The Free Motion Quilting Project: Question Thursday #8

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Question Thursday #8

It's Question Thursday yet again and time to answer any questions arising from connecting our quilted pieces together from last week. There are lots of questions here about connecting the pieces, adding borders, and other details that I may followup with another post later this spring!

Remember, you definitely don't have to be quilting along or have a blog to post a question! The best place to post your questions are in the comments section of the Wednesday Quilt Along posts.

The first question this week is from Pat at Color Me Quilty:

Is it okay to make large quilts with this QAYG method?

Is there anything I need to do to make sure I don't make it "wavy"?

Technically there should be absolutely no problem with making big quilts with this method, or any effective Quilt As You Go method.

Keep in mind as you plan your project that putting the pieces together will be more challenging as the quilt gets bigger.

Connecting blocks together into rows is usually not too difficult, but it's when you start connecting the rows together to form the finished quilt top that things can get tricky.

It is absolutely possible to make any sized quilt with this method though, but do make sure you will have the table space to spread out the rows and connect them together when you get to that stage.

Also please don't assume that any QAYG technique will save you time.

You are NOT saving time with this technique. You are saving yourself from shoving a king sized quilt into a 6 inch sewing machine harp! Putting the pieces together AFTER they are quilted is going to take time, patience, and energy. You will have to deal with big pieces eventually as the quilt comes together.

Look at it more as a choice of where you want the difficulty to lie: do you want to fight the bulk of the quilt while you quilt it, trying to make pretty designs on the surface, or do you want to deal with the bulk when connecting the pieces together?

It's a trade off, not a time saver to quilt your quilts in pieces. Do keep that in mind. Often I've run to new techniques because I think they will be faster and found later that they are not actually faster, they just shove the difficulty off to another section of the quilt.

As for waviness - I assume this is along the edges of the quilt? A good idea if you want to use this method for a wall hanging is to soak and block each individual block first (that way they're all 100% square) then soak and block the finished quilt.

For a bed quilt, blocking the finished quilt will probably sort out any wavy issues. The best blocking instructions can be found in Karen McTavish's book Quilting for Show. This is where I learned to block and still use exactly the same method.

Personally I've found waviness a result of binding too tight, or stretching the edges of the quilt as you bind. If you're careful with these sections it usually doesn't happen.

Keep in mind that a quilt created with QAYG technique is no less stable or secure than a quilt made in a traditional way.

If you're really worried about stability, after the entire quilt is together and all the binding strips secured, put on your walking foot and stitch lines 1/8" inside all the binding lines. This will stitch through the top binding, quilt seam allowance, and back binding, totally securing all layers together completely. Ain't nothing gonna come out now!

We have a second question about the Quilt As You Go technique from Anne's of Anne's Threads:
How to finish off a QAYG quilt?

Make and quilt borders and add them in the same way? Though I think this one will look fine if I just bind it in the same fabric I've used to join the blocks.

The truth is you can finish these quilts any way you like!

You can put the blocks together and bind right off the edges:

free motion quilting | Leah DayYou can put the blocks together, then add a border:

free motion quilting | Leah DayThis particular border was attached in a weird way. I layered the border, batting, then the blocks, then the border backing fabric together and stitched a 1/4" seam.

I then spread out the backing, batting, and border fabric down and quilted them after they'd been attached to the quilt.

Looking back at it, I think this method has merit, but you might want to trim some of the bulk out of the seam since it's noticeably lumpy.

You could also carefully measure and stitch a border and attach it to the top and sides of the quilt. I've never personally tried this, but will soon get experience with it as the 365 quilt will likely have borders attached this way.

You can also take a Wave Edge Ruler and make the edges of your quilt intentionally wavy, then bind it with bias binding!

So the possibilities really are endless and there's a lot of room to play here. I bet I could spend a whole year just playing with QAYG techniques....hmmm....that might be an idea for 2013...

Anne also had another question about getting the blocks and rows together:
Any tips regarding these issues with keeping the layers lined up and not wandering when sewing?

This definitely can be a bit tricky. On the one hand, you want a perfect 1/4" seam allowance, on the other hand, you're definitely stitching through multiple thick layers that are usually stitched with a walking foot.

Personally I really like putting these pieces together on my Bernina machine because the 1/4" patchwork foot on that machine is just simply perfect for this technique. This is the reason I always keep a Bernina on hand - this foot is narrow and perfectly designed for piecing through multiple layers so you don't need to use a walking foot:

free motion quilting | Leah DayIf you don't have a Bernina, try to see if there is a 1/4" walking foot made for your machine. If even that is not an option, try marking or taping a guide to your machine that is approximately 1/4" from the needle.

