Quilt-As-You-Go has been around for some time now, and honestly I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to pick it up. I love it, and can’t think of doing it any other way. With every multi-block pattern I design now – I try to figure out how to tackle it block by block.
If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of QAYG:
- Easy to free-motion quilt on desktop sewing machines. I’d say they are joy to quilt!
- Utilizes smaller pieces of batting – allowing you to use scraps from other projects.
- Less tendancy to get puckers or irregular stretching
- Less likely to be a UFO. Seriously! I find that making and quilting the blocks individually gives me less project fatigue and helps adding variety to the process.
There are some drawbacks:
- The seams can have added bulk because of the batting seam allowance.
- Quilts tend to “shrink” when you quilt them block by block, throwing measurments off.
- Borders… well the borders you still have to man handle the whole quilt in the machine, but at least you are working on the edge (and almost done completing the quilt!)
There’s two ways I’ve seen to go about it. One involves adding a sashing strip between each block and then adding batting strips behind that strip. This can solve some of the seam bulk. If your design is not conducive to adding that sashing strip between everything, then the method below is the way to go.
Ok, so are you ready to get started?
Block it out!
The first thing you need to do is really think about the best way to divide up the quilt into manageable blocks. If the quilt has sashing between the blocks, try to group those with the individual blocks so that they can be quilted together.
In the case of De La Promenade, the pattern maps out what sashings get sewn together. Below is an exploded view of how this quilt will go together.
- Block 1 will have the left, right and top sashing sewn on before quilting.
- Block 2 will have no sashings sewn on.
- Block 3 will only have the top sashing sewn on.
- Block 4 will have the top block, sashing and bottom block sewn together before quilting.
- Block 5… only the top sashing.
- Block 6 is the same as Block 4.
- Block 7 is the same as block 5.
- For the borders, we will deal with those fellas later.
Now you “could” make all the tops and sew the sashings and then do all the quilting at the end, but then… you wouldn’t be “quilting as you go”. I do like to break up the project and quilting each block as it is finished helps.
Let’s quilt a block!
I’m gonna jump right into my Block 5 of this carousel quilt. Small, and super easy to finish up in a day and still have to finish the dishes before Gina gets home.
I’ve got my top made and the top sashing is already sewn on. Everything is fused down well. I’ve also cut a piece of batting slightly larger than the block.
Layer the batting under the top and baste it with pins.
This quilt will be hung on a wall, so I am going to free motion quilt around each piece. In some blocks, a couple appliques overlap the seams. So I leave those un-quilted, to be done later with the block is sewn together.
Don’t be like me! I’m kinda bummed I rushed through this tutorial, because I should have done more quilting in the negative space than I did. Now is the time to do it! So loosen up, pick a fun pattern and quilt until you’ve hit your limit.
When you are done, trim the excess batting to the edge of the fabric. Remember, they shrink, so take a measurement and be sure you aren’t too far off. 1/8” to 1/4” shy of the ideal dimensions is fine.
Put the kettle on because we are going to have a nice cup of tea and admire our day’s work. We have one block done and quilted!
We are ready to make the next block.
The block I am doing is Block 4. It will be sewn to the top of Block 5. Just like with Block 5, I made the quilt top and the three background pieces sewn together. This one does have some overlapping pieces, so watch for those.
Cut another piece of batting, layer it, and get quilting! When you are pleased with the block, go ahead and trim the excess batting like before.
Now dry fit these two blocks together. Does the width match? Hopefully they both shrunk the same amount width wise, and you can join these no problem.
Lay Block 5 face down on Block 4. The quilt is still easy to manage in the machine, so no need to pin your seam – we gonna fly solo for now. Sew it using 1/4” seam allowance.
We want to press this seam open, to help reduce bulk. Depending on your type of batting, you may need to use a Teflon or an applique pressing sheet so that your iron doesn’t melt or stick to the batting when pressing it open.
Now before you quit for the day, remember those few pieces we couldn’t quilt because they overlapped the seams? Go ahead and quilt them down now.
Flip the quilt over and give it a nice pressing on the front side as well. Put the kettle on sister, it’s time for some mandarin orange spice while we admire our work. We have a third of the quilt done!
Blocks 6 & 7 are just like 4 & 5. Easy cheesy!
Blocks 1, 2 & 3 aren’t too hard either. Just be sure to get the sashing on the proper blocks. Block 1 has it on the top and side. Block 3 has it on the top. Block 2 is going commando on this one – sans sashing! Again, Block 1 has some overlapping pieces, that I left un-quilted, to be done later.
Now that we have the 3 main sections of the quilt done, we are going to start joining them. Better give those seams another quilt press before lining up the center column with the right column.
