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Quilting the layers of a t-shirt quilt

by Renae
(Columbus, ohio)

I am making a t-shirt quilt for my niece and she asked that the front be made of the shirt fronts and the back of the shirt backs. But the seams don't line up for stitching in the ditch, what would you suggest for quilting?

I had thought of quilting just the front and the batting together, but am not sure if I will have problems with the batting getting caught up.


You are will be difficult, if not impossible, to line up the blocks on the front with the ones on the back and then be able to stitch in the ditch of both sides at the same time.

To answer your question, yes, you could quilt just the batting and the quilt top together...

...if you choose to do that, I strongly suggest you free motion quilt it.

The feed dogs are down for free motion stitching so you'd be less likely to snag the batting. Go at a slower speed, so that if you DO snag it, you won't do it for very long.

The problem with assembling the quilt this way is that you'll still need to add the backing.

And you'll still need to add enough quilting to it so that it will stand up to cuddling AND washing by your niece. You'll end up doing almost double the quilting...that's a lot of extra work and I'm not sure I see the benefit of it.

Alternative options... consider:

  1. Have your niece choose a quilt fabric for the backing that either has meaning for her...maybe a particular sports team or themed fabric...or one that she just plain loves.

    Either way, she now has additional ownership in the design...AND it is something that you can do without making yourself crazy. There won't be any seams to match. Finishing the quilt will be a straight forward process.

  2. Create a 'backing fabric' made from the t-shirt backs. Fuse a tricot knit interfacing to them to stabilize the fabric (like you did for the blocks on the front). Cut the t-shirt backs to size. Then stitch the blocks edge to edge--meaning no sashing--until you've made a piece of fabric that is large enough for the back.

    Be sure to save some of the scraps so that you can make a practice quilt sandwich to test your needle, stitch and thread combinations.

    Then layer and baste your quilt as you would normally.

    This way, you've still used the backs, but it won't matter where the stitching lands. And you will have kept all of your hair! :)

  3. Another option, if you have not assembled the blocks yet, would be to put them together using a 'Quilt As You Go' technique. In essence, each block becomes its own little quilt-let.

    I don't have instructions on the website yet for quilt as you go, but you can find them here.

    It's a great technique as long as you're comfortable with some hand stitching (you need to slip stitch the sashing down on the back)

Readers, how would you go about solving this dilemna? Would you try to match up the seam lines on the front and the back? Share your thoughts via the link below. Thank you!

You're niece is a lucky gal to have an Aunt like you! I hope you find this information helpful.


Julie Baird

Comments for Quilting the layers of a t-shirt quilt

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Quilting stitch
by: Anonymous

I am making a t-shirt quilt also, my blocks vary in size and some have photos on them. I decided just to do a free motion stipling all over. No pattern just sew as I go, like a road map

free motion all 3 layers
by: Anonymous

I would free motion all three layers together. Since it's stippled, the lines don't have to match up.

Another Idea
by: Anonymous

On the same principle as "quilt as you go", you could do the quilt as a "rag quilt"(if the blocks are not sewn together already). Rather than have the handwork, you would have the frayed edges or in this case the raw t-shirt material showing. One consideration would be that you still use a type of stablizer on the t-shirt fabric to keep it from wearing too badly.

Thank you for the help!!

Thank you everyone for the help!

Being me, a very impatient and can't sit still until I'm done kind of person, I jumped in with both feet and took a trial piece of T-shirt with interfacing and just batting and tried quilting them together. It actually worked! Lol

I didn't think about putting the feed dogs down, but it actually fed thru fairly easy without too many snags! =) these tips will definitely help with my next one!!

Tee Shirt Quilt
by: Elaine DeFoor

I am currently doing a tee shirt quilt for my granddaughter. She helped choose the fabrics and they are so beautiful. She asked if the quilt could be reversible and I thought why not??

The back is a simple large star using two of the fabrics then strips around it much like a large log cabin. It is then pieced all-around the large log cabin block with the fabric originally intended for the back.

It has been a challenge deciding how to quilt it. It was easy but time-consuming as some stitch-in-the-ditch of each line is on either side of the quilt depending on the ability of the opposite side to hide the stitches. I did a lot of hand-tied knots. I did only one horizontal and one vertical. I am sure this sounds confusing and I rewrote the above three times. But what I did seemed to work.

Then I did something I was told never to do - I stitched around the edges of the whole quilt (where the binding goes). I am now going to do all-over free motion quilting.

I agree with Julie. It is more fun to have different quilting designs in quilts based on the fabric etc. I don't decide how to quilt until I have the whole quilt basted and sandwiched. I spend a week or so studying it before beginning. Most times I change my mind as I go along. It is part of the creative process and the enjoyment.

Good luck and have fun with it.

Elaine DeFoor

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