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Thread: t-shirt quilts without the stabilizer... can it be done?

  1. #1
    Super Member wildyard's Avatar
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    I have just been asked by a local radio "personality" who has had the same show for 38 years to make a quilt for him from his collection of themed t-shirts. This is a great honor to me as I am a great fan of all he has done and represents.
    Here is my problem and question:
    Every t-shirt quilt I have ever felt, has not been soft and cuddley because of the feel of the iron on stabilizer. I, and he, really want this quilt to be very soft. I will use flannel or fleece for the backing. If I use fleece, then I will use a layer of sheet between since the fleece and knit are both so stretchy. So, here is my question:
    Any suggestions out there about how to best accomplish my goal without using the iron on stabilizer that will stiffen the t-shirt knit?
    Could I starch it enough for sewing, then wash the starch out? Could I pin it a lot and stitch each square to a backing of sheet fabric? Could I do it like a rag quilt with the t-shirt for the front and fleece for the back?
    As you see, I'm full of ideas with no idea which way to go. I will make sample squares trying all these methods if necessary, just hoping some of you can save me some steps.
    Hugs and smiles and thanks!!!

  2. #2
    Super Member mom-6's Avatar
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    Just off the top of my head, I'd say go with the rag quilt idea.
    Another thought just surfaced, what about the puffy quilts that I've seen where the top layer puffs up from the base? Not sure exactly how those are done, but they look really soft and fluffy, and they don't seem to require the same sort of dimensional stability as a regular quilt.

  3. #3
    Super Member pab58's Avatar
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    I would think they would still stretch too much. I was thinking -- I'm sure I'll seem like a nut -- that you could use the spray basting on muslin. Of course, I know absolutely nothing about spray basting so I could be absolutely off my rocker here. :roll: I know it's used on batting, but can it also be used on fabric (i.e. muslin)? :?

  4. #4
    Super Member wanderingcreek's Avatar
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    I think that using t shirts in a puffy biscuit quilt wouldn't work because they are too stretchy and I don't think the puffs would hold their shape and would be all wonky. I have only made one of those so it only an opinion but I would think there has to be a way to keep the quilt soft but I don't know what that would be. I am sure someone here will have the answer for you.

  5. #5
    Super Member hperttula123's Avatar
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    I think you should play around a little bit with some junky shirts before you try doing the real one. Someone asked me if I could make one and tried with out stabilizer and it stretches alot so I had tucks where I sewed.

  6. #6
    Super Member charismah's Avatar
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    I'm not sure? I wonder if you could use the tear away stabilzer or wash away stabilizer (although washable would be pretty spendy for t-shirts)..then when you have the top assembled you could just ter away or wash away the stabilizer.

  7. #7
    Senior Member barking-rabbit's Avatar
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    I thought about doing shirt blocks together then stitch them together as a comforter cover.

  8. #8
    Super Member Flying_V_Goddess's Avatar
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    Starch?

    Usually a fusible interfacing is used because otherwise the shirt would stretch during the sewing and quilting. But you might be able to starch or use some sort of washable interfacing to stiffen the shirts to keep them from stretching until the quilt is done. I'd test this theory on some junk shirts first and see how that works.

  9. #9
    Member quiltingshe's Avatar
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    I have made quilts with t-shirt type knit without the stabilzer. If you use a sheet in the middle, then pin or spray baste the top to the sheet and backing you should be able to quilt it if you are careful. I think the backing fleece is more likely to stretch out of shape than the t-shirt material. I would cut the t-shirt pieces as small as I could without disturbing the design on the shirt. Try it first on similar material and size.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Feather3's Avatar
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    Floriani has a "No show nylon mesh fusible" stabilizer designs for knits. It comes in iron on & it supposed to stay soft & flexible. Info on this product:

    http://www.rnkdistributing.com/pid-6...-Fusible_.html

    I don't have a site where to buy it tho. You'll need to do a google search.

  11. #11
    Super Member wildyard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feather3
    Floriani has a "No show nylon mesh fusible" stabilizer designs for knits. It comes in iron on & it supposed to stay soft & flexible. Info on this product:

    http://www.rnkdistributing.com/pid-6...-Fusible_.html

    I don't have a site where to buy it tho. You'll need to do a google search.
    Thanks for this information, I'll see what I can find on it.

  12. #12
    Community Manager PatriceJ's Avatar
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    i'm in the process of making a t-shirt quilt. i'm not using any stabilizer at all. i've simply spray basted the t-shirts to the batting. each block is backed with scrap muslin. since i'm stippling around the motifs, the shirts remain flat.

    i'm making it up as i go along, so i have no idea yet what the final layout will be. it'll be a quilt-as-i-go. these are a few of the "blocks" so far.

    once the top is cobbled together, i'm going to flip it over and use turkey tracks to fasten the pieced back. the stitches will go through the muslin and batting, but not show on the front.
    Attached Images Attached Images


  13. #13
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    Let us know what you decided to do.

