Addressing the Non-Stabilized, Double-sided T-shirt Quilt

Double-sided t-shirt quilts give many of us pause. Heck, single-sided t-shirt quilts give many great quilters pause!

Then add to it, my technique of NOT stabilizing and we're talking a high probability for developing an ulcer. 

I recently received a commission for just such a beast and naturally I said yes, but not without a few anxieties which conveniently woke me up at 3 am. Here's my worry list:

1. Jerseys on double-sided quilts could fold over during quilting.

2. How can I preserve as many graphics as possible in the quilt (I'm not a fan of over running graphics on a quilt with quilting)?

3. How to ensure that my sides line up correctly? How about my top and back?

4. What to do with those extra-bulky seams?

5.How to get the front and the back the same size even though the shirts on the back need to be cut bigger? 

Over the next few blogs, I'm going to discuss my solutions for this quilt. I came up with some solutions that you should be able to implement. These solutions are general best practice for any non-stabilized t-shirt quilt. I want you to use my knowledge and share with me your successes and challenges!

So let's tackle the first challenge. 

Jerseys on double-sided quilts could fold over during quilting.

This is a problem no matter if the quilt is single-sided or double-sided. Here are some practices that have worked wonders for me. 

Don't sew over graphics. Seriously, the print sometimes drags on your foot, especially when the print is thicker and an iron-on. This means you'll increase your risk for snagging the fabric or even having to rip stitches. Either way the return on investment isn't worth it. It also can erode the print and cause peeling, which I don't want clients to have to worry with.

While long arming, loosen that quilt top! Drum tight quilts cause drum-tight problems (like skipped stitches and fabric drag). I loosen the quilt  to the point of being able to see it laying over my machine bed. I use the way it feels as a guide, which you'll have to learn through trial and error (I'm so sorry about this, I wish I could come and show you exactly what I mean!) Perfect tension for my machine means I'm able to easily feel the bed of the machine and see a slight indent of the quilt lying over the bed.

When quilting, go slow and use your hands to smooth the way. Seriously, this isn't a race. We want the best product possible. Patience is key. Using your hand allows you to identify and smooth out problem areas before you get to them. It allow you to really look at the shirts and determine where you have too much fullness and where you need to adjust. Again some of this approach requires some trial and error. 

Avoid seams by sewing around them--especially intersections. Those places where the seam is bulky can be a real pain. I pull my long arm across the quilt and "find" the problem areas before I take my first quilting pass. What does this look like? I simply move my machine around spots that I can immediately identify as potential problems. Then I know what areas to avoid when I'm free motion quilting a new quilt. 

Use free motion. It takes more time, but there's nothing worse than picking out that sweet pantograph that hung up on a seam. For this reason, I almost exclusively use a freemotion design on all of my quilts. I will be tackling a pantograph on one I'm working on now and I admit to having some misgivings (I'll be sewing over graphics, after all!)

When I pulled this quilt off, I was so relieved to find that NONE of my jerseys folded over on the back. I knew what was happening on the front, but I was taking a leap of faith on the back.

 Photo of a t-shirt quilt.

Please leave your thoughts, concerns, challenges and solutions below. We want to crowd-source knowledge on this blog. What you learn could be a valuable lesson for another quilter, so share away!

Next week, we'll talk about preserving those graphics!

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