Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the Downside of QAYG

I've had some real good times with quilt-as-you-go (QAYG).  There's Bottled Rainbows (still on my bed!) and my more recent mama's bag.  So, when I was dreaming up a quilt design for grandpa's Green quilt, QAYG came to mind.  I thought Grandpa, being all manly and such, would like the classic log cabin block.   And who hasn't dreamed of making a QAYG log cabin quilt?  Ok, perhaps there's just the few of us...

a word about quilt-as-you-go

Well, I made it this far. Yesiree, after all of two blocks I abandoned this course in favor of the elongated courthouse steps design that came to be Emerald City.  I think those were good instincts!

While I was piecing up Emerald City, I solidified in my mind a few downsides of QAYG.  Since we tend to only share the positives in blogland, its easy to be surprised to discover that something which seemed so bright in shiny has it's downsides.  I hope you can benefit from my experience or perhaps give me some tips that would make my life easier next time!

texture & trial

It's worth noting that both of the QAYG projects I've completed and enjoyed were improv-style QAYG.  In contrast, the log cabin block was to have nice straight logs and right angle corners.  With a regular log cabin block, you'll often trim newly added logs square and tidy as you sew, to keep things sewing along the right track.  In fact, I'm the type that doesn't measure logs.  Instead, I sew them on willy-nilly and them trim them to the proper length, using the work-in-progress as reference.

With QAYG you can't do that.  You can't trim already-sewn logs with a rotary cutter/ruler because you'd cut off the batting in the process.  This means I had to measure the proper required length for each log, cut scraps to length and sew carefully.  When I erred, I tried to trim the log with small scissors as straight as possible.  Erk.

But what of squaring up?  Since trimming's not possible, I tried to substitute by drawing in right angle guidelines with my ruler.  Before adding a new log, I'd use my ruler and a pen to draw a nice straight line, which I'd use as reference for neatly sewing in the next log.  This seemed to work on my first block (with the light outer), but my second block ended up wonky despite my efforts.

And, can we say time-consuming?  More measuring than usual, all the pressing required of log cabins, plus the seeming need to draw guidelines.  The blocks fairly crawled along.  Lack of momentum was way discouraging.  When I switched to the elongated courthouse steps blocks, they worked up 5 times faster!

blocks anyone?

What everyone loves best about QAYG is the delicious texture it creates.  Amen to that!  I love it too.  Ok, but... even that has a downside.  With my 3/8" quilting these blocks were turning out stiff.  Plus, all those straight lines really highlighted any not-so-straight logs.  Sigh.

Well, obviously not a match made in heaven this time.  That's not to say I won't QAYG again, but I think I'll favor improv style projects that at least cut out the measuring/squaring conundrum.  If you valiantly set out to QAYG log cabin style, I recommend working with standard width logs (say 3.5" thick, for example) rather than the irregular widths I used.  Doing so, you can cut lots of logs in advance and your blocks can build out faster.   Also, setup your iron to be within arms reach of your sewing machine.  Otherwise you'll be bobbing up and down like a jack-in-the-box.

I hope this was a teeny bit helpful, friends.  Thanks for listening!

Hey, anyone want my green orphan blocks?  They're 15" trimmed and free to a good home.  I'll mail them off post-haste.  And, feel free to cut/use as desired!

***Update***  Blocks are claimed.  Thanks for helping me out!
 

26 comments:

  1. I would love your cast-off blocks!!! I've been working with a QAYG log cabin quilt and the secret is to complete each individual block and then quilt it to your batting. Maureen Cracknell has an excellent tutorial here... http://maureencracknellhandmade.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-quilt-as-you-go-tutorial.html

    My quilt is more improv, so wonky logs weren't an issue, but you can see it here. The texture is wonderful. I still have a beautiful drape. In addition to the straight line quilting I also did some spirals. Here's my progress so far...
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/77190825@N04/8183624012/in/photostream

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    1. Ok, Caryn, they're yours! Your Log Mansion project is beautiful!!!

