Monday, July 9, 2012

t-shirt quilt and tutorial

A couple of months ago, I was asked to make a t-shirt quilt. I've heard many quilters grumble about t-shirt quilts over the years, and although I wasn't entirely convinced that this project would be fun or creative, I knew it would be a challenge. I'm a sucker for a good challenge, and I knew that this quilt would be special, so I said yes.

This quilt is made of about 28 t-shirts that were collected over the years by a youth pastor. His ministry in the church was going to be changing, so his wife thought this would be a perfect time to make a quilt out of his youth group t-shirts. I was happy to be a part of such a fun project!

We decided to make a 2-sided quilt. I chose white sashing to make each block stand out. I wanted to frame each shirt instead of  just piecing them all together on one side. I didn't want any of the shirts to get "lost" in the overall quilt. Since this quilt was going to be more of a display piece instead of a used quilt, I was comfortable making the sashing white. I love how the blocks stand out.

Each side of the quilt have the same dimensions. Now, if you have ever worked with t-shirt material, then you know how difficult it could have been to get this all to line up. Once I put the interfacing on, everything lined up perfectly. I couldn't have asked for it to line up better. It was super easy. Honest.

All of the blocks measured 14 inches square. Most of the blocks are made from one t-shirt, a few of them are made from two, and two of them are made from multiple t-shirts or parts of the other t-shirts. (see the photo below) The pieced blocks are my favorite.

I quilted this with straight line quilting on the sashing only. The quilt was heavy enough with out batting because I had t-shirts on both sides, so I chose not to use any. This made lining up the front and back so much easier.

In case you're curious, here's my process:

1.  Measure the image portion on all the t-shirts and decide on a block size that will fit your largest image.

2.  Generously cut out your t-shirts. I chose 14 inch blocks, so I needed a 15 inch block, unsewn. I cut my t-shirts to a minimum of 18 inches to ensure that I had enough to work with.

3.  Fuse iron on interfacing to the back of each block. I used Pellon JAS. The t-shirt material is stretchier in one direction than the other. The interfacing is also stretchy in one direction and not the other. Fuse the interfacing and t-shirt in opposite directions, so that the final result will be a non-stretchy block.

4.  Piece together your pieced blocks using a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

5.  Trim down your blocks to your unfinished size. Keep in mind that you will be using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Mine were 15 inches square.

6.  Fuse interfacing to sashing material. I used a white t-shirt material, so interfacing was necessary. Remember to fuse the stretch directions opposite. Cut out your sashing. I cut 4-inch strips as I wanted 3-inch sashing.

6.  Sew it all together. (I'm assuming you already have the basic idea of how to put a quilt top together.)

If you are going to have a one sided quilt, then you can add your batting and backing, baste, quilt and bind. If you have a two-sided quilt, like mine, then this is how I finished mine:

7. Place the front and back of the quilt right sides together. Pin the edges, making sure that the blocks are lining up. You should have no problem with this if your cuts are precise and you fused your interfacing opposite the stretch of the t-shirts.

8. Sew all the way around the quilt with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving a 12 inch opening for turning. Trim corners and turn right side out.

9. Line up the front and back of the quilt and pin baste. Sew around the perimeter of the quilt 1/4 inch from the edge, this will close the hole you used for turning.

10. Quilt the rest of the quilt according to your preference and you are done!


  1. He will be thrilled with this special, personal gift. I agree with you about the sashing. The white makes the blocks the star of the show. Nicely done!

  2. Glad to hear this came together so easily! I have a friend who requested one of these. I will refer back to this post when I get to that project. Great work!

  3. I love this for a weighted blanket. My son is Autistic and loves heavy things on his bed. I'll leave the squares open and he can put his own things in there. Outlook be much easier to wash than the regular weighted blankets. Those have the weight sewn right into it. Thanks for sparking my imagination :)