Quick and Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial

If you have a pile of clothing and T-shirts that have special meaning but don’t really know what to do with them, a T-shirt quilt may be the perfect solution. Not only will you get to revisit some old favorites as you work, but the finished quilt will have both sentimental and practical value.

Tips Before You Begin

Sewing and quilting with knit fabric is a different experience from using high quality quilter’s cottons. Because the fabric of a T-shirt is designed to be flexible and stretchy, pieces cut from the shirt will curl and flex out of shape as well. The T-shirts you’ve chosen for your project are likely well-loved memory pieces – and may not be in perfect condition. Laundering, wearing, and handling ages fabric, so some parts of your shirt may show extra signs of wear. The easiest way to prepare a knit fabric for quilting is to use a fusible, non-woven interfacing to prevent stretching and curling.

Related video: Types of Interfacing Fabric and Interfacing Sewing (links to our sister site, National Sewing Circle)

Choosing a lightweight fusible interfacing to back your T-shirt pieces can help smooth out any uneven or worn patches and prevent your blocks from spreading out of shape. Depending on the size of your T-shirts, you’ll be able to stabilize four to eight shirts per yard of interfacing.

Heavy weight T-shirts, or those made from a thick or dense knit fabric that is less flexible and more sturdy, may not need stabilizer, but most lightweight to medium knits will benefit from adding a non-woven fusible interfacing as directed. Using a stabilizer helps to equalize your fabric weights by adding some additional heft to your T-shirts, allowing them to more closely mimic the weight and hand of a good quality quilter’s cotton. If you are unsure of how your knit will perform, cut a sleeve from the garment in question and apply fusible interfacing. Compare the stabilized piece with the rest of the garment to see which version you prefer to work with.

Design Decisions for Your T-Shirt Quilt

A T-shirt quilt is a personal, custom project based on items you already own – each finished quilt will be uniquely yours – and each will have its own look and flavor. Take some time to plan out a design for your quilt. Think about layout and how you want your shirts to look. Do you prefer a uniform look with square blocks that are all the same size or do you want to fussy cut each T-shirt to perfectly highlight the design portion, and then put your quilt together like a puzzle? It may be helpful to fold the T-shirts and lay them out on the ground to get an idea of which type of layout you prefer. Snap a photo of your layout so you have something to refer to as you assemble your quilt.

If you have a diverse group of shirts, you can piece smaller shirts together to make larger blocks or combine with cotton fabric to create blocks that are large enough to work into the rest of your quilt. Sashing and borders can be added as desired – using the interfacing makes it easy to combine your T-shirts with traditional quilt cottons.

Related class: Making a T-Shirt Quilt

Making Your T-Shirt Quilt

Here is a list of supplies and materials you will want to have on hand before you begin making your T-shirt quilt:

  • T-shirts in all shapes and sizes
  • Lightweight, nonwoven fusible interfacing
  • Scissors
  • Rotary cutter, ruler, and mat
  • Fabric for sashing and borders as desired
  • Your favorite quilt batting
  • Basic sewing supplies
Prepare Your Shirts

Select shirts based on their appearance, sentimental value, and how well they work together. Shirts can be thin or worn, but any large tears or holes may render your shirt unusable for your quilt. Wash the shirts and dry them completely to remove stains or odors.

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Cut the Shirts

Use scissors to remove the sleeves from each shirt. Separate the front from the back by cutting along the shoulder seams. Carefully cut each side from the hem to the armhole to completely separate the front from the back. If both sides have design elements you want to use, you can incorporate them into your quilt or reserve the plain, unadorned portions for another project.

Choose Your Block Size

Choose a block size that relates to the size of your shirt pieces – if you are working with adult men’s T-shirts, you can make your blocks up to 16” square. Child or teen sized shirts will naturally yield smaller blocks; unless your shirts are very small, plan on cutting out 10”-12” squares.

