T-shirt Quilts

Although non-stretchy fabric is the usual choice for making quilt tops, T-shirt quilts use worn or new T-shirts with printed logos to make quilts. The fabric in these is woven jersey, which presents some problems when it comes to the construction of the quilt top.tshirtquilt2

To make this type of quilt, you will need quite a few T-shirts, depending on the size of the shirt itself, the size of the printed front or back that you will be using and the overall size of the quilt you are planning to make. You will also need to buy non-woven fusible interfacing, either light or medium weight. The interfacing is necessary to stabilize the jersey fabric, so that the squares cut from the shirts will be easier to sew together and won’t stretch out of shape when sewing them, or distort the quilt when it gets used. Fusible interfacing will have to be adhered to the back of the T-shirt fabric either before cutting or before sewing the blocks together.

Preparing the T-shirts

Wash the shirts without any fabric softener. Fabric softener prevents the interfacing from adhering to the fabric properly. Dry them and press them, using a pressing cloth if necessary to prevent some of the ink and paint in the designs from rubbing onto the iron’s soleplate. Rough cut the T-shirts, removing sleeves, neckband, and back. Cut as tshirtpressingclose to the neckband as you can, since most of them will have the design centered up close to the neck. Once you have the designs rough cut, it will be time to decide the size you will be cutting the blocks, in this case, the blocks being the printed area of the shirts. Depending on whether you are making the T-shirt quilt from children’s’ or adult’s shirts, the blocks can range in size from eighteen inches square or cut them as small as ten inches or less. The easiest method is to cut all the squares the same size, but different sizes can be used in different rows. Just keep in mind all rows of blocks will have to be the same size.

Rough cut the interfacing the same size as the rough-cut of your T-shirt blocks. Iron the interface squares to the back of the blocks, using a pressing cloth if necessary to avoid gumming up the back of the iron. Remember to read the interfacing instructions regarding ironing temperature and steam settings for your iron. Once all your T-shirts have been cut into squares and stabilized, it is time to get the rotary cutter and ruler. Trim excess fabric centering the printed design on the T-shirt. Remember to leave seam allowances of one half inch all around the block (wider than the usual quarter inch seam allowance). Arrange all the blocks to your liking, considering color and design. If you don’t have many T-shirts, you can cut plain blocks from the back of the shirts as well, to add between the printed blocks.

Piecing the T-shirt Blocks

It is up to you whether or not to use lattice strips between the blocks. If you do choose to use lattices, also remember to cut the strips wider than usual, since you will also need to add the half-inch seam allowance to the strips. Machine sew the blocks together in rows, pressing all seam allowances to one side. Iron the seam allowances once all the row’s tshirtblocksblocks are sewn together. Continue making rows of blocks, remembering to alternate the direction of the seam allowances, so when the rows are sewn, the seams will interlock. Pin as necessary, since some of the T-shirts might be made with cotton-polyester blends that can be a little more slippery than regular cotton quilting fabric.

Backing from these quilts can be any fabric, from regular cotton quilting fabric, to flannel or polar fleece or micro-fleece. These quilts are meant to be used and loved, so an easy to launder and dry fabric is the best choice. The new micro-fleece fabrics are ideal since they are lightweight, soft and warm and are available in a great range of colors.

Quilting or Tying?

Since these quilts have bulkier seams than usual, once the quilt top is sewn together, quilting it is best accomplished by machine. Another option is to tie the quilt at regular intervals. Decide which method you are most comfortable with. If machine quilting, layer the quilt top, the batting and the backing in the normal way, pinning it or basting the layers. Machine quilt in the ditch or using a meandering stitch. You can bring the backing fabric to the front to create a false binding.
If tying is the finishing option, a quick and neat way to finish the quilt is to layer it to turn it inside out without tshirtturningbinding. In this case, layering the quilt is slightly different from the normal process. On a large flat surface, layer the quilt top made from the T-shirts facing right side up, then on top, lay the backing fabric right side down, and on top, lay the batting. Pin all around the perimeter. Start sewing on the machine, leaving a half-inch seam allowance. Leave an opening on one side, so that when it is all sewn, you will be able to turn the quilt right side out through the opening. Once the quilt is turned out, you will have to shut the opening by hand. Then tie the quilt at intervals using a long curved needle and thick cotton thread (perle cotton) or acrylic yarn. To finish the edges, you can topstitch all the edges on the machine half an inch away from the quilt’s edge to add durability.

For more information on quilting for beginners please click here!

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