Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Quilt As You Go – joining the blocks

I am posting a copy of the guest post I did with Marci on Lily's Quilts blog today:
Step 11 - Washed and Dried

Today Leanne from she can quilt and Marci from Marci Girl Designs are blogging together as a guest post on Lily's Quilts. All the pictures in this post were taken by Marci and you can view them on her flickr page here.

To us, one of the scariest parts of a QAYG approach to quilt construction is how to join all those blocks without making a hot mess. Would the quilt have lumpy seams? Would the batting wad up into bumps?

One method is to leave the off the backing while you quilt the front and batting together. Then you sew together the front/batting blocks and add the backing at the end. This allows you to have a continuous backing piece but the quilting from the front will not show on it. Penny at sewtakeahike has a tutorial for this method here.

Some methods use strips applied with, or without, additional batting between the QAYG blocks. The strips can be wide or skinny and add an interesting design element to the quilt. Marianne at The Quilting Edge has tutorials here and here.  Sew We Quilt @ Stash Manicure has a tutorial here. Monica at the Happy Zombie has a tutorial here.

Another interesting approach is to bring the backing fabric to the front between the QAYG blocks and use it as a sashing. There is a video by Penny Halgren showing this method here. This tutorial from Mary Ann at Rocknquilts, explains how to join the batting with an iron-on tape specially designed for batting. This idea is intriguing, but we are not certain that it would work easily in a tight spot and it requires you to purchase the special iron-on tape.

Marci and I wanted a slightly different result. We wanted:
  • a clean join on the front seam without adding any kind of design element to the front or the back of the quilt,
  • the batting securely joined so it would not shift into a lump,
  • as little hand sewing as possible,
  • no bulky seam from sewing the front and the batting together,
  • the quilting to show on the back of the quilt.
So we got into a discussion, exchanged ideas and made some impossible suggestions. That puzzle led us to think harder and come up with the method we are sharing here. Although we are both sure others have solved this problem in the same way, it was not something we had read or heard about before. We both made a small sample quilt to test this approach and we washed and dried the samples. So far, so good.

Here is our approach:

Step 3 - Quilting

Quilt your blocks with the backing fabric in place. Make sure your back fabric and batting are larger than the front block. This gives you something to hang onto while you quilt and the extra for the joining of the blocks later. Leave about 1 inch unquilted at the edges of the front fabric.

Step 4A - Pin Front Seam Together

Align the two blocks and place them right sides together. Fold and pin the batting and backing fabric out of the way. If your fronts are out of line, trim them. Stitch your front fabric, right sides together with a 1/4 inch seam.

Step 5 - Iron Open Seam

Press open the front seam. Be careful to use a heat setting on your iron suitable for your batting.

Step 6 - Cut Batting

With the back of the blocks facing you, lay the piece flat and pin back the backing fabric. Carefully trim the batting with scissors so that when it is lying flat both sides of the batting touch but do not overlap. Perfection is not required here, batting is forgiving.

Step 7 - Pin Batting

Fold the blocks, right sides together. Push the seamed front fabrics into the fold and pin them out of the way. Pin the batting together.

Sew the batting together using a blanket stitch (l_l_l_l_) or a short zig zag (vvvvvv). Stitch slowly so that the needle goes into the two pieces of batting on one side and goes over the edge of the batting into nothing on the other side.

Step 8 - Sewn Batting

When you are done, open the seam and smooth the batting or give it a very gentle tug to flatten it out. The idea is similar to a flatlock that you can do with a serger. You may want to test this out on some scrap pieces of batting to get the best size of stitch to achieve this with your sewing machine.

The goal is to secure the pieces of batting together without creating an overlap or lumpy seam.

Step 9 - Sew Backing By Hand

The last step matches some of the tutorials mentioned earlier. Trim the backing fabric if needed so that the pieces overlap about 1/2 inch when smoothed out. On one side, fold and iron under 1/4 inch of backing fabric. You may want to hang one side over the ironing board to make this easier. Then place the back fabric with the turned-under side on top, smooth, pin and hand sew it in place. Go back to our first photo, that shows this sample after it was finished, washed and dried.

Repeat for all your blocks, horizontally row by row and then vertically row by row.

We are going to use this method on our huge Dresden blocks from Lily's Quilts QAL. If you decide to give this a try, let us know how it works out.


Leanne and Marci

ps Thanks to Lynne and Marci for the collaboration on this, it was fun. As Marci points out, we are in three countries and two continents - it is rather amazing to make friends internationally and work together. 


Marci Girl said...

Thanks so much Leanne for all your hard work and for the GENIUS idea of machine sewing the batting together! Without that "Spark of Ingenuity" this post would not have happened. It has truly been a pleasure!

Rebecca said...

Hey, this is very interesting! I'd been reading about QAYG but balked at the idea of all those unsecured batting edges floating around behind the sashing (and at the idea of sashing being required). I sure like the idea of not having to wrestle an entire quilt through the sewing machine, too.

Maybe I will adapt this method for hand quilting, too—I bet dealing with only one block at a time would be a lot better in the summer than having to have an entire quilt draped over my lap.

Susan said...

Great thinking girls...solving that batting issue is a credit to you!

Debbie said...

Great tutorial - thanks!

Amy E. said...

i hadn't heard of QAYG before, but i enjoy hand sewing and like the idea of having only a couple blocks on my lap at a time. maybe i'll give it a whirl!

verykerryberry said...

I have done a similar method to this but this is better!

Suzanne said...

I really like the flexibility that this method offers. I think I have just the quilt I can try it on. Yay!

Anonymous said...

Very good tutorial. I'm going to try this.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking this in my head for years but never had a picture tutorial as reference. You girls are genius! Thanks so much i will post something when i finish. i teach Home ec and think this would be a great way t do a class quilt! You rock!

Unknown said...

I know this is an older post but I have a suggestion for cutting the batting to match. We use this method for getting perfect seams when wallpapering. Overlap the batting side by side and cut through both layers at the same time. You'll have a perfectly matched and butted seam and a small sliver of batting from both sides and a cleaner cut.