Quilt As You Go (QAYG) – is it for you?

For most of us who quilt on our home machines, a quilt any larger than twin size is difficult to manage on our sewing machines. There are many excellent quilting books out there and they will tell you how to deal with a large quilt, but for me about the best I could do with a large quilt is stitch in the ditch or SID. Many quilters quilt by check, paying a longarm quilter to quilt their top for them. Others quilt by hand, something I’ve tried and loved, but that can take forever, especially with a large quilt. These aren’t options for everyone, and that’s where “quilt as you go”, or QAYG comes in.

With a queen or king size quilt, it is much easier to quilt in smaller, more manageable pieces. You can quilt your quilt row by row or even block by block and then use your sashing to assemble the quilt. This is known as quilt as you go.

There are several methods out there and most of them will have you first quilt your blocks or rows. In some methods, you then attach your sashing on the front and back of each section. You will then sew the blocks or rows together (by machine) on the front only. Once the front is all together you’ll go back and hand sew the remaining sashing on the back of the quilt.

Jessica's QuiltI have made a quilt this way, using the book Reversible Quilts: Two at a Time by Sharon Pederson. It’s a nice method as Ms. Pederson also shows you how to make blocks that will look good on the back as well.

I recently made a baby quilt which was five blocks by five blocks. To use quilt as you go for that quilt I prepared my blocks and layered my batting and backing. I determined the center row of the quilt, lined up the first two blocks in the row, laid them right sides together on top of the batting and backing, and sewed the seam that joined them. I then flipped the top block to its right side, lined up the next block in the same manner and continued through that row.

For the rest of the rows I assembled the rows first. I took the row next to the center row and put it right sides together atop the center row, sewed the seam and flipped it up. I added the remaining rows in the same way. The disadvantage to doing it this way is that you do have to go back and do further quilting, either stitching in the ditch or using other quilting patterns. Once you’ve got the center done you can add your borders in the same way.

There are other methods out there, notably Marti Michell’s book Machine Quilting in Sections and Betty Cotton’s Cotton Theory Quilting. They have stood the test of time and if you’ve struggled with quilting large quilts, you should give them a try. Turn those quilt tops into quilts!

Half Square Triangles (HSTs) and Quarter Square Triangles (QSTs): What’s the difference?

I’ve been asked to repost my explanation of the difference between Half Square Triangles and Quarter Square Triangles. Here it is:Half Square Triangles - Quarter Square Triangles

Half square and quarter square triangles differ in several key ways. At the most basic level, they differ in the number of times you cut the square diagonally. A half square triangle is cut only once; a quarter square triangle is cut diagonally twice.

How many times you cut the square not only affects the size of the triangle but also determines where the bias edges of the triangle will be. When you cut a square in half, the two sides that form the right angle of the resulting triangle (the short sides) are on the grain line. When you cut a square in quarters the only side on the grain line is the long side opposite the right angle.

Why are grain lines and bias edges so important? When piecing you want to make sure that the sides of your blocks and block units are not made up of bias edges. If they are “on the bias”, your block may stretch and you won’t get the precision you are looking for.

To make each, take the finished size of the square you want and add:

for half square triangles, add 7/8″;
for quarter square triangles, add 1 1/4″.

If you want a four inch finished HST, start with two 4 7/8″ squares. If you want a four inch finished QST, start with two 5 1/4″ squares.

Many quilters start with larger squares and trim down the finished unit to the proper size. For example, if they want a three inch finished HST, they will start with two four inch squares, instead of two 3 7/8″ squares. Do whatever gives you the most accurate finished product.

Just another note on terminology: each triangle is called either a half square triangle or a quarter square triangle. When you sew two half square triangles together, you get a triangle square. When you sew four quarter square triangles together, it is often called a quarter square triangle unit or an hour glass unit.

Hope this helps!