QAYG for beginners

I’d never done QAYG until now. And now that I have, I can’t imagine why I waited so long!

Quilt As You Go is a process in which you sandwich and quilt each individual block before joining them all edge to edge, the join being covered by a narrow sashing. It produces a neat result and makes the quilting entirely manageable. I’ve been asked to do a beginner’s tutorial, from my own beginner’s point of view, so here it is.

All you need is a bit of attention to detail. There are four things that will make life a lot easier:

  • Trim all your quilted blocks to exactly the right size
  • Use a walking foot/even feed foot
  • Keep your seam allowances a consistent ¼ inch
  • Pin!

The first is achieved by making your blocks a little bit larger than the final size, and trimming out only after you’ve quilted them. The second is important because at some stages you’re sewing through 6 layers, and you need all the help you can get to stop things slipping! The third one ensures that your joins are narrow and all the same size, and will align correctly when you come to join everything up. The fourth helps you achieve the third. I’d go as far as saying that it’s critical. (I’d also say that using frugal amounts of spray baste to join the three layers before quilting has increased speed and decreased frustration by doing away with pin basting altogether. If you can tolerate the stuff, use it.)

OK, away we go.

Firstly, for each block, sandwich and ‘quilt as desired’. Bear in mind that quilting draws up and shrinks the block, especially if you quilt densely, so make sure you’ve allowed extra all round. Then trim out. You still need your ¼ inch seam allowance all round, but remember that these allowances sit edge to edge rather than being folded under, so they’re part of the total dimension of the block. If you don’t remember this, you’ll end up with a slightly larger than expected quilt. Start joining in the middle of the quilt. I did this because if things were going to slip, I wanted it to happen away from the focal centre. I really needn’t have worried, but it’s a good place to start anyway!

Blocks and joining stripsCut a 1 inch strip for the front and a 1¾ inch strip for the back from your joining (sashing) fabric. It can be different colours for front and back, there’s no show-through. Fold the 1¾ inch strip in half lengthways and press, wrong sides together.

Attaching the stripsTake one of the blocks to be joined, and lay the 1 inch strip right side down on the front, along the edge you’re joining. On the back of the block, lay the folded 1¾ inch strip along the same edge, with the raw edge of the folded strip towards the edge of the block. Pin, with the pins running along the seam line rather than perpendicular to it. Yes, you do need to pin to stop things shifting, but you can do it at the edge of the strip furthest from the seam, so you can whizz along the ¼ inch seam line without having to stop and take pins out.

Attaching strip to second blockNow for the second block. Lay it face to face with the previous block (if there’s a directional design, make sure it’ll be the right way up when joined), and fold up the 1 inch strip so it’s right side to right side and edge to edge with the second block. Pin again.

Stitching on second blockThis seam will be trickier to sew, as the previous seam allowance will be slightly in the way. Go slowly and carefully, making sure the 1 inch strip doesn’t pull away from the edge or you’ll have a wavy joining strip. This is where a walking foot is invaluable, because here you’re stitching through 6 layers. Done? That’s the hardest part finished 🙂

Back, seam allowance butting upFlip the two joined blocks over so they’re face down, and lay flat. If you’ve been careful, you’ll have the two seam allowances lying nice and flat, and butting up to each other. The folded 1¾ inch strip will be on the left, pointing away from the seam.

Covering the joinFold the flap over the join so that the fold extends just past the right hand seam, and pin across the strip, just to hold it lightly in place. Don’t haul the flap over hard, or the front strip will bulge, just fold it over gently and secure.

Stitching in the ditch, frontFlip the section back over, and pin along the right hand edge of the strip on the front. Remove the pins from the back and stitch in the ditch along the seam line on the front. You should have a sewing line which falls nearly an eighth of an inch from the edge of the fold on the back.

Finished join, front

If you find that you’re constantly missing the edge of the strip, you could consider cutting your 1¾ inch strip a ¼ inch wider (ie, 2 inches), but you’ll have more of a ‘flap’ between the stitching and the edge. Alternatively, you can stitch it down by hand, which will also be more invisible, but that’s a lot of hand stitching if you’re impatient or short of time, and if you’re planning to wash the quilt a lot, machine stitching is just a bit stronger.

