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Free motion quilting a t-shirt quilt

by Sierra

Sierra writes...

I've sewn together a t-shirt quilt that is completely knit fabric on the front, except for the border. There is no sashing between the blocks to stabilize them. I used 911FF Pellon fusible interfacing to stabilize the shirts before I had sewn them together and so far the quilt has been working out without too many issues.

We recently purchased a mid-arm quilting machine and I have already finished a few cotton quilts using the free motion style.

However, the quilt blocks have been puckering while I've been quilting them and I can't stretch them out anymore because I want to keep the quilt fairly even. The borders aren't really allowing them to stretch out either. I'm not sure what the issue is or how to remedy it but there are not many articles online and being new to quilting on a frame I've tried everything I can think of.

Any ideas??

Julie replies...

While I have no experience quilting on a frame, when I read 'puckering' my chief suspect is usually the tension. If you've already worked on some all cotton (woven not knit) quilts and your tension has been fine, it's time to test.

Make up a small sample with some scraps of the interfaced t-shirt material and play with the tension. Yes, I would go as far as to seam it together to replicate your situation as closely as possible. Then play with the tension until your are satisfied with it.

Furthermore, when you return to your actual quilt, I suggest ditch quilting between the blocks. Ditch quilting is not something that most long-armers like to do...I believe that's because they are so much further away from the seam than if you're working at a domestic sewing machine.

If you are not confident in your mid-arm ditch quilting skills right now, then perhaps stitching 1/4" away from all the seam lines—starting at the top border, going all the way to the bottom one crossing the seams. Then left to right from border to border, again crossing seams.

Either option would help contain the 'spread' within each block instead of pushing it across the quilt.

Quilters, please share your experiences using the 'comments' link below. Your input is greatly appreciated! Thank you.


Julie Baird

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Stabilizing t-shirt quilts
by: Darla

Here are a couple ideas.
Use spray adhesive on the layers (there are youtube videos on how to do this) and then safety pin them every 6-8" I then stitch in the ditch all the blocks starting from the center and working my way out. I use a monofilament thread in the top and a thread matching the backing in the bobbin. Use a net on the thread spool to keep your thread where you want it.

I typically don't use interfacing on my blocks unless the fabric is super unstable. I use a cotton fabric for the borders and the interior of the quilt is a mixture of knits (t-shirts) and name/quote blocks that I put in to fluff it out.
I typically use a plush blanket for the backing and just go slow. I use warm and natural cotton batting. When the quilts are done I wash them on delicate cold with a couple color catchers. I include a couple for the first couple washes for my clients with instructions on how to use and wash the quilt. I dry them on regular cycle until they are just about dry. I lay them out to let them finish air drying.

With warm n natural it gives them a slightly comfy cozy feel to the quilts. Hope this helps

T-shirt quilt pattern
by: Lynn

I am an experienced sewer, but quilts cause me to pause.

A friend wants me to show her patterns and help her to sew a T-shirt Quilt. I have seen patterns of the dividers or sash in between areas, but not the unsashed.

Do you have a pattern I can use? I know to use a bonding material with the stretch materials.

Thanks so much!


From the Editor: Hi Lynn!

I wish I could recommend a pattern, but I've always done these myself without one.

I would suggest, however, that you consider using a sashing or spacers between the T-shirt blocks.

The reasoning>

The T-shirt fabric is thicker, and sometimes stiffer depending on how the shirt was printed. Those seam allowances can get more bulky than I care for. The sashing cuts the bulk by almost half.

I wish I could have been of more help.


Julie Baird

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