How to Make a T-shirt Quilt: Step-by-Step Guide

Over the years, you’ve bought, collected, and stored several T-shirts. Most of them, if not all, you don’t use anymore, and you wonder what to do with them because you feel like a hoarder. 

The good news is that you don’t have to throw them away or give them out. You can recycle and upgrade these old T-shirts into a memory quilt. You can also learn how to make memory quilts from clothes.

Here is a ‘T-shirt Quilt How To’ step-by-step guide on how to make a quilt with pictures.

What You Need To Make a T-shirt Quilt

Tools

Materials

Best sewing machine for quilting

T-shirts

Measuring tape

Machine sewing and quilting thread

Iron and ironing board

Lightweight fusible interfacing(preferably a ½ yard per T-shirt)

Rotary cutter and a pair of scissors

Backing fabric

Cutting board

Batting

Rotary cutting mat

Binding

    1. Quilting Pins

Quilting pins are tools designed with a stopper on one end and a sharp point on the other and are found in most quilt kits.

But why should you use quilting pins?

      • To hold the fabrics together
      • To ensure straight seam lines
      • To make hold patterns in place when cutting and attaching
      • To make sewing easier 

When selecting your quilting pin, consider the important components of a pin. The right type of pin should pierce through the material without damaging it, and hold still until you are ready to remove it.

      2. Scissors

Quilters usually have two sizes of scissors. They include:

      • Small size- used for cutting and trimming sewing threads and other small-sized items
      • Large size- used for cutting and trimming applications that need a large cutting surface such as cutting through layers of fabric

Cutting tools for sewing fabric scissors
Image Source: Creative curator

Sewing scissors should be very sharp to cut easily through the fabric you are working with. You can reserve your sewing scissors specifically for fabric and not use them in other household cutting tasks. This way, you will be able to protect it from getting dull.

      3. Rotary Cutter

How to make a t-shirt quilt
Image Source: Trendy Leather

A rotary cutter is a quilting tool with a sharp circular blade. It is effective when cutting different types of fabric.

When making your T-shirt quilt, use the rotary cutter for:

      • Cutting out the T-shirts into designs
      • Cutting and trimming the binding strips
      • Cutting and trimming the excess batting and backing fabric from the quilt when you are done quilting

      4. Rotary Cutting Mat

As earlier mentioned, rotary cutters have sharp blades. They are sharper than scissors. As such, they not only cut through the fabric, they can also cut any surface under. You should protect these work surfaces by laying a sizable mat between the surface and the fabric.

If you have glued or pinned a mat on your working surface to function as the cover for an extended period, you can also place a smaller mat onto the semi-permanent larger one to protect it from excessive wear.

      5. Templates

A quilting template is a tool used as a guide for making shapes and patterns consistently. Templates are commonly used for shapes that a standard ruler cannot easily cut.

They are used to cut T-shirts to a specific desired size accurately. Most templates are Plexiglas material or transparent to make it possible to see the T-shirt through the template.

      6. Ruler

Maintaining accuracy is important during quilting. This is where sewing rulers come in. It helps you make precise, accurate cuts to not mess up your quilt design and pattern.

Like sewing templates, rulers are also made from:

      • Clear glass 
      • Plastic
      • Acrylic 

They have incremental marking just like the usual ruler, and they come in different shapes and sizes, such as squares, rectangles, triangles, squares, etc.

      7. Sewing Machine

Not all sewing machines are built for quilting. When sewing a T-shirt quilt fabric, a more developed, higher quality machine will make your work easier.

Longarm sewing machines with dual walking feet are preferable for T-shirt quilts.

      8. Batting and Backing Fabrics

Usually, you have three layers of fabric when making a T-shirt quilt. The top layer is the T-shirt pieces cut and sewn together to make the quilt. 

The middle is the batting fabric layered right below the top T-shirt quilt, and the last layer is the quilt backing fabric upon which the whole quilt is laid. The backing is the back of your quilt. You can also use pre-quilted fabric for batting and backing found in most quilt kits.

How To Make a T-shirt Quilt For Beginners

How do you make a t-shirt quilt? Here is a ‘t-shirt quilt how to’ guide for beginners:

Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Determine Your Quilt Size

First, gather all the necessary tools and materials, examine how many t-shirts for a quilt you have, and decide on the size of your quilt and the dimensions. 

For every quilt size, you need an approximate number of T-shirts. Below is a table for estimated measurements that you can use as a guide when learning how to make a quilt out of t-shirts.

Quilt Size

Approximate size measurement( Inches)

Estimated no. of T-shirts needed

King

110″ x 96″ – 7 across x 6 down.

30-64

Queen

96″ x 96″ – 6 across x 6 down.

