"Quilt As You Go" Quilt Construction
I have been a long time fan of Melody Johnson and the Chicago School of Fusing. I subscribe to her blog and really enjoy her positive attitude and sense of humor. A few months ago, Melody discovered a Canadian quilter namedMarianne who made huge quilts in pieces and joined them together as she went along. Marianne called this process Quilt As You Go or simply QAYG.

Although I do not make quilts for beds, I found this process fascinating and amazingly versatile. The entire premise behind this process was to facilitate machine quilting without wrestling an entire giant quilt under the machine. Here comes the adventure…

Last month my brother Eric who some of you know as ERIC from the series was up here in Maine visiting and celebrating my fathers 90th birthday. He was able to see in person the entire ERIC series and even took one of them home (Clouded Mind). I decided to surprise him and make him a quilt for his queen-sized bed using the QAYG method.

First step in this process was deciding on what colors to use. I create my own fabrics for my art quilts but have literally thousands of dollars of commercial fabrics in my (former) stash. They now reside in huge plastic bins hidden out of my way. Surprisingly, most of these fabric were commercial batiks. I discussed colors with my brother then decided to use my own sense of color knowing him as I (think) I do. I decided on turquoises, lime and darker shades of green primarily sticking to greens on the yellow side and a turquoise/brown combo.

                                                               Fresh from the dryer

                                                               Ironed and ready to go

                                              Turquoise and turquoise/brown pieces

                                                         Greens - some with turquoise

Next I emailed Marianne and asked her if I could refer to her and her fabulous website and she was very encouraging about my project and agreed. Next I made a selection of the fabrics and grouped them, sent them through the washer and dryer and ironed all the pieces. Some were fat quarters but most were half yards and larger.

Tomorrow I will start the process I followed on the QAYG adventure. See you in the morning.

Today I want to talk about the blocks. This is funny and reminds me of an old story. Every time this young wife made a ham she cut off the end. One day her young daughter asked, “Mommy, why do you cut off the end?” She said “You know, I never really thought about it. I do it because my mother always did it”. She called her mother and asked her why she cut off the end of the ham and she said it was because her mother had always done it. The mother called the Grandma and asked her why she cut off the end of the ham and she said, “Because my pan was small and I had to cut it off so it would fit.”

Well, I made12” blocks because I couldn’t find either my 16”square or 18” square. All I had was my 12” square. Were I to do this again, I would have another 18” square made out of Plexiglas. I think it would go faster.

OK, now on to actual sewing… The first thing I did was cut strips 1 ½  , 2,  2½ , 3, and 3½  inches wide. I cut 2 strips in each width and later cut more when needed. I also set aside the 2 yard piece of lime green with purple polka dots (see picture from yesterday) for the backing. I ended up using about 2 plus yards of hand dyed olive for the backing as well. At the end I needed some additional strips of lime green with pink polka dots for the sashing strips to join the rows.

I placed all the turquoise strips in one basket, all the greens in another and all the turquoise/browns in a third.
See how neat this is. Remember this organization...
The blocks are made right on the piece of wadding or batting. I cut 36 –12 ½  inch square pieces of warm and natural batting. The blocks are pieced using a “Flip-n-Sew” method.
Follow the pictures.

Some blocks were a tad shy of the batting but if it was more than ¼ inch then I added on another strip. It left me with some weird slivers but whose counting. I made 6 blocks of all turquoise, 6 blocks of all green and 6 blocks of all turquoise/brown fabrics. The last 18 blocks were made with bits from all the bins.

I also cut 36 - 12 ½ “ squares of both lime with purple polka dots and solid olive fabric to back the pieced squares.

When the block was completed, I flipped it face down and aligned the piece of backing fabric on the BATTING, turned it face up and stitched rows of quilting down the face of the block. When it was entirely quilted I flipped it face down and squared it up and trimmed it square.

See you tomorrow for a bit more about the designs I used to make the blocks and how I joined them to make a row. You can also "check-in" on how well I stayed so organized.

OK, so now all the blocks have been made and I have continued to keep all my supplies in fabulous order…


By the way, I wanted to show you my new Janome 7700 with the built-in walking foot. 

I was very disappointed with this machine in that my old 2004 Brother Innov’is 4000 spins circles around it. The Brother threads itself with the touch of a button (YES) and STOPS dead when the bobbin is about to run out. I started to sell this Janome with 2 hours of use on it on Ebay but then tried the built in walking foot. I kept it for that that reason alone and it is all I use it for. The built in walking foot is a thing of beauty.
I also wanted to show you my sewing/ironing station inspired by Melody Johnson who actually is organized.

Now on to the blocks. Here are the 36 blocks I have made from 3 different viewpoints. I used the floor as a design wall and when done stacked each rows and labeled them rows 1 through 6 with the far left block on top. It is now time to join them together.

I will write this in words then add pictures. I think it is clear but then I also think I’m organized so you will be the judge…

                                                          looking down onto work
I took a 4 ½ inch strip 13 inches long, folded in half length-wise and ironed. I took a 2 ½ inch strip 13 inches long and a strip of batting 1 ½ inches by 13 inches long. This will create one join. I always have the block on the left and I start by laying the folded strip raw edges to the right edge of the block and at the same time take the 2 ½ inch wide strip and place it facing right side up on the bottom of the block. I will stitch one seam. I don’t trim.

                                                 Lifting the work and looking at the bottom
I then go to the ironing table and iron the folded (brown) piece flat, flip the block and iron the back (2 ½ “) strip flat.
Get this next step right and life will be easy.
I take the block I want to join on the right, lift the 2 ½” strip and pin it.

