Creating a T-Shirt Quilt: Part 2

As promised in part 1, here is part 2 of making a t-shirt quilt.

So by now you have all of your prep work done and your tees are ready to be sewn together. As so often happens with stretchy material, it doesn’t matter how accurate you THOUGHT your cuts were, there are going to be a few that just don’t line up or want to stay at the same size you cut them. The starch helps a bunch but it can and will happen. So now what?

The first thing to do is decide if you want to sew your blocks together in rows or in columns. It doesn’t really matter what you choose, because the process of lining them up is the same. For this quilt, I decided to sew in columns.

sewn in columns 

Now when sewing, I tend to always use a 1/4″ piecing foot, even for the tees. This gives me better control over the seam allowances. Many will insist that a walking foot is the way to go, but when the tees are starched well, the walking foot does not make a difference in how well the pieces sew together. It’s actually more beneficial to have a smooth foot because the starch causes them to be a little slicker than regular knit fabrics that are not starched.

1/4″ piecing foot

walking foot

When sewing them together, I try to make sure that at least one side and the edge to be sewn are lined up and the same size. If there is a bit of a difference on the other side, that’s ok, because you will trim your columns (rows) before putting them together. Just make sure that you don’t end up with a difference of more than 1/8″, on one side, because this can really make is so the blocks are not centered. Your smallest block will generally rule the rest. You can usually take fabric off, but it’s much harder to add strips and put it back on, so be careful in your prep work and pre-cutting!

sections sewn in columns

Once you have the blocks sewn together in strips, it’s time for all the fun to begin. Press the seams on the first strip up or right, the second strip down or left, the third strip up or right, and so on. This will help you to “nest” your seams. Trim your strips so they are nice and even down both sides.

Iron in opposite directions for the nest seams

Now you’re going to line up those seams. The seams should look like puzzle pieces and fit together so that they lay flat, without a big bulky are where you have two seams on top of each other. T-shirt material can be kind of thick once it is all seamed together. Quilting over it later can actually break a needle!

Nested Seams

Use a pin to secure the seams. Here is where even with all of your careful cutting you’ll understand just how stubborn this type of material can be! Some of those seams won’t just fall in place and line up. Now we’re going to make “stretch” our friend. We’re going with the 1/8″ rule again, too. As long as your seams are only off by about 1/8″, you can stretch them to meet up. Usually the offset is caused by one tee being a little thicker and starched stiffer than another. Once you’ve pulled them together, pin them. Your seams should all “nest” nicely without any bulges along the side of the seam.

Small gap. No more than 1/8″. Make the stretch work for you!

As you sew and come to those seams, you can remove the pins and pull very gently on either the top or bottom section to nest the four corners. It will have little to no effect on the rest of the section and you can continue sewing. If your material starts to bunch up, form a roll or a tuck, or throws the other joins off, you have stretched too much! Keep it at or under an 1/8″ and this won’t happen.

Seams nested after a tiny pull 

Once all your sections are joined, iron down the new seams. You can iron these in any direction. I usually go with how the fabric is falling. When you sew across them or along them it won’t cause problems because your nested seams have decreased unnecessary bulk.

Nicely nested corners, all lined up neatly! 

Ok. You’ve finished your quilt top! You’re on your way to finishing the whole thing!

No wonky seams and everything lined up without bunches! 


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