Do you have a drawer full of T-shirts that you just can’t throw away? What should you do with them? Why, cut them up and make a t-shirt quilt, of course!
How to make a T-shirt quilt: the basics
By consolidating your T-shirts into a quilt, you get to keep your old tees and displaying the memories they represent. Here’s a basic overview of transforming your tees into a memory quilt!
Get the FREE pattern Angela uses in this video right here.
Step 1: Sorting your T-shirts
Pull out all of your old T-shirts and sort them. Are some in the same family (such as your old sorority T-shirts)? Group those together. If not, can you group them by color? Then, you can decide if your quilt will certain focus on a certain theme or color, or if you want a mix of favorites.
When sorting, keep an eye on the the dimension of the print on the shirt, and choose those that are somewhat similar in size.
Once you have your favorites, think about how large your quilt will be. If you are making a throw or bed quilt, you’ll going to need lots of shirts! If a wallhanging T-shirt quilt is your thing, be very selective because you will only need a few.
Step 2: Preparing and stabilizing the tees with interfacing
Wash all the T-shirts using a regular detergent, but no fabric softener, and dry as usual.
Then, take apart those shirts! Open the side seams with a seam ripper, or cut them carefully with a pair of sharp fabric scissors.
Since T-shirt fabrics are stretchy, they need to be stabilized prior to cutting out the squares. A lightweight, woven fusible interfacing that has little or no stretch will do the trick.
Apply the interfacing to the back of all of the T-shirt pieces. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, and always test interfacing on a small square of extra T-shirt material before using it on your project material.
Once the interfacing is fused to all of the T-shirt pieces, decide on the size of your square. You should be able to comfortably cut a 14″ to 16″ square from each shirt. Remember to allow a couple inches of blank space around the graphics! Cut squares using a rotary cutter, ruler and mat (here’s how).
Step 3: Sewing the shirts together
Now it’s time to sew the quilt top together! The squares can be sewn directly together in a patchwork manner, or they can be sewn together in a grid with sashing in between.
Step 4: Make the quilt sandwich, sew and quilt!
When the quilt top is finished, cut a piece of backing fabric to be a few inches larger than the quilt top. Layer the quilt sandwich together with wrong sides facing, with or without batting in between. Baste the stack together carefully so that the three layers are secure. Quilt as desired and bind. That’s it!
Make Your Own Custom T-Shirt Quilt!
Get step-by-step guidance as you make your T-shirt quilt in our online video class.
10 awesome design ideas for T-shirt quilts
If you’re a more experienced quilter, there are many ways to switch up this kind of quilt! A few options? Play around with the layout by using blocks of different sizes or by adding borders and cornerstones. If you need some inspiration, check out these unique T-shirt quilt ideas.
1. Add sashing and cornerstones
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make your T-shirt quilt a little different than standard squares is to add sashing (the fabric between rows and columns) and cornerstones (the details at the intersection of sashing pieces). The contrasting sashing on this sports-themed quilt really makes the same-color blocks pop!
2. Use shadow boxes
With a contrasting black “shadow” sitting below bright colored T-shirt blocks, this quilt was pieced with help from Winnie Fleming’s online class, The Ultimate T-Shirt Quilt. It takes a little bit of math work to get the squares to line up just right, but the payoff is huge!
3. Go crazy with patchwork
Who says that all the blocks have to be squares and rectangles? Take this T-shirt quilt idea for a spin by piecing striped, checkered and zig-zag sashing to make your shirt blocks really pop!
4. Keep shirt collars on
This graduation T-shirt quilt has some “wow” factor in the center, with several shirts retaining their original collars. To get this effect, trim the shirt as normal, except for the collared side. Piece the shirt into the background fabric, and baste the collar down on your background before quilting. Be sure to avoid any buttons when you quilt!
5. Incorporate photos on fabric
For her granddaughter’s high school band T-shirt quilt, Cindy incorporated photos of treasured friends. Many products are available to help you transfer photos onto fabric, such as printable fabric sheets and iron-on transfers.
6. Extend shirt blocks with pieced strips
One neat way to get a uniform look in your T-shirt quilt is using two or three consistent colors across the board. This yellow, black and white quilt stands out thanks to its bold use of pieced strips to extend the shirt blocks horizontally and vertically.
7. Turn blocks on point
Get a change of perspective with these on-point quilt blocks, which guide your eye every direction around the quilt. Add an array of ombré solids, like these pretty purples, in a classic block like the rail fence to make a larger quilt from just a few special shirts.
8. Pay attention to one theme
Sometimes the best T-shirt quilt ideas revolve around a single theme. Whether it’s punk rock or a sports team or a hobby, thematic T-shirt quilts can help tie the whole concept together much better than a random assortment. If you don’t have enough tees to make a quilt or if you want to make the quilt as a surprise gift, consider scouring thrift shops, vintage stores and eBay for additional pieces.
9. Add solid shirt pieces
Can’t get your tees to interlock the way you’d like? Don’t feel like they have to be the only part of your quilt top! Solids make great sashings, as do coordinating prints. Cut some extra blank squares from the T-shirt material to make colorful columns. They really break up the quilt’s thematic elements.
10. Use shirts on the quilt back
If you’re looking for a way to include T-shirts in a design without having them dominate the entire quilt, backing can be a great way to go. Get shirts that coordinate with your theme or colors and save them from their sad box in the basement! Use your imagination and have fun creating a quilt that is truly full of memories.