You know you are right when the right side of the 2 ½”strip and the BACK of the second block are facing each other. Sew that seam (second block to 2 ½” back strip). Take to the ironing table and press join flat. You are not done quite yet.

Turquoise block on left, brown folded strip laid open to the left, wrong side of backing (2 1/2") strip facing up (polks dots) and green second block now joined by polka dot strip.

Lay both blocks (joined by the backing strip) on the sewing table, add the strip (1½”) of batting in the ditch, cover with the folded fabric with the folded edge touching the stitching line of the backing strip. Sew a fell flat seam (top stitch)to hold the folded fabric in place. You have just joined two blocks.
add 1/2" wide rows of quilting to hold in place
 I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted!!!!!
Use this method to join the 6 blocks in each row. I pinned the # of each row on the left edged block for each row so I would remember how each row needed to be oriented. Tomorrow joining rows which was where I came up short. Just how was I going to do this without using one solid strip of fabric (I didn't want that look).
Tomorrow, answers to that question....

I forgot to show you the three configurations I used in assembling the blocks
log cabin-ish
                                                                    Square in a square

                                                                   6 rows done
So far this process has been very quick and easy. I looked and looked for any info on joining rows on Marianne’s website. There was nothing specific about that part of the process. Many of the quilts in her gallery had solid fabric delineating the rows and I didn’t want that so I cut more strips about 13” long and joined the rows into long sashes. When the rows were joined with multiple fabric sashes, the join was not as noticeable which was the look I was going for. It was a bit harder and heavier working with the rows until the end when I started to wear a tacky glove to push and pull the bulk of the quilt on my left.
  This is something you DON'T want to do. I thought I would be very clever and surge the seam on the joining back strips. Don't do it. It was so bulky the machine kept getting hung up every time I sewed over the surged seam. Seemed like a good idea at the time...
Above I am treating the join as I did with the blocks and I am ironing the strips open readying it for the insertion of the batting strip which is 7 feet long then the fell flat seam (top stitched). You can clearly see the multiple fabric joining strip as the quilt drapes on the ironing table. It's not as harsh an appearance as a solid strip of one fabric.

After I finished doing the happy dance celebrating the completion of the quilt, I called my brother (recipient) to  tell him I was done. I told him how big the quilt was and he said he wanted it to be larger rather than smaller for the bed. So tomorrow I will show you the last few processes I used which are good to know and a picture of the finished quilt, which measures about 84" square.
OK, now that I have exercised my muscles wrestling this now very heavy quilt, I decided to call my brother and tell him how beautiful it was. As I mentioned yesterday, he said he’d rather have it too big than too small. I checked out the size of a queen quilt which was 90”X90”. This one is about 80” square right now so I needed to add a border. The directions for adding a border were in Marianne’s tutorials.  I kind of liked the 4” look so I cut pieces again, (4 ½” wide) wanting the broken line of multiple fabrics instead of a solid border.  I over estimated each side and I also cut and sewed 2 – 45” strips of the polka dot underside fabric to face the top fabric as well as a 90”X 4” batting piece.
                                                 Trimming the "tails" off the row connector

One of the things Marianne wrote in her blog was a warning about the thickness of trying to sew two sandwiches together; that is the finished edge of the quilt , two layers of fabric with batting between, and two layers of fabric with batting between for the boarder. She suggested sewing the top and bottom fabric to the edge of the quilt and butting the batting to the edge like in the connecting strips. Bowing to the master, I took her suggestion. This worked very well and I finished off each border with 5 rows of quilting to hold the batting in place. I did the 2 sides first, then the top and bottom edges not in the log cabin style.
                          Just finished sewing the top and bottom border fabrics to the finished quilt edge
                                              Placing the 90" batting strip "into" the boarder
                                                 Adding the 5 rows of quilting to the border

I cleaned up the edges with the rotary cutter in anticipation of applying a binding.

Again I cut masses of 2 ½” wide strips and sewed them together. I forgot to connect them with bias seams and when I turned the binding I had great lumps of fabric at each join. Bad me. It was pretty much too late to change courses mid-stream so I just horsed my way through. I didn’t take any pictures of the binding but it came out pretty nicely. I also didn’t take a picture of the words I free motioned along the edge of the quilt since it was personal and to my brother.
                                               Displayed on a double bed hanging way down
      The back of the quilt with polka dots and solid olive greens used. You can just glimpse the boarder

I found an empty box that was the exact, and I a mean exact, size of the quilt which I had folded so that the sentiment free motioned into the border would be on top facing my brother as he opened the box.

For someone who doesn’t make bed quilts, I can tell you this was a project of love and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the process. Marianne made it very easy with her excellent tutorials. I hope I made this process easy to follow and perhaps, if the spirit moves you to make someone special a warm gift, you might try this technique as I did.

Bye for now,


  1. I love the result and I love the tutorial, thank you so much!

  2. Enjoyed each step! The colors are so vibrant.

  3. thank you for this tutorial, the quilt looks colorful

  4. I quilt with recycled wool (deconstructed jackets, skirts, pants). I have used the QAYG method for simple potholders, but I skip the batting, and just use a heavier wool for the backing. I may attempt it for some larger pieces or book covers ( that 's the pattern I was looking for initially.) Do you know anyone who works with recycled wool? Its like a whole new language- as in Mandarin- because nothing matches exactly in weight or color- but that is also why I love it.Thanks for the great tutorial!!

  5. Hey there Beth! Finally got around to checking this out...looks very fun! I will make a square to start and see where it leads...

    1. It's lots of fun just give attention to the seam widths.(1/4" minimum)


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