In my classes, we have been exploring quilt-as-you go techniques. I wanted to find a better way of joining the blocks together. I have read quite a few online tutorials, but they mostly seemed a little clumsy. So I came up with my own way (this is not to say that nobody else has done it this way...but I have not seen it done quite like this).
Start with your two blocks to be joined. They should already be quilted to the wadding and backing. The backing should extend beyond your block about 1 inch (at least on one of the blocks). The quilting should stop before the edge, probably no closer than about an inch from the edge of the block. You can see that I have not washed out the marker I used to draw my quilting lines.
Square and trim one of the blocks. On the first block, you want to trim the block, wadding and backing all to the same size.
Here it is, all trimmed up. You can put this aside for the time being.
On the other block, you need to fold the backing out of the way...which is why you can't quilt all the way to the edge of the block.
Then square and trim the side of the block and the wadding.
On that same block, we want to trim the wadding back further. We want the wadding to be trimmed 1/2 inch smaller than the block. (From this point on, you need to excuse my dirty fingernails...I got home from camping at lunch time and haven't cleaned them yet).
This is a little tricky, and we don't want anyone to cut themselves with the rotary cutter. I used pattern weights to hold the top layer back whilst I cut the wadding.
Now unfold the backing so that it can be trimmed. An experienced and precise quilter could probably trim the backing to 1/2 inch bigger than the block. My students are generally beginners and are still developing their sewing accuracy, and I like to allow a little for turn of cloth, so I trimmed to 5/8 inch larger than my block.
So, here you can see the trimmed block. The wadding is 1/2 in smaller than the block and the backing extends 5/8 inch beyond the block.
Now, for the ever-so-slightly tricky bit. Line up the edge of the backing with the edge of the wadding and stitch together with a 1/4 inch seam. I don't often use pins, but my students love to use them. If you like pins, you can pin to your heart's content before stitching. Some of the students are able to use their walking foot for this step. Others have a walking foot that is difficult to use for 1/4 inch seams, and so switch over to their 1/4 inch foot for this. It really depends on your machine and foot. If you can't use your walking foot, go slowly and use use good holding techniques to overcome the effects of the feed dogs.
Once you have stitched the backing to the wadding, press the backing so that it forms a fold that sticks out past the wadding. Take your time to smooth the backing all the way from the stitching line. This is easier than trying to turn under an accurate seam allowance later.
Now get your first block (the one we trimmed first and put aside). Put it right sides together with the second block. My blocks are random blocks, so I do not need to match any seams...but if you do, take care to match any seams on the two blocks at this point. The two blocks are then stitched together with a 1/4 inch seam. We are stitching through all 3 layers of the first block (top, wadding and backing) and the top layer of the second block...so through 4 layers altogether. Again, your choice as to whether you use a walking foot or 1/4 inch foot. You will need to hold the folded backing edge of the second block out of the way whilst you do this.
All stitched together.
Open out the blocks. Everything should sit nicely, with no lumpy overlap of wadding.
Now you can press the folded backing of the second block over the join. There are several ways you can finish up from here. The neatest is probably hand stitching the fold down, the same way you would hand stitch the quilt binding. Another option is to machine quilt a straight line. If you do this from the back, the line is not likely to end up in the ditch on the front...but some of my students like to do this anyway. You could stitch in the ditch from the front, and because we allowed that extra 1/8 inch when trimming the second backing, it should, in theory, catch the fold at the back.
Me, I like to finish quickly and get back to my dressmaking, so I used a decorative patchwork stitch from the front, which covers a few sins.
Here is the back view. If you secure the backs before sewing the next block, you wont be able to stitch all the way to the end because you will need to be able to fold the backing back when trimming ready to attach the next block...no matter if you have...a few moments with a quick unpick will sort that out.
Happy quilting, xx