After reading two books about the quilt-as-you-go technique, I finally decided to give it a whirl. Marguerita McManus, the author of Finish Almost Any Quilt and Quilt As You Go Reimagined, has been using this technique for years to finish quilts quickly. And it really does go fast—with lots of touchstones along the way that make you feel like you’re really getting something accomplished.
Basically, in quilt-as-you-go, you create quilted blocks first that you then join together to make the quilt (rather than making the whole top and then quilting it to the back). My machine quilting could use some work, so I thought this would be a great way to get some practice.
Once I overcame the block washing incident, I started on the quilting. Marguerita stresses figuring out a quilting path that allows you to keep going without stopping—something I’m not very good at. I figured out a way to quilt the pinwheel with one continuous line, and then I echo quilted around the pinwheel three times. I’d hit the edge of the block, so echo quilting wasn’t going to work anymore. So then I just made straight lines radiating out, each of which required that I start and stop at the beginning and the end. Rats! Well, at least I did some continuous quilting!
The next step is to join the blocks together with joining strips. It’s possible to hide the joining strips a bit by using the background block fabric, for instance. But I didn’t plan that far ahead for this quilt. So may joining strips are a different fabric that is quite noticeable (and noticeably quilt-as-you-go). Marguerita’s method is to sew on half of the front joining strip and half of the back joining strip at the same time. Then you sew the second side of the back joining strip. Once you do this, the two blocks you are joining should be butted up against each other.
To finish the joining, you flip the front joining strip over the seam and topstitch in place.
The same technique is done if you want to add borders to the quilt. I needed to in this case because my blocks shrunk so much when I washed them that I needed to add a bit on to meet the 40″ requirement for the Ronald McDonald House Charity. You quilt the borders and then join them to the quilt. In the image below, my very narrow border is quilted and now I’m ready to sew on the first half of both the back joining strip and the front joining strip.
I used the same fabric for the joining strips on the front and back of the quilt, so the back as a noticeable grid as well.
The quilt really did go quickly—so much so that Greg noticed. And I’m pretty happy with the result. There are some places where royal blue thread is showing on the white backing fabric, so that’s kind of a bummer. But that could be avoided if I had planned the quilt a bit better. And that’s where I’m not sure this method is a great fit for me. I’m very used to planning just my quilt tops. Then they sit around for a long time, and after a while, I make a plan for the quilting, backing and binding. So to plan for the whole quilt at one time will be a challenge, especially if I want to hide the joining strips and buy enough of each fabric on the first pass. But man, did it go fast…
Next, I’ll add a label and send it through the wash again (this time I won’t agitate it, Mom). Then it’s off to the Ronald McDonald House!