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Topic: So You Want to Make a Tshirt Quilt, or a T shirt Quilt, or a Tee shirt Quilt  (Read 19521 times)
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Quincy the Pug

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« on: August 11, 2009 08:29:57 PM »

So You Want to Make a Tshirt Quilt, or a T shirt Quilt, or a Tee shirt Quilt

Many, many Craftsters have made Tshirt quilts, finding a new life for those sorority, fraternity, childrens, heavy metal, super hero, concert tees for themselves, their BFF, their kids, their SO.  You name it, I think weve made it.

Frequently, there are questions about getting started.  Ive tried to gather the best advice of Tshirt quilt-making Craftsters.  If Ive missed your quilt, please add a link to the thread.  I dont want to leave anyone out!  If you have other tips, add those, too.  

Basic instructions for a regular Tshirt quilt made of squares that are all the same size:

1.   Gather all your shirts.  Decide what size square you want to make the best use of your designs.  
Tips for getting the most out of your shirts:
  • If you are using shirts that range from child to adult sized, consider cutting the smaller shirts up the center back, then across the back of the sleeves in a T shape.  You can flatten them out and cut a bigger size than if you use only the front.  Doing this will include some of the sleeve seam and possibly the neck binding.
  • If you have a sports jersey or other shirt with a small logo on the front and a number or other design on the back, you can piece the two and then cut a square.
  • Use shirt sleeves or backs to fill in the neck area of smaller shirts so you can cut them bigger.
  • Use shirt backs to add borders to smaller shirts, or shirts with small designs to add interest.
2.   Cut your shirts out LARGER than the size you want them to be.  I cut them as big as possible.  A good rule of thumb is at least 2 inches bigger than the finished size.
3.   Cut squares of fusible web-type interfacing 2 inches bigger than your finished size.  
4.   Iron on interfacing to the wrong side of your shirts.
5.   Cut shirts to size.
Tips for cutting to size:
  • Purchase a square quilters template the size you need for your shirts.  This clear or frosted acrylic template can be laid over the shirt and you can rotary cut each side without moving the shirt.  I had great, consistent, square results with this method.  Templates can be pricey.  I used a 40% coupon at Joanns.
  • Use a cardboard template.  Some Craftsters suggest using a pizza box for larger sizes.
6.   Plan your layout.  
7.   Sew the squares in each row together, keeping them in order.  
8.   Sew each row together, keeping them in order.
9.   Choose your backing.
Tips for backing your quilt:
  • Use polar fleece.  No batting is needed for this option.  You may need to piece the fleece if you make a large quilt.  Most fleece is 58/60 inches wide.
  • Use a sheet or other cotton fabric.  You will probably want to use batting in this case.
  • Use flannel.  Also likely requires batting.
  • Make a double sided quilt or use your scraps to piece a back.
10.   The backing should be larger than your quilt top by a few inches on each side.  Anchor the backing to a table or floor.  The easiest way to do this is to tape it to a hard surface floor.  Make sure it is smooth and wrinkle-free.   Pull it slightly taut.  You dont want to stretch it out of shape, but you dont want it to have room to wrinkle or bunch and you dont want it to move as you layer the batting and top.
11.   If you are using batting, lay this over your backing and smooth it out.  This should be the same size as your backing, slightly larger than your quilt top.
12.   Carefully lay your quilt top on top of the batting and backing, or on the backing if batting is not being used.
13.   Depending on how you are going to quilt your quilt, you may want to baste your quilt.  Use quilters safety pins, which are curved, safety pins, needle and thread, or straight pins (Be careful!).  You can also use basting spray, but should reinforce it with some pinning.  Tshirt quilts become very heavy.  The more quilting you plan to do, the more you should baste.
14.   Most Tshirt quilts are tied at the block corners.  If you use batting, make sure you quilt based on the batting.  Some batting can be quilted or tied only 4 inches apart.  Some can be quilted or tied 10 inches apart.  Check your particular batting.  Options for quilting include:
  • Stitching in the ditch sewing straight lines in the seams so that they are hidden
  • Tying the quilt at the corners of the blocks using embroidery floss, pearl cotton, ribbon or yarn.
  • Using the zigzag or specialty stitch on your machine to tie the quilt.
  • Some Craftsters have stitched beads at the corners of the quilt to tie it.
  • Free motion quilt in a stipple or other pattern over the entire quilt.
  • Machine or hand quilt as desired.

