What is Quilt As You Go and How Do You Do It?

What is Quilt As You Go and How Do You Do It? video

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It’s the easiest, most fun way to make an applique quilt. You can do it!

Quilt As You Go (QAYG) is a technique that’s been around for a long time – but I’ve never tried it until now. There are a few different techniques floating around the internet – including a really common one that uses bias tape and is VERY fussy and irritating, in my opinion. I’ve been playing around with the method for a couple of months now and this is the way I like to do it. 🙂

The video has more detail, but here it is in a nutshell. . .

The hardest part of machine quilting is any time you change direction. That’s pretty limiting. There are plenty of times when a grid or a series of parallel lines is just perfect for a quilt I’m making, but sometimes I want the background quilting to be a little more fun. This is especially the case with my applique quilts, where what I really want to do is quilt around each face and then do something fun to add texture to the background.

That’s when QAYG is perfect.

You layer a piece of batting with each block and then quilt just that block in the machine. It’s small and easy to spin around in all kinds of fun patterns. Whee!

You join all the blocks together after they’re quilted, and then just do some easy grid quilting in the final big quilt.

So here’s the first video in the series. . .

See how easy that is? There’s still some machine quilting, but it’s the easiest kind. And the rest of it opens up a whole new world of easy peasy zigzags and triangles and wobbly waves.

I know some of you already do all that stuff with free-motion quilting. I tried that once and it was a disaster. I’m giving it another try, but at this point it’s still frustrating and Not Fun.

I tried free motion quilting at Quilt Market on a Bernina 750 QE and it was sooooo easy. But that’s my dream machine – not my real machine – and it’s out of my price range. So for now I’m struggling with how to do it on a machine that does not have that magical Bernina Stitch Regulator.

So think of this as giving you the look of free-motion quilting without having to learn that tricky technique.

Happy quilting!



  1. Anita SAYS...

    That is interesting, but what happens when you sew the rows together, do you not get bulk where they come come together? Thanks for the video, I will have to try it.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      No! I totally expected bulk. The question was just how much and what’s going to be the best way to deal with it. But I was STUNNED the first time I pressed a seam open. There was no noticeable bump at all! I was kind of giddy and had to do a few more before I really believed it. 🙂

      • Anita SAYS...

        Thanks Wendi! Can’t wait to try this!

  2. Beth SAYS...

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Looks so much easier then trying to manage a big quilt. I can’t wait to try this method, and those cats are adorable! Thank you!!!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m so excited about this technique! I probably won’t use it for everything, but for my favorite kind of applique blocks it gives them EXACTLY the kind of effect I was looking for but always unable to do on the machine until now.

  3. Ann Knechtel SAYS...

    Could you use hot iron on batting that was a combination of cotton & bamboo?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      By guess would be yes since they’re both plant fibers – but I’d test on a small piece just to be sure.

  4. betz SAYS...

    Oooh, thanks for this clear explanation! Sounds just my *quilting* speed!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m totally in love with it!

  5. Sunnye SAYS...

    I do like what you’ve done and I’ve done it myself.
    Here’s a tip/question: If you stitch in the ditch or !/4″ from your seams, why not use a double needle and save time?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      That’s a great idea! I’ve neveer used a double needle before – I’ll have to see if my machine even has one. 🙂

  6. Cheryl in PA SAYS...

    Excellent tute Wendi! I will definitely have to try this technique! THANKS!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I hope you love it as much as I do!

  7. I love the look of this technique & am so anxious to try it on my next quilt. Right now I am trying to quilt a Queen size quilt & it is so challenging to move a big quilt in a 10″ harp opening. Thankfully, I am almost done so this is definitely a must try on my next quilt. Tks for sharing.

  8. Darlene SAYS...

    I love this technique. but how do you finish the quilt. how do you put the backing on, and “quilt” it onto the top/batting?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m shooting a video for that this week – it’ll post next Tuesday. In a nutshell – you put the backing on just like a regular quilt. Layer the back with the front (the batting’s already in there), quilt the layers together in BIG chunks, and bind it. The video will show everything. 🙂

  9. anna SAYS...