Prepare the Interfacing

For each T-shirt, cut a piece of fusible interfacing that is larger than your chosen block size. Place the T-shirt piece image side down on your ironing board and top with the interfacing, with the adhesive side down. Center the interfacing behind the image or position it as desired. Follow the manufacturer’s directions to fuse the interfacing to the back of the T-shirt. Pressing from the back protects the images on the shirt; cover the shirt with a pressing cloth if you decide to press from the front. Repeat for each shirt.

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Trim Your Blocks

Using your rotary cutter, ruler, and mat, trim each shirt piece to your chosen square size.

Piecing the Blocks

Lay your quilt out on the floor to make sure you are happy with the arrangement, then stitch the blocks together. Sew your stabilized shirts together into rows, stitching each piece into place with the right sides together and pressing each row after sewing. Sashing can be added as you piece or you can simply sew the T-shirts together.

Stitch your completed rows together to complete your quilt front. Sew the strips of T-shirt together with the right sides facing each other and then press the finished quilt front.

Related video: Strip Piecing Quilt Techniques

Finish the Quilt

Choose a backing and batting for your fabric and quilt as desired. Hand quilting may be more difficult than usual if you have used thick T-shirts; otherwise you can quilt by hand or machine using your favorite pattern or stencil.

Caring for Your Quilt

Since the shirts you’ve used for your quilt have likely been laundered many times, you won’t need to do anything special to care for your quilt. You can wash it in the washing machine and hang to dry or tumble dry on low.

It’s never been easier to make something special out of your memorable shirts and clothing! Whether you already have a collection or need to raid your family’s closet, you can make a delightful and meaningful piece that you’ll treasure for years to come.

If you’re interested in learning more about making t-shirt quilts, check out National Quilters Circle’s brand new class, Making a T-Shirt Quilt with Kelly Hanson.

Happy quilting!

Have something to add? Leave a comment or email editor@nationalquilterscircle.com.

Discussion
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59 Responses to “Quick and Easy T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial”
  1. Debra Frease

    I would like to try getting this quilt made soon it’s for my Daughter I had hoped to get it done before She got married but that didn’t happen 2009 now 2016 is gone and still in a box nothing done just all wash and ready.

    Reply
  2. Lucinda Tooker

    I have made several t-shirt quilts, and find machine-quilting them impossible because the needle will not go through the images that have been silk-screened or ironed onto them. Instead, I have tied the quilts in a regular pattern. But I would like to quilt them …. have you got any suggestions to make this work?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Lucinda. When making t-shirt quilts I usually add sashing strips between all of my t-shirt blocks and do most of my heavier quilting there to ensure the quilt layers stay together. If you want to quilt on the actual shirt you can always quilt around whatever design is printed on the shirt. Depending on what the design is, you can outline it and then echo quilt around it. You may even be able to quilt inside of a design if it is open enough.

      Reply
    • Sue MacKenzie

      I make T-Shirt quilts quite often for graduations, memorial quilts, etc.. I back all of them with fusible knit interfacing. Then sew sashing and cornerstones to each block, I then sew them together. Then I cut the backing and batting to the size of the quilt. My long arm quilter then quilts them with her Gammill. There has never been a problem her quilting them. If I want to add embellishments, I add those by hand, after the quilt is quilted.

      Reply
      • Denise Mrozek

        Sue…I am looking for someone to make two t-shirt quilts for my children. If you are interested, please let me know how I can get in touch with you. Thanks!

        Reply
      • Leslie

        What is considered a good price for paying a long arm quilter. I am looking for a person to do five quilts and have no idea what the going rate is now as it has been years since I had one done.

        Reply
        • Mary

          I use a quilting shop here in Carpentersville il they charge for a repeat pattern 2 cents a square inch. They have done 5 quilts for me. Average 100×100 is around 225 with the cost of batting.

