Thursday, August 25, 2016

how to Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go blocks

There are many clever tutorials on how to assemble and finish quilt-as-you-go blocks.  This is not one of them.  This is the simple, no-fuss approach to quilt-as-you-go that may have less finesse, but is super quick and so very user-friendly.

I like to recommend the quilt-as-you-go approach to new quilt makers, who often want to make a quilt for a queen or king sized bed.  Large bed quilts are so much less challenging to complete on your standard sewing machine if made quilt-as-you-go.  This is the finishing technique that matches that concept.  Let's make it easy, secure and pretty.  Not clever.  It's also the finishing technique I prefer, even as a more experienced maker.

Assemble + Finish Quilt-as-You-Go

Step 1:  Quilt Blocks

You can transform any quilt block into quilt-as-you-go by simply quilting the finished block to a matching square of batting.  Do not attach backing at this time.  Simply quilt to one layer of batting - that's it!

An individual quilt block is easy to navigate underneath your standard sewing machine.  You can experiment with dense quilting patterns that may be otherwise intimidating.  In my demo quilt, I've even used a variety of straight-line patterns on my 13" quilt blocks to add more textures to the finished quilt.

Trim all of your quilt blocks to a consistent size after quilting.

Step 2:  Join Blocks

This is the "duh" part.  Simply join your blocks with right sides together, creating seam allowances that consist of both quilt top and batting.  Remember, no backing is involved yet.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

"What?  There's batting in my seam allowances!?!?!" you protest.  Why, yes, there is.  No worries.  Just press those seam allowances open to evenly distribute the slight bulk.  And it is slight, I promise! I've had a bed quilt finished this way on my master bed for years.  Never during use do I notice the extra bulk at seam allowances.  Once on a bed and hidden between quilt top/back layers, only a very keen observer would discover the bulk at all.  Sure, you will know it's there, but does it matter?  I guess the answer is up to you.  My answer is "Nope!"

I suggest you join blocks with a wider-than-normal seam allowance.  I use 3/8".  This wider allowance is easier to keep straight and accurate when dealing with thicker seams.  Also, sometimes your blocks will shrink slightly and unevenly in the quilting process.  I trim quilted blocks to the original, intended block size (13" in my case) even if that means that a bit of the block edge is only batting with the raw edge of the quilt block say 1/8" from the trimmed edge of the block.  A 3/8" seam allowance ensures that I still have a full 1/4" of quilt top fabric in those seam allowances.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

And, guess what?  A wider seam allowance, plus batting in your seam allowances add up to a more durable quilt!

Step 3:  Baste to Backing

Once you've joined all blocks, you have an already-quilted quilt top with batting attached, but no backing.  Make or purchase a backing as usual.  Tape it to your floor with wrong side up.  Then, lay your quilted quilt top on the backing, right side up.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

Baste the two layers together with basting spray or pins.  I usually use basting spray for my quilts, but with quilt-as-you-go, pins may be better.  The quilted top is heavy and doesn't seem to spray baste as securely as a typical quilt sandwich.   If using pins, only pin along the block seams, as you will only be quilting or tying along the block seams (not within the already-quilted blocks).

Step 4:  Quilt or Tie

The entire goal of this step is to securely attach the quilted top to your backing.  It doesn't take much!  Just quilt along the seams that joined the blocks to each other OR consider tying the quilt for a machine-free finish.

On a typical quilt (not quilt-as-you-go) the goal of quilting is to reinforce the patchwork, evenly attach batting to the patchwork and attach the three layers.  When you quilted your blocks, you already reinforced the patchwork and evenly attached the batting to prevent shifting or bunching over years of use.  As I said, the only goal of this step is to attach that backing.

Ziggy Zaggy

On my Bottled Rainbows quilt I machine sewed a zigzag stitch over block seams to attach the quilted top to the back.  A zigzag stitch is very forgiving (hard to make it look crooked!) and it will flatten the slight bulk of the pressed open batting seams, practically removing all trace of the batting-in-seams approach.

Quilt-as-you-go Finishing tutorial

For my current project, I've opted to tie to attach the backing.  I'm tying at each corner of each block with rusty orange thread for a fun contrast.  When tying be sure to use a heavy duty, durable thread.  Consider a triple square knot for a secure tie.

