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T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

The Heart of Life: T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Friday, May 3, 2013

T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

Ok, so I’m not really a seamstress.  I did beginning sewing 4-H back when I was eleven, and I’ve been making up my own rules ever since.  A real seamstress would cringe at my sewing practices.

However, a few years ago I got it in my head that I wanted to make a quilt.  I don’t know what came over me, but this was the result:


I have yet to get it quilted, but it turned out pretty well for me being a non-sewer. 

And then about a year ago I got that familiar sewing itch again while sorting through my husband’s millions of USU-related t-shirts.  I’d seen t-shirt quilts before and didn’t really love too many of them.  The colors were usually too random and the concept of simply sticking the t-shirt squares together didn’t really appeal to me.  Thus, I referred back to the same basic principles I used in my other quilt to make a border between my t-shirt squares.  This is the result:

2013-04-27 14.57.21

I love it.  It’s simple without looking like I just threw it together.  I like calculated simplicity.  I’m still working on tying it, but here it is in its {nearly} full, wrinkled, incomplete glory:

2013-04-27 15.01.41

A friend asked me for more details on how I made it, and after I wrote it up I decided I may as well put it on my blog too.

I ended up using three different colors of shirts—Aggie blue, light blue, and gray—because I wanted it to have a cohesive look.  I wanted to incorporate the logos from the t-shirts, but for the most part there was no possible way to have the logo centered in the square (it was usually too close to the neckline), and that bothered me.  Thus, I cut out the logos and made as many plain squares as possible from the shirts.  I think I got more squares out of the shirt this way anyway.  After that, I sewed the logos onto some of the plain squares.  I did this by just sewing with a machine about a ¼” away from the edges of the logo, leaving the edges of the logo raw (knit won’t fray).  I did some color-blocking with one of the squares because I was just a little short on gray and had some extra light blue.

My quilt is approximately twin-sized and I used a total of 24 t-shirt squares (four squares wide and six squares long).  I can’t remember exactly how many t-shirts I used.  I think I got three or four 12” squares out of one medium t-shirt (depending on the logo position).  I bought a twin-sized jersey sheet set for my border fabric and the backing.  This ended up being a thinner material than the t-shirts, but it still worked well.  Plus I knew it’d wash and dry well, whereas some knit fabrics require special treatment.  I used the fitted sheet as the border fabric (cutting off the elastic and cutting along the corner seams beforehand so it’d lay flat for measuring purposes).  I used the flat sheet for my backing—it was the perfect size. 

I made a cardboard master template for each size of square/rectangle and used it to trace the different pieces before cutting them out. This worked especially well for the t-shirts, seeing as each shirt will probably be a little different in terms of how many squares you can get out of them.

squareFor the borders, it’s easiest to make blocks like the one on the left. I did a 12” t-shirt square with a 3” wide border. You can make either the square or border bigger or smaller; just adjust your measurements accordingly.

The blue part on the diagram is the t-shirt square. The green and orange rectangles are both the border fabric, but I made them different colors on the diagram to differentiate sizes.

First you sew the green and blue pieces together (1/4” seam). Then sew the orange part to the top. By the way, the reason why the orange piece is 14.5” rather than 15” is because after the blue and green pieces are sewn together you lose 1/2”, shortening the width to 14.5”. Thus, if you change the size of your squares or border just keep that seam in mind when calculating the length of your “orange piece.”

After you sew all your blocks, sew them together like so:


First sew the blocks side by side to make long horizontal strips. Then sew the strips together. This is a long piece to sew, so it’s likely that the seams will start to misalign if you don’t pin it together first. I’m lazy and didn’t pin, so I had to slightly stretch parts of the fabric as I sewed to line things up again—that’s the beauty of knit.

For the bottom and right sides of your quilt you’ll have to add some additional “orange pieces” to finish out the border (as illustrated above). Sew these pieces to the bottoms or sides of your edge blocks before sewing the blocks into a horizontal strip.

You’ll need a lone, oddly sized corner piece to finish out your bottom right corner—this is the purple piece in the illustration. My “purple piece” is 3”x17”. The 17” comes from spanning two 3” borders plus a 12” square, then minus 1” (a half inch for each seam). For this corner block, sew the bottom “orange piece” to the block first, and then sew the “purple piece” to the right side. After that you can connect the corner block to its corresponding horizontal strip and then continue sewing the strips together.

This was an incredibly cheap project.  The shirts were basically free, the sheet set cost somewhere around $8-$10 (on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond), and I got the batting on sale at Joann’s for maybe $7-$9.  So somewhere between $15 and $20 for a quilt?  Not bad at all.


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