          Reply
      • Tommie O'Sullivan

        Knit interfacings are made to use with knits when you are sewing garments, so the interfacing stretches with the garment when you move. You don’t want your quilt to stretch. The only way to prevent that stretch is very heavy quilting. The author of this article prefers a laid stabilizer which is non-stretch. My preference is a fusible woven stabilizer. I find laid or non woven stabilizers still stretch a little, but woven stabilizers stretch about as much as woven fabrics. It makes a good choice to stabilize knits that you are using in quilts. Just be aware of the grain, like you would when using cotton fabrics.

        Reply
    • Beverly Dockter

      when we do t-shirts for relay we go with old fashion tying with yarn

      Reply
      • Tommie O'Sullivan

        If you have a sewing machine that does decorative stitches, like satin hearts, use one of those designs instead of yarn to “tie” your quilt. Then when you wash it, it won’t come out of the washer and dryer looking ratty and frayed. This is especially nice for baby quilts.

        Reply
      • Margaret Dubuc

        Love the t- shirt quilts…and would like to make one.But am nervous about doing it without machine quilting them.I have tied many other types of quilts though.Guess I’ll try it soon..

        Reply
  3. Hannah M.

    I am unable to view the pictures. It says the image cannot be found. Would you be able to reattach them? It would really help me visualize when I start. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Sophie

    i was not able to see any of the “how-to’s”.Am I doing something wrong ?

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Sophie,

      The ‘How To’s’ are picture images of the instructions that go along with it. Thank you for noting this error, it has been reported to our Development team, and we hope to have the images up within a couple of business days!

      Sincerely,
      Kate
      NQC Video Membership

      Reply
  5. Alecia

    Hashing ideas before I take the next step of sewing blocks together. Would denim be too heavy to add as sashing? I’m putting together a tshirt quilt for my son and thought adding my dad’s old overalls could add a nice touch for memories.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Denim might be slightly heavy to sew directly to t-shirt fabric unless it is stabilized well. You may need to use a slightly heavier stabilizer, something in the mid to medium weight area. You will also need to use several pins to hold the fabric in place, as they may not tend to feed through the machine at the same rate. Also, generally when you are sewing with t-shirt fabric or other knit/stretch fabric you use a ball point or stretch needle. Depending on how heavy the denim is you may need to switch and use a jeans or heavy weight needle.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Good Morning,
      If I were going to use old denim with a t-shirt quilt (which I think is kind of a cool idea), I would make sure that any denim I used was light weight and very soft and pliable. I would select pieces of denim that have the same feel, weight and bendability as the stabilized t-shirt fabrics I was using. If the denim is too heavy it will not only be difficult to work with in conjunction with the looser/limper t-shirt fabric, it may also cause the t-shirt fabric to drape if the denim is stiff and therefore more stable.
      Hope this helps,
      Heather

      Reply
      • Barbara Jean Marschke

        I made one using a very soft denim and it turned out so well. I backed it in a nice flannel fabric and it is a favorite of my son and his family when they curl up; together in their theater room to watch a movie. I made it about 15 years ago and it has held up well. They use the quilt and it has been washed and still looks great.

        Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Melanie,

      Yes, quilting cotton can be used for the sashing.

      Cheers,

      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C8781

      Reply
  6. Catherine Rylatt

    Not only have I saved my son’s Tshirts over the years of special things but I have also saved material from the different Halloween costumes we have made and material we used to make his First Communion banner. I would dearly love to incorporate this into the quilt but the material is all different. For example, a cotton/poly blend that looks like “leather” (i.e, it is a kind of vinyl); a thin poly with metallic “flames”; a red fake leather; green flannel; a raw silk; a gold lame; purple satin….etc. I am not sure of the best way to incorporate them and would appreciate suggestions. THANKS!!!