I happened to notice that Anne owns a Janome Horizon 7700 and for that machine I don't like the 1/4" even feed foot because it has a giant clunky guide on it (no offense Janome!)

free motion quilting | Leah DayFor this job, I personally prefer the Open Toe even feed foot because it has this inner bar (see what I'm pointing at above) and I've measured it a few times and it's close enough to 1/4" and it's fairly easy to line things up using it.

I'd also say that the more practice you get with this technique, the better you will get at it. Right now everything seems to want to shift and dance on you. Play with it some more and you'll eventually get that fabric in line with no problem.

Perfect stitching also seemed to be on Malini's mind from My Quilting Journey:

While binding these quilted pieces if we happen to stitch generous 1/4inch at some places, should we go back and rip the stitches and start over again?

Or if we can hide it using hand binding, should we do that? I personally feel that I can pull the fabric little bit, since cotton has some stretch and hide the mistake. Is this a good idea or practice?

It truly depends on how far off you get when stitching the blocks together. If you waver 1/8 inch, chances are it will be fine. If you make a wild mistake, like stitching through the back binding when you're not supposed to, this technique might not work.

I'll be honest: I do utilize the natural stretch within cotton fabric to hide mistakes. I don't think this is a bad thing, and I don't think it will undermine the quilt if you occasionally have to pull the back binding a bit to get it to cover completely.

Gwyned Trefethen had a good point on her post:

I would change one aspect of Leah's directions. She has you cut the back channel strip 1.5" wide and fold it in half, creating a 0.75" wide strip. Folds, no matter how crisply pressed always take up a thread or two. Therefore, the 0.75" is more like 0.70" and falls slightly short of the machine stitch line it should be hiding. I would prefer to make my strip lightly oversized for the back and cut it 1.75" wide instead, thus guaranteeing coverage.
So if it works better for you, cut that back binding 1 3/4 inches wide instead of 1 1/2 inches wide to give yourself a bit of extra room to play.

Malini also asked:

Once bound, do you put extra stitches on top of these binding for the pieces to hold together?

Or this is not necessary since the quilt will be strong to hold all the washes?

I covered this a bit at the end of Pat's question - if you like you can certainly stitch some lines over your quilt 1/8" from the edges of all the binding. This will form a sort of grid like look on the surface and might add a nice additional stability.

But only if you really WANT to!

You could also finish off the binding channels with a nice decorative stitch. I'm finally starting to play with the decorative stitches on the horizon and loving the effects. Here's the edges of Crazy Pepper stitched with rows of stars:

free motion quilting | Leah DayI really don't think you need more stability or connectivity than the binding strips, but remember - it's your quilt! Make it the way that makes you happy!

If you don't feel like your quilt is truly stable, add some more stitching. If you're happy with the way it looks and feels, bind that sucker and start using it!

Now it seems like there's a lot of different ideas and techniques thrown around in this post. If you'd like to see ANOTHER tutorial on this Quilt As You Go technique, this time on adding borders and binding, please let me know in the comments below.

Now it's time for me to shut up and go quilt!



  1. Good Morning Leah. Thanks for the answers to so many questions. I'd like to share what I do to get a 1/4" seam using my walking foot (Horizon)
    The Horizon, and my smaller Janome both have the ability to move the needle left or right in small increments by pressing the stitch width button wider or narrower. I put it to the right at 6.0 That allows me to line up the edge of the pieces with a spot on the foot that allows a row of feed dogs to catch the fabric on the right side as well as the left. It works for me!

  2. I would love to see borders added in a QAYG method. Your are truly wonderful, Leah!

  3. Leah thank you for answering all the questions.
    Sure, I would love to see more tutorials on QAYG method, especially borders and binding.

  4. I really like the stars for the binding on the Pepper quilt. I haven't played much with decorative stitches on my machine, but it has over 100!!! I want to try to do that, but I have a couple of questions first. Was that the front or the back of the quilt in the picture? I machine bind, back, then fold over to the front, so I was hoping it was the front. That's where my binding stitches are visible (or at least supposed to be LOL). Also, are the stars connected? Or, did you stop and start each one?

  5. Hi Leah - I love your tutorials. I've quilted for years but I have trouble with my Bernina settings and trying to get a good looking stitch (top & bottom). I know in my heart it's probably the settings, but I've changed them and still can't get it right. I also find that the foot (same as yours) tends to grab a bit and the fabric wants wander towards the edge. Again, probably my settings. Do you have any advice for settings? Thanks so much!!! Linda Hardesty

  6. After watching your Quilt Along #8, Quilting a Real Quilt, I'd like to know how to best deal with the quilt bulk that is between myself and the front of the needle? I've had trouble with 'drag' at times, due to parts of my quilt getting stuck in my lap. What is the best way to avoid or deal with this issue? Thanks so much!

  7. Hi Leah, yes please, more information is always welcome. Would love to see how you make your boarders and attach them. I am enjoying your work. I am so far behind...I know, shut up and go quilt!


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