Quilting Knit Fabric | Madam Sew

Quilting Knit Fabric

Hello all!

If knits intimidate you, you’re not alone. Knits are lovely to wear because they stretch and conform to the body without constraining, and when used in a quilt they are especially soft and cozy; but that same quality can make them difficult to manage under the sewing machine foot. Fear not, with a few well chosen tools and some preparation, you can successfully quilt with knits.


Before You Start

Your quilt should already be basted, preferably with quilt basting spray. Basting pins do not have ball points and will snag the knit fabric, so avoid them. You could baste by hand using a ball point hand sewing needle, but spray basting is what is going to give you the best chance, as every square inch of all three layers will be secure and smooth.

Before You Start

Change your needle to a ball point of a size appropriate for your fabric, and install your walking foot. If you need more information about the walking foot or don’t know how to install it you can refer to this blog post and this video.

Adjusting the Settings on Your Machine

If your machine has a “lightning bolt” stitch, do use that, consult your machine’s manual to pick the best width and length for your fabric.

Adjusting the Settings on Your Machine

If you don’t have a lightning bolt stitch, look up your manual to see if your machine features stretch stitches, chances are it does. Most modern machines have a triple straight stitch that is specific to knits. But even if it doesn’t, you can always use a narrow zig-zag. Set it to a very short width, as close to 0 as you can get, and a length around 2.5, depending on how thick your quilt sandwich is.


Either of these stitches will read as a straight line, but be aware that you won’t get crisp stitch definition.

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If the fabric is getting stretched, try lengthening the stitch a little bit. If your machine gives you the option to adjust the presser foot pressure, you can also try lessening it. Make sure to do some samples with a few different stitches to see which one your prefer. Machines differ from each other, so you may need to experiment a little bit. I find that my newer machine quilts perfectly with a narrow zigzag, but my older one still stretches the top a bit with the same stitch. So don’t avoid this step!

Planning and Marking

For a first knit quilt, I would avoid free motion quilting ;-), let’s stick to the basics and quilt some straight lines first, once you are comfortable with knits you can get more adventurous. I also avoid stitching in the ditch, as the seams on knit blocks tend to veer ever so slightly from the straight line, making it hard to stay in the ditch without stretching the fabric.

Planning and Marking


Your gel pens are ideal for marking knit fabric, since they roll over it without stretching. Use your quilting ruler to mark where you want your quilted lines.


For this piece I decided on simple squares within each square block.


If you have done all your prep and have the right tools, this step should not be much different from quilting a woven top. Make sure your needle is centered and align the center mark on your open toe foot with the markings on your fabric.

make sure needle is centered

If you have any corners in your design, slow down as you approach them and stop with your needle down. Lift the foot and pivot to continue quilting along the next side of your design (don’t forget to put your foot down after turning!).

Lift the foot and pivot

Well, I hope this tutorial has demystified quilting with knits for you! Now you can try your hand at t-shirt quilts or use all those baby clothes you’ve been saving for a memory quilt… We would love to see what you make!

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I quilt knits when I make T-shirt quilts. I attach very thin iron-on woven interfacing before cutting the quilt squares. With woven interfacing they handle like wovens.


Could you perhaps do or direct me to one of your informative tutorials on working with & quilting polyester fabrics. I am of the opinion that quilting was a way of recycling fabric remnants so as not to waste and, since most of our fabric is now made with polyester for easier care, we could recycle old clothing to make quilts and recycle this way as opposed to sending to landfill to become or add to an already existing disposal problem. It seems, nowadays, that 100% cotton fabric is very expensive or vintage and so we need to find ways to recycle polyester and using in quilts would be a creative and practical way to keep it out of landfills! Thank you.

Darlene J. Watts

What are your suggestions for sewing knit blocks together? Lightning bolt and some kind of facing? EH

Ellen Holtman

love my 32 Ultra foot set and disappointed that you sold out of the special bias tape offer because if they were as good as the Ultra Foot set, they had to be good. LOVE my Ultra Foot set. Was show & telling yesterday to a fellow seamstress yesterday.

paulette pease

Thanks for demystifying this! It was so easy to follow! Going to go for it this afternoon! Thanks.

Karen Simmons

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