How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt

comments (14) August 11th, 2008     

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lcampb Lilly Campbell, contributor
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Here is the finished product... just waiting to be moved to my dorm bed :)

Here is the finished product... just waiting to be moved to my dorm bed :)

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I am proud to say that my summer project is complete and just in time, might I add, since I will be heading back to school this coming weekend. I wanted to offer a tutorial for my quilt as a final goodbye and good luck to all you crafters out there.

Now, I should definitely specify that given my time constraints and inexperience I cut some corners (both literally and figuratively) in putting together this final product. I did not bind the quilt because I was intimidated by all of the instructions I found for binding. Unfortunately, Mary Ray's "How to Make Mitered Corners for Bindings" came out just a few days too late because I think her awesome tutorial would have given me the courage to give it a try. Regardless, you can apply binding and quilting techniques to your t-shirt quilt if you're up to the challenge.

t-shirt Get more T-shirt projects:

• How to Restyle a T-Shirt into a Ruffly Cardigan
• How to Upcycle a T-Shirt into a Cardigan
• How to Crochet a Rug out of T-Shirts

• How to Make a Headband from an Old T-Shirt

How to Make a T-shirt Quilt

Supplies:

- 24 cotton t-shirts (this was for a 4 x 6 square quilt for a twin-size bed). You may want extras so that you can decide to leave some out at the end if they don't fit your color scheme.

- fabric scraps galore (these should be strips of fabric, up to 14" in length, in widths from 1-4")

- large piece of fabric for backing (2 yards (72") by 3 yards (108") gave me enough extra to make a border for the front as well)

- rotary cutter, cutting mat, long plexi-glass ruler, and scissors

- sewing machine, pins, and thread

- iron and fusible interfacing

- heavy-weight batting

- 3 skeins of embroidery thread in a neutral tone and an embroidery needle

Making the Quilt Face

1. Take your first t-shirt and cut a straight line down the middle of the back up to the collar of the shirt. Cut all the way around the collar to remove it. Then, cut off both of the sleeves of the shirt. For shirts that do not have seams on the sides, this gives you more fabric to work with. If the shirt does have seams up the side, you can cut off the back along those seams. Iron the fabric and repeat for all shirts.

2. At this point, you need to decide if you want all of your t-shirt panels to be the same size or if you want to only cut the design from the t-shirt and make the squares the same size using varying pieces of fabric. I just cut out the design on my shirts so I used the cutting mat and ruler to choose a length and width that was a certain number of inches. I cut the t-shirt to this size using the rotary cutter, mat, and edge of the ruler. You will also need to decide on a maximum size for your bigger designs. Since my final squares were going to be 14", my maximum length and width was 13", so that I could have a 0.5" border all the way around on even the biggest designs.

3. Once all of your t-shirts are cut, iron on fusible interfacing to the back of the shirts. This will help prevent stretching and make sewing on the machine MUCH easier.

4. Now, start adding borders to make your squares. Pin fabric strips face down onto your squares along the length or width of the t-shirt and sew using a straight stitch on your sewing machine and leaving 1/4" hem. Remove pins, press the border flat with iron, and then repeat on the open ends of the t-shirt. Contibue to add borders in a log cabin style until your square is at least 14" wide (bigger is okay because you can trim it down later). Repeat for all t-shirts.

5. Find a big surface to lay out all of your squares and decide on an order that works well. Starting with the first column on the left, you are going to sew all of the squares in that column into a large strip by placing the second square down, face-down and upside-down onto the first square. Pin the bottom edge and sew with a straight stitch. Remove pins and press. Repeat for all squares in the column. Then repeat for all columns.

6. Next sew all of your columns together. Place the second column facedown on top of the first and pin the edge between the two. Sew with a straight stitch, remove pins, and press. Repeat until all columns are attached.

7. I added a border to my quilt face in the same way I added borders to my squares: I sewed a long strip to the top and bottom of the quilt and to both sides. My sources recommended that for turning a quilt (directions to follow) you should use the same fabric for your border that you are using to back the quilt because some might show through.

Quick-turning a Quilt

I used directions from this site because they were the most clear ones that I found. Quick-turning really only makes sense if you are planning to tie your quilt, so if you are planning on quilting, you will probably have to return to Mary Ray's great tutorial on binding. You will also want to reverse the order of the steps and quilt before you bind.

1. Make a sandwich with the batting on the bottom, the backing face up in the middle, and the quilt top face down on top. Your quilt top should be slightly smaller than the backing and batting so you can trim the bottom two layers accordingly.

2. Pin through all three layers around the outside of the quilt top leaving a 20-inch gap in the middle of one of the sides. Also put a pins through all of the layers in a couple of spots throughout the middle of your quilt.

3. Sew around all four sides with a straight stitch, leaving a 1/4" hem and stopping before the 20-inch unpinned gap. Trim excess batting and backing to be even with the quilt top's edge.

4. Remove pins (don't forget the ones in the middle of the quilt) and begin to roll the quilt, working from the edge farthest from the opening towards the opening. Continue until all of the quilt is rolled near the opening and then flip it through the opening, inside out. Unroll the quilt on the other side, sandwiching the batting and backing. Tug to get all of the layers lined up and hand-stitch the gap closed.