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Catherine,

      Even though all of the fabrics may be slightly different you can still absolutely incorporate them into a quilt. I would recommend using a fusible interfacing on the back of all of the quilt sections to help them behave similarly when being stitched and not stretch. At many craft and fabric stores you can find fusible sheets made specifically for making t-shirt quilts. I would also recommend using pins when sewing together the different fabrics. Even after they have been interfaced you still want to make sure nothing shifts or stretches while it is being sewn.
      For more information we also have an entire class dedicated to making t-shirt quilts:
      https://www.nationalquilterscircle.com/class/making-a-t-shirt-quilt/
      Making a T-Shirt Quilt | National Quilters Circle< https://www.nationalquilterscircle.com/class/making-a-t-shirt-quilt/>
      http://www.nationalquilterscircle.com
      In this class you will learn how to create your own t-shirt quilt from start to finish. Kelly Hanson will show you how to interface and prepare your t-shirts, how to …
      Hope these tips help!

      Cheers,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C9056

      Reply
  7. Bonnie Campbell

    Have you had any problems quilting over vinyl graphics on the t-shirts. Most of the shirts I can use have the vinyl graphics and I’ve heard that can cause problems with the quilting.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      In general, no, however this can depend on the type of foot you are using. A free motion foot generally moves over the graphic of a t-shirt with no problem. If you are doing straight line quilting or other quilting that allows you to use a regular presser foot- the vinyl sections can ‘stick’ to the foot. A tephlon presser foot can alleviate this issue.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,

      Ashley

      Reply
  8. elise martin

    I have made at least a dozen traditional t shirt quilts by standardizing the block size, but I have a new order where she has supplied me with two large shirts that have graphics over the whole t shirt. I dont want to cut into it but not sure how to make it usable in the quilt. Any suggestions would be a help. Thank you 🙂

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Elise,

      If you are not wanting to cut that shirt down to a smaller size- is there a way to cut it out at a larger square or rectangle that is somehow proportional to the smaller standardized block sizes that can then be incorporated into the design? Meaning that larger block is now the same size as a smaller t-shirt block with a border.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.nationalsewingcircle.com/C10012

      Reply
    • Tommie O'Sullivan

      How about using the larger blocks as centerpieces and the other smaller blocks as “satellite” blocks around them to set them off? Depending on the size of the quilt, the larger blocks could be either side by side or stacked top to bottom. If the quilt is large enough, side by side could have enough space to put a row of standard blocks between them. Another suggestion is to make pillow shams out of the larger blocks. The border sashing could tie the shams and the quilt together.

      Reply
  9. Cindy

    I’m a beginner but with all of the videos and blogs online, I think I can do this. My question, is it possible to do t-shirts on both sides? I have saved my daughter’s shirts for years and have a lot of them. This was to be my project after she graduated college(‘14) but I’m just now able to begin. She passed away in September 2016 and I want to use as many if not all of her shirts. (She had already selected the ones she wanted for her quilt.) Any advise is appreciated.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi,

      Yes it is possible to use the shirts on both sides. The only issue you will run into is when you go to quilt your quilt. Generally you have a quilt top and a backing- and when you quilt you do so according to the patterns or designs on the top and it doesn’t necessarily matter what is on the backing. If you are wanting to have the quilting look good on both sides and not unintentionally have the quilting running though a t-shirt design on the “back”, I would recommend trying to make each side the same. Meaning if you cut each t-shirt a certain size and then either sew borders around them or add sashing strips between them, you will want to do the same thing on the back so that the border and sashing fabrics line up with one another and you can do your quilting there rather than trying to work around the t-shirt designs on both the front and back.

      Hope this helps!

