mindys quilt on the longarm2Everyone has favorite T-shirts that are stuffed into a drawer. They are from events that you participated in or trips that you took.  Some of the shirts reflect memories from college or your interests in a favorite sport.  Many of these old shirts never get worn and are taking up space in your closet or drawers. Why not turn them into something you can use and display all of the time?

You will need:

  • A collection of T-shirts
  • Medium Weight Pellon Fusible Web – (4-6 yards)
  • Steam Iron
  • Water (for the iron or in a spray bottle)
  • Rotary Cutter with a new blade
  • Sashing and Border Fabric (2-3 yards depending on the number of shirts in your project)
  • Batting (purchase after your top is done so you know what size to buy)
  • Backing Fabric (purchase after your top is done so you know how much you need)
  • Sewing Machine

T-shirt quilts are so cozy and comforting!  In my opinion you need at least 20 shirts (4 across and 5 down) to make a good size t-shirt quilt. But they can be made in almost any arrangement of rows and columns.

  • 12 Shirts: 3 across and 4 down will make a nice lap quilt
  • 20 Shirts: 4 across and 5 down will make a quilt that will fit on a twin size bed nicely.
  • 30 Shirts: 5 across and 6 down will make a nice full size quilt.

T-shirt quilts are very heavy when they get large. If you have more shirts it might be better to follow an alternate design arrangement instead.  Take a look at a few ideas at the end of these instructions.

Lets get started!

Step 1:  Collect the T-Shirts

Round up your shirts! They should be clean and in good condition. Shirts that are stained or torn should not be used. Use your judgment here, you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of your finished quilt by including worn out shirts with holes.

Step 2:  Cut the Shirts

Lay the shirt flat on your cutting mat, and smooth all wrinkles out. Use a rotary cutter to go up the sides and over the sleeve and cut off each sleeve. Discard the sleeve (unless there are small logos that you want to use on the quilt). Open the shirt up at the shoulders and rotary cut close to the neck, removing the heavy neckline seams (most t-shirt designs are up high on the front of the shirt) – be careful not to cut the design of the shirt panel off.  If there is a design on the back that you want be sure not to cut through it.  Once the shirt front and back are open rough cut the designs off.  Typical rough cut is about 15 or 16 inches.

Gather your t-shirts
Gather your t-shirts
Rough cut the motif design
Rough cut the motif design

Step 3:  Apply the Fusible Interfacing

Because T-shirts are stretchy, each shirt panel must be stabilized with non-woven fusible interfacing. I use Pellon 931 medium weight fusible interfacing because it adds stability and makes the quilting easier.   I’ve also used Pellon 906 lightweight fusible.  Buy enough to do one layer on each t-shirt you cut.

Fusing – Cut interfacing into squares that fit your rough cut t-shirt panel.  You can piece the interfacing by overlaying the leftover strips, but this is only if you are running out of interfacing. Sometimes, on light colored shirts – this can show through on the front. I use steam to set the Pellon (According to the Manufacturers instructions) T-shirt paint can get on your iron and smear – so use a press cloth if you iron from the front of the t-shirt. Make sure your panel does not have pressed in creases or wrinkles.

Step 4:   Trim the fused panels into finished sizes

Once your shirt panels have the interfacing applied, trim them all into consistent sizes.  Your t-shirt square will square up to 14” or 15″.  I suggest you lay out out shirts and determine the biggest design and use that size for cutting all of your shirts. Center the design on your template and cut with a rotary cutter, leaving a seam allowance. I use a slightly larger than ¼ inch seam allowance on t-shirt quilts.  All blocks should be the same size after this step.

Apply fusible stabilizer
Apply fusible stabilizer
Trim fused panels to size
Trim fused panels to size

Step 5  Arrange the Shirts

Once your shirts are cut out, lay them out on the floor and arrange to your liking. Alternate light/dark, busy/not so busy. Make sure the blocks can be read from the desired direction. This is where you can get an idea on your complimenting colors. Choose a color that allows the colors to stand out but does not compete with the t-shirt designs. Large prints are usually a bad choice for sashing on a t-shirt quilt. Go with a print that reads solid.

Step 6:   Cut the Sashing Strips and Borders

I like to cut sashing at 2-1/2 inches wide (finish at 2”). Cut sashing for between blocks the same size as your cut t-shirt panel. If you cut your shirts at 15”,  that is the length of the strips you add between the shirts.  Add a strip to each panel (not on border sides).  If you are using small inset squares in the sashing, the sashing width is cut to the same with as the inset square size.

Arrange the shirt panels
Arrange the shirt panels
Assemble the rows
Assemble the rows

Step 7:  Assemble the quilt

Begin by sewing the rows together in this order > block – sashing – block – sashing…  Continue until all of the rows are assembled. As you finish each row, lay it back into place and pick up the next row.  When you sew the rows together, pin at each intersection so that they line up when you sew them. Continue until all the rows are connected. Once the rows are sewn you can add the outside borders. Usually these are cut the same width as your sashing strips.

Press as you go, pressing seam allowances toward sashing. Press from the back of the quilt top when possible to avoid pressing over the designs. Tip: It is okay to use a light starch spray, this will help to stabilize your top for quilting later.

Note:  If you press from the front of the quilt, make sure you cover the design on the shirts.  If you press from the front, the designs may smear if the iron is placed directly onto them.

Attach borders
Attach borders
Quilt as desired
Quilt as desired

Step 8:  Add Borders and quilt as desired

Add borders, baste and quilt.  T-shirt quilts are best if quilted in a large meander with a thread color that blends with the t-shirts. Be sure to measure from the center and cut your borders to the right length. This will help to keep your quilt top flat and your borders even. I use 80/20 batting but you can use whatever you like best.  I use an IDEAL SEAM GUIDE to sew straight lines and to keep my seam allowances straight.

T-shirt quilts can be quilted in a large open style. I suggest a large scale meander using a thread color that blends with most of your T-shirt panels. The star of the show here is your T-shirt collection, not the quilting.  T-shirt quilts can be quilted quickly on a Longarm or home sewing machine.  Finish the edges with a standard double binding.
Enjoy your new snuggle quilt.  Here are a couple of finished quilts for inspiration.

 LisasQuilt  mindys quilt done 2013-12-02 00.29.44

Download the printable instructions:   T-shirt quilt instructions by LemonTree Snippets