Many people have T-shirts that hold memories, though they no longer wear them. Instead of letting those shirts sit in a drawer, you can breathe new life into them by turning them into a T-shirt quilt. T-shirt quilts are fairly easy to make and should only take around a few hours of your time. In fact, the most time-consuming part will likely be arranging the T-shirt panels in a design you like. There are no special patterns for T-shirt quilts; they can be as basic or as intricate as you wish. After learning to make one for yourself, these T-shirt quilts also can be great personalized gifts.
Equipment / Tools
- Measuring tape
- Iron and ironing board
- Rotary cutting tools
- Sewing machine
- Coordinating fabric (optional)
- Fusible interfacing
- Matching thread
- Backing fabric
- Matching quilt binding
Plan Your Quilt
Examine the shirts you plan to use, and ask yourself a few questions before you begin to make the quilt.
- How many T-shirts are available, and how large are they?
- Will all of the quilt panels be cut the same size? (You can make a quilt with uniform panels or with panels of different sizes sewn in somewhat of a jigsaw puzzle-type layout.)
- How large do you want the quilt to be? Do you have enough shirts to make a quilt that size, or do you need additional fabric to fill in the spaces?
Cut Apart the T-Shirts
First, wash and dry the T-shirts. Iron them if necessary to remove wrinkles.
Then, use a pair of sharp scissors to remove the front panel of a T-shirt, cutting near the side seams to leave as much fabric as possible. (You'll trim it later.) Cut off the sleeves and connecting seams. Also, cut below the neck banding, and remove any hemmed area along the bottom of the shirt. You should end up with a somewhat rectangular panel.
Cut all of the available shirts, and do the same process if you also plan to use the back of any T-shirt.
Map Out the Design
There are no rules for T-shirt quilt designs, but it's always ideal to map out your layout before you start sewing.
Use a flat surface to lay out your T-shirt panels. Shuffle the panels until the design looks good to you. At this point, you also might want to cut pieces of coordinating fabric to fill in gaps in the T-shirt arrangement, leaving enough fabric for a 1/2-inch seam allowance.
Trim the T-Shirt Panels
Now it's time to trim your T-shirt panels according to your design. Leave enough fabric around the edges for a 1/2-inch seam allowance plus about an inch more that will be cut after the fusible interfacing is applied. That way, the final cuts will be along tightly fused edges. Rotary cutting tools can make these cuts a breeze.
Fuse the Interfacing to the T-Shirts
Follow the manufacturer's instructions to fuse the interfacing to the back of the T-shirt panels. Be sure the interfacing is securely bonded, and then trim the panels to your desired size (plus a 1/2-inch seam allowance).
Sew the Quilt
Sewing the quilt is fairly straightforward, though it's much easier to do on a sewing machine than it is by hand. Pin together the panels in your desired design. Then, use a 1/2-inch seam allowance to sew the panels—along with any sashing (strips of fabric between the panels) or other patchwork—together by row. Press the seam allowances open. Then, join the rows, matching intersections where the seams meet if necessary for design purposes.
Next, cut the batting and backing fabric to the size of your quilt top. Layer the batting between the top and backing, and pin the three layers together. Sew together the layers, using a stitch design of your choice. Finally, sew quilt binding (strips of fabric to cover the raw edges) around the perimeter of the quilt with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.
Tips for Making a T-Shirt Quilt
- Unless you plan to fill in gaps with complementary fabric, usually at least 16 T-shirts are required to make a throw blanket-size quilt. However, that also depends on the sizing of the T-shirts.
- Switch to a ballpoint needle, made especially for knits, if a standard sewing machine needle snags the T-shirt fabric. (This usually won't be a problem when using interfacing.)
- If you're new to quilting, you can make a small practice quilt with fabric scraps from your T-shirts before working on the real quilt.