      Cheers,
      Ashley

      Reply
    • Tommie O'Sullivan

      Cindy, This would be a perfect “quilt as you go” project. Design the layout of your quilt, and make sure the layout is identical on both sides. Use sashing. Then sew your blocks together in columns with sashing between the blocks. Lay one of these columns about two or six inches or so from the edge of your batting and stitch on both sides, about 1/8 inch from the edge, being sure the fabric is smooth. Turn over the quilt and lay a column on top of the stitching lines, covering them and stitch just over 1/8 inch from the edge of your fabrics, so now your columns are lined up. make sure that they are aligned at the top and bottom so that the cross sashing matches. Next columns of blocks, sew a strip of sashing to both strips on one edge. Lay the edge wrong side up aligning the raw edges of what you just sewed and the sashing you just attached to the new column, matching the cross sashing. Pin in place. Turn over and repeat on the other side. Sew 1/4 inch from the edge of your fabric. Flip the newly sewn columns over and repeat. Of course you press between stitching, but you will be finished in no time, and your front and back will match and be held in place for the final quilting. The extra batting around the stitched columns will be for a sashing frame, borders, whatever you decide. You can leave as much or as little space as you want or need.

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Roxanna,

      Fusible interfacing is simply an interfacing or stabilizer that has a type of adhesive on once side and can be iron or ‘fused’ in place. It is available at most fabric stores and even some big box stores as well.

      Cheers,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      http://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C10467

      Reply
  10. Shirley Pixley

    I am in the process of making a tshirt quilt, but I have 3 tshirts that has 3 buttons down the neckline…I want to use them in the quilt, how can I do that? thank you for your help! Shirley

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Shirley,

      Whether you want to keep the buttons on the shirts as an extra design element is up to you, however I would recommend stitching that button opening closed so that the block cut from that t-shirt doesn’t get distorted. From there you can cut out and use these t-shirt blocks just like any other t-shirt block.

      Cheers,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      https://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C10899

      Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Elizabeth, if you are working with adult men’s T-shirts, you can make your blocks up to 16” square. Child or teen sized shirts will naturally yield smaller blocks; unless your shirts are very small, plan on cutting out 10”-12” squares.

      Reply
  11. Judy

    My daughter is going to be 40 this March and I want to make a quilt for her birthday with all her t-shirts she wore playing softball in High School and College .

    Reply
  12. Linda

    I don’t see any quilts made out of striped t shirts – that’s what I have to use for a memory quilt for a friend?

    Reply
  13. Joan Gamsky

    I was asked to do a Tshirt quilt but she doesn’t want shashing and she wants it more like the collage all mixed sizes. Like the top left quilt. Are there any instructions anywhere for doing this. When I offered to do this I thought it would be blocks with shashing and everything even. I’m not sure how to go about this. Any ideas would really be helpfull.

    Reply
  14. Darlene Martin

    Preparing to make T-Shirt quilt. For all over softness, I thought to use leftover T-Shirt fabric for the sashing – will this be better than cotton fabric. Also someone mentioned fusible knit interfacing – is this better than Wonder Under 2 ??? If so, please indicate name and source.

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Darlene,

      Yes, you can use t-shirt fabric for sashing instead of cotton. Many people choose to use cotton fabric for sashing strips as a way to help keep the t-shirt blocks square. Also, wonder under is a fusible web, not an interfacing, so I would not recommend using that. Any kind of light to medium weight fusible interfacing will work. It can be either knit or woven interfacing. Knit interfacing will help keep your quilt softer while woven interfacing can provide it with more stability. Pellon fusible interfacing is the most common brand sold in many craft stores.

      Thanks,
      Ashley NQC Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      https://go.nationalsewingcircle.com/C11349

      Reply
  15. Connie

    I am making a memory rag quilt I want to know if I can use double sided fusible batting with my T-shirt fusible

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi Connie,

      Yes, you can absolutely use this. I would recommend using a press cloth or a tephlon pressing sheet when pressing on the right side of the t-shirt if any of the designs have been screen printed on. This will help protect the t-shirt as well as your iron. It will also be a great way to help hold all of the layers of the quilt together prior to quilting.

      Cheers,

      Ashley
      National Quilters Circle Video Membership

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first year membership.
      https://go.nationalquilterscircle.com/C11879

      Reply
  16. Gayle Carson

    beginner T-shirt quilter. Quilting a T-shirt quilt for co-worker. She wants me to quilt because she has no sewing skills.

    Reply