How to make a T SHIRT quilt

I am going to do my best to keep this simple. What this post will lead you to is a finished quilt top, with stabilized t-shirts, separated by sashing and surrounded by a border. I can’t tell you how much material you will need because I don’t know what size you want to end up with, but you can count on 1-2 yards of sashing material and border material (each).

Required items:

  • t-shirts
  • stabilizer (I like to use Pellon heavyweight fusible, available at nearly any craft/sewing shop) – you’ll need a yard for approximately every 2 shirts (unless your squares are going to be small)
  • sashing material
  • border material
  • hot iron, set to ‘cotton’
  • sewing machine and thread
  • rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat (also available at sewing/craft stores)

The process is as follows:

1. Cut the shirts! The main point of step 1 is only to separate the front from the back and take the sleeves off.

2. Decide which panels from the front and backs of your shirts you would like to include in your quilt, discard the rest. Count your panels so you can ensure the number works, ie if you have 28 panels and want to make the quilt 4 x 6, you need to cut out a few more, or make your quilt 4 panels across by 7 long. Or you could find another shirt and make it 5 across by 6 long (30 total). If you have two panels that are small logos, they can be sewn together into one block.

3. MEASURE!!! This step will help you determine the size of your quilt, because it is based mainly on the size of the panels. Check the smallest and largest size your squares could possibly be based on how they are currently cut (approximately, they aren’t square yet) AND the logo/picture on the panel. If the smallest panel you have cut is 10″ x 10″, then your squares will be maximum that size. If the largest logo you have is 8″ wide x 4″ tall, then your smallest possible square would be about 9″ wide x 5″ tall.

4. TRIM the panels to about 1″ wider and longer than you want them to end up.

5. Stabilize your t-shirts. To be perfectly honest, the part of my job I like the least is ironing, but this is really REALLY a necessary step. On your ironing board, place your first panel face down. Put stabilizer on top of it, bumpy side down and press.

If you move the iron back and forth you may incline the shirt to stretch, so just press, and pick your iron up and press again until you’ve covered the entire shirt.

Your stabilizer should come to the edges of the shirts, or at least close.

6. TRIM, yes again. Notice how the stabilizer made your shirts less stretchy? Since we now have STABLE squares/rectangles, we can trim them to the size we want them to be (making sure we include 1/4″ seam allowance on each side, of course).

If you want your quilt to be nice and flat, ensure those squares are all the same size.

7. Add sashing. This is a fun part for me, because it’s really starting to come together. First you need to decide how big you want the sashing to be, and that may be based on how large you desire the final product to be. Let’s assume you want the sashing to end up 2″ wide, so you cut 2.5″ strips out of the material you want.  Stack your shirts all facing the same way (ie face down, top of shirt away from you). Lay a shirt on top of the sashing strip, and sew. When that shirt is attached, place another shirt on your strip. Then basically chain piece until your sashing isn’t long enough to fit another shirt. Get another sashing strip and begin again. I can usually get 3-4 tshirts along each sashing strip.

8. IRON, yes again. uuuuuuuggggghhhhhhhhh. Iron the seam towards the sashing, which it will be inclined to go towards anyway.

9. More sashing… Lay the shirts all the same way again, say face down, top towards your left side. Lay your shirts one at a time on the sashing and sew, just as before.

10. hmmm, IRON? Y E P!!! Again.

11. Lay out all your panels in a large area (like the floor or a big table). This is where you can decide what your eye likes, and which squares you want where based on color or logo.

12. Assemble rows! If you need to, pick up two squares at a time from your layout, so as not to confuse yourself. If you can pick up a row at a time then do so. When you complete each row, there will be one side without a sash. Add the sash at that time. You can also use this as an opportunity to attach sashing to the bottom (or top, whichever is missing sashing). Doing that at this point alleviates the need to sew a long seam.

13. Sew rows together to complete the center! This step is as easy as it sounds!

14. Border time!! Decide how big you want your border to be to frame your great work of art, and cut it 1/2″ larger. PIN THE BORDER TO BOTH SIDES OF YOUR QUILT! Measure your top so far through the center and that’s as long as your borders should be for the sides. Be wary of WAVY borders if you don’t measure and/or pin!!! Once the sides are attached, then measure/pin the top and bottom borders and attach.

YOU ARE DONE!!! Can you believe it? There are plenty of ways to make it more complicated and intricate, but this is a good starting point!

Best of luck my friends, and happy quilting!!!


7 thoughts on “How to make a T SHIRT quilt

  1. chindeep3141 says:

    What a great tutorial! My friend Clare just showed me a couple T-Shirt quilts she’s working on. They’re fabulous. So cozy! I should make one.

    • You really might enjoy the result! My first t-shirt quilt took me a while, but I’ve developed a process and become quicker since. They always turn out so amazing and they’re just full of memories for the recipient. 🙂

  2. chindeep3141 says:

    I’m going to have to go through the girls’ old t-shirts and see what I can put together.

  3. chindeep3141 says:

    good point!

  4. lsauberli says:

    Thanks for the detailed instructions. These will come in very handy when I make mine. Can I ask you how much time you put into your quilt?

    • Glad I could be of help! The labor depends on the size, but generally first trim takes 1/2 hour, measuring and figuring layout takes an hour, cutting out and ironing on stabilizer takes another hour (for small quilts, up to 3 hours for large ones or difficult fabric), another hour for final trim. Two hours to sash, one more to sew shirts into columns and then another to sew the center together. Another hour for borders. Back prep is maybe 1/2 hr, quilting on my long arm machine is usually a few hours, then trim, prep binding and binding the quilt takes 2 more. So its total about 13 if you’re proficient.

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