Advanced options:
  • You can cut assorted sizes, but the piecing will be more difficult.  Using borders and filler pieces from shirt backs and sleeves can help.  Dont forget your seam allowances.  I would usually suggest planning ahead, but I think its probably easier to look at some examples, cut out your shirts, then figure out the layout, filling in where needed.
  • Use the whole shirt.  See Homerof2 or Teacoutures quilts for examples.  (Links below)
  • Use features of the shirts to add features to your quilt.  For example, I used some baseball jerseys that had a 3 button placket at the top.  For one near the top of the quilt, I used the sleeve fabric to make a pocket.  The shirt can be unbuttoned to access the pocket.  Others have used the front chest pockets in their quilts.
  • Use the back or sleeves to fill in the neckline on smaller shirts so you can get the size you need out of them.  Ditto for V-neck shirts.  Sometimes the sleeves on jerseys will have matching trim that looks cool.
  • Use the back or scrap from the front to add borders to small shirts or small designs, or just to add interest.
  • If you dont have enough shirts to make the size quilt you want, use the numbers from sports jerseys for some blocks. Piece small logos from the front to make a 4 patch block.
  • Appliqu sleeve logos or front pocket logos onto larger pieces so they are useable.
  • Use plain shirt backs for borders, sashing and blank blocks.

Other sites with instructions:
Includes a great guideline for what size quilt you can make based on how many shirts are required as well a pretty detailed (written only) directions.

Also has detailed, similar directions to the first link.

Not just squares:

Past Craftster Tshirt quilts:
sparrownlove           Tie dye tshirt quilt   
OakieMist                Two sided quilt   
ph33lth3lov3            Quilt with borders   
craftylittlemonkey     Tshirt and corduroy baby quilt   
isaacmom01             quilt for DH   
Teacouture              full shirts used   
Marmish                   sports shirts   
crabby                    quilt with borders   
stick                       Paul Frank quilt   
Grindhousehussy19  - Mature language on one shirt-   
Homerof2                 kids-whole shirt used      
Chimes                   deconstructed tshirt quilt
Chimes v.2              deconstructed v.2
stainedandlit           Queen sized quilt with varied block sizes

One final tip: when writing a lengthy post about Tshirt quilts, make sure you dont drop any letters in Tshirt or youre talking about a whole nother thing!  Wink
« Last Edit: December 03, 2009 05:30:21 PM by Marmish » THIS ROCKS   Logged

« Reply #1 on: August 22, 2009 07:36:08 AM »

This post is mindblowingly awesome. I definitely bookmarked it. THANK YOU.

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Quincy the Pug

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« Reply #2 on: August 22, 2009 03:39:50 PM »

You're welcome.  There always seem to be questions, and there are so many great quilts already posted, I thought I'd pull it all together.  I definitely researched other craftsters' quilts before I did mine and got lots of tips and inspiration.

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My grandma's work from 1980 :>

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« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2009 09:41:20 AM »

Thank you!  This is fantastic.  I'm sure a lot of people have this on their crafty list and will appreciate this. 

Love wins. 

(points to the peeps who know the origin of this claim. ;> )
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« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2009 08:15:31 PM »

Updated original post to add Chimes two, count em, TWO tshirt quilts and stainedandlit's quilt. 

« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2009 11:23:40 AM »

Thank you so much! I just came to this site looking for information on this very thing.  I appreciate it and I can't wait to get started!

« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2009 06:37:07 PM »

Thanks for compiling all of that info!!  I'm about to get started on one for a friend's coworker.

Can anyone answer a question about the fusible web, can it be any lightweight fusible web or does it need to be the mesh type fusible for knits?  That mesh stuff is PRICEY! 


« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2009 08:28:40 PM »

My mom used lightweight and it's just fine. The point, really, is to keep the fabric from stretching (hence the iron on, which is really the most important part), unlike with the mesh stuff, which, as far as my understanding is used more for clothes, is to make it thicker and more stable, but to move in general the way the rest of the outfit does.
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2009 09:04:07 PM »


This thread has saved my life. Smiley My husband has been begging me for a t-shirt quilt for forever, and this thread finally got me the motivation to do it! (my blocks are all cut and interfaced and ready to be sewn at the moment.)

Check out my website: www.embercostumes.com
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2010 04:48:49 PM »

My mom made me one of these in secret for my time at college...the problem was, she used all my favorite t-shirts!
It was still amazing, though. I'll post a pic when I can!
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