Edge Treatments

Whenever I’m looking at textile or fibre art online, one of the things that I look for is how artists have finished the edges of their work, and I sometimes save an interesting image to my Pinterest board ‘edge treatments’.

One enduring legacy of traditional quilt making is that most art quilt makers carefully bind or face the straight or straightened edges of our quilts. These are the standard procedures for those utilitarian predecessors from which art quilts descend, and I myself have mostly bound or faced quilts, even ones with extremely irregular shaped outer edges, eg., Pahoehoe 2. That facing was challenging and a bit finicky in parts, but was worth it – because it would have been an entirely different quilt if the circular shapes had extended and then been chopped in a straight line on four edges. I have seen other artists deal with this issue by placing the whole irregular shaped composition onto a rectangular backing and then treating that as the surface design to be quilted and ultimately faced or bound – ho hum.

“Pahoehoe 2” 1996, 130cm x 120cm. Irregular outer edge and the blue bits in the centre are actually cut-outs – all photographed against a light coloured wall.

However, depending on design content and to some extent the fibre composition, I have treated some edges in other ways –

The burnt polyester organza edge of “Timetracks 7” 2008
“Landmarks” 2015 90cm x 120cm. Raw-edged base fabric of black patent finish vinyl was just cut, and left as-is.

I’ve lately been thinking about how when an artist takes up a piece of cloth and does something like cut holes in it, pleat it, paint or add stitch to it, they then put it down, figuratively and literally – it’s done, a little bit of art has been performed, so to speak, and it’s finished. To me, the question is – does it always need to be framed or defined by an edge – or can that edge be just left, with the idea that whatever the artist has done to it is just part of a continuum and then Time just moves on? That little piece snatched from a moment in time can be mounted hung, draped or worn – it’s purpose might determine some further treatment, but a lot of art is 2D and can be left. Many 3D works have ragged unfinished-looking edges, and so I am questioning the automatic formal edging of all quilted fibreart we call ‘art quilts’.

“Square Dancing” 2024 ~30cm. Ready to mount or frame …

I need to think more about this idea, but I was really pushed to thinking about it recently when I saw how one artist did some lovely improvisational piecing of units with repeated shapes and skillful use of colour. When it reached the point of finishing the edge, she got out her straight ruler, trimmed off all the interesting little irregular shapes, and placed a facing along each of the four straight edges. The result was ‘nice’, but much less interesting than it could have been.

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