quilt. Quilting books describe adding strips of fabric for borders, one at the top and bottom and one at each side with mitred corners or without. But what if you want to piece your border; join a series of squares, or rectangles, together. What if you want to make irregular borders of short and long rectangles in different fabrics, or ones with interlocking triangles or one with fussy cut designs at intervals.

I thought this would be a lovely idea and decided to give it a try. I began at the bottom left hand corner and worked my way around joining them to my 6″ centre square as I went. But it didn’t fit. I ended up with a frame that extended beyond my central piece of fabric. I thought perhaps the six inch paper template which I had made myself was inaccurate. So I altered the centre to fit that frame. You can see the result in the photo below

NOT a good look. At the bottom you can see the line where the stitching was previously. Now the frame fits the centre square but the whole thing is wonky.

So, what causes this to happen?

It’s because as you sew, every  vertical seam along the horizontal edge will add a millimetre (or so) to the total length (same goes for Horizontal seams and vertical edges). So if you base your ‘edge piece’ measurements on the pure ‘paper piece’ measurements, the chances are that they are not going to fit.

If your project is not too large, like this one, the solution is to start piecing in the middle of the long edge and work with clips or pins to keep things aligned. This would have definitely have been a better way but as my unpicked border was already sewn into strips, I went for sewing the strips back on from the mid point, working left and then right and then adjusting each end to fit. I did the top and bottom and then the two sides. This is what it looks like now.

It is better but the whole thing has been pulled apart and restitched so many times, I don’t think it will ever look as good as if I had done it right in the first place. If you have a few ragged edges or the corners are not quite right like this, adding binding can hide it, but if you have fussy cut designs like my hares in the photo above, the backing fabric will have to end in what is called a ‘knife edge”, right behind the outer edge, with no way of hiding ragged edges. (NB it is tacked roughly around the outside edge temporarily because all the papers have been removed)

If your project is larger with longer edges, you first need press it well (no steam!) and then measure the length of the edge and make paper(s) to that measurement. Then sew again from the middle to the outside with lots of pins or clips. This is what I should have done with the example below:

This example shows another possible problem with a pieced border. Sometimes you get waviness to your borders when you are piecing them along the edge of your project, as I did with this small runner for my wooden sewing box. I wanted to use two different fabrics on each long and short edge and wrap them around rectangles of different lengths, to add interest and detract from the uniformity of the Rail Fence pattern in the centre.

The bottom border of this runner is much too wavy. It should sit straight and flat.

So, what causes this to happen?

  • It could be that the strips are too long (as they are in this case)
  • Or it could be that your fabric is wrapped too loosely around your paper pieces
  • Or it’s possible that the edges simply look wavy if you have removed the papers from the middle section because the fabric is no longer under the same tension and relaxes. Check to see if this is the case by pressing the piece (without steam and on the reverse/the paper side, if possible)

The way to avoid this particular problem is to begin by pressing your project first (no steam!) and then measuring the length of the edge and making your papers fit that measurement. Then sew from the middle to the outside with lots of pins or clips.

I am indebted to Nancy Adamek of for these suggestions and solutions after our lengthy discussion on the subject . Now I think about it, it seems obvious but it hadn’t occurred to me to do it this way before. I hope it helps you, too.

Sometimes a pieced frame can just be appliquéd on. It’s certainly much simpler:

‘House in the Country’ in steel grey cotton with Liberty fabrics for the inner frame

A few people have joined us this month. Welcome! Please feel free to comment and ask questions. I love when people get in touch.

I am now going to make a start on one of those piles of ‘Works in Progress’ and see if I can shift a few into my ‘Projects Completed’ box!

Till next time……