An Easy Quilt as You Go Technique

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If you enjoy making quilt tops but quilting on your home sewing machine seems overwhelming, you need to learn this easy quilt as you go technique.

finished quilt using quilt as you go technique

For a very long time, I have struggled with quilting large quilts on my home machine. It was too much of a hassle to wrestle with a large quilt top.

One day, Kris, a member of my quilting bee, showed me how she likes to quilt as you go. I couldn’t believe how fast and easy it was to put a quilt together.

For my very first experience with quilt as you go, I stitched in the ditch to quilt each of the string pieced blocks, then connected the blocks and rows using the quilt as you go method Kris showed me.

Red, white, and blue string pieced quilt that was created by using a quilt as you go technique. Inset image of back.
I used red strips to connect these string pieced quilt blocks in my very first quilt as you go quilt.

There are many different quilt as you go techniques. I’ll be sharing the method Kris taught me.

What is Quilt As You Go?

Quilt as you go is a technique where individual blocks and/or sections are quilted first and then sewn together to create a quilt.

Here are a couple of quilts Kris has made using her preferred quilt as you go method:

Front and back of quilt created with quilt as you go.
One of the benefits to quilt as you go is that you can create a reversible quilt.
Front and back of a quilt made with a quilt as you go method
The connectors on the front look like part of the quilt design. Cat fabric on the back is a fun surprise!

The Quilt As You Go Steps

There are 6 steps to the quilt as you go technique taught in this tutorial:

  1. Select and prepare the quilt blocks
  2. Prep the connectors
  3. Lay out the quilt blocks
  4. Create the rows
  5. Sew the rows together
  6. Finish the quilt

Video Tutorial – Quilt As You Go

1. Select and Prepare the Quilt Blocks

The Quilt Blocks

Select a simple quilt block pattern that you can quickly make. If you have orphan blocks that are the same size, you can use those.

To make things super easy for this tutorial, let’s use 12 – 20 quilt blocks. This will allow you to arrange the blocks in a 3 x 4 or 4 x 5 grid.

Any size block can be used for quilt as you go. However, for your first time making one, I recommend a block between 7 x 7 inches to 10 x 10 inches.

The Batting

Cut the batting into squares that are 1-inch larger than the finished block size.

So if the finished quilt block is 7″ x 7″, cut the batting into a square that is 8″ x 8″.

The Backing Fabric

Select fabric for the back of each quilt block. This can be the same fabric or different fabrics.

Cut the backing into squares that are the same size as the batting – 1-inch larger than the finished block size.

Make Quilt Sandwiches

Once you have made the quilt blocks and cut both the batting and the back fabric, layer the three together.

A stack of quilt sandwiches to be connected together using a quilt as yuo go technique
For this tutorial, I am using 20 blocks.

The quilt block should be centered so there is 1/2-inch of batting and backing on all four sides.

Baste the quilt sandwiches with pins or spray to hold the layers together.

Quilt and Trim

Decide on a quilt design and then quilt each individual sandwich. Hand or machine quilting can be used.

After quilting, trim each block to the finished size.

Trim the blocks after quilting to prepare for connecting them together.

2. Prep the Connectors

Connectors are thin strips of fabric used to hold the quilted blocks together.

Connectors may look like sashing in the finished quilt but can also be hidden in the design of the quilt depending on the fabric selection.

When you connect the quilted blocks together:

  1. Sew the blocks into rows.
  2. Sew the rows together.

To make the rows, each quilt block will need 2 connectors except for the blocks at the end of each row; they will only need 1.

To connect the rows, each row will need 2 long connectors except for the top and bottom rows; they will only need one.

Layout of quilt with white lines showing where connector strips will go.
In the image above, the white lines represent the connectors.

The amount of fabric you need for the connectors is based on the number of blocks in your quilt and their dimensions.

Connectors start out as fabric strips cut 1 1/8 inches by WOF (width of fabric). You then either cut the strips down (to the height of the blocks) or sew them together (for the length of the rows).

Close up of ruler being used to cut strips 1 1/8 inches wide by the width of fabric for this quilt as you go technique
Connectors start out as fabric strips cut 1 1/8 inches by WOF (width of fabric).

3. Lay Out the Quilt Blocks

One of the advantages of quilting as you go is that you can have one quilt on the front and another on the back.

Like with most quilts, you want to lay out the blocks in rows/columns before you sew them together.

If you have planned your backing fabric to create a specific design, you need to make sure the blocks are laid out so that not only is the design on the front the way you want it to be but also the design you want on the back is created.

In my quilt, there are 20 blocks. Each pieced block is identical but I used 2 different fabrics for the back. I played around with the layout on the back before I arranged the blocks to create the design on the front.

Backing fabric is facing up. 4 ways to lay out the blocks and create different visual  effects.
Different back layouts I tried before deciding on the checkerboard.

