I backed and quilted the four sections of my Westering Women quilt and now came the task of joining those sections together using my chosen method. There are loads of ‘quilt-as-you-go’ tutorials on the internet, and they tend to differ depending upon the project they’re being applied to. The tutorials that most closely matched my needs were…. Lily’s Quilts, Lawson and Lotti and RocknQuilts ….and I am grateful to the authors for their inspiration. By the way, this is nowise a tutorial. It’s simply an account of how I got on the first time I attempted a ‘quilt-as-you-go’ method and the problems I encountered along the way.
My goal was to quilt each section of patchwork as much as I could before joining them, but leaving at least one inch unquilted all round the edges. (Since my quilt has 1” sashing strips it was easy to gauge this distance for some of them.) I used a combination of ditch quilting and an overall wavy design on each block. If the ‘quilt-as-you-go’ technique worked for me, I hoped to gain the confidence to maybe try more complicated designs on my domestic sewing machine in the future.
At the edges where my first two sections were to be joined I trimmed the batting and backing to ½” wider than the front fabric. (The first time I did this I trimmed to 1″ wider but I found it to be way too big a margin and just got in the way, so I reduced it.)
Next, I pinned back the backing and batting out of the way, matched my points, and sewed the two sections together. Because I left at least an inch unquilted I found I could easily overlap the excess batting and backing so the sections lay flat and I could press my new seam properly.
I laid out the joined sections face down, folded back the backing fabric only and pinned it out of the way. I soon realised I had nothing to tell me if my front fabric was laid out okay underneath so I made sure to keep on gently pulling and spreading the two sections to keep the quilt top fabric properly taut.
I found the next step a bit tricky. The tutorials say to overlap the batting and then cut through them so that the two sides butt up against each other. Putting a metal ruler between the batting and the back of the fabric gave me the peace of mind so I wouldn’t accidentally slice through my quilt top. All the same my heart was in my mouth when I picked up my scissors for the first time. Try as I might, I couldn’t get this to work for me properly. There always seemed to be a bit more overlap than I wanted, so I had to use my small scissors to trim tiny adjustments so the batting edges would butt up and lie flat. As I periodically slid the ruler up along the seam line, I kept on making sure the fabric underneath was properly spread out each time.
I wanted to make sure that the edges of the batting would stay flat so I took my work to the ironing board and applied some joining tape. I used ‘Heat Press Batting Together’ ¾” wide tape, and it does just what it says. I tested it out on a sample of the batting fabric first to make sure it gave a strong enough join and that I’d got the iron at the correct temperature. The weave of the tape itself is quite fine so I don’t think it adds much in the way of bulk to the quilt sandwich.
I used a small travel iron to apply heat to the tape, but next time I think I’ll dig out my clover iron. It might save me a trip to the ironing board and from having to rearrange and spread everything out again when I get there.
My last step was to turn under and press one of the backing fabric edges by ½” then hand stitch the seam closed. Again, I thought it important to keep making sure the quilt top and batting layers were properly spread out beneath. I found that when I slid the top piece of my old darning mushroom under the quilt it was much easier to push my needle through and it kept the fabric layers taut at the same time. (My mushroom actually looks more like a toadstool.)
It was back to my sewing machine to finish off the quilting across my new seam. I could still get to it easily enough, albeit with a little pushing and pulling. Then it was onwards and upwards to join sections three and four in the same way. Because I’d got plenty of batting and backing still all around the sides I was able to add a narrow border and finish off my Westering Women quilt with a flange binding.
It’s fiddly, it’s time consuming, but it works for me. I know that I can complete just about any size quilt on my domestic sewing machine from start to finish. Right now, I’ve got a smile on my face to rival the Cheshire Cat.