Quilt-As-You-Go Quilt

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About: My name's Abby, and I make things. Lots of things. Sewing is my favorite activity, and any project that involves fabric is like a drug to me. I make lots of pretty things, you should check out my online shop...

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.

Step 1: 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

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.

(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!

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

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

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

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!

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!

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.

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47 Discussions

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RosalieM4

Question 2 months ago

So,I can do this method with handquilted things also...right? This is one I have already done. This is my next project,,,

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smeidler

Question 6 months ago on Step 6

I am confused how to fold over the backing so there isn't a bump in the back. Am I supposed to sew through the batting, or only the top? Could someone video how to fold over the back once two blocks are joined together?

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AnaictéG

Tip 6 months ago on Step 4

I think you shouldn't sew to the edge of your batting either, after joining blocks you'll need enough room to fold your backing. If I had enough fabric left I would redo some of my blocks instead of ripping tiny stitches. Thanks for the tutorial.

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AnaictéG

Question 6 months ago on Step 6

Up to this point I'm doing ok (I think), but once I joined two blocks together my seams are just a bit smaller janbthe backing, don't really get what to do next, I press it open, and then, how do I fold the backing? Help

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KarenL217

Question 7 months ago

How wide do cut the seam 1/2 ? Then what seam alliance 1/4

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halinflorida

10 months ago

I plan to follow this method so I can machine quilt each block. It'll be easier to quilt a single block and then attach it. I'll hand stitch it together with a slip stitch since they are hidden. My mother quilted for many years and I've seen it done many ways and all done well. My wife is a new quilter and she's following the other approach but I believe the quilt as you go approach will give me many advantages and only require a small amount of hand stitching. In the past, I've tied quilts since all that hand quilting causes my man's hand to cramp terribly.

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MarkMine

1 year ago

Hi Abby, I think your idea is great. I was going to adopt it for our first quilt, a large one, 61.5" x 55".

There is just one thing though. I just spoke with the company who sells the quilt design and pieces and was running by your idea with them.

They were recommending we not do the quilt in sections.

Their reason was that there is a big risk that the blocks/panels won't fit together after quilting each panel. There is pulling etc. as you quilt the appliques and other stitching.

So what would you do if things didn't line up by an inch or more for each panel?

This is a design where you would notice this right away.

Thanks!

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NinzerbeanMarkMine

Reply 1 year ago

I'm not Abby but thought I could help anyway - this technique is great but common sense says it's not going to work on a very precise design where lining up the blocks perfectly is vital. I have quilted king size quilts on a regular machine, it's tedious but it's really doable with patience and large binding clips. Use Abby's technique for a different quilt than the one you are doing - if the company does not recommend it believe them.

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MarkMineNinzerbean

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks Ninzerbean for your response. This is a very difficult decision indeed because of the special circumstances at play here.
The person doing the quilting will have had no experience whatsoever doing quilts before. It's the country where this is being done.
Can you imagine them doing a quilt of this size in one piece, first going over dozens of intricate appliques and then quilting the rest?
Because of this I have decided to make a compromise. Instead of doing four separate panels and joining them together, we will join just two (panels 1+2 and panels 3+4).
Keeping our fingers crossed. :)

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mennojaneMarkMine

Reply 1 year ago

practice with a small version or a smaller pattern. Use a mug rug pattern, but split it into two pieces to see if it works.

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MarkMinemennojane

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks jane.

To make a very long story short, I ended up taking over the project and did it myself.

It was my very first sewing project. Hadn't sewed before in my life.
I did it 2 + 2 panels, completed them with batting then sewed the two together. Then added the borders.
It worked but if I were to do it again I would follow the advice of the designers. :)
I wanted to add a photo of the project but couldn't.

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Jacquemena

6 years ago on Introduction

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.

1 reply
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CheritaD

1 year ago

Why do you have to hand sew the last step. No hand sewing for me!

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ericalea77

1 year ago

Hi Abby,

These look like great instructions! I am reasonably experienced quilter, but I have never done QAYG before. My concern with this method is that the batting is not all one piece. Does that effect the durability of the quilt? Does it lay differently from normal? I am about to make an XL twin quilt of my oldest and I ant it to hold up for a long time.

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LizzyByrd

1 year ago

I am excited to do this, since I only hand quilt. I think it will be so much more fun

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MaryV45

2 years ago

Love the idea, an how U make it sound so much less complicated.. unlike how complicated some of the books I've read make every step sound so much harder then it really is, i hate dealing with the confusion of it.... thank you for sharing your idea, ima gona have to try this next time i start a new quilt

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LadyJulie

2 years ago

Thank you so much! I'm working on a king sized quilt, and there is NO way I'm gonna fit the whole thing in my machine for quilting, and this seems like the perfect way. I think I'll do it in long rows, though (less seams on the backing at the end.

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Nu81153791

2 years ago

P.s ill be doimg it ALL by hand!!!

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Nu81153791

2 years ago

Hi im juat about to start making a quilt for my son. The irst one made was a quilting kit! Which was lovely but i think i would really love to have a go my self! I lobe the sound of the way you made yours so im gonna give it a go! Wish me luck