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T-Shirt Quilts: Pantos That Work Great! + Best Quilting tips for T-Shirt Success.

Upstairs in my walk-in attic I have a box of T-shirts meant for a quilt or two.  I thought how fun it would be to have a t-shirt quilt for the grandkids to use when they visit.  They’d be sleeping under all the memories of their Mom or Dad.  In particular I have a number of Hawaiian T-shirts and Hawaiian shirts and/or muumuus that he children wore when we lived in Hawaii.   Here’s my plan for those great memory pieces. I’m showing it “virtually” stitched with my “Hawaiian Hibiscus” pantograph.  (I’m including the titles of the Pantographs on the pictures simply for reference.)

Not sure about piecing circles?  I’ve posted a tutorial for adding them.  Don’t worry, it’s not hard!  Making Circular Insets for T-shirt Quilts.     

Another box is filled with old cub scouts t-shirts.  They’d be great and I plan to include some of the neckerchiefs and patches in the piecing (see my mock-up example).  I’m showing how I would stitch it with my 8-inch double “Jitterbug 15 interlocking “ panto.  (You could also use the -one row at a time- “Jitterbug 11 interlocking” panto.)  Doesn’t it look great!  It reminds me of boys at that age, JITTERY!


There are many  standard blocks which sport a square in the middle, so get out your pile of magazines and find a block, or do like I did and open up Quilt-Pro and find a block you like that’s not too time consuming.  Here’s a simple star stitched with one of my favorties, “Maori Moko”.  It’s a 15″ pattern so if you want a smaller one that’s similar choose the 9-inch “Maori Moko Border” and use it as an E2E.  Knit is stretchy anyway, so there’s no problem placing some of the pieces on the diagonal.  Another option would be to include the star points only on the outer corners and fill the center with rows of T-shirts.  However, I like the tilted squares because it adds so much interest!

.   Here’s another idea for a little girls t-shirt quilt.  One is straight placement with colorful sashing on which I over-layed our “Oh so popular”  Flowerburst pattern.  It comes in 2 sizes. “Flowerburst 15” and “Flowerburst 10”  Another is a version of a star block using Drunkard’s Path inserts to give a flower effect. You can actually place your t-shirts in some or all of the squares available.  I over-layed that one with “Dolly’s Tea Party.”

 “Zebra Stripes”   seems perfect stitched over this flaming black quilt.

Just in case you’re making a T-shirt quilt for a guy who’s into cars, like Joe.   FREE -I’m giving you my new “Tire Treads” borders PDF for a limited time.  I didn’t quite finish the “Hub Caps” block but hope to get it done this week.  Oh, gosh! That attic is so full!  “Car Classics”  and Tire Treads are both on this image.  See Sportscars at the end of the blog.

 This is a “Real” quilt.  Finally!  Connie Zwego quilted it in red with the “Snakeskin” Panto.

 Here’s a great T-shirt quilt with Car Classics stitched on it, by Deb Rolek.  I saw her a few weeks ago at the Quilters Musical.

  Or simplify with straight sashing, but make it lively!  “Sports Nut” looks great over all these team shirts!

Okay now, I’ve shown a variety of examples to get you going.  But I do have some real meat to this Blog.  Here are some super “Tips” I’ve gleaned and used over the years to help you along your way.  

Copy and print this section for your files.           Also, see below a list of patterns well suited to T-shirt quilts.   25 are on SALE THIS MONTH.

Tips for quilting on T-shirts.

  • · You will likely use a woven fabric for sashings and borders to hold the quilt straight and square.
  • · So….Stabilize the panels of T-shirt fabric with an interfacing made “especially for knits.”  You don’t want their stretchy fabric flapping in the breeze. Try Fusi-knit or So Sheer Fusible Knit. (Lightweight non-stretch interfacing sometimes separates leaving the panels loose.) 
  • · Test your t-shirts, if they stretch most from side to side place the interfacing with the stretch running opposite.
  • · Use a Ball-point needle. But, be careful! Don’t make the needle too thick—you  don’t want to leave holes and break the delicate threads in the knit fabric.
  • · On the other hand if you’ve got a lot of “iron-on” stabilizer the shirts can be stiff or gummy and need some strength to get through.  Try out your needle on a scrappy edge.
  • · If gummi-ness is a problem, stop frequently and wipe off your needle with alcohol first then a piece of scrap batting moistened with “Sewer’s Aid.” 
  • · A slippery thread like “Glide” can be helpful.
  • · Lengthen your stitches for fewer punctures per inch.
  • · Be a “short stop” or better yet a “non-stop.” At corners of a design we inadvertently allow the machine to stop for a nano-second.  These multiple stitches in one place can cause a hole to develop in the knit of a T-shirt.
  • · You’ll want a panto that is not too “tight.”  Give those shirts some room to breathe!
  • · For a professional look baste around the panels to keep them straight while quilting over them.  You don’t want those soccer shirts developing “scalloped” edges.
  • · Don’t settle for being “square.” Find ways to jazz things up a bit with some additional patchwork between them.  I’ve shown some ideas.
  • ·The backing matters too. Wash prior to using and don’t choose fabric with an overly tight weave that will slow down the needle.·
  • Here’s a tip from  “Nancy Calhoun”  Sometimes the logos on shirts can restrict movement over the area.   Sprinkle a little cornstarch lightly over the logos, hopping foot will glide right over. Vacuum it off after you finish a row. Voila!
  • · From JanetLee Santusanio: Today’s Inside Tip – When quilting fabrics or T-Shirt quilts that also include iron-on fusible, be mindful that the needle heats up as you stitch which melts the fusible. This will result in thread breaks and skipped stitches. Here’s some helpful tips:
  •  SLOW DOWN on your stitching speed. It takes the needle longer to go through the fabric and fusible. By slowing down, you will give the needle more time to make a proper stitch.   
  • Keep some rubbing alcohol and Q-Tips nearby to clean and cool the needle. Depending on what fusible product was used, you may have to do this several times during the stitching process.
  • Come join the MQX adventure!
    Janet-Lee & Mary
    MQX Founders

 ©2019 Judy Lyon

Enjoy!  And get that T-shirt quilt done!

Patterns that work great with T-shirt Quilts.  “25” are on SALE this month marked with an arrow.◄ The newest, “Tire Treads,” is FREE this month!

The others are also good for T-shirts, but I can’t put everything on sale!  I’ve actually chosen some because they are loose and easy (as I advised!), but I included some others – a bit more dense –  because the subject matter seemed useful for T-shirt collections.  (For example, Campout is perfect for Scouting. But it has some pine needles.  I would by pass them.)

“◄” Indicates on sale in May 2019




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