Finished join, back

And that’s it. Join all the rest of the blocks in the same way. Break the quilt down into sections, and join individual sections, rather than making endless long strips the full width or height of the quilt, it’ll be much easier to handle. For a quilt made of blocks the same size, it’s pretty foolproof. You can choose to have sashing that contrasts or co-ordinates, or makes its own pattern, or you can make every sashing strip different, so it forms part of the design. I’d say the process is a bit labour intensive unless your blocks are 10 inches square or more, but you may feel the extra work is worth it given the ease of quilting.

Go on, give it a try. Make 4 blocks and join them, and see if you don’t find it amazingly easy. Makes a nice table runner, too..


28 thoughts on “QAYG for beginners

  1. love the colour combinations and the shapes !!!

  2. manicmumdays says:

    Very cool! Thanks for sharing ❤

  3. tialys says:

    How generous of you Kate. I would also encourage anybody who hasn’t given this a try to have a go. As you know, I used this method for the first time when joining my F2F quilt and it was a joy to be able to quilt each block individually. I would also recommend the spray basting and walking foot combo. I did try to machine stitch in the ditch on the front but my accuracy must have been a bit off somewhere and I felt the resulting line of stitches on the back was too visible for my liking so, in the end, I hand stitched those strips down which was a bit like hand finishing binding which, surprisingly as I’m not usually keen on hand stitching, I don’t mind doing so I was happier using that method. Plus, the current project is only 30 blocks big instead of 36 so it won’t take quite as long and, anyway, it’s worth it just to avoid wrestling a full size quilt under my machine.
    I’m sure your tutorial will be helpful for anybody wanting to give QAYG a try.

  4. Thimberlina says:

    Bookmarked for the day I make a big one!! Or bigger than the baby one I just did. Thankyou for taking the time to do this 😃

    • katechiconi says:

      No problem, I was doing it anyway! Compared with trying to quilt this once it was finished, it’s so, SO much easier. Normally I dread getting started and breathe a huge sigh of relief when it’s done, but now, it’s quite enjoyable!

  5. Debbierose says:

    QAYG is suvh a beautiful way to highlight each piece. It is wonderful watching it come together. You have done very well, kudos on your stitching

    • katechiconi says:

      It is, isn’t it? It makes more adventurous stitching possible and even easy. I’m looking forward to getting it done and off to OCA. And then we can do it all again next year 🙂

  6. knettycraft says:

    Thank you so much Kate for sharing this. I love that technique too…. but I wasn’t able to write about it.

  7. I’m going to go back to this when I start the process. It probably won’t be till winter sets in. Too much outside work now but at least I know where to go for clear instructions. Thanks so much, Kate. Hope you are still healing well.

  8. craftycreeky says:

    Thanks so much for this Kate, I’m wanting to try QAYG for my Splendid Sampler but I was getting somewhat confused, much clearer now, just got to work out how to do the sashing 🙂

  9. I really need to try this. I got as far as making some blocks but that project drifted to the back of a cupboard.

  10. Jill says:

    Thanks so much for the tutorial and all the photos. I haven’t done a QAYG yet, but will try it when I make my next quilt. So much nicer to quilt one block at a time, and if there is a bit of hand stitching to be done, I think that is easier than trying to manoeuvre a big quilt through a regular sewing machine!

    • katechiconi says:

      You’re so right about how much nicer it is just to quilt a small piece! I’m rattling through the blocks, and can’t quite believe the progress I’m making 🙂 Glad you found the tutorial useful.

  11. […] never done QAYG before, Kate from Tall Tales from Chiconia has written a great tutorial on QAYG for beginners which has been a big help, it all makes sense […]

  12. […] by this Quilt As You Go process, you can find the detail in my earlier tutorial on the subject, here. Since I wrote it, I’ve reduced the width of strip I cut for the back from 2 inches to 1¾ […]

  13. […] joined together. There are a couple of ways to join them, but I decided to follow the tutorial on Tall Tales from Chiconia Kate’s instructions are […]

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