How to Stabilize Knit Fabric – T-shirt Quilt Series Week 3

**Check out this post for the series overview and printable checklist!**

Time to stabilize, finalize your layout, and trim down those blocks! This part is a bit tedious, so throw on some good music or your favorite podcast while chugging away.

How to Stabilize Your Shirts

If you haven’t decided how/if to stabilize your shirts, read this post on how to choose the best method for your quilt.  After you’ve chosen a stabilizing method, find its tutorial and short video below.

None.  No video needed.  Just trim your shirts down to the size you want and get to work! I highly recommend using a walking foot on your sewing machine for this method.

Tissue paper.  Try this on fabric scraps first before committing!  Use the cut off sleeves of your t-shirts for practice.

  1. I recommend putting a walking foot on your sewing machine.
  2. Grab a piece of tissue paper.  It doesn’t have to be new, just make sure the color is light enough that you’ll be able to see the edge of your fabric through it.
  3. Place the piece of tissue paper under your knit fabric (flush with your seam), between the fabric and the feed dogs.  OR sandwich your knit fabric between two pieces of tissue paper.
  4. Sew your seam as normal.
  5. Rip the tissue paper out of the threads when you’re done.

Starch.  Try this on fabric scraps first before committing!  Use the cut off sleeves of your t-shirts for practice.

  1. Choose a heavy-duty starch.
  2. Starch each shirt piece two or three times, letting the starch fully dry between applications.
  3. Attach a walking foot to your sewing machine before sewing seams together.

Sew-in interfacing.  This is an inexpensive method, but time consuming.  Try it out with scraps before committing!

  1. Attach a walking foot to your sewing machine.
  2. Trim each shirt piece and interfacing piece with an extra ½” or more margin.
  3. If you are using quilting cotton as your sew-in interfacing, make sure you choose a color/pattern that will not show through your shirts.
  4. Place your t-shirt piece right side up on top of your interfacing.  Pin in place or use a spray adhesive to hold the pieces together for sewing.
  5. Sew the t-shirt design and interfacing together.  You can sew an “X” from corner to corner, a grid, or an all over free-motion design. If you’re hesitant about the thread showing, you can use invisible thread!
  6. Trim the sewn piece down to the desired size for your quilt block.

Fusible interfacing.  Fusible interfacing comes in different weights and has a bumpy side, which is actually little dots of glue.  See this post for more info on interfacing types.

  1. Trim each shirt piece with an extra ½” or more margin. 
  2. Trim each interfacing piece just a tiny bit smaller than the t-shirt square (this will save you from accidentally fusing to your ironing board). 
  3. Lay your t-shirt piece right side (design side) down on your ironing board. 
  4. Lay your interfacing bumpy/glue side down on top of it.  Add a damp cloth to help the glue set better and to save your iron from getting glue gunk on it. 
  5. Make sure everything’s lined up then iron away!  (Follow your specific interfacing’s manufacturer’s instructions for this, of course.) 
  6. Trim your shirt piece down to its desired size once the fabric has cooled.

Layout and Trim Your Blocks

Once you have your t-shirt quilt blocks stabilized, place them in your chosen layout to double check sizing and fit. Make any needed adjustments. You will need to trim down your blocks at this point if you cut them a bit oversized for interfacing like I do.

Use your rotary cutter and mat to make sure you designs are centered before trimming. If your blocks are all the same size, you can even make a cutting template out of a cereal or cardboard box, manila folder, cardstock, or any other firm paper to make this go more quickly! Just cut the cardboard down to your desired block size and trim around it. For easy centering with your cardboard template, cut a hole in the direct center of the cardboard so you can see design placement. My 5” self made template is shown below. It makes cutting a lot faster!

**Here’s a quick tutorial on making your own template for more in-depth instructions.**

The cardboard template trick works, too, if you don’t have a rotary cutter. You can trace around the cardboard with a marker or pen and then use scissors to cut along the straight lines you drew.

Don’t forget, you can check in with me in the comments here (or on Facebook or Instagram) if you have any questions. Happy sewing!

Next Post >> Week 4 – Quilt Top Assembly Part 1

Together we can find more ways to reclaim fabric
and breathe meaning, joy, and life into our sewing.

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