  14. #14
    Super Member jetnica's Avatar
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    joann's has super cheap stabilizer. I mean cheap. Like black Friday it was $1 a bolt.

    I bought it to use for purses, but it is WAY to thin and flimsy. Turns out it is PERFECT for tshirt quilts. It stabailizes the shirts just enought so they don't stretch, but its so thin the shirts are still soft.

    The last two tshirt quilts I made I used this cheapo stabilizer and they turned out great.

  15. #15
    Power Poster ckcowl's Avatar
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    the fusable stablizer is just an (assistant) to help control the stretch of the t-shirts, if you are going to use cotton in the center of the quilt, using it like a foundation for your t-shirt blocks would work just like the interfacing...it is your interfacing...just without the fusable added. you could (baste) your t-shirt blocks to your sheet, or you could (window) fusable. so it is just around the edges to hold it until stitching. some sort of interfacing is needed. it does not have to be a fusable one....you could do a type of quilt as you go and (quilt) each t=shirt block to the sheet then join the fleece/flannel back pillow=case style ...and just tack in places to hold everything to gether

  16. #16
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    my favorite stabilizer is a knit iron-on...it still allows the knits to drape well or "flow" so they're softer than the woven stabilizers when finished. The muslin being used by some posters is a stabilizer...just a sew-in one and if that gives you the feel you like, go for it. The sprays will probably wash out after the first laundry, so determine if that is a problem for use of the quilt.

    I suggest that you ask the customer how much the quilt will be used. If it's only to be hung and for show, you may not need a stabilizer at all - except maybe the spray style to keep it in place while you sew it. If it will be used a lot, I encourage you to use some kind of stabilizer because even after sewing the knit fabric can and will stretch when being used and will wear away faster that way.

  17. #17
    Super Member dakotamaid's Avatar
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    The lite weight at Joanns is called Tricot stabilizer and it is what I use on my t shirt quilts. It also stretches so I just put it on the t shirt block with the stretch going in the opposite direction. Works great and keeps the blocks soft. My LAer has had no problems quilting these.

  18. #18
    Super Member clem55's Avatar
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    Pellon did have a very thin fusible interfacing that I used years ago as a backing for appliques. It kept edges from raveling, cutting designs easier, etc., and didnt add any stiffness. I think , if still available, it would work great.

  19. #19
    Super Member featherweight's Avatar
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    Sorry, I would not attempt to make a t-shirt quilt without some Tricot stabilizer. The shirts are hard enough to work with with stabilizer let alone not using it. I think it is a lot more work to not use it.. JMHO

  20. #20
    Senior Member Shelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by featherweight
    Sorry, I would not attempt to make a t-shirt quilt without some Tricot stabilizer. The shirts are hard enough to work with with stabilizer let alone not using it. I think it is a lot more work to not use it.. JMHO
    Same here!! The stretch in the t-shirts need to be controlled or you will end up with pleats and tucks.

    I would also think twice about combining difficult fabrics in your top with a difficult fabric in the bottom. I'd seriously consider a really good quality flannel for the back, and go with a batting like wool. That combination will give you the 'cuddle' you seek without asking for trouble.

    I have used minkie and fleece for backs, but all of those quilts had tops that were not trouble-makers, like t-shirts can be.

  21. #21
    Super Member Pam S's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dakotamaid
    The lite weight at Joanns is called Tricot stabilizer and it is what I use on my t shirt quilts. It also stretches so I just put it on the t shirt block with the stretch going in the opposite direction. Works great and keeps the blocks soft. My LAer has had no problems quilting these.
    This is what I've used and it doesn't feel stiff to me but it really helps keep the shirts from stretching if you make sure you put the tricot's stretch perpendicular to the T-shirt's stretch.

  22. #22
    Super Member raptureready's Avatar
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    I would use a lightwieght fusible and fuse them to muslin squares. The problem with using nothing to stabilize them is that they are, for lack of a better word, unstable.
    The stretch in the fabric will cause the threads in the stitching to break then the quilt will fall apart. I think you're going to have to use some type of stabilizer.

  23. #23
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    My quilting friend and I use French Fuse we get from Hancock's. I think JoAnns has something like it. Makes for the softest quilt; we have made quite a few of these.

  24. #24
    Super Member wildyard's Avatar
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    I just knew you guys would be full of ideas and suggestions. Already see some ideas I like here!!

  25. #25
    Power Poster amma's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pab58
    I would think they would still stretch too much. I was thinking -- I'm sure I'll seem like a nut -- that you could use the spray basting on muslin. Of course, I know absolutely nothing about spray basting so I could be absolutely off my rocker here. :roll: I know it's used on batting, but can it also be used on fabric (i.e. muslin)? :?
    I like this idea! Maybe try some on some scraps and see what happens? :D:D:D

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