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!!!


Button Down Shirt Quilt?

What’s that? Like a t-shirt quilt, only with button down shirts? YES!! That’s exactly what it is!

This one happened to be within a ‘baby clothes quilt’, but the entire quilt can be made up of them.

button down shirt in a quilt
principal’s quilt

This one was for a school principal that was retiring. The top left shirt, second row 2nd and 4th shirts were button downs. The middle second row was a sweatshirt, the top row right has an open collar.

These types of shirts are challenging to add to a quilt, but they can either be mixed in with other shirts, or an entire quilt can be made of button down shirts alone!

What do you need to do to use those shirts? Well, trim them, just as if they were a t-shirt. They need stabilizer, but only along the opening, where the buttons and holes are, so that area doesn’t stretch apart. If you want to cut off the collar (or can based on your square size), then you don’t have to deal with it. If you have a button down collar or something cute that you want to keep, then fold the collar up, sew some plain muslin into the V / empty area of the neck, and that covers the empty space.

The difficulty can come with sewing through the many/thick layers of material those types of shirts involve. You need to be very careful with measurements, seams and allowances and guiding your machine and needle through the thick areas of the shirt.

I’ll post soon on the hockey jersey quilt I just finished. THAT was difficult! Happy quilting!!

T Shirt Quilt

tshirt quilt


There was no other title for this post. But this is seriously just the beginning. They, as well as related types of quilts (baby clothes, memorial), are becoming increasing popular. This being the case, there are also a growing number of people and companies that will make one for you, or provide you a kit. These quilts are most often not easy to assemble if they are done well. Whether you want to make one or HAVE ONE MADE FOR YOU, read and HEED…

1. KITS. I know it’s fun to do projects and learn new things. This is not something I would recommend for that adventure, unless you are really confident on your sewing machine. If you purchase a kit, be wary that the company sending it to you probably isn’t spending the high dollar for better quality material to send you. You often don’t have much in the way of choices for sashing, border or backing, they simply send you a packet after you pay and you do your best to follow the instructions included. They may not be sending you all the necessary materials to make a quality, lasting product.

The picture below features a Harley t-shirt quilt I made with each shirt block having a border, rather than using sashing. This works best for t-shirt quilts with similar colored shirts, or repeating themes (i.e. breast cancer walk shirts). But it’s a fun option you don’t have available with a kit.

2. LOW PRICE means you should be suspicious. And no, I don’t say that so people will come to me if I charge more than others. I say it because I have come to find that I generally get what I pay for. I mentioned above that all the necessary materials may not be included; I was referring to stabilizer. It’s a thin iron-on material that keeps the double jersey knit of a tshirt from stretching when you sew it. If that isn’t used, the quilt will quickly become misshapen. If you want it quilted, your quilter will cringe – these tops allow the shirts to shift around and beg for bubbles, folds and lumps in your quilt.

3. LOW PRICE (MORE) can also mean that your t-shirts will all be blocked together like big giant tiles. If the shirts are not very large, the decal or motif from the shirt will not cover much of that square. This could also indicate your quilt maker is only providing you the top, not a completed product. Batting (the center stuff) backing, the labor and materials for binding and quilting the product are all omitted from the price. Be sure you are aware of what the price really means.

4. “I HAVE 16 SHIRTS…”. Ok… I say this because many t-shirt quilt creators charge by the number of shirts. Do they really mean number of panels? Does that mean that no matter the size of the panel or final quilt, it’s about the number of shirts? While I don’t personally agree with this philosophy, it works for many people. Be aware that your t-shirt quilt maker may make assumptions, like that you want the front or back only from each shirt. The queen size quilt pictured here was constructed from 17 shirts (button down, t-shirts, sweatshirt) – I used the front and back panel from each and the sleeve from 2.


Bottom line = if you find the right quilt maker, you will be happy with the result. That person will help you to ask the right questions to ensure they know what you want out of the transaction. T-shirt quilts can be made out of any number of shirts, any size, even with traditional blocks tossed in here or there.

I will be posting instructions on t-shirt quilt assembly in the near future. If you have specific questions feel free to ask! Happy quilting!