      What I specifically admire about QAYG quilting is the way the dense straight lines change direction naturally if you quilt-as-you-go (as you piece) instead of after each block is done. So, Maureen's method doesn't appeal to me. But, it may be just what someone else needs. Thanks for sharing!

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    2. I actually prefer the look of changing directions too, but I knew I wouldn't be able to keep things straight. I had to mess quite a bit when laying out my blocks to make sure the quilting in each block went in opposite directions. You know, I wonder if the change in direction over such a small section is what makes them stiffer. I'm interested to see how yours feel in comparison to mine.

      Thanks!

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  2. I'm glad I'm up early..........Can it be possible that I can haz the blocks?

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  3. Oh darn.............and I even refresed the page before I did my comment. Oh well.

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  4. I always love hearing your honest opinions! So refreshing! But my opinion on the QAYG is somewhat different. I've made alot of these blocks over the last few years. In fact, I just taught a class on them. I had two beginning-ish sewers, and they absolutely loved the technique.

    First of all you mention that you can't trim already sewn pieces. I guess I've never had any problems keeping everything straight. I pick up my next strip to sew on, lay it against the side I'm planning to sew, and and trim it to the right lenght, then I sew it on. In the end, it might be 1/2" longer, but the next strip will cover that. The only time this might be a problem is when you are putting a white fabric over a dark fabric, since the bottom one might show through a bit. In this case, I'm just a bit more careful in making sure that my darker pieces is exactly the right length to sew on.

    About squaring up? I always square my blocks up with my 12 1/2" square ruler, just as I would any other log cabin block. It's worked great for me.

    And you mention pressing, but I'm curious where you use this, because my fave part of this method is that there's no pressing required at all! After sewing my strip on, I turn it over, smooth it nice and flat with my hand and then start quilting it down!

    As far as the stiffness, I agree that these blocks feel stiff, but my experience has found these quilts to be extra soft when completed. Maybe I've found it that way because making blocks this way works really well to use a flannel or minky back, and that's always soft! The last one I made I used a super soft minky and it is SO very soft!

    Ok, I hope I don't sound like I'm arguing with you, because I'm not! These are just my honest feelings on this method...

    and I obviously don't love everything about this method either. My pet peeve is the crazy amount of thread they use, and I find it hard to strip piece with these blocks, so I'm always having so many thread ends to trim.

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    1. Thanks for adding your considerable experience, Jolene. It's good to hear that the finished quilts can turn out quite soft.

      You know, I do iron press each log open after piecing. When I try to go without, hand pressing as you've explained, I feel like things don't work up as neat looking and square. Perhaps if I practiced the hand pressing more, I could save that step!

      As for the squaring up, I don't mean squaring up a finished block, I mean squaring up the work-in-progress. I don't always sew perfectly, so with log cabins and improv work, I tend to square up as I go, just slightly trimming things to keep everything square, with the logs coming in at 90 degree angles to each other. It's that kind of trimming that is not possible with QAYG because of the batting. If you look at my block on the right (first image) you can see that things went wonky, despite my efforts. Maybe I was having a bad day!

      Good discussion!

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  5. I do think it was good of you to share your frustrations with this style. Sometimes we take a class or get a quilt book and everything is so perfect for that teacher or book writer, we are frustrated to not reach the same level of perfections (?) that they have. It takes a lot of practice to get something correct and looking good enough for ourselves. And it takes trial and error, something that could be shared by more as it does give the rest of us tips and areas to avoid. I do think your cast aside blocks look beautiful, and so did the finished quilt.

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  6. thanks for the info on QAYG. I haven't tried it, and knowing what types of projects QAYG is best suitable for before jumping in is very nice. Looks like I'm too late to grab those blocks :)

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  7. I tried QAYG for the first time a few weeks ago. I loved the texture but wasn't fond of the rest. Too much dangling thread, wonky shaped logs and it didn't feel faster than piecing then quilting. Even so, I will do it again when warranted. Good to hear that some of my problems may not have been just because I was a first timer at QAYG.

