Tee: The Knit Quilt Primer and why I love making quilts with knits.

With my first knit collection, Blake, coming out, there was never a plan to make a knit quilt, because why would you? It sounds like a terrible idea, right? Knit stretches, it’s a garment fabric, etc etc, and if you’ve ever made a t-shirt quilt–at least in the popular way which uses interfacing–you know that it’s not the most fun experience. But after working with the knits, I couldn’t get the idea of a knit quilt out of my head. I decided that making a knit quilt wasn’t a bad idea, but instead a very good one, and therefore a new pattern outlining the process was worth pursuing. My Tee quilt pattern is for doing just that–sewing up a knit quilt.

Tee quilt pattern . Carolyn Friedlander

But first, I’ll bet that you have some questions.

Blake Knit Cotton Jersey . Carolyn Friedlander

First, why make a knit quilt?

  1. They’re soft. So damn soft. We love wearing knit for a reason–it feels great–so why not apply that softness to a quilt?
  2. Knit scraps happen. If you’re both a garment sewer and a quilter, I’m sure you’ve felt challenged by the what-to-do-with-those-knit-scraps situation. The desire to make use of our leftovers is real.
  3. T-Shirt quilts, there must be a better way! The interfaced approach to t-shirt quilting isn’t my idea of a fun time, but no judgment if you’re into it! A goal of that method aims to make knits behave more like wovens…which I get, but what’s the point when knits are so wonderful (see point #1) as they are. Plus, the interfacing makes everything super heavy and not-fun to work with, while also requiring an extra step and supply to incorporate it. Neh.
  4. I love a good crossover. To say that I’ve learned a lot about quilting from making garments and vice versa is an understatement. Having a project that acts as a stepping stone for quilters wanting to move into making garments (and garment sewers wanting to make quilts) is a worthwhile opportunity–one that I’m all too eager to support.

If that is all true, then what’s the hold up on knits?

Fear. There’s definitely some fear around knits. (Hence my desire to create a knit resource page for my site.) To be honest, I’m not sure why, and I wonder if there’s some history with woven manufacturers planting seeds of doubt and fear around knits…that’d be pretty juicy, wouldn’t it? (JK on knit conspiracy theories!) But to be serious, there are many qualities with knits that make them different than wovens, and I’ll bet that’s where much of this fear originates.

Let’s start with stretch. It’s probably why most people are scared of sewing with knits, but you shouldn’t be. The stretch is totally manageable and…forgiving. Yes, unlike woven fabrics, knits will bounce back, and knowing this means you can anticipate it and start using it to your advantage. Knit win.

The other fear that I get asked often has to do with raveling. I’m not sure why this is often a concern, because in general knits don’t ravel. The use of a serger or overlock machine is less to prevent raveling and more for providing a seam that will allow for stretch, because in most cases knits are being used in situations requiring that, i.e. a t-shirt or anything that you’re going to want to be moving around in. For this reason, it’s a) not necessary to use a serger for making a knit quilt (although I personally find it super fun to sit behind a serger), and b) not a concern that your seams will do any raveling. In fact, they’ll probably look cleaner than your seams with woven projects! Knit win.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s get back to the quilts and my new pattern, Tee.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

There are 3 versions in this pattern, each building on skills and complexity, and all written for use with either a conventional sewing machine or a serger.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

Version A features squares. There’s a lot you can do with knits that you can’t do with wovens, and this first version explores some of those things which are highlighted and explored in the pattern. Plus, it’s never a bad idea to start with something basic to get a feel for it.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

There are 3 size options for this version, and this one is the baby size. Have I mentioned how soft knit quilts are? They are.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

You’ll notice that I rounded the corners, which is outlined in the pattern. I liked the round reference back to a t-shirt, and also how it adds another layer of shape play and interest.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

I used knits from blake entirely for the top, some friedlander lawn for the binding and friedlander (quilting cotton) for the backing.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version A . Carolyn Friedlander

Version B adds in a curve, well 3 of them to be precise.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

