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Quilt As You Go Cushion Tutorial

Quilt as you go tutorial for beginners

This article was written by quilting author and blogger Kerry Green. It is part of our Simple Sampler series which teaches you how to make a skill building sampler quilt. 

Quilt As You Go Heart Cushion Cover

Machine quilting a full size quilt, whether cot size or King size can be a daunting task and the weight and handling can be hard work.  Quilt as you go (also known as QAYG) is a useful and multi-faceted technique that breaks up the quilting process into smaller sections.  There are many different approaches but first, here’s a project to introduce you to one way to use the technique.

Quilting supplies

This envelope back cushion cover starts with a simple heart block, which is then added to with strips like a log cabin block and is pieced and quilted at the same time.  It’s a great way to use up scraps and to familiarise yourself with an aspect of the QAYG technique.

 Finished cushion cover size is 19” square.  The centre heart block measures 6¾” x 7½ finished.  Finished block size does not include the seam allowance. 

Seam allowance is 1/4” throughout.

You will need…

A selection of large scraps- you will be cutting strips measuring up to 20” long and 1-3½” wide. You will need around 1 square yard of scraps. I used fabric left over from my sampler quilt, Katarina Roccella’s Recollection range for Art Gallery Fabrics (kindly supplied by Hantex) and pieces from my scrap bin 

Quilt wadding – you will need one 20 x 20” square and two 15” x 20” rectangles

20” (50cm) square cushion pad

¼” yard fabric for binding.  A fat quarter could also be used but this will involve more seams to join the binding strips together

Size 80 Machine needle

Cotton thread such as Aurifil 50/2

Walking foot (optional)

Hera marker or smooth bladed knife (optional)

Quilt ruler at least 6” x 18 ½” (optional)

Old clean cotton pillow case or sheet for lining(optional)


For the centre heart block:

Red: cut one small rectangle measuring 2 ¼” x 3” and one medium rectangle measuring 3” x 4¾”

Background: cut one (rectangle A) measuring 3” x 3½”, cut another (rectangle B) measuring 2¼” x 4”, and another (rectangle C) measuring 3½” x 4½”.  Cut one square measuring 5½” square and sub-cut in half diagonally to yield two half-square triangles. 

For the remaining fabric, it is best to cut strips as they are added.

For the binding, cut 2” strips across the width fabric.  The number of strips will vary according to the width of your fabric. You will need two 2” x 20” length to bind the back envelope edges and 2” x 90” for outer edge binding. This width produces a very narrow binding.  For a wider binding, cut 2¼” or 2½” strips.


Construction: Heart Block and Cushion Front

Quilt as you go heart cushion project

1. Arrange the heart and background pieces as in the photo. This block is constructed in a similar way to a log cabin block.  Starting top right, sew the small heart rectangle and rectangle A together along the 3” edges.  Press seam towards the heart fabric.

2. Working anticlockwise, join rectangle B to the two pieces joined in step 1.  Press seam towards the first section.  Next join the medium red heart rectangle to the block sewn so far, pressing the seam away. 

3. Continue adding the remaining pieces C and the two half-square triangles, pressing the seams away each time.  Press the block and trim to make a rectangle approximately 7¼” x 8” (exact size does not matter). Place heart block on the centre of one of the wadding squares. To find the centre you can mark with pencil or fold diagonally.

Quilt as you go technique guide

4. Pin the heart block in place or spray baste with 505 temporary adhesive spray for fabric. Use a Hera marker to create vertical line at the centre of the block.  Stitch along this line with a long straight stitch and sewing to the very edge of the block. Using your machine foot as a spacing guide, continue stitching parallel lines until the block is  fully quilted . 

Quilt as you go technique guide

5. Measure the left edge of the quilted block.  From your scraps, cut a strip the same length and between 1-3½” wide.   Mine measured 3½” x 8”.   Pin to the left edge of the block, right sides together.  Sew together using a ¼” seam and a medium stitch length.  Press the strip away from the heart block – avoid touching the wadding with your iron if it has any polyester content!  Repeat working clockwise around the block, measuring the edge you are adding to each time and varying the width of strips as you go.  If your scraps are too short, join different fabric pieces together to make a single strip.