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  8. I love that you shared a "not-so-perfect" outcome. I think it's nice to have such a positive atmosphere in the quilting/sewing blog world, but it's good to see that other people have a bit of trouble with a technique sometimes too! Thanks for "keeping it real" ;)
    I'm sure Grandpa will love the quilt, not so straight lines and all!

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  9. I appreciated all the thoughts and discussion. Great post!

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  10. Thanks for your input on this method! Anyone care to answer this question about QAYG? Here it is: I'm confused about sewing the finished QAYG blocks together; don't the seams between the finished blocks (with batting already in there) get super thick and unwieldy? I love the look of QAYG, but I'm confused as to how you put the blocks together without getting fat, thick seams. Thanks for any advice!

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  11. There’s another way to QAYG. I learned to piece completed blocks, then baste them separately with batting and backing and quilt one block at a time. The blocks are connected by sewing the top of the sandwiches together and the backs need a small sashing that’s stitched on one side by machine and by hand on the other.
    Does this make any sense?
    I think that the dense straight line quilting, wouldn‘t feel great on a normally pieced, basted and quilted quilt either. It’s a wonderful technique though for pouches and bags. Working without a backing is probably the reason why the blocks can end up with a little wonkyness.

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    1. Totally makes sense. It's fun to hear all the ways people are making this work!

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  12. There is a QAYG method that allows you to trim down the blocks to the proper size then join them using connector strips - and many times you can camouflage the connector strips in the blocks or make them part of the design. Here's a link on my blog with the method:

    http://www.overthemoonarts.com/2011/08/29/optic-squares-qayg-completed-and-and-qayg-tute/

    I've used this method many times and it works like a charm. No bulky seams, no handwork, and all QAYG.

    I hope it helps and that you try it on another project.

    As far as the stiffness goes, it helps if you're going to quilt that densely to use a "floppier" batting - like a bamboo blend. I agree with the commenter above that a good solution on the quilting pattern problem is to choose a pattern that does not look weird lined up with the next block - e.g. all over squares or paisleys rather than straight across lines.

    Good luck! I love your blog -

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Christine! I have yet to try the connector strip method and it looks so interesting.

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  13. Having all these perspectives shared is really helpful. I haven't done much QAYG but it's on my list. I'll store away these suggestions and feedback for the future.

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  14. Have you ever sewn the block, then quilt the single block before moving on? That way, you could have the best of both worlds - a squared block and not quilting the whole quilt at once.

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    1. You piece quilted blocks just like regular blocks, allowing the batting to be pressed open along with the seam allowance. Although you'd think it would make a bulky seam, it really doesn't feel like much of anything. Definitely not a big bump. My Bottled Rainbow quilt is made that way and I use it all the time. I never notice/think about the block seams any differently.

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  15. http://maureencracknellhandmade.blogspot.com/2012/10/a-quilt-as-you-go-tutorial.html

    I think Flaun above mentioned this technique already, but this is a tutorial for a sewn block that is then quilted. I now plan to combine this method with Christine Moon's connector strip tutorial. :)

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  16. Here's a site with a tutorial showing 2 different ways of joining blocks: http://www.thequiltingedge.com/2011/01/qayg-tutorialmaking-blocks.html
    It also shows how to add QAYG borders. It doesn't help with Rachel's specific problems though since it's also improv.

    I agree with previous posts: make a block first, then quilt it onto batting and backing to eliminate the problems you've encountered.

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  17. We learn every day what works for us and what does not. It is nice that you decided to not be stubborn and continue when you discovered the downside.

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    1. It's the first time I abandoned something like that without figuring out how to change plans but still use what I'd done. I'm so glad I did. Course, it helped to figure I could give the blocks away here!

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  18. you are right. to much fussing about! That's why I like wonky!

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