Thursday, November 09, 2023

FMQ the T-shirt Quilt on Free Motion Mavericks

Welcome to week 455 of Free Motion Mavericks. November has brought us snow in Ottawa. It probably won't stay but it is pretty. I guess that it's time to put away the patio furniture! I hope that you're enjoying whatever fall is bringing you.😊 

FMQ the first three blocks

Here is a quick look at the blocks. Nothing fancy but fun to quilt!

The first block with snowflakes on the t-shirt

Second block quilted with the Ablaze design

Third block quilted with meandering loops, notes and musical symbols

I'll start at the beginning, after having made the flimsy. I had been procrastinating because the next part was sandwiching the quilt...and you know how I love that (heavy irony here, if you don't know me!) To get motivated, I did a search about FMQ (free motion quilting) a t-shirt quilt. This is what I found out: 
  • Since none of the t-shirts have heavy plastic logos, I would be able to stitch inside the t-shirts.
  • T-shirt quilts can be quilted as densely or as lightly as you want - it depends on preference and the batting.
  • T-shirt quilts tend to be very heavy and hot because of the weight of the t-shirts, batting and backing. I can attest to that - my nephew's quilt weighed a ton (but he's a big strapping man)!
  • The t-shirt quilt doesn't have to include batting. That was a mmm... moment. Since my niece is rather tall and slim with a small frame, did she really want a quilt that would be, for her, like a weighted blanket?
  • So I asked her. Did she want a hot and heavy quilt, or a light and cooler one? 
  • Cool and light it is! Yeah!!!! 
This meant that I didn't have to add batting to the quilt. Since the quilt was on the banister at the top of the stairs, I put the backing face down on the banister and then added the quilt. Sometimes I am brilliant 😎 It helped that I had lots of time to think about it while procrastinating.😁😂

This weekend I sandwiched the quilt over our dining room table. Without the batting, it was the quickest quilt sandwich that I've ever made. Yeah!


Choosing thread to quilt this queen size quilt is important. From experience, I know that my machine prefers light, synthetic thread over cotton or even polyester. I do have a few cones of Superior Threads' Bottom Line, so that's where I started.

Since my stash of Bottom Line cones is rather small, I looked for other thread that could work. I found 5 colours of Glide thread and 4 colours of Madeira thread. I guess that there's no need to go shopping!😌

Glide, Madeira and Superior Threads' Bottom line cones

I used the tan coloured Bottom Line thread to stitch-in-the-ditch. From the back, it's perfect...but not so great when I miss the ditch in the front! No worries, it won't show once everything is quilted. 😊

Texture at the back, but very little extra colour

Block one

I chose the lovely skiing t-shirt as my first one to FMQ because it was sort of in the middle of the quilt and I have a lovely blue cone of Bottom Line. Since I kept the tan coloured thread in the bottom, this was a great way to see if my tension was good enough to use different colours on the top and bobbin...and it was!

The skiing t-shirt with the light blue sashing

Since my favourite FMQ design is the meandering flower, I stitched this on the side sashing. At the top and bottom, I used another favourite, what I call the "l" and "j" design. Designs that use our writing motor muscles are often the easiest to do since we learned to write a long time ago! 😊

Inside the t-shirt, I added meandering snow flakes and a few lines for the skiing. I used the light blue thread - it almost looks white against the red background. What a fun first block!

A colourful snowy first block!

Block two

After the first block, I did a lot of research using my own FMQ books to find some appropriate designs. The Ablaze design is from Christina Cameli's Step-by-step Free-Motion Quilting. I was looking for something that would connotate speed - so why not a line of fire? I used the little extra row at the top right of the block to FMQ the Ablaze design for the first time.

First image of the Ablaze design

If you click on the first image to make it larger, you might notice what I did when I was cropping the images. I had forgotten to FMQ most of the space between the two crests. Oops!

Finishing up the Ablaze design

The first quilted block of crests

Block three

I decided to quilt the front and back of the Lukas Graham t-shirt next. From the Terrific T-shirt Quilts book, I had found a meandering loops and notes FMQ design. I added a few other musical symbols and quilted all of these in the navy sashing of both t-shirt pieces. In the inside of the t-shirts, I used a white thread to outline the name and then go around the t-shirt and the frames. For the front of the t-shirt I also stitched around the girl's t-shirt.  

