Picture of Quilt-As-You-Go Quilt

Quilting is something that I absolutely enjoy.  I’m a beginner yet, so it’s constantly challenging and fun and creative all at once. The one problem I have, however, with every quilt I make, is the fact that it is awful hard to machine quilt on just your regular, run of the mill sewing machine. It’s a giant workout, constantly pushing, pulling, and trying to keep track of a big rolled up hunk of quilt shoved into a regular sized sewing machine. As much as I would do just about anything for one of those giant, crazy awesome long-armed sewing machines specifically meant for quilting, I’m not really thinking that is going to happen any time soon. (I mean, really, what’s with these kids needing to eat all of the time? They are totally killing my sewing machine dreams!)

So as I was searching for a better solution to my quilting dilemma, I came across the idea of quilting as you go. The basic idea is to quilt all of your layers together, as you are piecing your quilt, so that you are working with smaller, more manageable pieces. There are many different ways you can do this, but the basic idea is all pretty much the same: you stack your pieced block, with batting and backing cut to the same size, sandwich them together and quilt them first, and then actually join blocks together.

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Step 1: Make A Plan

Picture of Make A Plan
The first step is to make a plan. Decide on the size and design that you would like your finished project to be, and figure out the yardage you would need for that size. This would go pretty similarly to your regular quilt project, the only difference would be is that your backing will all be pieced, so it won’t be necessary to have straight yardage for your backing. (That means you can use scraps!! Woohoo!)

Step 2: Sizing Your Blocks, Batting and Back

Picture of Sizing Your Blocks, Batting and Back
For my project, I decided to make a baby sized quilt, approximately 36” x 45”. My design used 4 blocks across, and 5 rows, all of which were 9” finished size. I will use this as an example, but you can certainly use different sizes/patterns to work within your project.

Once I pieced my top blocks, I trimmed them to be 9” PLUS seam allowance. I would really recommend using at least half of an inch around each side of each block. (I only used ¼”, and drove me totally bonkers and didn’t work out as well as I would have liked.)

When you have your top blocks trimmed, you will need to trim backing squares to be the exact same size as the top.

Once you have your top and backing cut, cut your batting to size. This part is a bit different… you want your batting to not have any seam allowance at all. If batting is running into your seam, you’ll have far too much bulk in your seams. For example, in my quilt, my batting squares were each 9” even.

Step 3: Make a Sammich.

Picture of Make a Sammich.
(Not the eating kind, unfortunately.)

Once you have all of your blocks pieced and trimmed to size, you need to stack your sandwiches.

To stack them, you will need to start by laying your backing fabric, wrong side up, on your work surface.

On top of this, place your batting square. Make sure to place it in the center, with an even seam allowance around each side.

Once you have your batting placed, place your top block over it, right side up. Be sure to line it up carefully with your backing square below.

When you have all of your layers positioned, you need to baste them. You can just pin them, as I have done, or spray baste… whatever gets the job done. Usually I hate using straight pins to baste a quilt, but these small blocks require so little that it’s not a big deal to me.

Step 4: Quilt!

Picture of Quilt!
Once you have your layers basted, you will need to quilt your blocks.

How you quilt your blocks is entirely up to you. You can use straight lines or free-form quilt it… basically do whatever you are most comfortable with. The most important thing to remember is to not sew into your seam allowance. I did this in a few places, and it was a big pain in the rear end in later steps. It may not be a bad idea to take a marking pencil that is easily removed and mark around the edges so that you know where to stop.

Step 5: Join Your Blocks

Picture of Join Your Blocks
Once you have a big ol’ stack of quilted blocks, you actually get to start joining them together!

To join squares, place two blocks, right sides together. Carefully pin JUST the top layers together. You do NOT want to sew through your backing fabric. I found it easiest to either pin or press the backing out of the way while I stitched the tops together.

Step 6: Press Your Seam

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Once you get the two blocks joined just at the top layer, press your seam. Then smooth the backing fabric back over the back of the seam, folding over one edge and pinning.

Step 7: Finish Your Back Seams

Picture of Finish Your Back Seams
When you have your row all joined together, you need to go back and finish your back seams. You could, carefully, line up and pin your backing a machine stitch it all down. I chose to stitch this by hand, just because I didn’t want the fuss of hiding seams and lining things up perfectly. (I know, lazy, right?) I stitched as neatly and as invisibly as I could, and for me, it was easier.
I would definitely suggest that as you stitch your back, make sure not to leave your seams open on the top and bottom, so that when you join your rows together, you will be able to open your layers straight across.

Step 8: Join Your Rows!

Picture of Join Your Rows!
When you have all of your rows stitched, you can sew them together using the same techniques that you used to join your blocks into rows. And, just as you finished the back of each row, finish the seams that you use to join the rows together.

