The Quilt I Almost Didn’t Finish

Quilt borders Nancy Zieman

The Quilt I Almost Didn’t Finish

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Quilt borders Nancy ZiemanThree years in the making, this landscape quilt was almost destined to be folded up and stored in the closest for the rest of my life. The problem? The border selection. Some of you who have been following my blog for several years, might remember the time I asked for your opinion on which border to choose for this landscape quilt. The recommendation was to add the purple border—I thought it was the best option, too. Click here to check out the blog.

By the way, I named this landscape quilt Be My Valentine and it is 31″ x 45″.

Quilt borders Nancy Zieman

One option was the green border

I cut the border fabric from the same fabric used to create the leaves. There just wasn’t enough differentiation between the leaves and border.

Quilt borders Nancy Zieman

Here was the winning option—back in the day!

The hand-dyed deep purple fabric seemed like the obvious choice for the border. That is until I added it to all four sides.

Quilt borders Nancy ZiemanAnother option was a lilac border.

What was I thinking, suggesting this lilac-colored fabric? (Rhetorical question of course.)

Regretfully, I didn’t take a photo of the landscape quilt with the purple border—it was short-lived. I ripped it off quite soon, since the bold color on all four sides closed in the design. It wasn’t attractive.

Then, I added a two-toned border with 3/4″ of the purple as the inner border and a green outer border. Again no photo, but  I still wasn’t pleased with the design. The quilt top was folded and put away for another day, hmm, two years. Finally, I hung the quilt on my design wall, and I studied the design to find out what I didn’t like about the quilt. My conclusion was that the inner border was too wide.

The third border was the charm

Taking the border off for the second time, I reduced the inner border size to a 1/4″ accent. Ah, I liked it. I also extended a few sections of the design into the border to make the frame appear less confining.

Quilt borders Nancy Zieman

Moral of the story

I don’t have any photos of my poor border choices to tell this story. Yet, thought it was a teachable project.

  • Don’t hesitate to change your mind.
  • Don’t be satisfied with a combination of fabrics that doesn’t feel right. Change it, rip it out!
  • Put the project away until another day, or year! It’s okay, it’s only fabric.

My goal was to finish this quilt in early spring of ’12. Now that it’s July of ’14, I’m not disappointed in myself for not making the arbitrary goal. Better late . . .

Do you have words of wisdom?

Share your sewing, quilting, or embroidery words of wisdom. Post a note below.

Learn Landscape Quilting Techniques

If you’d like to try landscape quilting, Natalie Sewell and I share lots of techniques in Landscape Quilting Workshop Workbook.

Landscape Quilting

Nancy Zieman's Giveaway Winner

Random winners have been chosen from last week’s blog posting, Topsy Turvy Table Runner—Sew Easy!

  • The winner of the Basic Grey Variety Fat Quarter Pack from Riley Blake Designs is Sharon Davis. She said, Love the grey fabrics! What a wonderful and different table runner. It would look great in my kitchen!
  • The random winner of  a Trace ‘n Create Quilt Template—Dresden Collection from Clover, is Starla. Her comment was, I’d love to explore the versatility of the Dresden templates—I could see using the “topsy turvy” pattern for the sides of bags as well as for placemats or runners.

riley blake basic variety gray fat quarter pack

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

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  • Margaret Yarnall
    July 19, 2014

    Hi Nancy,
    Love your Bleeding Heart Landscape. Also, I like your choice for the boarder. I seem to always lien towards a dark small boarder with a lighter, slightly wider boarder to finish it off. Seems to me, to frame the quilt like a picture frame does to a picture.

    Bleeding Hearts are one of my favorite Spring flowers and I have a few varieties in my garden. I enjoy hand needle turn applique as well as machine applique and would love to make your choice of the Bleeding Heart Landscape for myself. Do you have your pattern or a kit available for sale?
    If not would you consider offering it for sale?


  • Mary Jo Pigott Groom
    July 19, 2014

    I love the final selection of your border. Great advice! Thank you

  • Ethel Ahrendt
    July 19, 2014

    It’s a beautiful quilt, Nancy. I’m curious about the finished size of it??

  • Carol Anderson
    July 19, 2014

    Thanks for pointing out everyone has this problem sometime ! For me it was a pillow back, of all things.
    Love the quilt.

  • Berenice
    July 19, 2014

    I like the bleeding hearts, don’t see them here in the desert! My quilt of the month from April is still sitting on the table next to my machine. I didn’t like the fabric I used for the 2nd border. However, I think I will still use it, the quilt is not going to be living here. My girls thought it was cute, so I will go with their opinions!

