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The qayg cover strip method, everything that you need to know.

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

Back in 2005 I wanted to make a crazy patchwork quilt but I didn’t want to make it in the traditional way. I wanted to make it quilt as you go and fully machine sewn. (At the time I was a busy young Mum and I didn’t have time for hand sewing).


This is what I made, I called it the Sweet n Sassy quilt and during the making of this quilt I came up with the concept of the QAYG cover strip method.


You’ll see in the photos below that there are strips on the front of the quilt that look like a sashing between the blocks and there is no sashing on the back of the quilt.

The Cover Strip method is a nonconventional way to join quilted blocks together. In fact, it breaks all of the traditional patchwork and quilting rules that you have been taught.


It’s perfect for crazy patchwork, stitch n flip and applique blocks. It was never intended for joining patchwork blocks together because it uses a 3/8” (1 cm) seam allowance and patchwork blocks require a 1/4" (6 mm) seam allowance, for example, a patchwork star block would lose its points when joined with a 3/8” seam allowance.


Here is a quick rundown on how the method works:

The samples below are blocks left over from the original Sweet n Sassy quilt, I would show these samples when teaching or lecturing, they are now 18 years old!


The batting is cut 1/2" smaller on all edges to be joined to reduce the bulk in the seam allowance. For this quilt I used a thin iron on polyester pellon because that’s what I had in my stash and after all, it was a scrap quilt. I normally recommend using a low loft cotton batting with a scrim and for stitch and flip blocks a light application of basting spray to hold the batting and backing together.

For this quilt, the backing squares are cut 9 1/2" and the batting is cut 8 1/2" square. The batting is centered onto the wrong side of the backing square to provide a 1/2" gap of batting on all 4 sides.


Next, stitch and flip irregular wedge-shaped fabrics onto the batting and backing. When all blocks are complete, trim them to the same size as the backing square. If trimming is necessary to make them the same size, you can trim up to 1/8” on all sides, as this will still leave a 3/8” gap of batting for the 3/8” seam allowance.

To join, take 2 blocks and place them back-to-back. Sew with a 3/8” seam allowance.

Press the seam open, it will sit nice and flat because of the batting gap. It’s okay if some of the batting is caught in the seam, it’s just good to not have the batting go all the way through the seam allowance.


I chose to use a 3/8” seam allowance because when pressed open, with all the layers of fabric, I felt that it would sit flatter than a narrow 1/4" seam allowance would.

At this stage the back is neat........

and the front has a raw seam that will be covered with the cover strip.


The cover strip is a 2” wide strip that is prepared with a 1” (25 mm) wide bias maker. The bias maker folds the raw edges of the strip over to the wrong side by 1/2" on each side, making a neat 1” wide strip.

Although the cover strips are prepared with a bias maker, they are best cut across the fabric from selvedge to selvedge.

Because the cover strips are on the front of the quilt, I ironed fusible web onto the wrong side of the cover strips so that they could be ironed nice and straight in place before sewing. (I used Heat n Bond lite 5/8” wide on a roll).

(Photos below are from a different quilt)

Another thing that I do to ensure that the cover strips are straight, is mark a line that is 1/2" away from the centre of the seam, this can be done on both sides or just 1 side of the seam. (Make sure that you use a fabric marker that can be easily removed from the fabric).

The next step is to peel away the paper backing and position the cover strip over the seam, in between the marked lines.

To reduce the bulk in the across ways seams, start and finish the cover strip 1/2" away from the top and bottom of the seam.

Iron in place.

Machine sew down both side edges of the cover strip, stitching close to the edge. Back tack or reverse stitch at the very top and bottom edges of the seam, not on the cover strip. This is done so that any starting and stopping thread nests will be sewn into the across ways seams and won’t be visible on the back of the quilt.

The stitching lines that attach the cover strip, look like quilting lines sewn 1/2" away from both sides of the seam.

(Yes, they are hard to see).


So that’s how you join 2 blocks together with the cover strip. You would then continue joining the blocks into rows and then in the same way, join the long rows together.


Click on the picture below to see a video tutorial of how I made this quilt.


Between the years of 2005 to 2020 I have designed and published many quilt patterns that use the cover strip quilt as you go method.


My patterns take the hard work out of making a quilt as you go quilt. You are never left with quilt as desired. Every step has been thoughtfully planned and is included in the detailed instructions, including how much fabric and how many strips to cut for the cover strips.

Below are just some of my patterns that are available as instant PDF downloads, you'll find them on our website here.

My formula was simple and effective:

All blocks have a 1/2" gap of batting on all edges, that way you can play with the positioning of the completed blocks before joining them.(Read on to see where you wouldn't leave the gap).


