I went on a quest last year to find an easy quilt-as-you-go method that didn’t involve hand sewing.
I explored 7 different methods and eventually found one that I used successfully on a massive Queen Sized Quilt.
This year, however, I think I have stumbled upon an even easier method and it is definitely my new favorite quilt-as-you-go joining method.
So just to be clear, this is a method for joining rows or sections of quilts, not the kind of quilt as you go where you are piecing the block as you quilt.
But the beauty of it is there is no hand sewing and no joining strips or sashing strips.
This isn’t my method – it is essentially a quilt-as-you-go method that you may have seen people do using a Serger sewing machine – only I don’t have a Serger, so I did it on my domestic machine.
I’ll explain below with a baby quilt that I made as an example.
There is also a video below showing how I made this quilt if you prefer to watch that.
What type of Quilts will this work method work with?
- Large row or column-based quilts that you struggle to fit under your machine to quilt.
- Super-sized Log-cabin or Court House Steps style quilts (see my baby quilt example below)
- Adding Borders to quilts
- Block by Block (see explanation at the bottom of this post for how to adapt this method to use it block by block).
Step 1: Quilt your first Block, Row, or Section
Choose a block, section or row you want to start with.
For my baby quilt, I started with a roughly 10″ block (it was actually an Alison Glass Panel but you could use a pieced block in the same way).
I quilted it with batting and backing fabric cut slightly larger than the block.
You can use whatever method of quilting you like here from straight line quilting to free motion quilting – it makes no difference to the joining method.
You can quilt right to the edge of your block or section and then trim down the backing and batting to exactly the size of your block.
Step 2: Cut or Piece your next Section
My baby quilt was kind of a cross between a log cabin and a courthouse steps idea but without any measuring.
For my second section, I choose some orange fabric and cut it about an inch longer than the side of the first ‘block’/section I wanted to join it to.
I then cut my batting and backing larger than that orange fabric by a couple of inches – the same as you would if it was the backing for a whole quilt – just to be on the safe side.
I know it can be hard to understand but really this section could be several blocks or your two sections could be two long rows that are exactly the same length, you don’t have to go around in a courthouse steps design to use this technique that’s just what I did for this quilt!
At the end of this post, I have included a section that describes how you can use this method to join row by row or block by block.
Step 3: The Joining Method
This is the cool bit – the joining method.
So take your quilted first block or section and place it right side facing up.
Then place your second section and lay the top fabric right side facing down on top of that.
Then place your batting for your second section on top of the second section that is now lying wrong side up.
Take your second section’s backing fabric and place it UNDER all the other pieces so that the right side of your second section’s backing fabric is facing the right side of your first section’s backing fabric. Got it? (See the video if this doesn’t make sense!)
The right edge of all of these pieces should be lined up with each other. It’s okay that the second section, batting and backing are longer than your first piece but all the edges where you will sew your join should be flush with each other.
Now you can choose a stitch.
For this quilt, I used an overcast stitch on a domestic machine because I was mimicking the serger stitches in the videos where I saw this method originally.
If your machine doesn’t have overcast stitches or you just don’t want to use that you can also try a zig-zag or even a straight stitch.
For all stitch types, I would use your regular 1/4″ seam.
This should make it possible to use this technique with pieced blocks that are designed to be joined with a 1/4″ seam anyways.
Sew all the way down to join your two sections including the tops, backing and the batting.
Then open up the backing and the top so that you can see that your two sections are now joined!
Hurrah how easy was that?!
Tip: Before moving on to the quilting it is useful to press down the join of the backing fabric and pin or use a basting spray on your backing fabric in place so that it doesn’t move while you quilt this section and leave you with puckers on the back.
So why did I use the overcast stitch?
As far as I can work out the overcast stitch or overlocking stitch on an actual serger flattens the seams a bit more and provides some durability but when I posted my video on YouTube loads of folk said they had tried it with a straight stitch and got on fine so I would encourage you to experiment!
The orphan block quilt that I used as my test quilt for this joining method before I made this baby quilt was also made with lots of heavy fabrics like denim so I also felt safer using the overcast stitch, it gave me confidence no seams would pop!
I’m going to continue on to show you the next steps for how I made this baby quilt but do read the section further down for variations on this joining method that you might prefer – they all came from comments on my original video and will be appealing to different folk for different types of projects.