  • Linda
    July 19, 2014

    You say 2 years to figure out your border ?
    Hmmm.. in my case try 7 years with 2 identical quilts that sit nicely folded while ideas constantly floating through my head on how to finish them. They are combination quilt blocks from my mother , who passed after completing hers, and ones that I added. They are to be gifts for my daughters who patiently wait.

  • Shirley Clark
    July 19, 2014

    This is beautiful, Nancy! I’m watching your show as I type. I never thought I would like even trying to do a landscape quilt until I met you in Shreveport, LA, and you showed us your techniques.
    I haven’t made one yet, but I’ve played with some ideas on my Babylock Embellisher.
    Thanks for sharing so many wonderful ideas with the sewing world.

  • Mary Ann
    July 19, 2014

    Such a pretty piece! I am not very good about auditioning fabrics and then get so unhappy with outcome. Thanks for such a good examplle.

  • Cheryl Valleroy
    July 19, 2014

    The accent line with the deeper green is the ticket. Like you.. I have to “feel” it to sew it. More time is spent finding that peace than any other aspect of a project. But once done.. It’s a joy to look at every time. Whether a quilt, a piece of clothing, furniture, doll dress.. each has its own aria.

    Thank you for being so open to share everything with us. Makes me feel better about all my UFO’s!! 😀

  • Madaline W. Fegley
    July 19, 2014

    IT is a beautiful quilt, I think I would have had the same problem, Putting colors together is one of my on going problems.

  • Margaret Schenk
    July 19, 2014

    I let my projects, no matter what they are, “talk” to me. If they aren’t talking, I put them aside until they are ready to talk. That might take some time. In your case, it took two years for your landscape quilt border. When it was ready, it told you what it wanted/needed, and you have a beautiful product. Congratulations.

  • Pauline M. Conley
    July 19, 2014

    Nancy, my comment isn’t about the quilt, although I love it! I have been reading your life’s story, “Seams Unlikely.” I love the way you wrote the book. It is so nice to see how you grew up and your school experiences, the same as mine. It is such an inspiration for others and I am recommending this book to everyone I know. Thank you for writing it.
    I have watched you on PBS as long as you have been on TV and you don’t know how many times your advice helped me through the years, from making new dresses for our Patricia for the first day of school, to making suits for my husband, also for our two sons. James had red hair, so the shades of avocado green were used a lot for him, and any color for our Bill, as he was fair hair when younger. He is now our Farm manager, while James, the red haired is the Baptist preacher at Delta, Colorado First Baptist Church for 21 years. Patricia had an Alterations shop in Wamego, Kansas, for 21/2 years with every item being handmade, from greeting cards, to baby blankets, to bibs. I made jewelry and filled in for her when one of her consigners couldn’t work. I loved it. She closed it to work on her Daughter’s “Fairy Princess Wedding.” After closing the shop last May, a year ago, she had a heart attack, needing to have 4 by-passes at the age of 54. She has recouperated and the wedding was last month, June 21, 2014. Lucky for her, she had 4-H training, as did I.
    I didn’t mean to talk so much, but I have always been one of your biggest fans and will be so glad when you are back.
    Loving Wishes for good health,
    Pauline Conley
    Delia, Kansas

  • Bonnie
    July 19, 2014

    Who says all 4 borders must be the same color? How about making the left and lower border in the purple and the upper and right border in the green? I think it would look smashing.

  • Diane
    July 19, 2014

    I have to say the choice of inner border (narrow) and outer border is perfect. I looked at the previous blog and it is definitely “great to wait” until the perfect combination says “Yes”.
    I would love to design a place in my sewing room to hang multiple design walls – sort of like those huge hanging rugs at rug stores. This way I could hang it up, open one when I get inspired, and finish it “when the time is right”. I would have to build a new house to fit that contraption – but it would be great! Too many projects at one time…

    From what I hear from quilter friends – 3 years is amazingly acceptable!

  • Donna
    July 19, 2014

    I love the quilt, Nancy, and I totally agree with your advice. When in doubt, let the project simmer. Take your time and don’t be afraid of changing your mind. That’s one of the things I love about quilting: one almost always gets the chance for do-overs!

  • Barbara Lima
    July 19, 2014

    Your quilt is beautiful. I don’t know how you find the time to finish all of your projects, but you apparently do, since I see them all of the time on your shows, etc. I have an absolutely huge, gorgeous 24 blade Dresden Plate made up for my husband, but can’t seem to get it quilted or finished. Oh well, soon, I hope, since he is very sick now and needs the comfort of a beautiful quilt to make him feel better. Wish me luck!!!! Thanks for the venue to talk.