30-42

Full

82″ x 96″ – 5 across x 6 down.

25-36

Twin

64″ x 82″ – 4 across x 5 down

16-25

Large Lap

48″ x 64″ – 3 across x 4 down.

12-16

Lap

45″ x 45″ – 2 across x 4 down.

9-12

Step 2: Cut your T-shirts

Use a pair of scissors or a rotary cutter to cut along the seams and get rid of the bulk of the T-shirt. Ensure you remove any knitted and hemmed areas along the cuffs, neckband, and the bottom of the T-shirt. 

Cut off the sleeves and connecting seams, including the neckline. Also, cut the sides of your T-shirt and around the armhole.

T-shirt quilt how to make
Image Source: Rock Creek DIY

If you are using both sides of the T-shirt, cut up the sides as evenly as you can. If you are only using one side, cut straight up the back and trim the sides a bit, so you are not left with too much excess.

Since this might be your first time learning how to make a quilt out of shirts, you don’t have to worry about being precise. 

Step 3: Arrange Into Piles

Layout your cut T-shirts on the floor and arrange. Start by separating into piles those of common dimensions—long, narrow prints into one pile, big and wide into another. 

You will still need to divide these piles further based on later measurements, but for now, just organize. The number of piles available will be the major factor in determining the final dimensions of your quilt.

Step 4: Start Measuring      

Now that you have all of your fabric and are more familiar with the T-shirt designs, you can start measuring and marking. Take your smallest T-shirt and the T-shirt with the largest print and measure.  This “design” will determine the size of each square and dictate the width of the entire vertical strip.

Use this method to measure all the other T-shirts beginning with the widest pile. Measure and mark the design width only and use the measurement to generate sub-piles of similar measured designs. 

A good graphic should not be too large. A measurable size of 15” x 15” or 16” x 16” is just good enough. Remember to make the sewn square a 1/2″ smaller on all sides to leave enough fabric for a half-inch seam allowance.

If you have several quilting fabric bundles, you can do smaller squares so that the quilt isn’t too big. Just ensure you include all aspects of the design you wish to be displayed in your final quilt.

Step 5: Add the Interface

Most T-shirts are stretchy, making them hard to sew. Interfacing helps make them sturdier and easier to quilt.  Refer and follow the interfacing instructions if you want to know how to quilt a  t-shirt quilt using an interface.

    1. Cut ½ yard pieces of interfacing per T-shirt 
    2. Use a hot iron with steam and position the interfacing with the front side down, and try to center the interfacing design on your T-shirt and press as much as possible
    3. When interfacing, place a damp cloth over the print to avoid melting the ink. Start at the top and work your way down for stability and accuracy. Take enough time and press well so that it fuses appropriately
    4. Ensure the interfacing is securely bonded and trim the design to your preferred size, including a 1/2-inch seam allowance
    5. Don’t piece the interfacing because it will show through, and beware of wrinkles when still fusing because once the T-shirt is cool, they won’t come out!

Have a look at the best interfacing for T-shirt quilts

Best Interfacing for Tshirt Quilts (2022 Buyer’s Guide)

Step 6: Final Cutting

After adding the interface, you can now cut your design squares to the exact measurement. If you are a beginner, you can cut even squares, so you don’t mess up easily, but if you are stable and comfortable, you can use long graphics to cut rectangles. 

Note: Ensure your measurements are accurate before each cut.

You should use a rotary cutter for more accuracy with the squares (or rectangles). Alternatively, you can also use a square ruler and scissors to draw the lines and cut, and you can make your pattern, cut the first one accurately and use it in cutting others. 

If you are using a template, ensure it’s a transparent one.

When using the rotary cutter, lay your T-shirt on the board or measure to ensure it is straight. Try to cut as close to the neckline as possible to get enough space above the graphic so that it appears even above and below.

After cutting the top, measure the distance below and cut. Then, cut the sides by first making an oversized cut and trimming inward to ensure the graphic is well centered.

Remember, this is the final cut, so measure, re-measure, and measure once more for complete accuracy. Cut as even and as precise as possible to ensure accuracy during stitching and lining seams when sewing the rows together.

Step 7: Lay Out and Organize

Lay your t-shirts out on a floor or a mat and organize them in order so you can estimate how many t-shirts for a quilt you require. Strive to organize them so that the colors are spread out evenly and as eye-appealing as possible.

