Are you afraid to machine quilt your quilt tops? I know many quilters enjoy sewing quilt tops so much but then they are afraid to machine quilt them themselves.
If you are a beginner or even an advanced quilter that finds machine quilting difficult, I am glad to share with you a technique that makes it easy, helping you at the same time to quilt BIG quilts with ease.
This technique was a revelation to me!
This quilting technique is not used too often. I used it for the first time in my 16th year of quilting. I ignored it for so long because (as in other circumstances, unfortunately) I just assumed I don’t need it/I don’t like it – without knowing too much about it and actually, without trying it.
So when I finally tried it, this technique blew my mind. It was FUN for me, but it was even more than that: I also understood what HUGE, TREMENDOUS help is for beginners and for quilters who sew on small machines, with small space under the arm.
So if you think that machine quilting (and especially free motion quilting) is not for you or you have difficulties when free motion quilting, you must try QUILT AS YOU GO.
What is Quilt As You Go?
Essentially, this technique means you create BLOCKS and you quilt them individually, and then you join the QUILTED blocks into a large quilt, with sashing. While you can make the blocks in any technique you want, for this tutorial I used the easiest technique: I just quilted a design in the center of the blocks.
This technique produces a double-sided quilt; if you want to use both sides, plan ahead what to use as backing for your blocks. A good idea is to use fabrics from the same collection.
Quilt As You Go Tutorial
Here are the steps you need to follow.
1. Sew your blocks, in any technique you want. Layer each block with batting and backing and quilt as desired.
After quilting, you have to trim all the quilted blocks to the same size. It’s best to measure first the block that seems to be the smallest and cut all the others at this size.
I trimmed my blocks to 15”.
A heavy quilting may distort the block; in order to keep it square, you may be forced to trim off more than what you want. This could be a problem for some patchwork blocks; if you have intersection points at the outer edges of the block, you may end up with chopped off points. In this case, try to do a minimal quilting so that your blocks do not suffer too much distortion. If you want sharp points in your block, you must preserve the 1/4” seam allowances – AFTER QUILTING.
For other patchwork designs this will not be a problem. When you decide what to quilt on your blocks, look at the outer edges of your block. Does the design suffer if you alter the seam allowances?
2. Arrange your blocks in rows, keeping them in a pleasant composition. To keep the blocks in order, use price tags and label each block with the corresponding number.
3. For joining two blocks you need two strips:
– for the front sashing: 1 strip – 1 1/8” wide and as long as your block (15” in my case)
– for the back sashing: 1¾” wide and as long as your block (15”); fold it in half lengthwise and press.
The color of your sashing is your choice, I think the best option is a neutral color that works well with all the colors of your blocks.
Always cut these strips on the straight grain, parallel with the selvage.
Lay down the folded strip on the back of your first block, aligning the raw edges. Keep it in place with pins (will be removed before stitching).
Turn the block on the right side. On the same side, lay down the 1 1/8” strip. Pin through all the layers (strip, block, strip on the back). Remove the pins from the back.
Stitch at 1/4” from the edge- accuracy is important here. Use the walking foot. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.
Flip the top strip over and finger press (or even lightly press with an iron).
Here is the look of the block sandwiched in between the two strips (remember that the folded strip is always on the back).
Add the second block to the other edge of the top strip. See details below.
Pin block #2 to the strip, right sides together. It is easier to pin and sew with the strip on top.
Sew at ¼” from the edge- again, accuracy is important here. Backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.
Here is a detail, before stitching.
The two blocks are now attached on the front side. Finger press (or press) the seam.
Turn the blocks on the back side.
Notice how nicely the raw edges of the two blocks lay next to each other (if you sewed with accurate ¼” seam allowance, there is even a little space that separates them- 1/8”; in case your seam allowance is a little bigger than ¼”, that 1/8” space still allows the edges to nicely nest together).
Flip over the folded strip, firmly finger press then sew the strip down with a slip-stitch (the stitching you use for finishing the binding on the back of quilts).
Now the two blocks are completely joined.
Join all the blocks needed for one row.
If your row has 5 blocks, sew two pairs then add the fifth block two the second pair.
My rows have only 4 blocks so that I joined the two pairs with the same technique described above.
Once you stitched all your rows, it’s time to join two rows together – again, using the same technique.
This time you have to measure the length of your row and cut strips of this length.
The width of the strips will be the same: 1 1/8” for the top strip and 1¾” for the back strip.
It shouldn’t be a big difference between the lengths of two rows, but if you want to be even more accurate, you could measure both rows you have to join and use the average length when cutting the strips.
Mark the half point on both sashing strips; lay the strip over the row, put pins at the beginning and end of the row, match the center of the sashing with the center of the row and then pin the rest of the sashing.
When adding the second row to the front sashing, you have to match the front sashing seams. Pay attention to this step, it’s important to have continuous vertical sashing on the front of the quilt.
Again, pin with the sashing on top; at this step, you need many pins to keep the edges aligned.
Do not pin like I did with the first two pins in the photo below (only through sashing and block underneath); catch the front block too- see the next three pins-that pinning holds the layers together better.
Two rows joined…
…and a detail to see the nicely aligned vertical sashings.
Repeat until you join all the rows.
Then bind the quilt as desired; for my binding I used the same fabric used for sashing.
1. When you use this technique, you will notice that all the machine stitching is extremely easy to do. Why? It’s because at all times, while stitching, the quilt is positioned to the left of the needle; the whole quilt rests on the table and nothing goes under the arm. NO BULK under the arm! This is extremely helpful if your machine has a small space under the arm.
2. Maybe you don’t like the look of the sashing? The contrasting color?
There is a way to make the sashing almost invisible! I plan to apply it on my next quilt-as-you-go quilt.
PIN THIS FOR LATER!