T-shirt Quilt and Directions

A T-shirt quilt story and directions for making your own quilt.

You have a dresser drawer or closet full of old t-shirts.  It is time to clean out and make room for going shopping for those after 4th of July sales.  Maybe you just find it is just time to clean but you really don’t want to part with those shirts after all these years.  Like pictures, t-shirts hold memories of a time when…

So what can be done with the pile on the floor of the multiple colors and sizes of old t-shirts from either your children’s days playing soccer or little league?   What about your old college shirts or the ones saved from high school activities.  Those have to mean something or they still would not be in the back of your closest.

Instead of tossing all of these great memories, saved for so long, turn them into a t-shirt quilt.

t-shirt quilt and directions

Currently, I am working on a t-shirt quilt for a friend, whose son passed away a few years ago.  T-shirts are not only memories now they are gifts of times shared that can never be returned.

Her son was also a student in my classroom, my years ago.  As I cut, iron, sew, and quilt memories of a young man flood back and make me smile.   As the quilter, I am pleased to be able employ my talents so that the family will be able to snuggle under the quilt made with the days of joys and peace with their son.

t-shirt quilt and directions

“Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream. “
Khalil Gibran


Old shirts transformed into a t-shirt quilt can be a lifetime of memories.


Here are a few pointers to follow when making your t-shirt quilt:  (These directions are modified from Goose Tracks Quilts)  Thank you,  Cathy.

It will have all the same size shirts with fabric sashing between the shirts and a fabric border. The instructions are based on a 15” finished square T-shirt block.

First, check all your tee shirts to make sure that the designs will fit into a 15″ square.  Sizes: all sizes include 1 1/2″ sashing and a 2″ 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 – Make sure the shirts are clean and not stained.

Step 2 – Fusible Interfacing – Each shirt must be backed with non-woven fusible interfacing to prevent it from stretching.   Purchase heavyweight fusible Pellon iron-on interfacing.  Good quality permits less stretching of the t-shirts.  Buy enough for 17” per shirt.

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.

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 inches square – ideally larger than 17 inches 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.

After all the blocks are sewn into columns, make long 2″ sashing strips slightly longer than 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 columns) and sew the columns together. Cut off excess fabric. Press toward sashing.

Cut border strips 2 1/2″ wide and add as desired. 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.

A T-shirt quilt is a treasure of a life time.

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