Designing for Rugs 101: Border Design

Designing the border of your rug presents its own particular challenges. A really successful border says to you, “The rug stops here.” Its function is like a picture frame, it brings the viewer into the center of the rug, pulling the eye from the edge to the inside.

The initial decision you will need to make about your rug’s border is its type. What are some border types to consider for your rug?

  • Linear ~ The least complex borders are those of repeated straight lines. But lines don’t have to be straight. They can waver and turn like waves and become quite complex. When creating this kind of border, you should consider the direction you will hook the lines since this is the direction the border will flow.
  • Geometric ~ These are enclosed shapes that are repeated in the border. They can be simple like circles, triangles, diamonds, checks, ovals, and the like. Or they may be more detailed shapes like shoes, handprints, hearts, birds, flowers, and whatnot. Shapes like stars, ziz-zags, triangles and fans will move the eye outward because the shapes point outward. This makes the rug feel larger. Shapes pointed inward will do the opposite.
  • Storytime ~ Here the border continues or enhances the story, landscape or picture in the center of the rug. It is usually a broader view of the central story, landscape or picture while the center is a smaller element of that story, landscape or picture.
  • Motif ~ The border here is the main part of the rug while the center, which is very simple, is the place that the eye rests and then is pushed back to look at the border. Motif borders tend to be wider and more complex because of this. They contain the motifs of the rug rather than the center.
  • Script ~ A favorite verse which finishes the story of the rug is fun to try.

Art Rug Journal: Since Mission Concepción was a Franciscan mission in the 1700s, I have decided to create a border that will feature a saying of St. Francis, one that will highlight the floral aspects of the Mission's frescoes.

St. Francis was hoeing his garden. A man asked what he would do if he learned he would die before sunset. "I would finish hoeing my garden," he said.

I also will pick up a triangle design that will be on the lip of the jar, and use it in the border. I want my borders to be a bit irregular, so the saying will be at the top and bottom, while the sides will be a series of triangles. But I will pull some of the flower motifs into the border to create an effect of abundance and overflow.

There is nothing magical about designing a rug. In the end, the placement of the elements needs to be pleasing to your eye. I just fiddle around with the elements, cutting them out and moving them around on the fabric until I like what I see. I am always editing to simplify my initial ideas. I also use very quick sketches (really doodles) of things to try out placements. Here is one I made this morning.