    I’ve watched a few quilt as you go methods and I love this new simplified version. I do make a lot of charity quilts. I’m definitely changing to this method. Thanks!

  10. Britney Walsh SAYS...

    Great video! I’m very excited to try this! My only worry is, if you press your seam open and then stitch in the ditch, do you run the risk of breaking open your seam?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      You know – I’ve always thought that. I know a lot of quilters do. But Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr (quilters, fabric and pattern designers at Modern Quilt Studios) say they have ALWAYS pressed all their seams open to minimize bulk (even for regular quilting) and have never had a problem with the seams splitting. I like the look of quilting a bit to the side – but I’d be willing to take their word for it and try it in the ditch sometime.

  11. Debbie Halcomb SAYS...

    Thank you Wendi! I have been wanting to try quilt as you go but did not like the way they attached the blocks. This looks easy and simple, like me. And I love the cats can’t wait for the pattern. Applique is another thing I have wanted to try so the cat quilt will have me learning several things in one quilt. Yeah. Thanks again

  12. Susan SAYS...

    Is the kitty face pattern available? I can’t seem to find it.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I’m still wrapping up the final details. 🙂 It’ll be in the shop on Friday 1/31.

  13. Jean Burke SAYS...

    This is excellent – very clear directions! Much easier than I anticipated. I have a project in mind to try it – thanks!!

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I was a little uncertain at first – but the more I do it the more I love it. And the results are beautiful!

  14. Mary SAYS...

    How would you add a border to a QAYG technique?

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Good question! I didn’t think of it because I almost never add borders to my quilts, but there’s no reason you couldn’t make and quilt the border as a long strip and then add it to the rest of the quilt. I worked with strips instead of blocks in the chevron pillow I made for this post (http://wendigratz.wpengine.com/2013/10/book-review-quilting-happiness.html) and it worked great.

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  25. Anonymous SAYS...

    I did this on my last quilt and I love it! My only tip is to really clean out your bobbin case after the quilting. Because there is no fabric on the back a lot of “fluff” goes down.

    • Always good advice! I admit – I’m a bit of a fanatic about keeping my machine clean and oiled. I oil it every time I sit down to use it (my Bernina DRINKS oil) and I clean out all the guts every time I change the bobbin. It’s the most valuable thing I own (besides my house and car) and I definitely want to take good care of it. 🙂

  26. Joan SAYS...

    Do you thinks spraying the quilt would work for adding the backing? I always have trouble with how smooth I can get my quilt when I pin.

    • It should work. I’ve had bad experiences with spray basting – overspray
      everywhere and hard to clean up. 🙁

      But I know some people swear by it!

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  28. Julie SAYS...

    Do you apply the appliqué before or after you have quilted the block?

    • I like to applique after I quilt – it makes things super easy – but you can do it either way.

  29. Leslie C SAYS...

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! Your kitty quilt is so cute and I love the idea of the free-motion look without having to learn free-motion. Can’t wait to try it!

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  31. Sharon SAYS...

    Thank you! Where do you get those kitty designs?

  32. Tracy Brooks SAYS...

    I am quilting the Cat quilt on flannel as a crib quilt. I’m using 100% Cotton soft and natural batting. The loft is ⅛”…Is this the “loftiest” batting I can use? I choose flannel for its softness (planning to use cuddle fleece as the backing)…my issue is that it’s realitivy flat after quilting….I think because of the flannel? What about doubling up the batting and cutting ¼”
    Off one of the pieces in the seam allowance?
    Thanks so much!

    • You can use a loftier batting – just make sure that it’s 100% cotton. Warm & Natural has a slightly thicker cotton batting that’s called Warm & Plush. It’s like 1 1/2 layers of their regular batting.

      Remember too that if you’re using cuddle fleece, that adds its own loft. It’s a double-sided plush so it’s got a nap on both sides – not like minky that usually is flat on the back side. I find that when I use the regular batting it seems kind of flat at first, but then I add the cuddle fleece which adds weight and thickness, and then I wash the whole thing and that makes it crinkle up and get “loftier.” By the time I’m done it feels like a really good quilt – and it’s nice and warm with good weight to it. 🙂

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