This version touches on that crossover project idea in that it can help develop the skills to help you cross over.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

For quilters, learning to conquer sewing an inset circle like this can be a helpful step in conquering inset sleeves. For garment sewers, this works in reverse–your familiarity with sewing in a sleeve will make sewing in this curve feel like you’re still doing the same thing, but in this case you’re working toward a flat result instead of the 3-d sleeve cap. Adding a new twist to something that you’re already familiar with is a perfect way to expand your skills.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

And bonus, because knit stretches, these inset curves are some of the easiest ways to take them on if you’ve never done one before. A great experiment is to try it out using knit and then try it out with a woven.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

This version also has 3 size options included, and this is the largest, which is a throw.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

Blake is used entirely for the top, and friedlander lawn is used for both the binding and the backing. This is the softest version ever.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version B . Carolyn Friedlander

Version C combines both ideas–rectilinear shapes and curves, giving you lots of options for mixing it up. This is super helpful if a) you like a mix, and especially if b) you’re making a t-shirt quilt…which is a big (not-too-secret) agenda of this pattern also. I have big plans for t-shirt quilts using this pattern in my future…

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

There are 3 size options to this version as well, and this is the smallest, a wall hanging.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

This top fabrics are all blake, and the binding and backing are both quilting cottons.

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee Quilt in Blake Knit . Version C . Carolyn Friedlander

In case you’re wondering, because I know that you probably are, and I was…knit quilts are long-armmable. I’ve done some testing with this idea, including a few mins experimenting on my friend’s longarm.

Blake knit quilting on a longarm . Carolyn Friedlander

Despite my amateur longarm skills, this was fun and problem free! It’s also still pretty soft, which I was curious about.

Blake knit quilting on a longarm . Carolyn Friedlander

Yay for knit quilts! This was an incredible amount of fun, and I’m eager to see what you make. As I mentioned, I have plans for a t-shirt quilt for myself next, and I’m also teaching a t-shirt/knit quilt class at QuiltCon in 2018. I’m beyond stoked for this class and will be challenging my students to bring in some fun stuff to work with. We’ll not only cover the technical specifics of knit-quilt sewing, but we’ll also get in to the design aspect of working with different sized pieces and motifs. It’ll be fun.

Tee Quilts in Blake Knit . Carolyn Friedlander

Tee is a booklet-style pattern that is popping up in physical form in stores (like Hawthorne Threads, Jones & Vandermeer, i love fabric), or you can find the digital version in my shop here.

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7 Responses to Tee: The Knit Quilt Primer and why I love making quilts with knits.

  1. erin June 11, 2017 at 9:55 am #

    I am so intrigued by this pattern! The idea of making a quilt with knits is a little mind-blowing. I am going to have to give it a try.

    • carolyn friedlander June 13, 2017 at 2:26 pm #

      Thanks so much, Erin! Enjoy!

  2. Lisa Hunerlach August 2, 2017 at 4:28 pm #

    Hi carolyn I just bought the booklet from i love fabric. I’ve just begun playing with tshirt quilting. Will you be hosting an event at Quiltcon 2018? What day? Thanks,
    Lisa

    • carolyn friedlander August 3, 2017 at 9:15 am #

      Hi Lisa! Great, I’m so pleased to hear that you’re interested in t-shirt quilting–it’s a lot of fun. As for QuiltCon 2018, I am teaching a Tee class on Friday. You can check with the Modern Quilt Guild about the details on that. Thanks!

  3. Marion August 20, 2017 at 3:43 am #

    Hi Carolyn, what an interesting idea ! Just one question …are you using any filling like batting inbetween the layers ? Thaks

    • carolyn friedlander September 1, 2017 at 11:28 am #

      Hi Marion! Sure thing. I am using wool batting, which makes it super soft. 🙂

  4. Mary September 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm #

    Hi Carolyn! If quilting on a regular machine, not a long-arm, do you have any tips? I have a cotton backing to a knit quilt top. I am nervous to try!

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