Quilt As You Go

Quilt as you go is a method of joining quilt blocks, batting and backing to make a quilt in which instead of the traditional way to make a quilt top with blocks first, then lay backing material, batting and quilt top to create the quilt sandwich, basting it and then quilting it, each block is quilted individually and then joined with the other quilted blocks in order to make a quilt top. Finally, the quilt is bound in the same way as a traditionally quilted top is finished.

Quilt As You Go Origins

The quilt as you go method became popular in the decade of the eighties of the last century. Space restraints in most homes prevented quilt makers from having a traditional quilting frame in which a quilt could be hand quilted. Quilt as you go was a practical way to finish a large quilt in a way that didn’t require a big quilting frame. Not everyone likes quilting using a hoop, since one has to re-position the quilt repeatedly, and quilting without a frame (even when the quilt sandwich has been closely basted together) tends not to produce good results.
As machine quilting became more popular during the latter years of the century, again, the problem of space gave quilt as you goquilt as you go an advantage over quilting an entire quilt in a regular, home sewing machine. It is a lot easier to machine quilt a block than it is to quilt a complete quilt. The quilt doesn’t need to be rolled, a large surface to quilt is not necessary and free motion is easier to achieve when quilting a small piece. Machine quilters normally don’t own a long arm, and if they wish to quilt their own quilts at home, quilt as you go allows them to finish their tops with ease.

Apparently, according to quilt historians, the quilt as you go method is not really a twentieth century innovation. During the Civil War years, the Sanitary Commission requested quilts to be donated for soldiers in field hospitals. These quilts were apparently made by joining finished twelve inch “potholders” (quilted and bound twelve-inch blocks) with a whipstitch first, then decorative stitching that covered the line of utilitarian stitching. These quilts were mainly made in the Northeast, and very few survive, as many were burned or discarded for sanitary reasons. These “potholder quilts” were the first quilt as you go examples and some can still be seen in museums.


Preparing To Quilt As You Go

To finish a quilt with the quilt as you go method you will need quilt blocks, either pieced or appliqued. Ideally these quilt as you goblocks will have an outside seam allowance that is larger than the average quarter inch allowance normally used in quilt blocks. If you already have a stack of blocks that has the standard quarter inch allowance, they can be used, but it is a little more difficult working with a small seam allowance.
The next ingredient in the quilt as you go method is the batting. You will have to cut batting squares the exact size of the finished block. If your blocks are twelve inches finished, then cut batting pieces twelve inches square. Be precise cutting these, as the extra batting makes joining the blocks difficult.
And last, you will have to cut backing squares. These need to be cut one half inch larger than the finished size of the block, so once again, if the finished size of the block you are using is twelve inches, cut the backing squares twelve and a half inches square. One advantage to this method is that you won’t need running yardage of batting or backing fabric, and you can create a reversible quilt if you use different backing fabrics and you plan in advance the placement of the backing fabrics.

Press and trim your finished blocks, press your backing fabric and prepare the block sandwiches by placing a backingquilt as you go square, wrong side facing you. Then center a batting square over it, making sure there is half-inch seam allowance all around it. Finally, place the quilt block, right side facing you, and with the raw edges perfectly aligned with the raw edges of the backing square. Pin to keep the three layers in place and quilt the block as you wish, either by hand or machine but remember to leave a half inch of space unquilted all around the edges of the block. Do not quilt to the very edge of the block, as that would make joining the blocks together impossible. If you need to, you might want to lightly mark a “frame” around the block with a water-soluble marker as to prevent you quilting too close to the raw edges of the block. Quilt as you go all the blocks and set them aside.


Joining The Quilted Blocks

Quilt all your blocks in the same manner. Once the stack of blocks is quilted, it’s time to join the blocks together. The quilt as you goquilt as you go method requires that you take two blocks that are quilted and place them right sides together. Fold back the batting and backing and keep out of the way with pins if you want to. Pin the two blocks and sew them together either by hand or machine. If you have allowed one half-inch seam allowance, use that measurement. Otherwise use a quarter inch allowance. Do not catch the backing or batting in this seam.
When the seam is done, press the seam open carefully. Continue adding blocks side by side to create the row of as many blocks as your pattern requires. Once you have a row of blocks joined, turn the work around and finish the back. Smooth the batting so that the squares touch but don’t overlap -dovetail- and lay one side of the backing fabric smooth, then fold half inch under on the next block and stitch down that side using an invisible hemstitch.

When two rows are totally finished, they can be joined together in the same way, by sewing the blocks together, then sewing the backing shut. When the entire quilt is completely joined, it is bound with bias tape, as a normal quilt would be.


For more information on quilting for beginners please click here!


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