Quilting is the process of joining two or more layers of fabric together to form a thicker fabric. While the amount of preparation involved in traditional quilting projects doesn’t appeal to me, quilt-as-you-go (QAYG) projects do. I’ve been looking for a small quilt-as-you-go project to learn this technique for a while. This post is about beginner quilt-as-you-go mistakes.
With traditional quilting, the entire top panel is pieced together then the top panel, batting and bottom panel are sewn together. With quilt-as-you-go, pieces/patches of the top panel are sewn to the batting (or batting and bottom panel) one at a time or one small section at a time. Agnieszka’s Envelope Pouch is a common style of lined bag/pouch with boxed corners that uses a quilt-as-you-go technique for creating the bag’s exterior. This technique is also known as Patchwork Style.
The Envelope Pouch tutorial is not a quilt-as-you-tutorial (it includes some information on the quilt-as-you-go technique) so I also used Elizabeth Hartman’s Quilt As You Go Bag Panels post as a guide. Sewing Agnieszka’s Envelope Pouch project was my first attempt at quilt-as-you-go. I made several beginner quilt-as-you-go mistakes and will explain how you can avoid them.
The link to the Agnieszka’s Envelope Pouch project free tutorial is:
This pattern is for personal use.
Step 0 Gather Materials
For larger, sturdier projects, you may be using both batting and a utility fabric like canvas.
Preparing my scraps for quilting was time consuming. It had been several months since I went through my scrap pile so I had so separate canvas, synthetic blends and stretchy knits from my quilting weight cottons. I also cut my quilting weight cottons into rectangles and squares. Since it was my first time using the quilt-as-you-go technique, I wanted to avoid triangular and irregularly shaped pieces of fabric.
Step 1 Prepare Batting
The Envelope Tutorial says to trace out the pattern pieces onto the batting and cut the batting ½” larger all around. This was my first time using batting and I was surprised by how easy it was to work with.
If you’re using batting and canvas, cut your canvas the size of the pattern pieces and cut your batting ½” smaller than the pattern pieces to reduce bulk in the seam allowance.
Step 2 Position Your First Patch
If you want your first patch to be a focus piece, you don’t need to sew it at all. If you want it to blend in then sew evenly spaced parallel lines across it. Both of my references use a ¼” seam allowances for all quilt-as-you-go sewing steps. If you’re creating larger panels, you may have more than one starting piece and have the quilting work meet in the middle [https://elizabethhartman.com/all-projects/quilt-as-you-go-bag-panels].
Step 3 Add Your Second Patch
Your second piece should be the same length as the side of your first piece that you will sew it to. You may sew two or more shorter pieces together to create a single piece of the correct length. Place you second piece face down on the first piece (right sides together) and stitch through all layers.
Step 4 Quilt The Second Patch
Flip your second piece right side up onto your batting and press it. Sew evenly spaced parallel lines across it.
Step 5 Repeat
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the your quilting extends ½” beyond the border of your pattern piece.
Step 6 Cut
Cut off the excess material. If you’re creating large panels, you may wish to stitch a narrow seam along the perimeter of the panel to keep everything in place.
My First Attempt
The exterior front flap was my first quilt-as-you-go panel. I couldn’t tell from the tutorial’s photographs whether or not the first patch has quilt lines over it. Scraps of the same purple and black zebra print for the first patch of all 3 panels made a “feature” patch. I did not quilt it and it really stands out. My centering of this first piece was rather rough.
I added my patches according to what was aesthetically pleasing and sewed my quilting lines according to what was aesthetically pleasing (sometimes parallel, sometimes perpendicular to the sewn edge of the patch). I had trouble making sure all my raw edges were hidden. Fortunately, I was able to adjust the placement of the cut lines for my front flap and cut off those exposed raw edges.
It was more time consuming that I expected to sew my quilting lines perpendicular to the seam used to attach the patches and it looked sloppy.
I finger pressed my seams. Sometimes this was effective and sometimes I didn’t go a through job.
To ensure full coverage of my first exterior panel, I sewed my patches onto the side of the batting that I had marked. Overhanging patches obscured portions of my cutting line.
My Second Attempt
The pouch back was my second quilt-as-you-go panel. I marked both sides of the batting, then realized that it wasn’t necessary. It’s easier to sew on the un-marked side and make sure to cover the entire area of the batting.
I sewed the patches to the batting by adding new pieces counter-clockwise around the first patch. Ya… no visible raw edges! You can go clockwise if you prefer. Just make sure to add your pieces in an orderly fashion.
I also sewed all my quilting lines parallel to the row of stitches used to attach the patches to the batting. This was much easier than sewing perpendicular and the finished panel looks so much better.
I quilted a narrow strip of patchwork near the edge of my top cut line. Unfortunately it didn’t extend all the way to my cut line and I had to add another narrow strip to ensure proper coverage.
Some of my fabrics were heavier than quilting weight cotton and I did not do a good job finger pressing their seams.
My Third Attempt
The pouch front was my third quilt-as-you-go panel. I got the best results with this one. Centering my first patch on the batting by measuring (eg with a ruler), adding new patches counter-clockwise around the first patch. and sewing all my quilt lines parallel to the original stitching lines made a big difference. When my patchwork got near the cut lines, I added wider patches that would extend past the cut lines.
Unfortunately I ran out of quilting weight cotton scraps and used some patches of lighter and heavier fabrics. Both are noticeable in the finished panel. The thinner fabric looks sunken compared to the quilting weight cotton. The thicker fabric doesn’t have a sharp fold where finger pressed and looks raised.
Finishing the Envelope Pouch
Once your quilt-as-you-go exterior pieces are complete, the Envelope Pouch comes together quickly. Sew the patch pocket, the pocket to the lining, the lining pieces together, box the corners, repeat for the exterior front and back, sew the front flap, the flap to the back panel, and then the lining and exterior together.
Here are some photos of my finished Envelope Pouch:
What I learned
I’m glad I choose I relatively small project to learn quilt-as-you-go. Mistakes like exposed seams, poor pressing, and varying fabric weights would be harder to hide on larger projects. Here’s my list of tips to help you avoid these same beginner quilt-as-you-go mistakes.
- Make sure all of your quilting fabrics are of similar weight
- Cut your patches with straight edges (parallel lines are optional depending upon your design)
- Centre your first patch on small panels or smaller blocks of large panels
- Quilt clockwise or counter-clockwise around your first piece (not randomly)
- Use an iron to press your patches flat before quilting
- Quilt lines parallel to the seam used to attach the patch
- Wider patches near the edges of your cut lines/batting are better than multiple narrow patches
Overall my Envelope Pouch was a successful sewing project. I learned a lot about the quilt-as-you-go technique and won’t make those beginner mistakes again. Now you can avoid making those same mistakes entirely.
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