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.

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..


ScrapHappy March

Welcome once again to ScrapHappy Day!

It’s the day my friend Gun in Sweden and I host ScrapHappy, a day for showing something made from scraps. The raffle for the Days Gone By quilt is in 5 days, so I’ll be excited to let you know what it raised next time. This month, I’m starting a new scrappy quilt for Days for Girls. It’s going to be called Hopscotch. I can’t tell you why, the quilt just told me that’s what it wanted to be called!

This is the first block, and I have 6 more blocks’ worth of squares cut, so things should move quite fast.  As you can see, it’s a simple 25-patch, machine-pieced, and I’ll assemble it using the QAYG method so I can quilt it myself. Should come together a lot faster than the last one! I’m thinking I might also use scrappy sashing between the blocks. I still have rolls and rolls of thermal till receipt paper for foundation piecing skinny scrappy strips, and it’s a great way of using the scraps which are just too narrow for the 3½ inch squares I’m using for this quilt.

ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of genuine scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful or useful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Either email me at the address on my Contact Me page, or leave a comment below. You can also contact Gun via her blog to join. We welcome new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let either of us know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so we can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at). This month, Nancy is returning to the group, and we have two more new participants: welcome, Carol and Bear!

Kate (me!)Gun, EvaSue, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy,  Tracy, Jill,
Claire, Jan, Moira, Sandra, Chris, Alys,
Kerry, Claire, Jean, Jon, HayleyDawn,
Gwen, Bekki, Sue L, Sunny, Kjerstin,
Vera, Nanette, Ann, NancyDawn 2, Noreen,
Bear and Carol

See you next time for more scrappy loveliness.



Heaven for Beginners #1: Quilting begun

I’ve made a start.

Line 1 of 6 is sandwiched and quilted, and I’m happy with the effect. Just the usual wiggly line, but I was extra vigilant with the spray basting, the blocks are nice and flat and pucker-free, and I like the fabric I have for the backing.

I’m happy with the block layout now – a few changes since the last time I showed it, but I prefer the balance and colour progression I have now. I’m still debating the border around the outside. I think it might need one to bring the size up a bit, but adding a border in QAYG has its own technical difficulties. I’ll see how it goes.

We went out for a drive with Mouse yesterday, and had tea and scones at the Old Station Teahouse near Cape Hillsborough. I think I’ve mentioned this place before; it’s an old wooden station building, set in the middle of gorgeous tropical gardens, and among other tasty delights, their home-made scones and raspberry preserves are magnificent.

Is that my puppacino coming…?

They welcome dogs in the garden seating area, and no sooner did Mouse arrive than he was being fussed and admired and petted. Eventually, we humans were able to place our order. Mouse was not, of course, allowed any scones, but he did get his car quilt to lie on, a puppacino was ordered for him (frothed lactose-free milk), and one of the ladies brought him some doggie treats they keep for their canine guests. No, not spoiled at all….

A reminder that we are about to begin F2F once again, for the 5th year running (see my previous post). If you’re thinking about joining in, do get in touch with a comment or email me directly if you received the email I sent out about it.

Time for some more cutting. I need purple backing squares…

Twinkle, twinkle, little star

It’s time for the next Ovarian Cancer quilt.

You’ll remember that henceforth, our quilts are being made to be auctioned at the Nude Lunch, our local annual Ovarian Cancer fundraising extravaganza. Not only will they raise more money than was being achieved by Ovarian Cancer Australia, but the money is being spent locally, for the benefit of local ovarian cancer patients and their families. The next Nude Lunch is on 6th September this year. Ooooer… a bit of a deadline, then. So, well, I stirred up the little grey cells, and we have liftoff.

The quilt is going to be called Scinteallate. Yes, I’m still finding ways to play with the word Teal.

Here’s what the dictionary has to say:

Given the meaning, I thought twinkling stars would be a really pretty visual interpretation. So this quilt will feature 30 teal star on cream background blocks, each 12 inches square (finished size). As always, I will sandwich, quilt and assemble the whole thing. What I’m asking is that each block should be as scrappy as possible, to give the twinkling effect I’m hoping for, like faceted jewels. You can make crazy stars, wonky stars, traditionally pieced, appliquéd or paper pieced stars. You can add beads, sequins or metallic threads (just bear in mind I’ll have to quilt the blocks). You can make your stars very simple or as complicated as you like. I will probably cluster the more complex blocks in the middle of the quilt and spread the simpler ones around the outside to give the effect some ‘air’. The format will be 5 across by 6 down, and I will assemble using the QAYG method, as always.