Step 5:  Bind to Finish

After attaching the backing to your quilt, either with minimal machine quilting or tying, trim the excess backing around the edges and bind to finish your work!  You can opt for any binding method you prefer.  If you're looking for another easy, user-friendly approach, consider my Zigzag Binding tutorial below.

Helpful Links:

{Tutorial} Quilt-as-You-Go Log Cabins

(Tutorial} Zigzag Quilt Binding

{Quilt Along} Bottled Rainbows, a quilt-as-you-go scrap quilt

I should have my current project finished and ready to share next week.  Until then, let me know if you have any questions about this process!

38 comments:

  1. Thank you Rachel, for taking the time to write this out for us.
    I really like the bit of orange you are finishing it with :)

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  2. Rachel,thank you! Amazing step by step instructions and pictures. Your talent and inspiration are amazing. I will try this method very soon. Kathyryn

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  3. This is great, and I really like the idea.
    I have so many blocks just laying around waiting to be made into something (last years quilt club project. I had to give up quilt club bc they changed the location - long sad story. The drive was too far)
    I can do this. What sort of batting do you use? I am sure you mentioned it, but I missed it. I have several types of batting but some of it is weird and lumpy. I only use that for .... other things.
    Then I have Hobbs from Hobby Lobby and some really smooth warm and natural I think.
    thank you for sharing this. I am so happy to read it today.
    I am wiped out, took my mom to the dentist for an extraction - lots of drama :-(

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    1. Oh, I did forget to mention the batting! I use Warm & Natural for virtually everything. It holds up really well and never causes a problem for me.

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  4. Thank you Rachel,
    I always wondered how this was done.
    You have inspired me to give it a try.
    Hope you are feeling wonderful.

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  5. This post is so timely for me as I was contemplating doing this with a special quilt. I was especially curious to see how you handle the batting in the seams as I was dreading cutting them 1/4 smaller and fussing with the seaming and placement. SO HAPPY to hear that having the batting in the seams is okay. Thanks!

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  6. I've been attracted to the Qayg concept but the attachment step has kept me from exploring so thanks for this alternative.

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  7. Thank you Rachel for the tutorial ! This alternative looks really interesting. I add a QAYG quilt on my to-do list right away ;-) Love your orange knots !

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  8. Thanks Rachel. It does seem like an easy method.

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  9. Thanks for this tutorial! I've never used the QAYG method but now I'll give it a try.

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  10. This may be the QAYG assembly method that would make me finally QAYG! I have a project that uses another method, which has left me not really wanting to finish! Thanks for sharing!!

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  11. I thought tying a quilt had to be done with floss (because that's all I've ever seen done, IRL) and the bulkiness of it was not appealing to me. So you sharing that you use heavy duty thread has opened up new possibilities for me. I'm so excited! Thank you!!!

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  12. Great idea. I do find that when the batting is right next to the feeddogs, the machine needs to be vacuumed out regularly, and maybe oiled more too. Do you find this to be true?

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    1. I'm sure it couldn't hurt! I don't notice anything unusual with my machine, but that may have to do with the batting in use. Some battings are not very stable and tend to stretch easily. I use Warm & Natural, which is very strong and doesn't cause any trouble. Still, a cleaning couldn't hurt =)

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  13. I have two questions: Is that 3/8" seam allowance noticeable from the front-- do the small square patches on the edges of the blocks look noticeably smaller than the ones in the center of the 25-patch? I guess it would eat up your points if you had, say, a star, but maybe on squares of rectangles it wouldn't be so obvious? And, second, does the backing sag away from the front of the quilt if it's only attached every twelve or more inches? It wouldn't matter on a bed quilt, but what about a big throw or a picnic quilt?

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    1. Good questions! The 3/8" seam allowance would be a problem for something with points, like stars, unless you planned for it with your sewing (by adding some sashing at the outside edges, for example). However, with squares it is definitely not noticeable. About the backing, if the front and back shrink unevenly, some sagging or tightening will show. This is also the case with a typically quilted quilt, but even more so with a quilt finished like this. I suggest you use quality cotton fabrics and either preshrink everything or don't preshrink anything to minimize or eliminate that complication.