The cover strip was always on the front of the quilt to appear as a 1” wide sashing between the blocks.

Pictured below is the Cherry Cheer quilt

PDF pattern available here.

Watch the video tutorial here.

If a border was required, it was joined onto the quilt with the cover strip method to enclose the cover strips that finish 1/2" away from the edge as well as the 1/2" gap of batting.

Pictured below is the Trendy Techniques quilt that shows a border that is attached with the cover strip method. (Front view on the left, back view on the right)

Most quilts are finished with my 1” wide machine sewn binding (another rule breaker) to enclose the cover strips that finish 1/2" away from the edge and the 1/2" gap of batting. The width of the binding also ties in with the width of the cover strips.

Click on the photo below to watch the 1" wide machine sewn binding tutorial.

Below are some step-by-step photos. The binding is 2 3/4" wide, pressed in half lengthwise with WS facing. It is sewn onto the back of the quilt with a 3/8” seam. The corners are sewn in a different way to a regular quit binding, as you’ll see in the photo. The entire width of the binding is folded over to the front of the quilt and stitched in place; the binding is not visible on the back of the quilt.

Before you try this method, I recommend that you watch the detailed tutorial. (Click on the picture above to watch) We also show how to do a scallop edge in the same tutorial.

Please be mindful that this binding takes up 1 3/8” of the quilt edge so it’s not suitable for all quilts.


In November 2020, due to the world shutting down from Covid and to save our business, we signed up for the Virtual Houston Quilt Festival in which we made a video to promote a PDF book of 5 of my favourite cover strip QAYG quilts. The video could be no longer than 10 minutes so we had just enough time to show the basics of the method and to promote the book that contained the finer details. You can check the book and video out here.


The virtual quilt show was not a success for us, so we put the video on YouTube.


The video was a hit on YouTube, and we realised that people wanted to know more about quilt as you go so we continued to make more videos, giving more hints and tips on the cover strip method as well as other ways to join quilted sections together.


When you put something out into the world on YouTube, it’s natural that it’s subject to change and variation and people will interpret the method in their own way.


The biggest question was, can the cover strips go on the back of the quilt instead of the front. The answer is yes, but it changes the formula.

Below is a photo of the Strumb quilt, I made this quilt with the cover strips on the back.

Click on the picture below to watch the Strumb quilt video:

Now onto the point of this blog post.......

Here is everything that you need to know If you want to use the cover strip method to convert a regular quilt pattern or come up with your own design.


The cover strip method is not suitable for all patchwork blocks.

As mentioned, the cover strip method uses a 3/8” seam allowance so it’s not suitable for patchwork blocks that require a ¼ inch seam allowance, especially blocks that have points that finish a ¼” away from the edge.

However, you can add a border to the pointy patchwork block to ensure that the points are not lost in the seam. The star blocks pictured below in the Paradisio quilt were bordered with 1 ¾” wide strips in the background fabric before being joined with the cover strip method. ½” of the border is still visible after the quilt has been joined. This could also be done with the cover strips on the back of the quilt.


Having said this, there are many patchwork blocks that don't have points and if they were joined with a 3/8" seam instead of a 1/4" seam the loss of 1/8" wouldn't be noticeable.



Why is there a ½” gap of batting?

The ½” gap of batting allows for movement, shrinkage and a small amount of trimming.

The first photo below is a 10” square of batting and backing sandwiched with a 9” square of batting and quilted. For this example, you can see the batting through the light top fabric.

The second photo shows that the block has been trimmed to a 9 ¾” square, this allows for a 3/8” seam on all edges. The finished size of the block is 9” square which is the same size as the batting.

Most of my quilts that are made with the cover strip method are repetitive designs. I find that repetitive blocks all shrink the same amount during the making process so most times only minimal trimming is required, or trimming is not necessary at all.

Pictured below is the Miss Daisy Quilt, you can watch the video here and check out the pattern here.



What happens if the batting moves and there is a gap after the seam has been sewn.

If the cover strip is on the front:

I find that that the cover strip makes up for the loss of the batting loft or thickness.


If the cover strip is on the back:

Same as above but beware of thin light fabrics, especially on the front of your quilt because if there is a gap of batting it will show through as shown in the photo below.



Why not just cut the batting the same size and use a standard ¼” seam allowance.

You can do this if you choose but personally, I think that the seam would be too bulky and difficult to press open and flat, especially at the joining seams. The photo below shows the batting cut to the same size as the fabric and joined with a 1/4" seam.

I find that a 3/8” seam allowance is easier to press open and it sits nice and flat.