Timing: I need your contributions here by the end of June. For contributors not in Australia, this means sending your block(s) by mid-June. That will give me enough time to quilt and assemble the quilt and get it to the Naked Lunch organisers in time for them to include it in the event program.

Contributors so far:
Kate (as many blocks as necessary to bring the total up to 30)
Lynn (2 complex blocks)
Nanette (2 blocks)
Margaret (2 blocks)
Sharon (1 block)
Lynda (2 blocks)
Sue (1 or 2 blocks)
Gun (2 blocks)

So, who else is in?

And now for something completely different

Well, not THAT different. It’s a quilt, after all.

But you haven’t seen this one before. I’m calling it Bougainville Nights (or BougieNights for short). It’s composed of the blocks I received from the previous session of F2F, not the one that finished last month but the one before.

This is the initial layout for the front of the quilt. It’ll probably change again a couple of times, but this seems to be fairly balanced. If you have suggestions for improving the layout, let me know what you think.

Some of the blocks I received are not shown here. I’ll still be using them all, but six are going on the back, and one is going to make the front of a cushion. The ones not shown are either on light backgrounds, or they contain fairly large amounts of yellow or pale orange or pale pink, which read too light and don’t work with the other blocks. They’re all beautiful, but they don’t fit in this version of the front. For the back, I’ll probably have a mainly dark blue background, with these blocks arranged in a left to right pointing chevron. The cushion cover block is gorgeous, but has lots of bright yellow in it which stands out very strongly if used on the front, so I’m going to border it with more yellow to make a feature of it. I’ll use dark blue joining strips and binding it in hot pink and orange. Should be nice and bright!

I have no idea how much time I’ll be able to spend on this over the coming weeks. But it’s been agitating to get out of my head and onto the design wall, so I just had to get that done so the quilt would shut up! I have a feeling my sewing room is going to be fairly low on the priority list in the new house, simply because it’s not ‘necessary’. So I’ll just have to take advantage of what I have now for as long as possible. This’ll be another QAYG project, and each block is small enough to quilt in a short time. I’ll be grabbing half hours here and there, and slowly, it’ll get done.

And now, it’s time to get up and get going. Things to do, boxes to pack.


Go Teal it on the Mountain #19: peaceful and dreaming…

I’m making progress, even if it’s a bit invisible.

The top 15 blocks are all quilted. One more still to make…

Behind the scenes, while I show you the blocks that come in or the blocks I make for this quilt, I’m busily quilting. One of the joys and benefits of the QAYG (quilt as you go) method is that I don’t have to wait till I have all the blocks, then sew them together, assemble the quilt sandwich, laboriously quilt the huge thing and finally bind it all. This way, I can quilt each block individually and in no particular order, and wait till the last moment to quilt the last block and decide on the layout. I’m half done already! The blocks are not arranged in their final layout, but I do like all the moon/mountain blocks running down the centre, so that may stay.

Today I received the last two blocks on their way to me. This one is by Jenny of The Lilac Cat, and is a beautiful, peaceful scene of mountains rolling into the distance. I love the fabrics she’s used: the big circles in the sky, like clouds, and the scattering of tiny flowers on the ‘grass’ in the foreground. Just lovely!

And this one is Nanette’s third contribution, which she says “calls itself River Dreaming”. In the note that came with it, she says “I wanted to portray the mountain and river being connected and interdependent…. I wanted the look of a silhouette; at certain times of day, the mountain looks like a cardboard cutout against the sky…”. Beautiful work once again, Nanette. If you click on the link, it’ll take you to her blog post about making all three of her mountain blocks, and some of the photos will blow you away!

I must still make the teal ribbon block for the centre of the bottom row. It’s one I make every time, for every quilt, and I have my template and the process down pat. I was going to try something different this time, but I think I’ll leave that for another time, when I have time for more experimental construction. There’s still a fair bit to do; just the cutting of the joining strips can take hours, and the assembly is no picnic, but once all the blocks are in and quilted, the layout will click into place and I can just plug along methodically.

Soon, I’ll be in a position to tell you about the next project. It’s not one of our scheduled Ovarian Cancer jobs, but I need to get it ready in a big hurry for an event where they’re going to auction it. Originally I was going to do this one myself, but I’m going to need your help. There’s basic piecing, there’s fairly tricky paper piecing, there could be some appliqué, and there’s a central section I’ll be working on myself. Oh, and if anyone has a sewing machine that can do embroidered letters, and you’re willing to help, can you let me know? I need a small fabric banner with some lettering on it for the quilt design and if I can’t source some help for the embroidery, I’ll have to do it by hand, which will take time I don’t have 😦

Time to sandwich some more of your blocks. I enjoy this bit, even if it does give me sticky fingers!