Tying Your Quilt

I spent a lot of time jabbering about quilt tying before, so I will try not to rehash too much of what I've said already. I do have some tips based on experience, however, and I certainly learned that my glorious idea to include a design with every tie was a little unreasonable. It turns out you need to tie at intervals between 2-4" which meant that tying was A LOT more time consuming than I anticipated. Double-knots were about all I could handle.

I tied along the edges between my rows and columns of squares and then at about 3.5" intervals throughout the quilt. Because my squares didn't line up perfectly, my tying distances were also a little impercise to keep them lined up with the squares.

1. Thread your embroidery needle and starting at the bottom of the quilt, pull the needle up through the corner between the border and the first square on the left. Make a small stitch, pull the needle down through all three layers and then insert it back up at your 2-4" interval. Repeat, stitching across the bottom edge until you reach opposite corner.

2. On the back of the quilt, cut half-way between each large stitch. Tie a double-knot with the two ends of embroidery thread and trim to about 3 cm in length. (Note: I wanted my ties on the back of the quilt so as not to interrupt the designs on the front. You can easily alter these directions to have the ties on the front).

3. Repeat all the way up your quilt (good luck!) and when you reach the top border you are all done.

I hope this helps anyone interested in making a t-shirt quilt. I'd be happy to answer questions or clarify if need-be. I have had so much fun posting this summer and I know that CraftStylish.com will continue to be one of my favorite distractions this coming year.

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Comments (14)

SonyaMae writes: I used your tutorial to make a lovely quilt from about 40 Harley Davidson shirts (for a friend). It turned out beautifully. instead of other fabrics I used the extra fabric such as sleeves and tails from the same shirts and mixed and matched the colors. Thank You very much for sharing the step by step tutorial. Started the quilt on October 2 and delivered it to my friend on Nov 17. This was in my spare time between working my full time job.
Posted: 8:01 am on November 21st
mariadvg writes: I haven't sewn before and want to tackle this project. Is there hope for me??
Posted: 9:23 pm on June 25th
LSzogas writes: Hi!

I just finished my first t-shirt quilt, and I'm ready to start tying. My squares are 12", and my sashing is 1-1/2". I've decided that I'll tie every 4" in the shirt, plus at 4" intervals on the seams. Does this sound reasonable?

Your method of tying sounds very efficient - I hadn't thought about making a line of stitches, and then cutting them. What kind of thread did you use to tie? I was thinking about embroidery thread - but not sure whether 3 strands or 6 strands would be best. I've seen both mentioned.

Thanks again for your suggestions.

Laurie


Posted: 1:59 pm on September 12th
librarygirlo writes: Very inspiring. I think the key to success just may be the use of interfacing behind the t-shirt material!
Posted: 10:16 am on March 7th
sd101 writes: how long did it take you to make the quilt!!
It looks fabulous!!!
Posted: 6:45 pm on November 26th
arienna writes: JUST SIGNED UP TODAY AND YOUR T-SHIRT QUILT GOT MY EYE.I HAVE IN A BIG BAG AROUND FORTY T-SHIRTS AND NOW I KNOW WHAT I'M DOING WITH THEM AND THE BOX OF FABRICS IN MY CLOSET.THANK YOU!
BEST WISES TO YOU AT SCHOOL!
Posted: 5:25 am on July 16th
Mickderb writes: Your quilt is very nice, so colorful and fun. T-shirt quilting is my favorite pass time. I would like to share with readers that recycling the unused backs and sleeves of the t-shirts can be donated to animal shelters or to painters/construction companies. (Some who might even pay for them as clean-up rags).
Posted: 12:45 pm on January 17th
coffee_snob writes: Thank you. Your instructions have inspired me to make a t-shirt quist for my husband. He collects t-shirts, but he no longer wears the older ones. This way he can enjoy them all over again.
Posted: 8:26 am on October 15th
4dogs3cats writes: I am delighted to find this....its something I have planned to do, for a long time, for my son..he was into all kinds of activities and each time, we got another t shirt..this will be a REAL memory quilt! thanks.......
Posted: 2:49 am on September 28th
KeetaCollection writes: What a wonderful quilt. I can see you put a lot of time into it.
Posted: 4:20 pm on September 18th
_nikki_ writes: is that a t-shirt with a Corgi on it I see!?!!?
Posted: 4:21 pm on August 25th
IggyJingles writes: Congratulations, it looks just beautiful. Don't forget to sign the back. Quilters will often sew a small hand written (or embroidered) label with their name, the date, and any name they have given the piece. It's art. It deserves a signature.
Posted: 9:28 pm on August 11th
MichaelaMurphy writes: Wow, Lilly, this is terrific! I agree with Diane, the framing really sets off the whole quilt very nicely. Thanks for all of your hard work this summer! Good luck at school, I'll miss you. M
Posted: 6:08 pm on August 11th
Sister_Diane writes: I love the idea of framing the t-shirt pieces in other fabrics - the mix is really fun, and also makes this more elegant than any other t-shirt quilt I've seen. Nice work! And, good luck at school!
Posted: 5:01 pm on August 11th
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