Modern Braid Table Runner Tutorial

The Braid pattern, also called Friendship Bracelet, Friendship Braid, or Herringbone (although technically this is not a true herringbone pattern*), has been around for a long time, but it's such a fun and quick way to whip up a project. You can make blocks with it for a small project, turn a bunch of blocks into a larger quilt, or make a long strip like I did here to make a quick and modern table runner.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Red and white fabrics

I made this red and white version for Swiss National Day, but since the Canadian and Swiss flags share the same colours, I'll be pulling it out for Canada Day as well, and probably a few more times during the year to mix things up. A lot of my Christmas decor is red and white as well, so this runner will get plenty of uses around our house.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

I pulled all these red and white prints from my stash and scrap baskets. Some are quite old, and some are left over from newer projects, which made it a lot of fun to put them all together for something new.

Swiss heritage

Because I made it to celebrate my Swiss heritage, I decided to back it with this traditional Edelweiss fustian I've had in my stash for ages. This fabric is what the traditional wrestlers shirts are made of, and it's a bit of an iconic fabric in Switzerland. I bought a yard of at one point, not knowing what I was going to make with it, and because it's a fair bit heavier than quilting cotton, I never actually used it in any quilts or other sewing projects. Using it to back this runner was the perfect excuse to finally cut into it.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Striped binding

For binding I was stumped for quite a while, because of the big contrast between the fabrics I used for the front and back of the quilt. I didn't really want to do plain white, which would have suited both sides but I was afraid it would get dingy really quickly. I auditioned quite a few prints, but they always either worked with the front, or the back, but never both. Then I found a roll of leftover striped binding from a larger quilt that worked perfectly.

When in doubt, use stripes!

Luckily, I had enough of the same fabric left over that I could cut another length, because of course the leftovers weren't quite long enough to go around the entire runner.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Spring braid runner

This cheerful table runner is an older one I made a few years ago when I wanted to update my spring table decor. I picked a bunch of bright pinks and grassy greens to bring in the bright, cheery colours of my tulip bed in full bloom. And I think it looks particularly good with a freshly baked lemon cake on top :)

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Modern braid quilt tutorial

So, without further ado, let's dive into how to sew a braid pattern.

I try to make scrappy runners to fit onto a half yard of backing fabric, because that's a cut I tend to have around, and it means no fussing with piecing the backing. It's also a size that fits our dining table well. So this runner turned out to be about 15" x 40", but you can make yours bigger or smaller as you like. I am giving the instructions for this size, though, so if you adjust the size, remember to adjust your materials as well.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Materials you will need for a 15" x 40" runner:

one 2.5" square as your starting point
approximately thirty 2.5" x 12" strips* 
1/2 yard of backing
19" x 44" of batting
7.5" of binding, cut into three 2.5" x WOF strips

*at the beginning and end you'll use some shorter strips, so if you have some in your scrap bin that you'd like to use, but that are too short, take them out anyway and see if you can use them at the start or end of the runner.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Some basic instructions first

The square is your starting point where you will begin to attach the strips. You'll end up trimming half the square off, on the diagonal. You could start with just a triangle, but I find it easier with a square because it stretches less. 

To begin, pick a vertical line near one side (left in my case) of your cutting mat and place your square on point, so that two opposite corners are on the line. This line is your one short side of the runner, and you will work your way to the right from there until you've reached the length you like. In the picture below, I'm using the right edge of the ruler to show you where my line is.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

To get a feel for how this goes together, lay the first strip on the bottom right of the square, with one end of the strip lining up with the other side of the square, and the other end of the strip extending past the line you picked on the mat. Next, place a second strip on top right, lining up one end of the strip with the long edge of the first strip, with the other end of this strip again extending past the vertical line on the mat. It's a lot like making a log cabin block, just that you keep going in one direction instead of around the square.

If you have some shorter strips you wanted to use, this is the time to use them, right at the start (and then again at the end).

The next strip goes back on the bottom, lined up with the long edge of your second strip and going past the vertical line on the left, and the fourth strip goes on the top again, lining up with the third strip and extending past the line on the mat (I realize I forgot to take a picture of this step). You'll keep going in this manner, but once you reach the width you like for your runner, your strips will no longer extend past the line on the mat, making the runner longer but no wider.

Tip: With "controlled scrappy" projects like this, I also like to lay out some strips first just to make sure I am mixing up the colours somewhat evenly and don't end up with a bunch of the same coloured strips in one spot.

Sewing the runner

Now, start by sewing your first strip to the square.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Press the seam (I prefer to press to the side of the strip I just sewed on, but you can press open, too), then sew on the next strip and press that seam.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

After the first four or five strips, put your runner back on the mat, lining up a vertical line with the diagonal of the square again. Measure along this line and see how wide the runner is (in my picture, strips 3 and 4 aren't sewn on yet). It should be just a tad wider than 15" by now. If that is the case, you can start adding the strips without having them extend beyond your vertical mat line.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Keep adding strips, alternating sides and pressing the seams between each addition.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Measure the runner length every so often. Once the point of the runner has reached the length you like, you'll start trimming the starting end and the two long sides.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Using a clear ruler, line up the edge of the ruler with the diagonal on the starting square, where your vertical line on the mat used to be. The runner in the picture above is flipped around now from when I was adding strips, so that I can cut it (I like to add my strips to the right but also cut with my right hand, so at some point I have to turn the whole thing). Trim off the extra bits.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Now, turn the runner and line up the ruler at a right angle with your trimmed edge and trim the long sides of the runner.

 Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

You now still have one pointy end. To "fix" this and square up this end of the runner, use some of your shorter strips (or any leftover long strips if you still have some) and sew them to either side, without lining them up at the center like you have been for the rest of the runner. You just want to fill in the corners, so to speak.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

It can be helpful to place a ruler across the tip of the runner, where you plan to cut it off, and place a few strips to see how many are needed to make it wide enough. On my runner, I ended up adding two strips on one side, and three on the other.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

Sew them on, then finish trimming the sides and trim across the top at a right angle.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

And there you have it!

Quilt and bind just like any other quilt, and enjoy!

Quilting ideas

I quilted both my runners by following the seams between the strips. For the green and pink runner, I stitched 1/4" away on one side of each seam.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

When I made the red and white one, I decided to do the same, but on both sides of each seam.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

This design would also look good with an overall free-motion meander. Or for a more intricate quilting design, you could do a smaller design in each strip, maybe wishbones, or diamonds. That would look especially sharp on solid fabrics. Do some doodling before diving into quilting, and see where your imagination takes you - the possibilities are almost endless.

Modern Braid, Friendship Bracelet, Herringbone table runner tutorial by Penny Spool Quilts

*in a true herringbone pattern, the strips meet in a straight line down the middle and don't overlap like they do here in the braid. For an example, check out this video tutorial by Missouri Quilt Co.

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