$11R: quilting done

This is where QAYG really shines.

I’ve not had much time to devote to sewing in the last week or so, but quilting one block at a time, rather than having the whole thing under the machine, has meant I could make small chunks of progress whenever I had a spare half hour. And the quilting’s done! Sadly, so is my reel of thread, which needs replacing urgently; it’s the colour I also use for repairing the Husband’s work pants, and there are two pairs of those awaiting attention too.

I’ve also trimmed down my leftover jelly roll strips for the back sashing; they were 2½ inches wide and needed to be 1¾ instead. I’ve also trialled stabilising the edges of the scrappy till roll sashing for the front, as the stitching is coming apart here and there. It does make the strips slightly bendy, but prevents unravelling completely, so I think I’ll do it for all of them. A simple line of stitches down each edge is all it takes, but it has to be done after the paper backing has been torn away. Fiddly, but necessary. I’m going to join the blocks into 4 sets of 4 squares, join two of those side to side, and then have one large seam across the middle. The picture also shows front and back sashing strips cut ready to join the top 8 blocks.

Next time you see this, I hope it’ll be looking a bit more finished. Maybe not done, but with good progress.

The $11 Rainbow

It’s decided, then.

I’m going to make a push to finish the ScrapHappy rainbow blocks in time to enter it in the quilt section of Mackay Show, on 19th June.

Each block will be outlined by a 1.5 inch dark blue border, and then there will be a narrow rainbow sashing between each. QAYG? Of course!

I have the blocks trimmed out to a standard size and arranged to my satisfaction. The dark blue borders are cut and just need to be stitched on. I still have more till roll sashing to make, but that’s just mindless ‘pick a scrap, stitch it on, pick a scrap, stitch it on’. Isn’t it nice to see a riot of colour for a change?

It seemed a bit, well, meh, to call it the Rainbow Scrappy Quilt. How many of those have we all seen? I’m making the sashing with my tiniest scraps, and having unearthed a rainbow of larger pieces of scrap for the backing, all I had to do to finish it was buy a bit of dark blue for the border around each block. And the cost? Well, $11…. and the name chose itself.  I have a huge roll of batting already, so no purchase needed there, and I shall address the issue of binding when I reach that point, but I’m thinking it’ll be pretty scrappy too.

A big thank you to everyone who made helpful suggestions, and helped to firm up my decision-making process (or some might say, ‘headlong rush at the project I wanted to do all along’).

I’m sure I’d have faffed around a lot longer without your help 🙂


So…. what next?

I’m suffering a nasty case of hiatus incertus.

Or, to put it more plainly, I don’t know what to work on next. Do I haul out one of my several WIPs, start something new, or conscientiously but grumpily return to a couple of tricky UFOs I keep shoving to the back of the queue because they’re, well, hard…? When I finish some- thing that’s been intensive and long-term, I always have this trouble. Sudden freedom brings its own burdens. I can work on whatever I like? Well OK! Now… what do I like?

So, here are the options:

• Start assembling the Rainbow ScrapHappy blocks into a quilt by adding sashing round each one, and then get going with QAYG. If I work on this one, I might actually enter it into the quilting section at Mackay Show in June. (No, NOT hand-quilted, I’m not quite that bonkers – yet…)
• Stitch in some more of the giant hexie flowers on the Anemone ScrapHappy quilt. Make some more hexie flowers.
• Decide what to make with the F2F blocks from the last session; there’s enough for a big quilt or a smaller one and some cushions
• Do a whole bunch more hand quilting for the Hatbox Quilt blocks, at least 4 or 5 blocks
• Start something completely new. I have a sneaky little bag containing half a dozen fat quarters and two jelly rolls of a very pretty colour combination that I want to play with but have managed to studiously ignore up to now.
• Oh, and let us not forget that I plan to restart F²F next month, and need to think about what colours I want, and put together a Pinterest board.

You see my problem?

Now, suggestions, please. As always, I’ll consider all possibilities and suggestions and then do my own thing 🙂 But if there are distinct favourites out there, I’d like to hear which ones you favour.

Of course, by the time you read this I might already have taken the plunge into one of them!