When we started this Puzzle Quilt I suggested that it could be a Quilt-as-you-Go project. This means quilting the blocks (or several blocks) as you make them and then joining them together. I suggested you added 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. Quilt-as-you-go is not for everyone but it does get over the problem of quilt wrestling – trying to get a large quilt under a small machine.
You have choices for quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) – you can quilt each individual block and then join them together, or you can join blocks in groups or rows and then quilt those before joining them. 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.
Before you start to quilt, press the block (or set of blocks) carefully and remove any stray threads. Layer each block with wadding and backing, making sure these are bigger then the block – allow at least an inch and preferable more around each one. Giving each block a different backing means you have a patchwork back as well as front to your quilt – two for one! Fasten the three layers together with (safety) pins, tacking or glue and pins. You need extra wadding and backing to allow for shrinkage as you quilt and to give yourself enough wadding and backing (especially) to join the blocks together.
Quilt the block – not the sashing strip. Your quilting can be as fancy or plain as you wish. If you enjoy using rulers, then go ahead and play – individual blocks are a great way to practice. If you want to improve your free-motion then, again, go ahead and play. If you are feeling more cautious then there are plenty of ideas you can try out on a block using your walking foot as it is much easier to turn a block around under the machine than it is a quilt – you can even do gentle curves. Use the edge of the foot as a guide for distance between lines, or use masking tape of different widths, stitch in the ditch (or near it!) – providing you haven’t pressed your seams open, or echo quilt which is stitching about ¼ inch away from each seam. Once you are happy with your quilting and feel you have done enough then I suggest you quilt in the ditch around the edge of your block – in the seam edge between the block and the sashing strip – if you haven’t already done so, to hold the sashing strip squarely in place. Just don’t put any stitching in the strip itself at this stage.
Once the quilting is all done it is time to join the blocks or sections together. There are a lot of different ways to do this. Some of them, such as this one from Leah Day, use extra sashing strips front and back, but I prefer to use the method demonstrated by Monica Poole. This method joins the top of the quilt blocks together first, then you trim the wadding even and join it, finally you join the backing fabrics.
If you are using different fabrics on the back to make a reversible quilt you can adapt the method above to add some sashing between the backing squares. First trim the backing to the same size as the blocks and the wadding ¼ inch smaller all round (seam allowance). Cut narrow (1½ – 2 inch) strips, fold them in half and cut to them to the block length (should be about 14½ inches). Place the two blocks right sides together, put the narrow strip on the back with the raw edges even and stitch through all layers. Trim any wadding away from the seam, although it should just butt up together. Fold the narrow folded strip over raw edge at the back and slip stitch (or machine) in place.
If you search online for Quilt-as-you-go methods you should find one that suits you.
Borders too can be done QAYG and, again, there are different ways to do it – make the quilted borders and then join them or add the backing and wadding then stitch the borders in place and finally quilt them which is what I did on the blue and yellow one. Quilting with Nancy has a tutorial on this technique. Finally you may want to do some simple quilting across/along the sashing strips to hold everything firmly and then the quilt is ready to bind. Once that’s done you can add a label and relax!