Step 4: Quilt and Trim
Once your two sections are joined you can quilt that second section as desired.
I used semi-evenly spaced wavy lines for this quilt but you could use free motion quilting, straight lines, or whatever you like.
When you are finished quilting trim the excess batting and any excess fabric from the backing on section two down to match the size of your top fabric or block.
Looking for projects for your batting scraps here are a few:
- Soft Heart Cushions made with Fleece Quilting Scraps!
- How to Join Quilt Batting Pieces – Use your Leftovers!
- 3 Projects to Reuse your Sewing Trimmings!
Step 5: Repeat for as many sections as desired!
The process is exactly the same as above for the next sections.
I rotated around my quilted section each time adding different colors of fabric from the center block to make a sort of rainbow-looking baby quilt (I didn’t measure the fabric – this was a bit of controlled improv!).
I did the same every time – cutting my top fabric a little longer than the side I wanted to join to and cutting the batting and backing a bit bigger again.
Then joined, pressed, quilted, and trimmed down….then repeat.
I hope that makes sense but if not do check the video as it will give you a better visual.
Variations on this Method
- Instead of an overcast stitch use a zig-zag or straight stitch
- Instead of sewing the batting with the rest of the layers leave it out when joining and then slide it in to but up against the seam and quilt it in place before moving on to your next section. For this variation, you will want to cut your batting about a 1/4″ smaller than your section top rather than larger as I did.
- Some folk mentioned using the slide the batting in after method but also zigzagging the batting to the seam….I didn’t totally understand the need for this and for me, it was a step too far but I thought I’d mention it anyway in case it might appeal to someone!
How to use this method for Pieced Blocks & Rows
As well as the written instructions for blocks and rows below I have also done a follow-up YouTube Video here.
To use this for pieced blocks that are intended to be joined into rows for a standard quilt top you can do either of the following:
Both methods assume a 1/4″ seam allowance throughout.
Method 1 – Row by Row
- Join your quilt blocks as usual into rows.
- Cut separate batting strips and backing strips that are an inch or two larger than each row.
- Quilt your first row with batting and backing and trim to the finished row size.
- Join your next row as we did above replacing the word section for the word row.
- Quilt your second row. Trim.
- Repeat for all the rows in your quilt.
Method 2 – Block by Block
- If you want to quilt individual blocks and join them after this is the method to use.
- Quilt each block with batting but no backing fabric.
- You can choose whether to cut your batting to the same size as your block (this may result in some bulkier seams but you don’t need to be as precise when cutting your batting as you can cut large and trim down) or cut it about a 1/4″ smaller than your block.
- Then join your blocks into rows. If you have cut your batting small you are just joining the top fabric of your blocks and letting the batting nestle beside each other. If you have cut your batting to the same size as your block then just include everything in your seams both top and batting.
- Then cut the backing fabric to suit the size of your rows and use the joining technique as described above.
- You can choose at this point whether to leave your backing fabric unquilted or add additional quilting lines across your entire row.
Will this method result in bulky seams?
I talked about the seams a lot in my video because I figured this would be what might have put some quilters off of this method.
I thought folk might assume that sewing all those layers together would cause too much bulk at the seam lines.
I really didn’t find that it did. I think my seams in this quilt look fine and no one would notice that it was a qayg quilt unless they looked super closely!
From the front of the quilt, you can’t tell at all and if you use a solid or busy print for your backing I would guess it would take even a fellow quilter a few minutes to figure it out!
If you are concerned about bulk try using one of the variations above where you add the batting in after joining.
There are so many qayg methods out there but this one by far feels the easiest for me and I think would be great for beginners.
It’s a good solution for joining and quilting a large quilt without having to wrestle the middle of the quilt through the machine while holding the rest.
I hope you’ll try it for your next quilting project. I think it can be adapted to work for any quilt pattern with enough thought and planning ahead!
MORE POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE:
- 7 Quilt as You Go Methods (No Hand-sewing!)
- Quilt as You Go in Sections – Queen Sized Quilt
- How to Make a Quilted Wall Hanging from Scraps (Quilt-As-You-Go)
- Modern Quilt-As-You-Go Scrappy Coasters
- X Marks the Scrap | Free Quilt Pattern for Scraps!
- How to Make a Quilt-As-You-Go Denim Quilt (also uses quilting scraps!)
- Scrap Fabric Quilt Block Tutorial for Floral Scraps!