Preserving Memories: T-shirt Quilting

Posted by on Mar 23, 2013 in Quilting | Comments


What is a common memento that you get from many events? T-shirts! Whether you are at a sporting event, a concert, a play, or on a vacation, chances are you brought home a tee as a souvenir. Now you have drawer full of them, but you can’t just throw them away. What should you do with them? Why, cut them up and make a t-shirt quilt, of course!

Tshirt Quilt

Photo via Nancy

To begin, pull out all of your old t-shirts and do a bit of sorting. Are most of them from a certain type of event or do they vary? Are they all one color, or is there a rainbow of cotton? Decide if your quilt is going to be of a certain theme and color, or if you want a mix of favorites. When sorting, try to be aware of the dimension of the print on the shirt, and choose those that are somewhat similar in size. Once you have your favorites, think about how large your quilt is going to be. If you are making a throw or bed quilt, you are going to need lots of shirts! If a wallhanging t-shirt quilt is your thing, be very selective because you will only need a few.

Once your shirts have been selected, prepare them for cutting by washing them. Use a regular detergent, but no fabric softener, and dry as usual. Now it is time to take apart those shirts! The side seams can be torn open with a seam ripper, or they can be cut carefully with a pair of sharp scissors.

Since t-shirt fabrics are stretchy, they need to be stabilized prior to cutting out the squares. A lightweight, woven fusible interfacing that has little or no stretch will do the trick. The interfacing needs to be applied to the back of all of the t-shirt squares. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions, and always test interfacing on a small square of extra t-shirt material before using it on your project material. Once the interfacing is fused to all of the t-shirt backings, decide on the size of your square. You should be able to comfortably cut a 14” – 16” square from each shirt. Be sure to allow a couple inches of blank space around the graphics! Cut squares using a rotary cutter, ruler, and mat.

Tshirt Quilts

Photo via Molly

Now it is time to sew the quilt top together! The squares can be sewn directly together in a patchwork manner, or they can be sewn together in a grid with sashing in between. After the quilt top is finished, cut the backing fabric to the same size as the top. Layer the quilt sandwich together with right sides facing, with or without batting laying on top. Pin the stack together carefully on all four sides and sew around the quilt, leaving a large opening on one side for turning. Trim excess batting, turn the quilt right side out, then hand sew the seam shut. To finish, quilt using the stitch in the ditch method along the seams or hand tie every few inches.

If you are a more experienced quilter, there are many ways to switch up this kind of quilt! A few options? Play around with the layout by using blocks of different sizes or by adding borders and cornerstones. Baste your quilt top as you normally would and quilt it in a meandering design rather than straight lines. Use your imagination and have fun creating a quilt that is truly full of memories!

Come on back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow to learn about quilting fun with stencils!

Comments

  1. We can make this for you if you are not up to doing it yourself. Check it out at our website.

  2. Rosemary says:

    I’m working on finishing a T-shirt quilt for D#2 and now D#1 wants want too. This quilt was really a challenge as everything was a different size. I included her soccer team pictures, sox, baseball style hat and mascot as well as a picture of the school which she took. Hopefully the next one will be easier.

  3. Kate Maeda says:

    I was especially happy to see Molly’s non-linear quilt. I have been thinking about a t-shirt quilt but the areas I want to use are all different sizes so this gave me an idea what my finished product might look like.

    1. Abby says:

      Kate, I’ve been doing non-linear t-shirt quilts for years. I keep as much of the shirt as possible when I apply the interfacing. You end up cutting some off, but the thinnest, cheapest interfacing is best anyway.

      I lay the shirts out, determining how the colors work together best. If you look at Molly’s quilt, you can see where shirts are lined up together, either in columns or rows, and then sewn together into larger blocks. If you leave enough extra space on the t-shirt blocks before trimming them down, you can trim them so they’ll fit into rows or columns with other blocks. It’s hard to explain, so I hope that helps.

      I started with sashing, and now I sew them all together without sashing. It’s a lot easier than you’d expect.

  4. Sarah C says:

    Love these quilts- there are many ways to make them more modern too!

  5. Molly says:

    I always wanted to make one of these with my college tshirts, but unfortunately I decided to clean out my closet a few years ago…I’m so mad now!! Oh well, these are so beautiful and give me so many ideas for the future! Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Tammy says:

    This was such great timing for me. My son graduates from high school this May and I have been putting back T-shirts over the past few years from church camp and youth events, concerts, and just some misc. ones that I know that he loved, but had outgrew. I had done a few google searches, so I had an idea on how to do it. I have just cut up his shirts last week leaving as much as possible around the designs since I’m not sure exactly how I want to do the layout yet. This was great info. I’m just not sure which interfacing to use. I have read other places to use a tricot interfacing, but I can’t find that at JoAnn’s. Any suggestions on which type from Pellon??

  7. Sherry says:

    I have completed 33 t-shirt quilts and several throws incorporating all sorts of different fabrics from clothes. I have used only the the t-shirt fabric for the front of the quilts and have gotten very creative with the borders. It can be a bit of a challenge sometimes to make all the different shirts coordinate, but always fun to see the finished project.