Batting

To make my quilts, I use a low loft cotton or bamboo batting with a scrim. The type of batting that you use is a personal choice, you can use any batting that doesn’t flatten or melt under the iron. If you have a scrap of your favourite batting, test it with the method first to see if it works.



If using light fabric for the cover strips:

Sometimes a shadow can show through on the top of the cover strip where the raw edges meet on the back. This problem can be solved by cutting strips from the same light fabric or a soft interfacing that are slightly narrower than 1”. Turn the cover strip to the back and insert the strips inside the folds of the cover strips.



Do you have to attach the cover strips with fusible web?

No this is a personal choice. My personal preference is to use fusible web to make sure that the strips are held straight and even when attaching the cover strips to the front of a quilt. You can either cut ¾” wide strips of fusible web or purchase pre-cut fusible web on a roll, I use Heat n Bond lite, it’s a bit narrower at 5/8” wide.

When attaching the cover strips to the back of a quilt I find that it’s easy enough to hold in place with your hands and sew.

You can also use glue such as a Sewline glue pen, Roxanne’s glue baste or a craft glue that is non toxic, water soluble and acid free. (Always test craft glues first before using them on fabric).




Why do you cut the cover strips ½” shorter at the top and bottom of the seam.

This is done to reduce the bulk in the horizontal seams. It is much easier to press the seams open when you don’t have the thickness of the vertical cover strip in the horizontal seam. The photos below show that the raw ends of the vertical cover strips are covered by the seam when it is pressed open and the horizontal cover strip has been applied. Be careful to not cut the cover strip too short.



If putting the cover strip on the front of the quilt, allow for 7/8” (2 cm) around the edge of the block or section to be covered by the cover strip.

This is because of the 3/8” seam and ½”, which is half the width of the cover strip. This is especially important when working with strips and if you want them to finish a certain size, you will need to consider making the outer strips wider. I mention this in this video.



How do you add a border if you have cut the cover strips ½” shorter than the perimeter of the quilt?

Join the borders onto the quilt with the cover strip method.

To do this, cut the side borders 2” longer than the quilt, cut the top and bottom borders 2” longer than the width of the quilt plus the width of the side borders.

Quilt your border strips with the batting and backing first, leaving the batting gap on the sides that will join to the quilt. If you want to finish your quilt with a regular binding, make the batting level with what will be the outer edges of the quilt.

Join the side borders to the quilt first and trim them to the same size as the quilt. Next join the top and bottom borders, this seam will have batting in the seam allowance where it crosses the side borders, I feel that it’s okay to leave it but you can trim it if you like.

The Groovy Hearts quilt has borders that were attached with the cover strip method and finished with the 1" wide machine sewn binding.

What is the best foot to use to attach the cover strips?

Use an edge stitching foot or a stitch in the ditch foot. Move the needle position so that it is 1/8" or 2 mm to the left of the guide. When you sew, just position the guide on the edge of the cover strip.

If you don’t have one of these feet, use your walking foot and find a marking on the foot that will help you to stitch 1/8” or 2 mm away from the edge of the cover strip.




Can you use premade 1” wide bias binding for the cover strips?

Yes, so long as it is made from 100% cotton and the folds on the back meet in the centre. Avoid using polycotton bias binding as it’s too thin, it could be see through and will stretch.



For all quilt as you go quilts if you want to use the one fabric for the back, use a non-direction small to medium print.

This way the joins are not obvious on the quilt back. Avoid directional prints as well as stripes and checks because they are too difficult to line up on the back when joining the blocks or sections together. You can however use lots of different fabric for the back to make a fun reversible quilt.

Here are some examples of non-directional small to medium prints:


I want to finish my quilt with a regular binding.

Plan ahead to cut the batting level with all blocks that will be on the outer edge of the quilt as shown in the example photo below and finish the cover strips level with the perimeter of the quilt.



I have used the cover strip method on the back to make a quilt and I finished the cover strips ½” away from the outer edge of the quilt, how do I bind it?



I actually did this with the first quilt that I made with the cover strips on the back so I invented a new way to bind a quilt. This binding looks like a ½” wide binding on the front and is 1’ wide on the back. It’s fully machine sewn and the stitching line is visible on the front of the quilt and it doesn’t look out of place because it ties in with the cover strip stitching on the front of the quilt. You can see how I do it in this blog post here.


Want to know more about making a complete quilt with the cover strip method? Check out this blog post, it includes a video that will take you through everything from the tools, cutting the fabric and batting, making the blocks and how to handle a quilt as you go quilt as it grows, there is also a free pattern and it shows my new binding at the end.




Interested in learning more quilt as you go joining techniques? Check out our quilt as you go masterclass.


Let me know in the comments section if you have any more questions.

Happy quilting!

Monica


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