A New Look at Sergers: Part 3 – Make a T-Shirt Quilt with the Serger

To continue our look at getting the most out of your serger, a quick and easy project is to turn that pile of ripped, old, yet sentimental T-Shirts into a fun and functional quilt.


Yes! The serger, ( I use the fabulous Janome XG-43D ) can be used for SEW much more than just finishing the seams of clothing. Put the petal to the metal and get your quilt tops done FAST! XG43D-2

This is a GREAT project for the beginner, or for someone who’d like to get back into sewing after a long break, but who’s skills and confidence may be a little rusty. This is a very forgiving project, so no need to stress. The serger makes it easy!

Your closet will love you for it, as well. The photo below is just a small sampling of the T-Shirts pulled to make the quilt pictured above.


A rotary cutter and acrylic rulers make cutting around your T-Shirt motifs/ logos/ crests quick and easy, and the difference in the two stacks of the above and below photos is astounding.


Just think of all that newly discovered space in your closet and drawers to fill with beautiful new clothes. Perfect excuse to go shopping (as if we needed one, lol!) or perhaps you’ll make yourself some new togs using your fabulous Janome machines.

There are many books/ patterns/ tutorials on You Tube, for example, which say to fuse interfacing or some form of stabilizer to the wrong side of the T-Shirt in order to reduce the stretch of the fabric. This is beneficial, especially when constructing a T-Shirt quilt on a sewing machine, like the Janome Memory Craft 6700P , and sewing with a straight stitch.


However, adding such an interfacing, no matter how lightweight, adds extra thickness, extra cost, extra time and a couple of extra steps. Since I’m always on a deadline and needed to get this T-Shirt quilt done FAST, I used the serger instead and saved all that.

Sergers sew knits and bulky fabrics, like fleece, beautifully. They are a perfect match made for each other. There was no stretching at all when serging my T-Shirt blocks together since the serger makes such quick work of the construction and provides such even and easy feeding of the fabric. Differential feed is a truly wonderful serger feature.


Any slight distortion will press out flat or, if you find your layers aren’t feeding quite as evenly as you’d like and you get a little rippling in the seam, the serger can be easily adjusted to correct that.


All Janome Sergers have a Differential Feeding Knob , usually to the right of the machine. On some models it’s on the front face plate so, as always, consult your owner’s manual for details.

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The metal feed dogs and built-in differential feed means that your top layer can be adjusted to feed in at a different rate than the bottom layer if need be. It’s like having a built-in “Walking Foot” or Janome’s fabulous AcuFeed Flex foot so your seams line up evenly both top and bottom and they won’t stretch out of shape. This is why you don’t need to fuse the whole front of your T-Shirts beforehand when making a T-Shirt quilt.

However, if you’re using a knit which is REALLY stretchy, or any fabric which proves to be particularly fussy, you might try to stabilize just the seam allowance of the fabric to add a little security. The photo below shows a half-inch wide strip of lightweight, non-woven fusible interfacing which I cut to make my own stay tape. Stay tape is also available commercially, but again, I was trying to save time and money while constructing this quilt so I cut my own strips from interfacing scraps I already had on hand. All the more reason to save every scrap! lol!


I serged a quarter-of-an-inch seam so I cut my interfacing slightly wider to support and stabilize the seam, but this didn’t add a lot of extra bulk to the over-all project. Most of us don’t need extra bulk, lol!


Though most of the time I usually just “finger pin”, I love using little plastic clips if I need to hold layers together. They are great for using with the serger since there’s no chance you can miss them and sew over them accidently and they don’t distort the knit fabric.


If you decide to use pins while serging it’s helpful to keep your pins parallel to the cut edge of the fabric, or specifically, parallel & in from the upper knife blade. Many of us learned the hard way to NEVER get pins too close to the knife! That’s why I usually just finger pin now, or love using my clips.


The above photo shows the little seam guide which is an add-on accessory available for my Janome XG-43D Serger. It was of great help to keep my seams straight while I stitched at the impressive 1300 stitches per minute. Sergers were made to fly!

Visit your local Janome Dealer to find out what specialty feet, accessories and attachments are available for your model. Like all Janome machines, the presser feet for the serger are quick and easy to snap off with the touch of button.


After piecing together your T-Shirt blocks, lay the quilt top on a large table to square up the edges. If your acrylic ruler isn’t long enough, butt two rulers together to give you the length you need and carefully cut with your rotary cutter.


All that is left is to layer the quilt backing, batting and T-Shirt top together and quilt all layers together using your favourite method. For me, this quilt will likely be finished on the fabulous Janome Quilt Maker Pro 18 as again, I’m all about speed and racing towards deadlines. At 2200 stitches a minute and by using the additional Quilt Maker Pro-Stitcher software, this quilt will be done in no time!

Consider giving this, and other Janome machines, like sergers, a test drive in the Janome booth at an upcoming show, or at your local Janome dealer. Or, if you already own a serger but haven’t used it in years, dust it off and raid your closet to try this quick and easy T-Shirt to help you get the most out of your machine.

What will you create today with your fabulous Janome machines?

Footnote: I cannot wait to see this finished quilt, Michael! Thanks for sharing this good information with us.

About janomeman

As Janome Canada's National Consumer Education Manager, I'm SEW excited to share my love of sewing, quilting and all things creative with everyone at our fabulous new Janome Sewing and Learning Centre in Oakville, ON. Have an idea for a class, or to be put onto our mailing list, E-mail me at classes@janome-canada.com
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