Step 9: Finish It!

Picture of Finish It!
And that’s the basic idea! Once you have your quilt assembled, you bind it just as you would a regular quilt.

Step 10:

This technique is so easy, and it really opens up a lot of possibilities for more complicated quilting designs on a basic model sewing machine. I could even see doing much larger projects than what I am used to, since I won’t have to worry about forcing a full sized quilt through my machine.  It is also lends to scrap quilts, which are always fun and a great way to use up fabric that you’ve had laying around for awhile.
gramaJJO24 days ago
sue.hills603 months ago

I don't understand the second paragraph of step 7.

Couldn't you sew from the front along the seam, with a zigzag stich or other design to sew the back closed? I think It could work if it was incorporated in the overall design from the start. what do you think?

abbyholverson (author)  laura.wyzykowski3 months ago
You can, absolutely. I've just always been awful at lining up that sort of thing well enough... For me it would take a lot longer!
cathy.horein3 months ago

This is fabulous! I'm off to the fabric store right now for batting to get my 2 pieced- but-not-sewn-or-quilted UFOs done! Thanks so much

I am making my 1st quilt and your instructions with photos! :) and the tips about the seam allowances were so very helpful! Thank you!

yvonne.yaciw4 months ago

Very simple and straight forward instructions - the best I've seen so far. And you are not limited to just the size of your single block, you can sew 4 or more blocks together first and then measure the batting and backing to fit. Or you could first sew one row of blocks together and then quilt them as you go so you have only 4 or 5 seams in the back to deal with. I hope I made myself clear.

SarahM164 months ago

Thank you for this!!!! I am super excited now, to try this!

I love how your quilting is part of the visual appeal as well as the piecing

You might want to check out www.quiltingonthegrid.com for a way to make beautiful quilts with just a sewing machine! I have done so because my wife developed this technique and got a U.S. patent on it this year.

Wonderful tutorial, thank you for posting it!

wow this is amazing i have been struggling with the bulk of things for so long now your a lifesaver
maysienz2 years ago
This is wonderful and I agree with the others, this is the best instructions I could find.

You say that you should have made something with a half inch seam and not a 1/4. I can't really see how the block can be made with the outside a 1/2 unless it is just a one fabric edging. (I am doing peaches and cream which has two different halves to the block) I think I would make the backing blocks with a inch seam allowance incase things go slightly askew. This could be cut back before sewing together. Am I right??
abbyholverson (author)  maysienz2 years ago
Actually, now that I'm looking at my pictures, I think I did 1/4 on the backing squares as well. It was a huge pain in the butt.
abbyholverson (author)  maysienz2 years ago
Everyone is so sweet, I'm glad that my instructable helped!

I think (it's been a while since I wrote this, so trying to remember) the problem I ran into was that my seam allowance around my blocks was only 1/4 for my top, and between getting everything lined up it was just too little, made things a giant pain. I'd definitely err on the side of having more seam allowance than necessary and trim once you've got the blocks together.
scox182 years ago
I'm getting ready to make a bed quilt for ME. I'm definitely going to follow your pattern of assembly! I just finished a sofa sized quilt for my hubby, and I could NOT get a handle on the bulky mass, or move it around to free motion quilt it. The center block looks like pinched scribbles cause I couldn't get it to move around. The rest is just straight line stitching. I can't wait to really have some quilting fun! Thanks
Majornav2 years ago
Very nice. This will be a great way to do project quilts for school and scouts. Everyone can do their own piece and quilting then trim and tie it all together.
Hulamoon2 years ago
I also watched several You tubes and looked at sites and this by far the best!
jjo32 years ago
Thank you so much! I have viewed probably 20 tutes on YouTube, and 5 others on various websites...even bought a book on QAYG, and YOU NAILED IT! Thank you Thank You THANK YOU! My first quilt project was a full size totally machine quilted scrap strip quilt blanket for the daughter. My next one will be a rainbow disappearing 9 patch for ME, using your method. You do BOMB.
Jacquemena2 years ago
I just love this idea but could not get these directions to print. I have tried to download to PDF file and still won't let me.
rosiekay2 years ago
How can I print these directions. I have tried to download to PDF file and still won't let me.
AmySews3 years ago
Yikes! Hand sewing? Is there an option for machine sewing it?
abbyholverson (author)  AmySews3 years ago
You don't *have* to hand stitch it necessarily. If you line everything up right and use a nice deceptive stitch, you could very easily do this on machine. I just like hand sewing a lot, and have an extreme hatred of trying to line things like that up! I also was going for the invisibility that you get with hand sewing.
abbyholverson (author)  abbyholverson3 years ago
Decorative, I mean. Haha