The front of the t-shirt with stitching inside the t-shirt and sashing

The 2 parts of the Lucas Graham t-shirt and
the first crest block

What I learned
  • It's different doing FMQ without the batting in the quilt. It's not bad, just different. 
  • I could have done some easier quilting but what's the fun in that? It is good to know however that I can do minimal quilting in the t-shirts if I have to.
  • I didn't do much FMQ for the back of the Lucas Graham t-shirt. I don't really like how it lies. The next time that I'm using white thread, I'll add a few lines of stitching between the locations to help it lie flat.
  • My tension was perfect when the bobbin and top thread were both Bottom line. It was a little more finicky when the top thread was a dark Madeira. I haven't used the dark Glide thread but I'm sure that it won't be any fussier. 😊
  • I'm still having trouble when I FMQ from right to left for more than a few inches. It just seems to be something that my machine doesn't like! At least I was able to turn the quilt around and stitch from bottom to top instead. I just have to remember this.
  • Sometimes my studio is very hot, especially on a sunny afternoon - so I now wear my shorts to quilt. That really helps and I get to keep wearing shorts!
Related links
Linking parties
I'll be linking up to many fun linking parties. Why not check them out after linking up below? Monday Design Wall, Sew & Tell, Midweek Makers, Put your foot down, Finished (or Not) FridayCan I Get a Whoop Whoop?, Peacock Party, Patchwork & Quilts, Oh Scrap!, 15 Minutes to Stitch 2023

Free Motion Mavericks

Last week The Joyful Quilter linked up with her ABC (Table) SCRAPS Challenge for November. Look at those light neutral colours and curves! She also managed to include the "Q" and "T" in the mini. Can you spot them? It took me a while.😁

The Joyful Quilter's light neutral mini

It's now your turn.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


  1. Love all the hints about t-shirt quilts. Fun to see the different motifs you used. Is the backing a fleece/minky? or did you just not use batting due to its destination?

    1. Thanks Kathleen, the backing is just a cotton wide back. I did consider using flannel but the backing had already been ironed, so that's what I used. I mostly didn't used batting because it really would have been too heavy and hot for my niece to use. This way, if it is too cool for winter (which is rather short in Denmark), she can use it the rest of the year.

  2. Hilarious that you had some snow and you're wearing shorts in your room to quilt! I have made one t-shirt quilt and have no plans to ever make another! Yes they are heavy! Wrt quilting, yes, my longarm going from right to the left does not stitch as well as from left to right. I find I go slower when straight stitching, or it will skip stitches. With FMQ, it doesn't seem to matter, but ruler work I notice it.

    1. Thanks Sandra. My studio faces south and is quite small, so when it's cold outside, it's really hot in here. I'm also always hot, so having a quilt on my lap doesn't help! I tend to get hot and impatient, not a good combination for FMQ. That's so interesting about your machine. I did try slower and I feel that I may have tricked it a couple of times, but not that third time, whether I was FMQ or going straight. Oh well, we all have our idiosyncrasies (thanks Google correct for helping me spell that lol)!

  3. It seems to be an interesting journey, making a t-shirt quilt. You've made a great start with the quilting - I hope it continues to go well!

    1. Thanks so much Raewyn. I'm going to make a little sketch of the quilt and then tick off the t-shirts that I've done. I'm hoping that will keep me going. :-)

  4. You've gotten a good start on this project. Good luck with the rest.

    1. Thanks so much Kate, hopefully I'll be able to keep at it!

  5. I am loving our fall weather, several warm days, a couple cool, then it warms again. Nothing to complain about, such as snow, yet. Your blocks look great. Thank you again for linking up to Put your foot down.

    1. Thanks Denise. The snow is all gone and now it's more seasonal with rain and sun. I'm sure that it will be back eventually. Take care.

  6. Oh mais quelle bonne idée de vouloir un quilt léger, sans molleton ! Ton quilting est bien avancé. Amuses-toi bien !
    Merci pour le partage ;)

    1. Merci beaucoup Frédérique. Il avance assez bien. Bonne semaine.


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