First Quilt As You Go Experience: The Encased Seam

It has been a little while since I wrote a post. I need to get better at being more consistent about. I have just been spending all of my time quilting and no time writing.

My most recent finish was a twin size quilt for my niece. She turns 7 on April 30th and will get this quilt on her birthday. I decided that I wanted to make a bed quilt for each of my nieces and nephews this year. I have now made it half way and wonder why I have put these deadlines on myself. I can’t back out now – I love them all equally and can’t have them thinking otherwise.

This post goes through my experience making this quilt using quilt as you go and the encased seam. This was a great experience and I think a great method for quilting your own quilts.

Pros

  • Easier to baste
  • Easier to quilt
  • More control on free motion quilting
  • No hand stitching

Cons

  • Uses more batting and backing fabric
  • A tedious join on the quilt top
  • Must plan quilting before top is fully pieced

The Pattern

For this quilt, I used a free pattern “The Mongoose Quilt” from FoxFishe. I got the pattern off the Craftsy platform and was very pleased with it. At first I thought it was just a cute quilt, but once I started making the pattern I realized it was very well designed. The rows of geese intentionally don’t line up which means you have no side points to line up on the flying geese. That was such a time saver.

Planning the Top and Back

Now this post is about quilt as you go. One of the key things here is that the top was not completed before I started quilting. First I decided how I wanted to quilt it, then made a plan of how I could achieve that quilting by splitting the quilt into smaller pieces, then started piecing my top to that plan.

To start off I will briefly explain how the encased seam is used. You start by quilting the first section of the quilt – to the edge if you desire. You then add an unquilted section to that quilted section. Quilt the new add on. Then you can add another section and so on and so forth. The main idea is that your quilt gets progressively bigger and you need to be able to handle the larger quilt every time you add a new section. You can’t quilt two sections and then join them with this method.

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Since I had decided that I wanted to do an all over swirl design I knew I would need skinny strips (so I can move side to side in my machine), but it really didn’t matter how long the strips would be. My machine has a 6.25″ throat space where I can comfortably fit about 20″ of quilt when free motion quilting and about 35″ of quilt when straight line quilting. (You may be comfortable with more or less – that is just my comfort level.) The less quilt I have in the throat the better. I figured if I split the quilt into 3 sections then I would have 2 columns – 3 columns – 2 columns and there would be no point in time where I have more than 20″ of quilt in my throat. Perfect.

After I had my top assembled, I had to assemble my backing to match the top. It similarly had to be split into 3 columns + some extra inches. It seems this method uses a little more batting and a little more backing than with a traditional quilting method. For each of the 3 sections I needed extra batting and backing. The backing went into the my scrap bin, but the batting is trash. I used an Olaf panel, scraps from other projects, and some of my not favorite fat quarters to assemble the back.

Basting

It was then time to baste! I have to say – this was the easiest basting experience of my life. If nothing else were to convince me that quilt as you go is awesome, this would. I started with my center column and basted it with the traditional method. Since it was long and skinny there as no point where I had to ninja crawl across the quilt to get it to lay flat and together. I spray based using all the methods from Christa Quilts except I did it on the floor.

Once the center was basted, it was time to baste the sides. This is where things are different. The sides don’t get basted like top-batting-backing. You only baste the batting with the backing. In addition, the batting must be more than 0.5″ away from the side of the backing. Again, this was pretty easy to do.

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Quilting

The center can now be quilted with whatever design that you decided. I choose to do an all over swirl. Depending on your design, you can quilt to the edge of the top. Since I did an all over design and my quilt top needed to be joined still, I didn’t want my swirls to get chopped off at the seam (like it did in one section). I kept my swirls off the seam line after I thought about this. Quilt the entire middle section then trim the section. The batting and backing should be trimmed up to the quilt top on the sides. Leave the top and bottom until your final trimming for the whole top.

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-YMaker:S,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Prepare for the join

Now its time to join the next section of the quilt. Start by preparing the back/batting. I was taught to start by sewing the batting to the backing very close to the edge of the batting. I did it, but I don’t think this was necessary after the spray basting and won’t be doing it next time. Once the batting is secure, trim the backing fabric to 0.5″ away from the batting. This spacing is very important and allows for the quilt to not have a speed bump once joined. You are trimming for 1/4″ seam and 1/4″ batting from the already quilted part of the quilt.

Join

The join is the hardest part of this method. There are a lot of layers that need to come together and your top is one of them. Its important to keep a good 1/4″ seam otherwise the piecing gets messed up. I did one of my joins with the walking foot and one with my 1/4″ piecing foot. I definitely recommend using the walking foot and taking the time to get your accurate 1/4″ seam with that. You will be sewing together the top of the new section (Right sides together), the quilt sandwich already quilted, and your back (Right sides together). There should be 5 layers in this seam, not 6. You don’t want the batting of the new section in the seam which is why it was trimmed 1/2″ away.

Maker:S,Date:2017-10-3,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

I pinned this seam a lot. I used pins to hold the top in place and I used clover clips to keep all the other layers in place. For me it was well worth the time spent pinning that seam together. Sew a 1/4″ seam and take your time. Once the layers are sewn together you have to baste the top to the batting. I ironed my seam then used spray basting. Its ready to start quilting again.

IMG_20180422_100622_1.jpg

Quilt the un-quilted section. I did this before I joined the next section so I would have less quilt to handle. Once done I joined the last section as I did the previous one and finished quilting.

How Was It?

All in all, this was a great method for quilting. The basting and the quilting was so much easier with this method. I saw an improvement in my free motion quilting by reducing how much quilt I had to wrestle with. I plan to use this method (Encased Seam) and other quilt as you go methods to finish at least 2 more quilts this year. This experience has convinced me that quilt as you go is the best methods for me finish my quilts on my small sewing machine. The benefits way out way the cons.

If you are interested in trying this technique I recommend taking “Machine Quilting in Sections” by Marti Michell on Craftsy. I have taken a few classes on quilt as you go, but her’s has the best techniques in my opinion.

This quilt is titled “Fly Away”; finished April, 2018.

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One thought on “First Quilt As You Go Experience: The Encased Seam

  1. springleafstudios says:

    Hi Julia. Great post. Anne here from the BoulderMQG. I’m scheduled to do a presentation to the guild later this year on QAYG techniques. Between now and then I will be experimenting with several new techniques. I’d love to talk to you about your experience at the next sew day if you’ll be there.

    Like

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