Label the Blocks

After you determine the layout of the front and back of the quilt, label each block by row and position.

This is a critical step so you are able to connect the blocks and rows without messing up the layout.

2 rows of quilt blocks are shown with labels. They will be connected with a quilt as you go technique
Once I arranged the quilt blocks to create the design on the front, I labeled each block.

4. Create the Rows

NOTE: For this section, instructions on how to create the rows are in the image captions.

Connectors are placed on the edges of 2 blocks. One on the top of one block and the other on the bottom of the other block.
Get two blocks and two connectors.
With right sides together, put one connector on the top of one block and the other connector on the bottom of the other block along the sides where the blocks touch.
Line up raw edges of the connectors and blocks.
Connectors are sewn on using a 1/4-inch presser foot.
Sew each connector in place using a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
If the connector extends past the block edges, cut it off.
Trim off any excess connector fabric if you have it.
A zig-zag stitch is used to sew together two blocks.
(Note: The connector on the left block is visible. The other connector is not visible because it’s on the back of the right block.)
Butt the two block edges together but don’t overlap them. Make sure the top edges of the blocks are aligned.
Use a zig-zag stitch that is wide enough to catch the edges of both blocks but doesn’t extend beyond the 1/4″ seams.
(On my machine, the width is 5 and the length is 2 to sew the two blocks together.)
As you sew: 1. Make sure the connector on the bottom is laying flat so it doesn’t get caught up in the stitches.
2. The bottom edges of the blocks need to be aligned (see arrow). Pull slightly on one block if needed.
A close up of a pair of blocks showing the 1/4" seams and zig-zag stitches.
This image shows what it looks like when two blocks have been sewn together. Notice the zig-zag stitches are between the 1/4-inch seams and span the edges where the blocks touch.
The connector is pressed open so the right side is visible.
Press both connectors open.
Turn the raw edge of the connector so the 1/4-inch seam is hidden.
Turn the raw edge just enough so the 1/4-inch stitch line is hidden. Press.
Hand sew the connector in place on the right side of the fabric.
Sew the turned edge.
I like to use the blind stitch to hand sew the connector edge in place but you can also machine sew it.
See the video located near the top of the post on how to do this. It’s around the 6-minute mark.

5. Sew the Rows Together

If your finished rows are longer than the length of the connectors, you will need to sew some connector strips together.

You can sew the strips together by using the same method used to make double-fold bias tape for quilt binding. Just don’t fold the strips in half.

The steps for sewing the rows together are exactly like sewing the blocks together. The main difference is the length of the connectors.

Two rows with a connector on the top of one row and the bottom of the other.
Just like sewing the blocks, put one connector on the top of one row and the other connector on the bottom of the other row. Line up raw edges.
Pin the connector that is on the bottom so it won't get caught up when sewing.
Tip 1: Pin down the connector you can’t see so it doesn’t get caught up in the 1/4″ seam.
Make marks on the long connector to show where the short connectors line up.
Tip 2: To make sure the connectors between the blocks make straight columns, mark where the sewn connectors intersect. As you sew, you will use the marks to make sure the block connectors are lined up. If needed, pull slightly on one row or the other to get the connectors aligned.

After the row connectors are in place, you will press them open, turn the raw edge so the 1/4″ seam is hidden and hand or machine sew them in place.

6. Finish the Quilt

Once all the rows are sewn together it’s time to finish the quilt by adding the binding.

Close up of the corner of the quilt as you go quilt to show the binding.

That’s it…you’re done!

A finished quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used.

Quilt As You Go Options

Not every published quilt pattern will lend itself to the quilt as you go method taught in this tutorial.

However, with some planning and creativity, you can use this easy technique and achieve a variety of results.

Once you are comfortable with the quilt as you go technique, you can experiment with fabrics, blocks, and even quilt patterns to minimize the appearance of the connector strips. They don’t always have to represent sashing.

Minimizing the appearance of the connectors requires a bit of planning ahead of time, but it can be done.

Check out some of the other quilts Kris has made using the quilt as you go technique taught in the tutorial.

Front and back of a blue and green quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used to make it.
Front and back of a red hexagon quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used to make it.
Front and back of a Christmas quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used to make it.
Kris added a border to this quilt. She quilted the border pieces separately and pieced together the connector strips so the red acts as a skinny border and the plaid blends in with the wider border.

Kris used a combination of hand and machine quilting on this stunning quilt. It required careful planning to disguise the connectors. You don’t notice them unless you are looking for them.

Front and back of a flowered quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used to make it.
The green squares between the flowers were pieced together and quilted in sections. Connectors were used between and above the flower blocks connecting them with the green sections create larger blocks and rows. A black border was hand quilted and added on before the binding was attached.
Close up of the front of a flowered quilt where the quilt as you go technique was used to make it.
You can see the connector strips in this close up photo.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

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