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    2. Oh, thanks for replying! I often avoid new techniques because I'm fraud I'll wreck my project!

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  14. Thank you, Rachel, for sharing this excellent step by step tutorial. I have looked over several quilt-as-you-go tutorials and always wondered about how to secure the backing to the quilted front. This is a great inspiration for me and I'm definitely going to try it on a quilt soon.

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  15. Hi Rachael, have you ever done this with voile? And have you used basting spray with voile? I would appreciate your thoughts.
    Thanks so much for all of the wonderful information,
    Sondra XXXXXXX

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    1. I have not done quilt-as-you-go with voile. I'm not sure why it would be negatively effected though. I do suggest using all voile (not mixing with quilting cotton) so that the quilt seams will wear evenly. I have used basting spray with voile with no problems!

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    2. Thank you, Rachel, for your input and time. Best to you, Always. Sondra

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  16. Love this method! I was wondering though, one of your suggestions is to zig zag between the blocks and I love that look. Are you able to do this zig zag stitch with a walking foot? Thanks for all the tips!

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    1. Yes! My walking foot has a wide opening so zigzag stitch is welcome!

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  17. Thank you for this tutorial, Rachael. I tried doing a Row by Row as quilt as you go, but the backing shifted no matter how careful I was. I think your method will work better for me. I am definitely going to give this a try! Makes perfect sense.

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    1. this year, I did something similar to this but as I said below I will try it with batting next year. This year, I completed a row then attached a sashing then did some quilting in this unit then built the quilt top. I called it a summer quilt even though it was heavy. Then added the backing with basting spray. I only quilted in the ditch. As you know we are quailing against the clock. Not to make a blues ribbon quilt. Happy Quilting

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  18. Thank-you. This will come in handy next year when making a Row by Row quilt. Happy Creating.

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  19. Thank you so much Rachel for this tutorial. I have wondered about quilting as you go for some upcoming projects that I have been contemplating. Your tutorial makes it look like something I could do! Thanks alot!

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  20. Hi Rachael, I was wondering how I could save this tutorial so I can refer back to it with the pictures and all? ddoodle1@sbcglobal.net

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  21. Thanks for the info...have a question maybe you can answer...I'm making a tshirt quilt and wanted to add sashing inbetween each block, should I add the sashing first or quilt each block then add the sashing, I guess the sashing wouldn't be quilted, but zig zaging down each seam might look ok?

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    1. I've never made a tshirt quilt and don't feel able to give good advice on that. Sorry!

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  22. Thanks for this information. I have squares ready to try this method.

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  23. Dear Rachel, I saved this post to my "how to" folder. I looks wonderful! And your the newest post shows the result... great! Thank you for sharing this step by step sewing.
    Jolana

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  24. Absolutely LOVE this method, Rachel. One of those ideas that is so simple and logical, you just want to run straight to your sewing machine. Thank you!

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  25. Wendi Gratz of ShinyHappyWorld also espouses this method of attaching QAYG blocks, although Susan Clare of Gourmet Quilter has a more tricky but in the end flatter/"abutting" joining technique. But having just quilted my very first quilt (65"x73") using my 31-year-old Pfaff domestic machine with no extension table in very wide wavy lines using a walking foot, I definitely agree with you that quilting smaller pieces is the way to go on a domestic machine (if the quilt top design will allow it, that is). Not sure I'm liking the "tying" method (it just looks like strings that haven't been buried/hidden properly), so will need to find a different method to join the front to the back. Thanks for the tutorial Rachel, much appreciated! ~Diana from Toronto

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  26. Hi
    Thanks so much for a GREAT tutorial. Please could you tell me what size you have cut the squares for the 25 Patch , and the large squares.

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  27. Sure, I used 3" cut squares in the 25 patch. For the large squares I cut 13" blocks. Both types will be 12.5" blocks finished.

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  28. Thanks so much for letting me know. x

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  29. Thank you for the lovely instructions. I made a twin size quilt and quilted it in one piece it was very hard! So I'm looking forward to trying this!!!!!

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