When we started out on this Puzzle Quilt adventure I suggested that it would be a Quilt-as-you-Go (qayg) project. This means quilting the blocks (or several blocks) as you make them and then joining them together. I have suggested you add a sashing to each block as we have gone along so that you can trim the blocks to the same size at the end without losing any of the block itself or trimming off your seam allowances. Once you have quilted the blocks there are innumerable ways of joining them – of which more later. We have 16 blocks which we could quilt one at a time. Or we could join them into fours to make four mini quilts and quilt those as a group which means less fiddling around later to join lots of blocks together. One advantage of qayg (apart from it being easier to get under a small machine) is that you can then use different fabrics for the backing of each block, making your quilt reversible. Or, of course, you needn’t do qayg – you could just join all 16 blocks, add the borders and layer it up as one big quilt. Your choice!
You may want to spread all your blocks out first and decide on the final layout now – especially if you intend to join four blocks and quilt them as one or you want to make a reversible quilt with different backing fabrics for your blocks. I put mine out in their pairs and then shuffled them to separate the pairs and the fabrics used as much as possible.
If you want to quilt your blocks in groups rather than singly then you can join and quilt them in rows or in sets of four – note how I have turned the blocks so all the sashing seams don’t have to meet and it is less obvious that they don’t quite line up!.
Back to quilting – however many blocks you choose to quilt as one. Layer your blocks with backing and wadding – these should be at least an inch bigger all round than the block; up to 4 inches for a full size quilt. Each block could have a different backing fabric – giving you a reversible quilt, or you can use the same backing for each one. If you choose a big and busy print then the joins (and your quilting stitches) won’t be so glaringly obvious.
Fasten the layers securely with basting spray for single blocks and with small safety pins as well as spray for anything much bigger. You can also just use pins, no spray, and then you will not have to wash your quilt to remove the spray.
You can use just the walking foot to quilt straight lines either ‘stitch-in-the-ditch’ (s-i-t-d) or outline / echo the seam lines – for outline or echo quilting you can use the edge of the foot as a guide so you achieve an equal distance from the seam lines all the way around the shape or you can use masking tape as a guide.
Your walking foot will also do gentle curves so you could do curved lines inside each shape; you can mark these first if you are a perfectionist, or just do a curve by eye from corner to corner – the slight imperfections will not show unless the whole quilt is carefully examined. (NB These blocks are from a different quilt!)
Otherwise, or as well, you can do free-motion. A quilt like this is designed for learning and improving your skills so gives an ideal opportunity to practice free-motion quilting (fmq). I find it easier to stitch in the ditch with free-motion than with a walking foot, but then I only ever doodle in straight lines! But with all these blocks you have ample opportunity to practice a variety of designs and doodles from ‘squiggles’ (often called vermicelli quilting) to more defined patterns such a little butterflies or flowers. Often the patterns in the main fabrics you are using will suggest these little designs that will fit into one of the larger squares in the centre of some of the blocks.
Designs can be marked with anything you know will wash out – test it first on scrap sandwiches. Blue pens usually wash out with a good soak in cold water (just don’t get them near heat), water-colour pencils wash out, white chalk does (or brushes off) but some coloured chalks can be a bit reluctant, slivers of soap will wash out too as will a very light line drawn with a propelling pencil (usually). Hera markers (or a blunt tapestry needle or your finger nail) will mark a design with a crease which you may be able to see clearly enough depending on the lighting and your eyesight.
As an aside, mention of scrap sandwiches reminded me that making up a sandwich using the same wadding and backing fabric and one, or some, of the fabrics from the top of the quilt you are making is good practice as you can then do some sample quilting ideas on this, checking that you have the right threads in top and bottom and that the tension is set correctly. It also enables you to practice the designs you want to quilt before you start on the quilt itself. Plus it allows you to do the first ten minutes, or so, of stitching (especially for fmq) on something that doesn’t matter while you find your rhythm.
Remember that you don’t have to quilt each block to death, sometimes just a simple echo around the main shapes is enough, depending on the wadding you are using. The idea of the quilting in a quilt like this is firstly to hold the three layers together securely and secondly to enhance or emphasise the patchwork design.
I hope I’ve given you a few ideas to try and to experiment with. Above all – have fun playing!
Next time I’ll cover joining the blocks together and adding the borders.