QAYG: breaking it down

Sometimes you have to look past the logical solution.

QAYG (quilt as you go) is a clever, tidy and relatively painless way of sandwiching and quilting your blocks before you assemble the quilt. For those of us quilting on a domestic sewing machine, this is a great way of avoiding the shoulder-pain of hauling a huge piece of quilting through the narrow throats of our machines.

However, once the quilting’s done, you’ve got to attach all the pieces to each other. Logically, you’d join it up row by row. After all, that’s how you’d do it if you were simply sewing the blocks together before quilting conventionally, isn’t it? Trouble is, you end up with at least 4 or 5 very long seams where you’re wrestling many, many layers together into quarter inch seam allowances. Things can wobble and gape, sewing lines can go wonky, and the pin sticks alone can lead to insanity.

I’ve come up with a way of reducing the number of very long seams you have to sew to only 1. Better, yes? I don’t claim it’s original, but I know it works for me, and I haven’t see it documented anywhere else.

qayg-assemblyIt’s as simple as this:

If your quilt’s an even number of squares (eg: 6×6 or 8×8), divide in half horizontally and vertically.  Make up a square of blocks for each corner, join the two top and two bottom sections, and then you only have one long seam across the middle.

If your quilt’s an uneven number (eg: 5×5 or 7×7), offset the horizontal and vertical divides, but proceed the same way. One side will be squares, the other rectangles. Proceed as above. If your blocks are smaller and there are more of them, you can afford to create sections which are 4 or 5 blocks long/deep, as the seams will still be shorter and the sections more manageable.

Joining sections which are only 2 or 3 blocks deep is much, much easier and more pleasant. You’re not hauling the bulk of what you’ve already joined around every time. Only one really long strip. Works for me!

Lynn at Tialys and I both have a quilt to assemble by this process. Mine’s 5×5 and hers is 5×6. We’ve both done it the hard way, row by row; now I want to see whether she finds it easier this way too. Starting this weekend, we’ll be working together (if 18,000kms apart), as we both want our quilts finished by Christmas.

Stay tuned – I’ll be taking photos as I go to try and clarify my scruffy little drawings.

27 thoughts on “QAYG: breaking it down

  1. Very smart. Years ago I saw this idea described for assembling tops without doing all the long seams. I do assemble “halves” of quilts first, to reduce the weighty task to just the last seam. But otherwise I haven’t used the method. (Again, simply for assembling tops) I use LOTS Of very fine pins, so I don’t have trouble with gaping or pulling. But it would have definite advantages, I’d think, for QAYG.

    • katechiconi says:

      I do exactly the same with tops after finding the row-by-row experience a literal drag. Because of the extra weight of the batting and backing, and because the pieces are stiffened by the quilting, I find the pulling and gaping is much worse than with just the top. This method wins hands down!

  2. Very interesting. The old adage “necessity is the mother of invention” comes to mind here. 🙂

  3. tialys says:

    Right, so by this reckoning, for my 5 x 6 layout, I’m going to have two ‘corners’ on the left hand side each made up of 2 x 3 blocks and, on the right hand side, two ‘corners’ made up of 3 x 3 blocks which makes one long vertical seam to do after the first two blocks. I think that’s right. Thanks for this Kate – I need to finish Gun’s last F2F block today and I will make a start on this tomorrow (Sunday). I’m confined to quarters anyway as I have the first cold I’ve had in years and I think I have the worse sore throat I have ever had in my life.

    • katechiconi says:

      That’s absolutely right. I’m still enjoying the final fling of my migraine, so did no sewing today (can’t see straight anyway), and I’ll be starting tomorrow too, cutting many, many strips. Do you think you’ll have enough bits joined up to do a post on Wednesday at the same time as me? Cold and beastly sore throat permitting, of course… My mother used to put us to bed with a cold compress round our necks if we had a sort throat. It sounds like an old wives tale, but I have a clear memory of it working… Meanwhile, lots of gargling with soluble aspirin.

      • tialys says:

        Probably! I’ve cut the first lot of 1 inch strips for the front and was going to cut for the back but you say 1.75 inches ( I assume folded in half)and the Gourmet Quilter says 2 inches, folded in half so now I can’t decide which way to go. What would be the difference in the final ‘look’ – apart from .25 inches 😉 ? I can’t remember which I chose last time and why.

      • katechiconi says:

        I think 1.75 looks neater. A 2 inch strip is fine, but once you’ve taken off the .25 inch for the seam allowance, you’ve got .75 of an inch for the wrap over to cover a .5 inch seam allowance. I like the narrower version, you end up with less ‘flap’. There’s only an eighth of an inch difference, though, so if you feel safer with 2 inches, go for it.

  4. rutigt says:

    Remember my big, white, scrappy quilt?
    I used a variant of your way to sew blocks together. It was there I really learned to QAYG!

  5. kathyreeves says:

    I am really interested in this technique. I have been manhandling my quilts, and though I have some decent table space, it IS hard on one’s shoulders…I had to do push ups and planks to get ready for them!

  6. knitnkwilt says:

    That might be enough to make me try QAYG again. I abandoned it after the first (row by row) try, thinking that if I were going to wrestle, I may as well wrestle while doing FMQ.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve done two big quilts by QAYG row by row, and was starting to feel the same way. Once I’d tried this, I couldn’t imagine going back to the other way. It’s a game changer.

  7. It makes sense to me. Those long seams and hauling the bulk are the problems. Good luck with the weekend’s work!

  8. Great solution, Kate! I will tackle my WIP’s like this.

  9. I think your method is going to work well. I haven’t done QAYG myself but when I assemble lots of blocks of a quilt top I start in the corner and assemble strips of blocks log cabin style. That way, the strips increase in length as you go but I’m always working at the edge if you know what I mean.

    • katechiconi says:

      That sounds like a good process too. I didn’t realise when I first started QAYG assembly row-by-row how much of a difference the backing and batting would make to the weight of what I was working on. Long strips were a nightmare!

  10. Debbierose says:

    Qayg is a fav of mine.

  11. […] my recent QAYG post, it was time to put the process to […]

  12. […] between each completed row and, so far, it seems to be a good idea.  Kate explains it much better here should you be interested in going down this path […]

  13. […] quickly read Kate’s (Tall Tales from Chiconia) tutorial on QAYG, I always have a quick refresher there before I start stitching the blocks […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.