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Quilting with knit fabrics

by Cathy

I'm quilting together squares of knit fabric for a relative. (These were pajamas of a loved one that has passed away).

Due to the stretch of the fabric, I decided to offset the 4 1/2 in. squares.

I've almost finished the rows and I'm concerned about the uneveness of putting on a border and/or binding.

Any suggestions on how to make the quilt more stable so the sides will be more even and not come out crooked, etc..?

And how would you recommend I finish. Border or binding and border?


Hi Cathy!

You've taken on quite the task...quilting with knit fabrics. And you're right, the stretch does need to be dealt with.

I have never quilted with knits, but I have sewn with them quite a bit in garment construction. My tips will be based on that experience.

First, if you have a serger, I'd be using the serger to put the rows together. If you use a 4-thread overlock stitch it will include an extra line of straight stitching in the seam which, in turn, adds more stability to it. The automatic overcasting of the seam allowance will help squish it down, making for a flatter quilt.

If you don't have a serger, I'd be using my walking foot to piece the blocks and rows together. It will help feed the fabrics evenly through your sewing machine.

Check your sewing machine's instruction manual. There may be some specific suggestions about reducing the presser foot pressure to help minimize stretching.

Using a fusible interfacing...

Since you're already in the middle of putting the blocks together, it's too late to stabilize each with a woven, fusible, tricot interfacing--I find mine at Joann's.

This interfacing is quite lightweight and doesn't change the hand of the fabric. I frequently use it, instead of traditional embroidery stabilizers, when stitching machine embroidered quilt I know that doesn't cause any problems during the quilting process.

If and when you do the fusing, remember to use a lower iron temperature and a press cloth to avoid making permanent 'press marks' in the knit fabrics.

Now you might consider cutting strips of this interfacting, say 1-1/2" to 2" wide, and then fusing those strips to the perimeter of your quilt to stabilize them. If the top is 'out of square', then before doing the a line of basting in those areas that need to be pulled in. Pull on the basting threads to ease in the fullness...distribute it as evenly as possible along the edge AND THEN fuse the strips to the side.

Before doing any of this, do practice on scraps FIRST to make sure you're comfortable with the technique and like the results. Removing fusible interfacing would be next to impossible if you don't like it.

Finishing the quilt

I'd definitely use a binding made from regular quilt fabric. That will help to stabilize the edge of the finished quilt so that it doesn't get stretched during use.

Whether or not to include a border...a lot of that depends whether the quilt is big enough without it. If I chose to add a border, it too, would be made from regular quilting fabric for the stability it would add.

Once the quilt is quilted, if the edges are again starting to ripple or wave a bit, go back in with some hand basting. That way you can distribute the extra fabric evenly across a whole side. Then add your binding with a walking foot.

Cathy, I hope these ideas help a bit. Your relative is very lucky to have someone as generous as you to create this unique memento. Good luck to you!

Readers, if you've had experience quilting with knit fabrics, do share how you've tamed the stretch. Thank you.


Julie Baird

Comments for Quilting with knit fabrics

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Fleece Quilting
by: Anonymous

A friend asked me to put together a fleece with a bubbly knit. Should I try to quilt them before binding them? Or should I just sew them together and them without adding quilting?

From the Editor: Non-sewing/quilting friends ask us to do all kinds of stuff because we make everything look easy.

Quilting the layers together isn't going to be fun because of the stretch.

Perhaps you could use your sewing machine to 'tie' the quilt instead. Maybe there's a little zig-zag heart or little motif in the specialty stitches on your machine that you could use to tack the layers together, say every 6" or so. The fabrics would wear better in the laundry that way.

You're a VERY good friend for doing this. You can tell her I said so.


Julie Baird

Quilting with knits.
by: Anonymous

My recommendation is DON'T. I'm working on a couple now and will NEVER, EVER do it again.

Stretchy Quilt
by: Lorellyn

I have a 2nd hand quilt made of stretchy fabrics, brocades, etc; all of which are considered to be unsuited for quilting. I'm guessing the piece was made in China.

Since I have lots of similar fabrics in my stash (stretch velour etc.) I'm interested in duplicating whatever techniques used to make this quilt. None of the pieces seem to use interfacing of any kind. The quilting itself is done in straight lines and seems to be done by machine with a very loose (about 3/4") running stitch that LOOKS like hand quilting.

Has anyone had experience with this quilting style?

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