T-shirt quilt how to
Image Source: Pinterest

Step 8:Sew the Squares to Make Rows

    1. Firstly, learn to sew well-arranged squares together to come up with rows. Start with the top row moving down, or vice versa
    2. Assuming you are starting from left to right of a row, lay number one square on number square and sew the left side at a ½” inch
    3. Next, lay number three square on number two square and sew the right edge and so on, basically joining the pieces together  
    4. Repeat this t-shirt quilt how to make square pieces process until you have your rows

How do you make a t-shirt quilt
Image Source: Baby Lock

Step 9: Sew Your T-shirt Quilt

Do you know how to sew a t-shirt quilt? All you have to do is sew your rows together, and that’s it! Surprisingly, this is the most straightforward step. 

Fold row 1 down onto row 2 and pin together. Ensure the graphics face the same side so that you don’t have to take out an entire row of stitches later. Next, sew the upper edge and press the seam allowance open. Repeat this for all the rows.

How to sew a t-shirt quilt
Image Source: Instructables

If the quilt gets too heavy, you can learn how to bind a quilt by separately joining a few rows first then merging them into one big quilt. 

Step 10:Finish the T-shirt Quilt by Attaching Batting and Backing

    1. If you don’t know how to finish a t-shirt quilt, start by cutting the batting and the backing fabrics to fit the size of your quilt
    2. First, layer the blanket batting on the bottom side of the T-shirt quilt, attach and secure them together using pins from the top side.  All the pins used during batting and backing are removed after sewing
    3. Next, place your backing fabric on top of the batting material and pin-straight along the outer seam edge

How many t-shirts for a quilt
Image Source: Keepsake

      4. As seen in the picture, three layers of blanket batting, a T-shirt quilt top (facing up), and the backing fabric (facing down) are formed 

      5. Pin all the edges around your quilt. But remember to mark and leave a big enough hole to turn your T-shirt quilt right side out. Start at one edge and sew around the quilt using your preferable stitch design, leaving just your hole open 

      6. Pin and sew the hole after turning the quilt’s right side out. At this point, you can decide to learn how to make a t-shirt quilt with borders, or you can just leave it without borders.

      7. Your T-shirt quilt top is finally finished!

How to finish a t-shirt quilt
Image Source: Wikihow

Watch the video below on how to finish a quilt using batting and backing

Tips and Tricks To Use While Making a T-Shirt Quilt

How to make a quilt out of shirts
Image Source: Taxo

Now that you have a detailed idea of how to make a t-shirt quilt, here’s a few tricks to pass along:

    1. Begin by cutting out all the logos and designs on the T-shirts as large as possible so that there’s plenty left for adjusting the size.
    2. Cut the clothes first before interfacing and interface all materials except the different types of cotton fabrics.  Every material has a stretch, and fused interfacing keeps it in check.
    3. Place your measuring tapes right beneath the final size of the quilt and sew within those parameters.
    4. Layout the untrimmed pieces within the measuring tape quilt size to refine the design with logo size and sashing strips.
    5. During interfacing, ensure to open the clothes at the seams. This way, you get better yardage from the fabric.
    6. Fuse a large piece of the fusible interface to the back of the fabric and avoid butting two pieces together; it will show on the front side.
    7. When purchasing a fusible, opt for a lightweight fusible with big-sized glue dots on the back. This will be able to stick without adding much weight to the shirt.
    8.  Keep your blocks or squares to the right and accurate size if you don’t want to end up with a wavy quilt in the end.
    9. Check your seams after you have sewed the squares.  Be sure to sew through all the quilt layers and not just the interfacing. Do a quick check again and ensure you know how to sew a t-shirt quilt stitch over the seam in case of skipped stitches.
    10. When ironing, never place an iron on the front of the t-shirt. This can easily melt the design or logo paint and leave a mess on the iron and the T-shirt.
    11. The best way to design is by sewing through rows or by block units. But you are free to use whichever way makes sewing work the easiest.
    12. After determining the plan and design, trim the shirts to size.
    13. Always remember to include a 1/2″ for seam allowances when stitching.
    14. You can use the top side and the back of the same T-shirt to make your quilt.
    15. Though important, it is not a mandatory rule to stabilize T-shirts with interfacing of any type.
    16. You can decide to either make a machine-washable T-shirt quilt or use dry-clean-only items to avoid frequent washing.

Conclusion

If you are a hoarder of T-shirts or find yourself with a pile of unused T-shirts, you can learn how to make a t-shirt quilt on Youtube and transform your wardrobe. T-shirt quilts are a remarkable way of retaining memories or making an extraordinary gift to anyone of choice

While they are generally easy to make, they require time and planning. Therefore, consider the guide above on how to make a quilt with pictures when learning how to quilt. You can also watch this video to top up this guide.

While at it, you can also learn how to sew backings, how to make a rag quilt, how to make a tie quilt, and how to make barn quilts just as easily.

Till next time, have fun quilting!

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