In response to a recent post about the T-shirt quilts made by Linda, Cheryl commented that she would like more information on quilting T-shirt quilts. Here are my thoughts and tips:
I recommend quilting T-shirt quilts with a longarm quilting machine. The knit fabric, heavier and thicker than quilting cottons, is cumbersome to push under the needle of a home sewing machine. Even if the T-shirts have been stabilized with light weight fusible interfacing, they are still a bit wiggly, shifty, and give-y. Loading the quilt top on the longarm helps the quilt to remain “square” instead of being stretched out of shape during the quilting process.
I recommend a simple, freehand quilting design. Meandering, meandering with loops and/or stars, or wavy watery designs will soften the edges of the square blocks and integrate the knit shirts with the woven sashing/borders. The logos of less used shirts may be more difficult to quilt through due to the thicker “plastic” paint. I do like to quilt all over the logos, but sometimes this causes undesirable tension issues like loops on the back or thread breakage. If I anticipate a problem, I’ll meander in the background of the T-shirt block, dip into the edge of the logo, and slip back out to the background, repeatedly. By choosing a freehand design rather than a pantograph, I can adjust for problem areas like thickly painted logos.
I recommend thread that blends well with the shirts as well as the sashing and border fabrics. Consider a shade of gray; unspool several yards and lay it, in loops and arcs, across various colored areas in the quilt. A variegated thread may also work well. If your shirts are very light, and your sashing/borders are very dark, consider changing thread color for each area.
Can you think of other tips or questions about quilting T-shirt quilts?