Sweater quilt: which stitch?

Q:  What’s the best way to sew the sweater patches together?

A:  Most sweater quilt bloggers sewed their patches right sides together.

Some abutted the edges, piecing them together with a zigzag stitch. A handful of others put wrong sides together as you would if making a rag quilt (seam allowances exposed on the front side).

None of these felt right to me. In addition to not being a fan of the rag quilt look, zigzagging seemed not the sturdiest of construction techniques. Sewing with right sides together raised concern about taming the bulk of those seams and keeping them flat inside the quilt when it was finished.

Then I stumbled across a website that featured a hand dyed felted wool project where the pieces were overlapped ½” and sewn with a straight stitch and a walking foot.

Overlapping the pieces made sense but the straight stitch didn’t. A straight stitch is not recommended for stretchy material, which my sweaters still were, despite the abuse they took in hot wash/high heat dry cycles. Sewing with a straight stitch on stretchy knits results in popped and broken stitches.

Regarding the online sample, I think a straight stitch was possible because the felted wool they used was much denser than the wool in my sweaters, keeping the likelihood of the patches stretching much, if at all, to a minimum.

Internet sources confirmed my suspicion about not using a straight stitch on stretchy fabrics, as did my sewing machine manual; in fact, the manual displayed plenty of stretch stitch options.

stretch stitch options

Great, but now my brain was having a mini-stroke as I wondered WHICH ONE?

Time to test drive the stitch options on my machine and publicly humiliate myself as I reveal the damage from that test drive. Go ahead and laugh, but know that most of these are first attempts:

zigzag stitch

zigzag stitch

This was by far the easiest stitch (no pins!) although keeping the stitch’s width centered over the joint proved to be a bit of a challenge. Even so, I felt it would become way more difficult as the quilt top grew in size, plus I didn’t care for the look of it.

super stretch stitch

super stretch stitch

This stitch was super secure, but as you can see, I felt the need to increase both its length and width. I could not imagine trying to rip out a mistake using this stitch. Pressing seams open or to one side proved difficult as well—that seam allowance was just going to sit there like a rock on the inside of the quilt.

vari-overlock stitch

vari-overlock stitch

I had to do this one twice and you’re seeing the good one, which isn’t saying much. I had dyslexia on this one during my first attempt as I could not figure out which way to orient it through the machine: overlapped piece on the right or left? Once I figured it out and got into the rhythm of the stitch, I decided that this stitch belongs on the wrong side of a project.

double overlock stitch

double overlock stitch

I’ve used this stitch before to enclose raw seam edges on my kids’ pajamas and Halloween costumes. Like the vari-overlock stitch, it was more difficult to guide through the machine with bulky, shifty sweater knits. Like the vari-overlock, this one does not belong on the front of a quilt.

Jersey stitch

Jersey stitch

This little loop stitch was fun, but destined to be an underside stitch as well.

The winner: stretch overlock stitch

The winner: stretch overlock stitch

I finally decided to use the stretch overlock stitch because one of the examples pictured in the manual showed the use of that stitch with overlapped pieces. I also liked that it resembled the buttonhole stitch and thought it would look nice on the front of the quilt.

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2 Comments

Filed under sweater quilt

2 responses to “Sweater quilt: which stitch?

  1. Rhonda

    OK. I like the final stitch but what does it look like on the other side? If you have a 1/2” overlap, do you repeat this stitch on the other side? Is that the single stitch I see in the sample?

  2. You have a 1/2″ flap on the reverse side. I chose to stitch it down with a straight stitch, which I’ll explain in a future post.

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