Checkered trim for garments has a long history. It is shown as painted detail on the statue known as "The Lady
of Baza" from Celtic Spain dated 500 BC. It consists of red and white blocks trimming an over-mantle and tunic hem.
Norris says that Celtic British women work a super tunic with a checked border. St. Mathew from the Gospel of St. Mathew in the Book of Durrow appears to have a patchwork cloak with checked insets. While it is impossible to tell from these sources whether the checks were woven, patchwork, or simply painted on, here is a simple method for constructing yards of checked trim quickly and easily.
To construct it you will need an equal amount of two contrasting colors of closely woven material. After a little practice you will be able to use satin which makes a really pretty trim, but start with a cotton or cotton blend. Blue and white or red and white are commonly depicted, but any contrasting colors make an attractive pattern.
The following instructions make 1" square checks. You can vary the size of the checks by increasing or decreasing the width of the fabric strips used.
To make the following pattern:
Wash the material to pre-shrink it. Iron.
Use a ruler or yardstick and mark 11/2" strips on the material chosen. You can make the strips either lengthwise or crosswise of the material. See Figure 1.
Place two pieces of contrasting fabric with right sides together and stitch along the long edge using 1/4" seam allowance. Press the seam allowance open.
Turn this piece of fabric to the right side and mark off 11/2" sections again. Cut the sections apart. You will now have a pile of parti-colored rectangles.
Place two of these pieces with right sides together, making sure that the colors on the two pieces are opposite. You should have a light color on the top of one piece and a dark color on the top of the other. See Figure 2. Make sure the center seams match. Pin them if the material is slippery. Stitch 1/4" from the edge. Open and press and you should have a four-part checkerboard. See Figure 3.
Join two of the above sections together and continue adding sections until your trim is as long as you wish.
To apply the trim, turn the raw edges under 1/4" and press. You may need to baste them to hold them in place.
Then slip stitch the trim to the garment.
To speed up the process, sew all the long pieces together first. Then I press them and cut the rectangles all at once. Then I join all the rectangles into groups of four. Next I join all the groups of four together, etc. until the trim is as long as I need.
To make 3-square-wide checky trim:
Sew three strips of cloth together: dark, light and dark. Now sew three more together: light, dark and light. Cut them into rectangles as shown above. Assemble by sewing a rectangle of dark, light, dark to a rectangle of light, dark, light.
Here are a few other patterns you can make by altering the way you sew the strips together and reassemble them. You can also add solid strips of material to vary the pattern.