Even if a quilt is constructed with only simple blocks, adding pieced borders can make it absolutely spectacular. Pieced borders can be created with fabrics already used in the interior of the quilt, or they can introduce new elements for visual appeal. In addition, pieced and solid borders can work well together to add additional dimension to a quilt. Alternating different types of borders allows the eye to rest on certain sections, while making the pieced border parts pop. While some might feel like pieced borders are only for the advanced quilter, there are several simple ways to add impact to quilts using pieced borders.
Scrappy pieced borders are the easiest to make. Patchwork checkerboard and piano key borders are two scrappy pieced borders that can be easily strip-pieced and added to any quilt. Strips or squares in similar sizes (or varying sizes to spice it up) can be pieced together and then cut to fit, after the center of the quilt is finished. Simply measure the finished sides and cut the patchwork borders accordingly. Cornerstone blocks may be used for corner sections, or the top and bottom borders can be made longer than side border sections.
For more complicated pieced borders, there's a little bit of math involved. If a quilter has a certain block they'd like to use in their pieced border, they'll need to figure out how large to make the blocks so that they will fit properly along the side of the quilt. If the quilt measurements aren't lending themselves to an even number of blocks, the quilter can add a solid inner border to bring the quilt to the desired size.
There are a variety of references available for making this type of pieced border. One resource is Pieced Borders: The Complete Resource by Judy Martin & Marsha McCloskey, which includes information on choosing the best pieced border style for your particular quilt as well as ready to use border patterns and ideas. The book even delves into how to measure and piece border strips. Instructions are given for rotary and template cutting, and several photos of quilts provide beautiful examples.
Many vintage and antique quilts utilized pieced borders because the quilt maker could create them using scraps and small pieces which were more readily available than large sections of fabric.