Heart log cabin pillow project

6. Square and trim the quilted cushion front to measure 19” x 19”.

7. This step is optional.  If you would like the inside of your cover to be lined, use a piece of lightweight cotton – an old cotton sheet or pillow case is ideal – and cut a 20” square.  Place the wadding side of the block on the square and pin around the outer edge.  Stitch around the centre heart block, stitch in the ditch/seam line to join the two layers together.   

Stitch in the ditch tutorial

8. Stitch in the ditch again choosing seam lines that are closer to the outer edge.  On the wrong side of the cushion cover there should be two squares of stitching, one inside the other.  Trim any excess lining fabric away. Sew around the square stitching 1/8” from the outer edge.

Construction: Cushion Back

The two cushion back pieces are sewn using a strip piecing style quilt-as-you-go technique.

1. Cut some of your fabric strips so they measure 1-6” wide and 20” long.  Take one of the 15” x 20” wadding rectangles.   Pin the first fabric strip along the top edge of the wadding and pin in place.  Place a second strip over the top, line up the long lower edge with the previous strip and pin in place through the fabric and the wadding.   Join the two strips together using a ¼” seam, sewing through two fabric layers and the wadding.  Press the second strip downwards, away from the first.  Now, quilt the strips  on to the wadding using horizontal lines of stitching and starting close to the seam line between the strips.  You can pin the strips in place if you prefer but they will naturally  slightly adhere to the wadding.

Quilt as you go log cabin cushion

2. Continue adding strips and quilting the strips as they are added until the wadding rectangle is covered.  Repeat with the second wadding rectangle.  Trim the rectangles to 14” height x 19” width.  If desired, these can be lined as in step 7 of making the front cover.  Sew horizontal lines stitching in the ditch between the different strips.  Trim excess lining fabric.

3. Take a binding strip (2” x 20”), bring the long edges right sides together and press along the centre fold.  Place the long edges of the binding along the top edge of one of the back rectangles and sew in place using a ¼” seam. Trim the excess binding so it is the same length as the top edge of the cushion back. Press binding away from the cushion back piece and turn the folded binding over to the reverse side.  This can either be slip stitched into place on the wrong side by hand or carefully machine sewn with the binding just covering the seam line and stitching in the ditch from the right side.   Repeat with other back rectangle but stitching the binding at the bottom edge.

Envelope back cushion cover tutorial

4. Place the two back rectangles right sides up so that they overlap each other by approximately 9” at the right and left edges. This is a generous overlap – you could make this smaller and trim the back rectangles accordingly.  Overlapped together they should form a 19” square.  Pin or clip in place.  Secure by stitching overlap close to the seam line, 1/8” from the outer edge.

Sewing a patchwork cushion cover

Finishing the Cushion Cover

1. Place front and back pieces wrong sides together.  Pin or clip together and sew around the edge using a 1/8” seam.  It also helps to zig-zag around the edge to flatten any bulk before binding.

2. Bind around the edge as before but this time hand sew the folded edge to the back of the cushion cover.  To mitre the corners and join the binding ends follow this tutorial.  Add your cushion inner to complete!

Beginner's quilted pillow project


When making a larger project there are a number of different approaches that use Quilt as you go.  Some involve a large degree of hand stitching, some use sashing strips as a way of joining blocks together so this must be incorporated into the final quilt design and other methods include a quick way to make a strip quilt.

1. Sashing + some hand sewing

Monica from Happy Zombie is a talented quilter and fabric designer.  Her QAYGO method is one of my favourites.  She uses a clever folded strip sashing technique and a small amount of hand stitching to join quilted blocks together.  This method works well for a group quilt where different people have each made the same size quilted block that needs to be sewn together to make a quilt.

2. Joining blocks by bringing the backing fabric to the front- no sashing, minimal hand sewing

A great technique put together in this joint blog post written by Marci of Marci Girl Designs and Leanne from She Can Quilt.

3. Quilt As You Go Quilt Along

A while back, Penny Layman of Sew Take A Hike hosted a log cabin style quilt-along; find links to parts 1-4 here..

4. Strip Pieced QAYG to make a quick quilt

This tutorial by Nova uses the same technique used in the cushion cover project to make the cushion backs.  It’s a brilliant way to make a quick quilt, especially if you use fabric pre-cuts like a Jelly Roll or Honey Bun or other pre-cut fabric strips.