Our quilt is reaching a substantial size now, and I’m not so comfortable sewing them together without pinning. So make sure the sashing seams are lined up first – nothing worse than having that stair-stepped seam line for our eyes to trip over. Take some time to get it accurate. When you have that pinned, throw in a few extra pins for good measure.
We are sewing with a 1/4” allowance still and we will press these seams open as well.
Sew the left column on. This baby is getting big and heavy because of the batting. We will probably be pulling and tugging and letting a few swear words escape while we try and get a nice straight seam. So take your time, and sew true.
The kettle is already on? Look at you, you know what time it is. This is really starting to come together and it’s barely seemed like much work! Well, fair warning the next few days may not be quite as fun. Stock up on the chamomile.
Tackling the Borders
The day has come, we are ready to finish this. Start by cutting your inner and outer border strips. In my case I need to piece them on the diagonal to make the required lengths. At this point I always add an extras few inches more than I need. The quilts dimensions have probably shifted slightly compared to the pattern’s diagram, so I like sewing longer strips than I need and then trim to the corner.
Sew the inner borders on first – that’s right, just the border fabric, no batting. Should be a pretty easy join, but pin if you feel it’s necessary. Trim the excess length off. Once the inner borders are on, sew on the outer borders. Press the seams away from the batting or towards the darker fabrics.
Now you have the whole top made. The majority of it is already quilted. The borders are flimsy with no batting behind them yet. Give the top a nice pressing along the border and everything ship shape.
Now cut strips of batting about 1” wider than the inner and outer border combined. About 8” in my case. I folded the batting up so I could cut long strips easily. I would never cut fabric this way, but for our purposes here, no big deal if the strips are a little wonky. Cut enough to go all the way around the quilt.
Clean off the dining room table. Plan on eating out tonight. We need a large space to lay this out. Flip the quilt right side down and start laying the batting strips behind the borders. Butt up the strips with the batting in the already quilted blocks.
If you are having a hard time keeping those batting strips lined up, try using some fusible tape overlapping the seam. Just go along the where it the batting butts up with the quilt and secure. I try not to use the tape myself – mainly because I feel the quilt needs to shift around a little when quilting the boards and the fusible tape gives me the puckers. That being said, this part is gonna be kinda aggravating anyways.
Now for the backing fabric. This quilt is rather large, and I had to piece the backing fabric together to get it to cover the back. You know what? Piecing backing fabric is pretty liberating. I could care less about a straight seam back there. By the time I’m done, my seam allowance may be a good 5”! Who cares – I’m almost done! Plus, nobody besides another quilter is going to look at the back, They won’t even notice because they will be in awe that there is NO QUILTING lines on the back. That’s right, the quilting lines don’t show. Did you have tension problems while free motion quilting? No worries, they are hidden. Did you get a few squirrel nests knotted up back there? Don’t even think about breaking out the seam ripper – no one is going to see it! Sure it’s fun to see the quilting lines, but I can be such a slacker. I’d rather have all my mistakes hidden.
Once you have the backing fabric laid out, and everything iron nice and flat. Carefully flip the quilt over right side up. If your pattern has border appliques, now is the time to do those and fuse them down.
OK… onwards! As you begin quilting the border, here’s some suggestions…
- Baste those borders and baste them good. Buy more pins if you need them. Things have gone perfectly so far. We are gonna have this teetered on the edge of a cliff. As we try and to steer this monstrosity under our needle, it is going to pull against you in every direction except the one you want to go. So make sure these layers aren’t gonna move.
- Pick a border to start on and then roll the quilt up starting with the opposite border. The good news is, we don’t need to cram this rolled up portion under the neck of our machine. Rolling it up like a cigar will help with maneuvering it around. I like folding the cigar in half at an angle and adjusting this fold as I work. That way the weight of the quilt is supported by the table and not in my lap. Nobody wants a rolled up quilt with basting pins sticking out this way and that – especially not this fella.
- Go ahead and start the kettle, have a cup of tea before starting on the borders. You want to be in a good state of mind while you go around each piece.
This make be the toughest part. Take your time. Take breaks. It’s not a race and it’s sure as heck isn’t a UFO so be proud and make it count. Start with stitching in the ditch of all the inner sashing strips and around each block. Your walking foot will work well here. Then, starting with the border seam closest to the center of your quilt, quilt in the ditch of each of the borders and work your way outwards.
Then switch to your free motion foot and start quilting your appliques if you have them. Do some free-motion designs if you don’t.
Trim off the excess batting and backing fabric, and you are ready to bind!
Well looky there! I for one am proud of you. You’ve done an incredible job and you should be beaming right now. Get ready to be the envy of all that gals at the next guild meeting. You created (and finished!) this beautiful work of art on your own little DSM. Who needs a long arm?
Hmmm… you are right. We don’t “need” one, but I’m pretty sure most of us want one. In the meantime, Quilt-As-You-Go is the way to go!