Making a t-shirt quilt is an easy, fun way to preserve memories. It simply consists of large squares of old clothing that has meaning for the family, or cool t-shirt designs. The quilts are usually made up of 12" squares that can be framed, or sashed, with a contrasting fabric. The creation of one of these can bring family members together with the memories shared. The lasting proof of those efforts is the family history on a quilt.
Here are the basic techniques and instructions to get you started:
- A pattern for the squares that is 12 x 12 inches. This can be constructed from photo paper, cardboard, or plastic
- Cutting utensil
- Needle and thread or a sewing machine and thread
- Shirts from closets, storage bins and attic spaces
- Two different fabrics that can be used as a back for the quilt and batting for the blanket
Here's how to make a t-shirt quilt:
Choose your t-shirts. The shirts that you use should be clean and in good condition. If they are excessively worn, your quilt will wear out faster, too. If you have an uneven number of t-shirts, you can use plain fabric in some squares.
Cut the design to size. Cut each shirt design into a 12-1/2" square using the template as a guide. This measurement will give you the 12" design, plus 1/2" for seam allowances. Remember to leave space around each design for the seam allowances on every t-shirt that is cut!
The following are the numbers of squares necessary to complete a quilt in the corresponding sizes:
- Twin size -- 45 squares
- Full size -- 63 squares
- King size -- 72 squares
- Queen size -- 81 squares
Assemble your t-shirt squares into columns. Pin each square to the other in columns. The number of squares in a column will depend upon how many t-shirts you have and how large you want the finished product to be.
The following is a list of the columns needed for each size of quilt:
- Twin size -- 5 rows in width and 9 rows in length
- Full size -- 7 rows in width and 9 rows in length
- King size -- 8 rows in width and 9 rows in length
- Queen size -- 9 rows in width and 9 rows in length
Begin sewing the squares together. First place the squares in rows that are several inches apart. (Each quilt will be several blocks long. The width is determined by the size.) Once the quilt is laid out, start sewing each square to the other to form columns. Then you can sew each column together.
Layer your quilt. Lay your quilt-top, wrong side up, on a large smooth surface or on the floor. Layer your batting and your backing material on top of it. The batting is what insulates it. A low-loft polyester batting is appropriate for machine-quilting. If you're planning to tie your quilt, you may want to use a high-loft cotton batting to give it that puffy, cozy feeling.
The backing material is typically the same fabric as your borders, but it can be anything you like. You could even piece together more t-shirt squares and have a two-sided quilt! Baste or pin the quilt-top, batting and backing fabric together. You may then quilt the three layers, or simply tie them. This involves threading a length of yarn through the three layers at regular intervals and tying it in a square knot.
Finish your quilt. Add binding and iron it if necessary. Your masterpiece is complete!
Do you want to add a little flair? This is not only doable, but encouraged by accomplished quilt makers. For those who want to jazz up their masterpiece, there are several additions that can be made.
- Select interfacing. You may want to attach interfacing to each shirt to prevent it from stretching. Interfacing is an iron-on fabric that stabilizes quilting fabrics and materials that might otherwise stretch too much to be used in a quilt. A medium-weight interfacing is adequate for this project.
- Attach fusible interfacing to each shirt. Cut the front and back of each shirt apart, then cut a 14" square of interfacing. (These instructions are based on a 12" square for each shirt. If you want to use a larger square than that, adjust the measurements accordingly). Center the interfacing on the back of the shirt design. Iron it onto the t-shirt very carefully, making sure to avoid wrinkling the fabric or the interfacing.
- Choose and cut your sashing fabric. Sashing is the border that runs in between each design to separate them and give them prominence. Each sash should be 2-1/2" wide--2" finished width plus the 1/2" seam allowance.
- Assemble the columns. To assemble the columns into a quilt-top follow these instructions. After you have sewn all of your t-shirts squares into columns, add the long sashing strips to the side of each column, then sew the columns together. Cut each long sashing strip slightly longer than the length of the column of squares, then trim it when you're done if necessary.
- Choose and cut your border fabric. You may choose the same fabric as your sashes, or a contrasting fabric for your border. You will want a border of 3", which will be 2-1/2" when finished. To add your borders, attach your border fabric around the outer edge of your quilt-top, again using a 1/4" seam allowance.
Although you may know how to make a quilt, these tips will help you make one out of fun t-shirts.