Say Hello (Again) to Sashing

by Christine Barnes

Summer greetings, AA followers! If you saw my last post, you may remember the blocks I was working on for my next quilt. They feature mostly solids, with patterned center squares. I inserted “swizzle-stick” borders to add a bit of color and sparkle to two of the blocks, below.

D originalIn this block, the gray-and-white polka dot fabric looks like a stripe.Gray-and-white "swizzle-stick borders" make the block crisp.I decided to add sizzle-stick borders to a third block, below. This white-and-black fabric is a companion to the Kim Schaefer print in the center.Z funky flowers, Kim S. swizzle stick bordersThen it was time to think about how to space out the blocks. I’ve never been a big fan of sashing in traditional quilts—I prefer the patterns formed by block-to-block designs to sashing between blocks. But I’m learning to love sashing, as you may have noticed in my “Brushed Metal” quilt. Wider sashing puts the focus on the blocks, and when the sashing is lighter in value, it recedes.

I love, love black-and-white polka dots, so of course I had try a dotted fabric, below. (BTW, the colored squares above my design board are painted on the wall. It’s a long story. . . .)

0 b&w dots But right away my eye went to the seam where the dots blend into one black blob. I measured the repeat pattern and realized there was no way I could avoid chopped-up dots. Adding cornerstones to the sashing seemed like a good idea.

I found a wonderful smaller-scale black-and-white dot at The Cotton Patch in Lafayette, CA. But these gray-and-white cornerstones made the quilt look flat, with no sense of depth1 gray & white dots, corenrstones I got brave and decided to try black-and-white four-patches, below:2a b&w four patches I like the single chain the four-patches imply, but they seem a bit large. If I go with this option, I will align the dot design, to suggest that the pattern flows beneath the blocks.

Next, I decided to simplify the design with this funky-flower print, one of my all-time favorites. Just like the large polka dots, the pattern is chopped up, but when the design is this random, it isn’t as noticeable. And now, the blocks appear to be suspended above the background, an effect I really like.3 funky flowersI’m still mulling over the options, and I’ll show you the quilt when it’s finished. Until then, I hope you’ll consider sashing. Experiment with lighter- and darker-value fabrics—lighter values make the blocks float, while darker values make the sashing and blocks blend, as if they are on one plane. Which proves the adage, “Audition, audition, audition.”

We’ll be doing plenty of auditioning in my Artistic Alchemy workshop, “Luminosity and Luster: Playing with Color and Light.” There’s simply no way to predict how colors and patterns will interact until you cut them up and make mock-blocks. It’s an eye-opening process, and I promise you’ll soon become a convert to this way of working.

Stay cool and keep quilting!



12 thoughts on “Say Hello (Again) to Sashing

  1. Hi Christine,

    I would like to see a “quieter” sashing between your absolutely gorgeous blocks. Maybe a very light grey but nothing that upstages your blocks. They are so Fabulous!

      • Thanks, Connie! Actually, the center pieces are square, but the way the seam allowances are pressed, the squares seem to be taller than wider. I think the skinny borders above and below have something to do with the illusion, too.

    • Thanks, Robin, for your comments! I agree that a quiet gray might be just the ticket, and I have been collecting grays with future quilts in mind. I sometimes think I spend more time trying different fabrics than sewing 🙂

  2. The double piping in your blocks really makes them! I like the smaller polka dot sashing and think you can get away without cornerstones. The smaller dot patterns don’t draw the eye if/when they meld. Very nice to see all the different options. Really like your process and the large floral with the bold solids and piping.

    • I appreciate your thoughtful comments! What looks like piping is actually narrow strips, cut 3/4 inch wide. I modified a technique from Rosalie Dace (an amazing teacher) that really reduces the bulk of the seam allowances. And I agree with what you said about the smaller dot. It’s so much fun to “try on” all these fabrics! (I have to ask, do you raise huskies in Maine?)

  3. Hi there Christini!
    Love your floating blocks- it’s amazing how different fabric pattern backgrounds affect the entire feel. I must know if you decided to call the small strips “swizzle sticks” or “sizzle sticks”? I think you should go for the latter since they do make the block heat up. Can’t wait to see the finished design!

    • Thanks, Deb! I started calling skinny borders swizzle sticks after working on a remodeling book, where I heard a kitchen designer refer to skinny trim tile as “swizzle-stick” tile. I think it fits because although I don’t drink, every minute I spend in my sewing room is Happy Hour!

  4. I appreciate your examples for sashing. I would never think of these fabrics. It also reminds me to audition, audition audition.

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