Monday, March 05, 2018

Tutorial: Joining Quilt As You Go Blocks with Narrow Strips

This tutorial is compiled from a few resources, including the Craftsy class Piece by Piece: Quilt-As-You-Go Techniques with Marti Michell. I have made several adjustments that I think are easier and/or time-saving. Just a note, the scope of this tutorial is on joining blocks with narrow strips, not on how to create quilt as you go blocks. The quilt I'm working on in the tutorial is a herringbone diamond quilt. All of the blocks are already quilted with top/batting/backing and are cut to a finished size of 8" x 16".

For this tutorial, I've already joined all of the blocks into 16" square pairs and now am proceeding to join them in rows of 4 blocks. You need two sets of joining strips. The dark strips on the front are 1 1/8" wide and 1/2" to 1" longer than your blocks. The white backing strips are 1 1/4" wide and 1/2" to 1" longer than your blocks. You should also test that your machine is set up for an accurate 1/4" seam as it's very important in order to get perfect joins. If your machine has the ability to adjust the speed I also recommend slowing down your maximum speed for this process. Going slowly really increases accuracy.

Step 1: Fold one side of the backing strip in 1/4" to the wrong side and press. To facilitate this I use a hera marker and my quilting ruler to crease 1/4" in from one edge before pressing. I find this makes it easier to accurately press a 1/4" fold.

Note: I use 1/4" wide Lite Steam a Seam 2 double-sided fusible tape to hold the backing strip in place. It's important to use the Lite version as the join does get a bit bulky with multiple layers and the heavier version can gum up your sewing machine needle. I am in the process of making a queen sized quilt and I have needed at least 2 packages of tape so far. Although this method does use a lot of this product I have found it simpler and more accurate than pinning or gluing.

Step 2: Stick a piece of 1/4" Lite Steam a Seam 2 tape on the back side of one of your blocks (on the side you are joining) lined up with the raw edge. Tip: if your tape doesn't want to stick to the fabric, apply it with your fingers and then set it with a non-steam iron for just a few seconds. After it cools, peel off the paper backing. Line up your back joining strip with your block right sides together with the raw edge of the strip aligned with the raw edge of your block with just a bit of extra strip length overhanging on each side. The tape should be sticky enough that you can temporarily hold the strip. Readjust as necessary and then press the strip in place with lots of steam. Wait for the strip to cool before proceeding. The backing strip is now held permanently in place and will not shift during the next step.

Step 3: From the front, line up your front joining strip with the raw edge of the block right sides together. Leave a small overhang at the beginning of your block, just like you did on the back as this will be trimmed later. Stitch a 1/4" seam through all layers. I found that I did not need to pin since the back is already held in place with the tape. I lined up the front strip with the edge and stitched, adjusting this alignment every few inches as needed until I got to the end of the strip. Make sure to sew completely off of the block onto the overhang a bit.

Set your seam with a steam iron for a few seconds and then finger press just the front strip away from the block edge. Press (do not iron) the strip, being careful not to distort the edge. The picture below shows what it looks like from the front.

And this shows what it looks like from the back. (This is a different block--I forgot to take a picture of this step the first time around).

Step 4: Next, line up the raw edge of the front strip with the raw edge of your second block, right sides together. I am sorry that this picture doesn't show it super clearly, but you want the two blocks to be stacked on top of one another so that the placement is exact. You shouldn't be able to see the other block at all from a front-facing view, just like the picture. I pinned the strip to the second block in three places, one at each end and one in the middle. I only used three pins because my fingers do most of the work when stitching the seam.

Note: You could use the 1/4" tape to hold the front strip in place on the second block, just like you did in step 2. I chose not to do this because you would end up using twice as much 1/4" tape and the join would start to get bulky with all of those layers. However, if you are very concerned about accuracy you could use the tape instead of pins.

Step 5: Stitch a 1/4" seam on the second side of the front strip and the second block. Because the strip is so narrow I had to hold the first seam out of the way so that the block would move under the feed dogs. You may or may not have to do this. Also, I used my right index finger to keep the raw edge of the front strip lined up with the raw edge of the second block. It's not pictured only because i had to hold the camera with my right hand. You could also use a stiletto for this step instead of your finger. Sew off the edge of the block into the overhang as before.

After both blocks have been sewn to the front joining strip, press the seams flat from the back, then the front. The two seams on the back will almost touch with a narrow channel in between. Finger press the backing strip seam towards the second block, then press to hold a crease. Unfold the backing strip so that the raw edges are exposed.

The back is joined to one side with the hemmed edge ready to fold over the seam.

And the front is joined to both blocks with no seams visible.

Step 6: Stick 1/2" wide Lite Steam a Seam 2 tape in between the 2 seams on the back. The 1/2" tape should just fit in between the stitching lines. Peel off the paper and fold the backing strip over the join making sure that the stitching lines are completely covered by the backing strip. Press into place with a steam iron and wait for it to cool before stitching.

Note: The gap between blocks needs to be stabilized in some way. Other tutorials I have seen call for either hand-stitching the two blocks together (which I hate doing) or using fusible batting tape to close the gap. You would then need to glue or pin baste the backing strip down before sewing. Using double sided tape does this in just one step and the seam gap is permanently fused to the backing strip giving you the stability you need at the join.

Step 7: Stitch in the ditch right in the seam line from the front to secure the folded edge of the backing strip in place. You can instead choose to hand sew the backing strip if you like, but as stated above I prefer to machine stitch. Go slowly and make sure you stay in the ditch all the way down the seam. Note: You may want to use a busy fabric for your front strips like I did just in case you have to go back and stitch a bit on the front strip in order to completely catch the edge on the back with your stitching. I did have to do this a couple of times because I'm not perfect.

Step 8: Trim the overhang even with the blocks on both sides. You now have a finished join! Repeat with your remaining blocks to form rows and then complete the same steps with longer strips to join the rows together into a quilt that is ready to square up and bind.

Here's what it looks like on the back.

And here it is from the front. I hope you have found this helpful.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads up over on the Quilters Knitting group over on Ravelry. What an interesting technique!! I'm going to have to give it a try.

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