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Stabilizing fabric for quilt

donnabeltz | Posted in General Discussion on

I have many old t-shirts and sweatshirts from several years ago with pictures, sayings, etc. that I really like.  I want to save these emblems and make them into a quilt.  Here’s the problem:  most of these are from t-shirts that are old, so the fabric is thin and VERY stretchy.  How can I stabilize them so that I can make the quilt?  I have sewn a couple of the smaller ones to muslin fabric with my machine.  Not bad, but it probably won’t work for the larger pieces.  I have purchased two different types of HeatnBond (one for lightweight fabrics, sewable; and ultrahold, for a “no-sew” bond).  I haven’t used them, because both require the use of heat.  I am afraid that the stuff on the t-shirts I want to save will be ruined by the heat.  Plus, I am afraid that the “no-sew” HeatnBond will not hold the edges of the pieces well enough to last very long.  Does anyone have any ideas?  My mother would like to make a quilt this way, too.  Thanks!


  1. marijke | | #1


    I think I read somewhere that you can stabilize old T-shirts for purposes of making a quilt by fusing a knit interfacing to the back.  This does require heat, though.  I would think that a knit interfacing or other knit backing might work better than muslin (i.e. back a knit with a knit).


  2. carolfresia | | #2

    I'm not really a quilter, but I wonder if you might be better off turning those emblems and such into appliques, rather than using the t-shirt fabric as the quilt fabric. Cut out the designs you like, with a margin around them, and stitch them to a fabric background; you could even use a fusible web or other product to adhere the patch to the backing before stitching. Then, when you quilt, you might want to echo-quilt around the patches or around the shapes of the pictures.


    1. AmyC | | #8

        I am helping my son's preschool class is making a t-shirt quilt.  Each child has brought in an old t-shirt.  I offered to do some of the prep work.  I've cut out the designs from each shirt and heat-fused interfacing on them.    One of the motifs became a bit tacky, but otherwise, the heat-fused interfacing has worked well.  I've not used much heat, though, because the interfacing is peeling off some of the cutouts.

      I'm now appliquing the cut-outs onto fabric blocks -- the kids and their shirts are all different sizes, so we couldn't just cut out blocks.  Most of them are just squares, but I cut some of the shirts into unusual patterns.  They look very nice as appliques.  If you do this, I recommend cutting the shirts into unusual shapes, or placing the squares attractively askew -- I centered the cutouts, and now regret it b/c they have to be placed very precisely or else it looks odd. 

      The pre-school teacher was supposed to patch the blocks together with the kids, but she thinks  the applique blocks look so nice that she doesn't want to do it -- she's afraid she'll "mess it up"!   

      1. SewTruTerry | | #10

        Also go to http://www.hgtv.com and click on list of shows and scroll down to Simply Quilts.  Alex had  a guest on (actually it was a repeat that I had seen several years ago) that did t-shirt quilts and had wonderful step by step instructions.  I believe the show was on February 4 ,2004 so should not be hard to find.

  3. SewTruTerry | | #3

    I saw directions for doing just what you want some years ago.  I believe Alex Anderson (?) from Simply Quilts was showing the process. The first thing that you need to decide is what size the finished blocks are going to be.  So you will have to determine the largest motif and either add additional fabric to the smaller ones or if possible sew several together to match the larger size. Also if I recall correctly she used fusible interfacing on the back of the section of the shirt after cutting very generously around the design.  Then used the fusible to stabilize the knits.  You or someone else in this post is right to be concerned with the possibility of the heat of the iron effecting the design on the front.  So I would use a stabilizer with the lowest heat needed to fuse on the back and lay the shirt piece over a teflon sheet and a pressing cloth over the fusible to make sure that the glue from the stabilizer doesn't migrate to your iron.  After fusing then cut the block to size and sew together.  As you sew the blocks together you will be sewing the stabilizer into the seam as well so less worry regarding it pulling away.  Then after putting the quilt "sandwich" together you can "stitch-in-the-ditch" around the motifs on the shirt or just tie it off and that will further aid in keeping the stabilizer in place.  Of course this is in no way an heirloom quilt but you will want to wash it occasionally and when it is time to dry just remember to use low heat and remove just before it is completely dry.  Good Luck.

    1. donnabeltz | | #4

      Thanks!  This certainly is not going to be an heirloom.  I'm more interested in preserving some memories.  I will probably use all of your suggestions, because the motifs are variable in appearance, size, and subject. 

      1. SewTruTerry | | #5

        Donna I just saw the show on Simply Quilts that talked about the t-shirt quilt. The guest was Linda Long and gave great advice on making the quilt.  http://hgtv.com/hgtv/cr_quilting_instructions/article/0,1789,HGTV_3302_1380498,00.html

        This link should get you right to the page but if not go to http://www.hgtv.com and click on the show list find Simply Quilts and the show is listed down below.  Good Luck

        1. donnabeltz | | #6

          Thank you! I always seem to do better with pictures.

          1. SewTruTerry | | #7

            Your welcome. So do I.

          2. Jean | | #9


            Here's an interesting site.

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