By Cathy Hooley
Spring cleaning can uncover heaps of old t-shirts that haven’t been worn in years but hold so many memories you (or your husband or your kids) can’t bear to toss them in the trash. In the name of getting the drawers organized while keeping the family peace, why not turn those lovable rags into a treasured t-shirt quilt?
T-shirt quilts are gaining in popularity as easy crafting projects that represent so much more than the sum of their parts. And I’m going to show you how to make one. Ready?
These instructions are for making a traditional style t-shirt quilt top. It will have all the same size shirts with fabric sashing between the shirts and a fabric border. The instructions are based on a 14 1/2″ finished square t-shirt block. First, check all your t-shirts to make sure that the designs will fit into a 14″ square. If they won’t you can either crop the designs or make the squares larger—just modify the instructions to the dimensions you need. Remember, all the t-shirt squares must be the same size. All seam allowances are 1/4″. If you’re not sure of the correct size, determine the largest design and cut all interfacing 2″ larger than that size, then trim as needed.
Sizes: all sizes include 1 1/2″ finished sashing and a 2″ finished border and are based on a 14 1/2″ finished t-shirt block
- 12 shirts will make a throw-size quilt, approx. 48″ x 64″ – 3 across x 4 down.
- 20 shirts will make a twin-size quilt, approx. 64″ x 82″ – 4 across x 5 down
- 30 shirts will make a full-size quilt, approx. 82″ x 96″ – 5 across x 6 down.
- 36 shirts will make a queen-size quilt, approx. 96″ x 96″ – 6 across x 6 down.
- 42 shirts will make a king-size quilt, approx 110″ x 96″ – 7 across x 6 down.
Step 1 – Select Shirts – Shirts should be clean and in good condition. Avoid stained shirts.
Step 2 – Fusible Interfacing – Each shirt must be backed with non-woven fusible interfacing to prevent it from stretching. Buy enough fusible interfacing to make a 17″ square for each t-shirt. Select good quality, light-weight interfacing. Fusible interfacing needs to be non-woven and glued only on one side. Bosal 312 or Pellon 906F interfacing work well. They don’t add weight or make the quilt stiff.
Step 3 – Fabric for Sashing/Border/Binding – Sashing strips form a decorative grid between each t-shirt block. Plan on 2″ sashing strips (1 1/2″ when finished) between the blocks, 2 1/2″ strips (2″ when finished) for the border, and additional fabric for the binding. Calculate the amount needed and be sure to wash it before you use it—you want to be sure that the color won’t run and that the fabric will not shrink after the quilt is finished.
Step 4 – Cutting Shirts – Separate the front of the shirt from the back. Make sure the shirt is smooth; iron if necessary. You want your shirt side to be larger than 15” square—ideally larger than 17” to fit the interfacing. After you apply the interfacing you will cut the shirt square to the desired size.
Step 5 – Fusing – Cut interfacing into 17″ squares—one for each shirt. Don’t piece the interfacing; it will show through. Position the interfacing with the resin side down on the wrong side of the t-shirt, trying to center the design as much as possible. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fusing to the back of each t-shirt. Use a press cloth so you don’t get any glue on your iron. Beware of wrinkles—once cool they won’t come out!
Step 6 – Cutting the Squares – This is where you cut your t-shirt square. Square up each fused shirt to 15.” Make sure you center the design and lettering—measure twice, cut once! Cut with scissors or rotary cutter.
Step 7 – Arranging – Lay out squares on the floor and arrange. Alternate light/dark, busy/not-so- busy. Make sure the blocks can be read from the desired direction.
Step 8 – Completing the Quilt Top – Add Sashing – Sashing strips are the horizontal and vertical strips between blocks. The horizontal strips should measure 15″ in length x 2″ wide. Cut enough sashing strips to add to all the t-shirts except the bottom row. Then sew horizontal strips to the bottom of each block, except the blocks in the bottom row. Sew blocks together to form columns.
Press toward sashing. Press from the back of the quilt top when possible to avoid pressing over the designs. If you need to press from the front, 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.
After all the blocks are sewn into columns, make long 2″ sashing strips slightly longer than the length of each column. Sew the 2″ sashing strips onto the inside edge of the completed columns, one strip to each column (don’t sew a sashing strip to the outside edges of the outside columns) and sew the columns together. Cut off excess fabric. Press toward sashing.
Cut border strips 2 1/2″ wide and add as desired. Again, if you need to do a final pressing, make sure you put a cloth over the shirts—the designs may smear if the iron is placed directly onto them.
Finish – Layer backing batting and quilt top. Baste or safety pin together. If you have some experience machine quilting you can quilt your quilt or you can tie it to hold the layers together. Bind your quilt and be sure to add a label.
Enjoy your quilt!!
For more info:
http://www.goosetracks.com/T-shirt_Quilt_Fabric (various t-shirt quilt sizes are calculated here)
Instructions on how to finish quilts
Quiltbug Machine Quilting
Quiltbug Tying a Quilt
Quiltbug Binding a Quilt
Tools and Supplies
- Fusible Interfacing for T-shirt Quilts – http://www.goosetracks.com/Interfacing.html
- 15 inch Omnigrid Ruler for cutting out t-shirt squares – www.quiltbug.com/notions/rulers.htm
- Rotary Cutting Supplies at my Etsy store – www.etsy.com/shop/GoosetracksSupplies
Cathy Hooley is owner of Goose Tracks Quilts. She also makes t-shirt quilts for sale, using t-shirts from your private collection. For information, go to www.goosetracks.com.