  • Marty
    July 19, 2014

    Thanks for the border solution: I needed it for one of my own unfinished projects!

  • Erin M
    July 19, 2014

    Beautiful quilt, Nancy, and just the right border combination! How much you have taught all of us through the years, feeding our love of sewing and “all things fabric.” I recently watched your program on Fearless Quilting Finishes and you demonstrated using these border types. I really like the very small (1/4″) with the wider border to set off all the colors. And, I especially like how you extended the flower branches into the border. I have your original book on landscape quilts and hope to try one some day. I have some empty wall space in our home that I would like to decorate with wall quilts. Thank you again for your teaching, your ideas, and your sharing charity work with us.

  • Starla
    July 19, 2014

    I love how you extended parts of the design into the border — adds a realistic touch, mimicking how real flowers and other plants grow outside their “frames.”

  • Jane
    July 19, 2014

    I love the landscape quilt and agree that extending the flowers into the border was a perfect touch — making it seem larger. I had a quilt that got put away. One of my best friends and I were working on paper pieced dog quilts after we got an idea at a quilt show at the offices of “Quilter’s Newsletter” in Golden, CO. We got the pattern from the magazine and decided to make our dogs from fabric that told what ‘kind’ of dog it was — fabric with little sheep for sheep dog, fabric with a woodpile for dogwood, etc. My friend died unexpectedly; I could NOT work on the quilt, so I put it away until the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum had a call for quilts with animals. I got out my dog quilt, finished it and submitted it after naming it Fond Memories in honor of my friend. I’m happy it was chosen for display. I made a ‘key’ to hang beside it in case people couldn’t guess what kind of dog it was. My favorite was a dog made from clear vinyl — dog gone! — in the center of the quilt.

    • ronda halvorsen
      July 19, 2014

      Jane so sorry for the sudden loss of your friend and quilting partner. What a beautiful way to pay tribute to her.


  • Mary Ann Hutchinson
    July 19, 2014

    I want to create a beautiful quilt like this!

  • Bonnie
    July 19, 2014

    When I look at this Quilt I instantly become relaxed. Love it, Love it, Love it…Maybe it’s the color choices or the picture you’ve quilted. For me color choices are the hardest but you’ve nailed it once again. I’m new to quilting and have collected fabric but still seem afraid to start. Would love to make this one, hope you don’t mind if I’m a copycat.

  • Linda M.
    July 19, 2014

    It’s nice to know that even expert teachers have a hard time making a decision on quilt projects. So we are not alone. That’s encouraging. Thanks, Nancy, for sharing your story with us.

  • Shirl R
    July 19, 2014

    What a beautiful landscape quilt. I simply love bleeding hearts. And having part of the design rest outside the borders is simply outstanding.

  • Elaine S
    July 19, 2014

    Wow I love your bleeding wall art. I have some bleeding hearts and love when they are in bloom in the spring. If you ever have a kit or pattern for this wall art I would very much be interested in it.

  • Pat
    July 19, 2014

    I don’t know where to vote on the border…That greenm really makes all the colors stand out…Is there an individual place to go for this blog or?

    I think I am lost !! lol

  • Patricia Hersl
    July 19, 2014

    I have many, many words of wisdom. They just seem to come out at the appropriate times. Most often, I try to tell my students that it is their work. Do what makes them happy. No rules there! Techniques need to be mastered; art is free-flowing.

  • Nancy
    July 19, 2014

    Your final choice for the borders is perfect !!

  • Alma
    July 19, 2014

    Advice and criticism are always offered freely – accept them with grace and an open mind. Both can be useful in making choices but never be bullied. The final decision must be yours alone to satisfy your creative heart.

  • ronda halvorsen
    July 19, 2014

    Greetings from Oregon Nancy! I have learned that my sense of “Color Pop” is not nearly as good as my hubby’s! So when I get in a quandary about matching or contrasts in color I let him decide and always get compliments on the finished product! We recently made a trip to the Pendleton Mill outlet in Portland and he chose the nicest colors for my winter coat I will be starting soon. As always thanks for sharing your wonderful words of wisdom…..

  • Peggy
    July 19, 2014

    Nancy, your landscape quilt is beautiful and has such a
    dimensional look to it. I’ve not tried a landscape quilt yet,
    but this one makes me want to go for it. You share so much with the sewing and quilting world and I for one appreciate
    all the time and effort you put forth to do so.

