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Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial.
Photo copyright Ruth Ingram, Used with Permission

Sometimes a battered t-shirt just can't be recycled back into clothing, but it's so hard to chuck those old memories in the trash. A t-shirt is often more than an article of clothing. T-shirts can say what we've done, where it all went down, and sometimes even bear the Sharpie signatures of who was there with us.

Instead of tossing those T's, consider turning the logo areas into quilt blocks. It's easy to join together these large squares to create a memory quilt that can last a lifetime. I'll show you how.

What you'll need:

  • 8-16 old t-shirts
  • Scissors
  • (optional) rotary cutter and mat
  • sewing machine or sewing kit
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Iron-on interfacing
  • 1/2 yard of coordinating fabric for trimming

Once you've got your materials, let's get started.

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Cut the T-Shirt Squares

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Cut T-Shirt Quilt Squares.
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Decide what size you would like your t-shirt squares to be. Usually, a 12-16" square will allow for the logo on the shirt. Add 1/4" on each side for seam allowance (what is seam allowance?). For example, if you want your t-shirt squares to be 12" finished, then cut 12 1/2" squares to allow for the seams.

How many squares do you need to cover a queen-sized bed? If you are making the quilt for a specific bed, try this guide to standard mattress sizes.

While scissors will work, a rotary cutter and mat are going to make this job a lot easier. A rotary cutter is like a pizza cutter for fabrics.

Need some inspiration for your t-shirt quilt? Our Guide to Quilting, Janet Wickell, has an extensive gallery of t-shirt quilt photos submitted by About.com readers. See the gallery of T-shirt quilts.

Once your t-shirt squares are cut, let's add some iron-on interfacing.

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Iron Interfacing to the Squares

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Interfacing on T-shirt quilt.
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T-Shirt material is stretchy, so you will need to stabilize it with some interfacing to make it easier to work with. Interfacing is readily available at craft stores and online (compare online prices), and is very easy to work with.

Cut pieces of interfacing that are at least 1/2" larger than your t-shirt squares. Set your iron to the highest non-steam setting (don't put water in it). Lay the interfacing with the tiny glue dots on the back of the t-shirt material. Press with the iron for a few seconds, lift. Repeat all over the back of the interfacing until it has bonded to the back of the t-shirt material. Use your scissors to trim the extra interfacing from around the square.

When all of your t-shirt squares have been backed, let's stitch them together.

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Stitch T-Shirt Squares Together

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

T-Shirt Quilt Squares.
Photo copyright Ruth Ingram, Used with Permission

The easiest and quickest way to make a t-shirt quilt is to sew the squares directly together. To do this, place the squares on top of each other, right sides together. Stitch down the side of the square 1/4" from the edge.

To get a quilt of shirts, stitch together rows of squares, then stitch the finished rows together to form the body of the quilt. Easy! If you have stitched the squares directly together, go ahead to step #7, adding a border to the quilt.

Another way to make a t-shirt quilt is to border each square with a strip of fabric. These strips are called sashing. Sashing adds to the height and width of the quilt, as well as contributing to the color scheme and design. Next, I'll show you how to connect the t-shirt squares using sashing.

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Stitch Sashing to T-Shirt Squares

Sew T-Shirt Quilt

Sew T-Shirt Quilt.
Rain Blanken

If you would like to have vertical borders of colorful fabric between each t-shirt square, this can quickly be done by sewing long strips of fabric to most of the t-shirt squares.

The vertical border material can be as thick as you like, 1-2" of finished material is standard, be sure to add 1/2" for seam allowance. For example, for a 2" border, cut a strip of fabric that is 2 1/2" wide. Cut the strip as long as possible.

Sew the t-shirt squares to the long strip of fabric, 1/4" from the edge, right sides together. Stitch the strip to the right-hand sides of each square, as shown, excluding the squares that will be on the ends of each row. The t-shirt squares positioned at the ends of each row don't need the in-between fabric because they will be up against the larger, border fabric we will be adding later.

Next, we can turn the squares into rows.

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Use Sashing to Create Rows of T-Shirt Squares

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

T-Shirt Quilt Squares.
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Clip the strip of fabric we sewed in the last step to the length of each t-shirt square. For a row of four, you should have three t-shirt squares with a vertical border piece, and one t-shirt square without a border piece. Sew each square as shown to create a row of t-shirt squares that have a border piece between them. The last square sewn on will not have a border piece on the right-hand side.

Finish the row by sewing on a strip of sashing that is the length of the finished row. This horizontal sashing can be the same width as your vertical sashing, or thicker, it's up to you. Remember to stitch the fabric to the row, right-sides together and 1/4" from the edge. The last row will not have this horizontal strip of sashing.

Once you have built all of your rows, sew them all together to make the body of the quilt. Next, let's sew a border sashing all around the outside of the quilt.

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Sew on Border Sashing

Sew a T-Shirt Quilt: Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

T_Shirt Quilt.
Rain Blanken

Border sashing runs along each side of the quilt. The border gives the quilt a finished look and helps it to hold its​ shape. Janet Wickell, our Guide to Quilting, has a really quick method for borders that will forgive and minor measuring accidents that can make a quilt look lopsided:

Next, let's back and finish the quilt.

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Backing and Finishing the Quilt

T-Shirt Quilting

Finished T-Shirt Quilt.
Photo copyright Ruth Ingram, Used with Permission

For a snuggly quilt, you'll need to add batting and a back. Batting is like a flat stuffing; it's what makes a quilt soft and warm. The 'backing' is simply the large rectangle that makes up the entire back of the quilt.

To finish, you will need to make a batting sandwich out of the front and back of the quilt. 

(Need Help? Ask Rain on Facebook.)



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