  • Karen
    July 19, 2014

    Your quilt is beautiful !

  • Marianne
    July 19, 2014

    Lesson Learned….
    There’s a hope and future for all UFO’s, just wait for the right moment in time to complete the masterpiece.

  • Evelyn Scheideman
    July 19, 2014

    I can relate to your bleeding heart landscape. 10 years ago I bought a bernina 440, it was fun doing various blocks, but it took me 10 years to find the right sashing and borders. I showed it in the county quilters show in Stony Plain Alberta Canada in June and was proud of the feed back./

  • Kris
    July 20, 2014

    Love the design flowing into the border. I would never have thought of that! Beautiful!

  • Melody Gruenhagen
    July 20, 2014

    I am fortunate tohave a husband that is great at helping come to the right decision about color and placement. Having a second opinion and a sounding board really helps. Don’t count out husbands on a project. Sometimes their untrained eye can be good advice.

  • Lee Ann L.
    July 20, 2014

    I am glad you did finish this because it absolutely gorgeous.

  • Cindy Elia
    July 20, 2014

    At our local quilting shop we call this issue a “design opportunity”. As a new quilter I was thrilled to learn that even the pros have to take a step back every now and then to evaluate the next step. The quilt you made is beautiful!

  • allen king
    July 20, 2014

    I love your color choices and the fact that you extended some of the flower/stem parts out into the border. It seems to make the quilt “breathe” better without any constriction.

  • Andrea Meche
    July 21, 2014

    Just the inspiration needed for a project waiting to be completed also due to a challenging border, thanks Nancy for the reminder that obstacles are opportunities.

  • Linda
    July 21, 2014

    One of my favorite spring flowers here in Iowa is the bleeding heart. I have recently retired and thought I would do more sewing. Since it is spring, right now my focus is outside. I like your idea of putting things that you are having problems with down for awhile. I also recently had a sewing problems and did a lot of ripping out. Finally put it down and left it for awhile and then picked it back up and worked more on it. It wasn’t quite so frustrating. I had thought maybe it was time for me to quit sewing for anyone but myself.
    I really enjoy your comments and think of my mother when I read or watch, as she watched your TV show for years.

  • Judy H - Oregon USA
    July 21, 2014

    Nancy, Thank you for sharing your final results. I was a voter on that original blog with my choice as Option 3, so you can only imagine how tickled I was to see you ended up using that as part of your border and even more excited to see you chose two colors and the results are perfect-another why didn’t I think of that moment – you are an amazing teacher – thank you again.

  • Karen Poole
    July 21, 2014

    Thank you for sharing, your final choice is beautiful! I have made a few landscape quilts and a few watercolor quilts and they can be quite the challenge at the border portion. Some have quite a few colors in them so what you originally thought would work might not. I had a particular landscape quilt I was making for my husband and I knew something didn’t look quite right but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I was a fairly new quilter and had purchased and admired the quilts of one particular famous landscape quilter and I went back to her web site and her quilts for inspiration. I wrote her a note saying how much I loved her work and had purchased one of her books and it had inspired me to make a landscape quilt. She wrote back and asked if I would send a picture, and I had to admit that I was stuck, and embarrassed to send a picture until it was finished, however, she was so kind, she asked me to send the picture as is and maybe she could help me!!! I reluctantly did so and within a day she sent a response with a few suggestions that were perfect!! They got me over the slump, I made the changes, finished the quilt and it turned out beautifully!!! That quilt would STILL be sitting in a drawer without her help, I am forever grateful! Oh, and I have to add, it has also won a first place award for Art /Landscape Quilt in a local quilt show!

  • Nancy Lenz
    July 22, 2014

    Thanks! Really got me thinking about some of my UFO’s put away that didn’t look quite right. Getting some out and will start auditioning some new fabrics for those borders.

  • Debe
    July 23, 2014

    WOW! What a difference the border makes. It sure goes how the finishing makes the whole quilt pop. I like your final decision, it is beautiful. I find many times I have to put UFO’s away & when I get them out a new thought comes to how I can finish it & it is often far different than the beginning plan & works better. A new perspective I guess we could call it.

  • Mary Breckeen
    August 24, 2014

    I sometimes find it helpful when auditioning borders to take pictures, walk into another room, and look only at the pictures. The change in perspective helps me decide which works the best.
    I am glad you finished this quilt. It is beautiful!

  • Barbara Palmatier
    February 18, 2015

    So glad you went with more than one boarder…I have been waiting for this one. It looks really nice. I was on the orginal blog. I wasn’t sure either, I like your choice. It is really pretty.

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