T-Shirt Quilting BASICS! {Tutorial}

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS

I have been t-shirt quilting for a few years now. I love {LOVE} making quilts that preserve the memories that I have made through my t-shirts. Although I DO make t-shirt quilts as a means of income for my family… I wish somebody had broken down the basics for me when I was first starting out.

There are a lot of things involved with making t-shirt quilts. So – this post is just the first few tips & tricks that you need to know when doing your first t-shirt quilt. Also – not everyone’s method is exactly like mine. So – find what works for you! The content in this post is simply the method that works best for me!

BEFORE I BEGIN: I suggest to pre-wash EVERYTHING (except the batting and thread) prior to using it in your quilt. Even pre-wash those t-shirts that you have probably already washed 3000 times in your life. It is always better to be safe than sorry! 

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

This is one of the [emotionally] hardest parts of making your very first t-shirt quilt. Because although you are SO excited about making a memory quilt… letting go of those t-shirts can be tough! A couple of things that I suggest that you think about when you’re choosing which t-shirts to put into your quilt are:

  • Colors. Although multi-color t-shirt quilts are super adorable… you may want something more uniform in color. Either way – this is the time you decide!
  • Quilt Layout. Look at each logo and the size of your t-shirts. Here’s a quick tip: the smaller the shirt, the smaller you will have to cut the logo. The larger the shirt, the bigger variety of size options you will have when creating your layout. So — although ALL t-shirts are welcome in memory quilts – if you have 5 Large t-shirts and 3 extra small t-shirts… it might cause difficulties in getting a symmetrical pattern. Just something to think about.
  • Sashing  & Border Color. The colors of the t-shirts you choose in your quilt make a HUGE difference in what sashing and border you use. {See Pictures Below}

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

In this t-shirt quilt that I made, I wanted to have a completely red and black theme. It just so happened that I did not have ANY red t-shirts — which worked out to my advantage BIG time! I was able to put red sashing between the t-shirts and tie the red and white striped binding in perfectly.

In this t-shirt quilt that I made for my cousin, she had a whole rainbow of t-shirt colors. HOWEVER — it worked out PERFECTLY because she wanted gray sashing in between the t-shirts.

I have been asked {many many times}, “How many t-shirts would it take to make a _____ size quilt?” (Whatever size they were interested in would have been put in that blank.)

My answer is that it just depends. You can make it work with however many t-shirts you want to use for whatever size quilt you are trying to make. There is not a magic number! You can always tweak your layout, sashing size, border size, and quilt size to accommodate however many t-shirts you want to use!

 




 

However — let me say this.

Although you can make it work with however many t-shirts you want, I prefer working with MORE t-shirts instead of LESS. I think memory quilts are supposed to be super busy and involved. So, {in my opinion}… more is better!

So, it is important to think through what YOU want from your quilt when picking out t-shirts to use. There is a solution for ALL t-shirt combinations! You just have to think about what is important to you in your quilt!

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

After you choose your t-shirts, sit down and measure each logo. Here is a list of supplies that I use when I do this:

  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen
  • Highlighter
  • Ruler
Check out my template for t-shirt quilt measurements HERE.
Start on the left hand side of the template. 

1. Simply write down the name of the t-shirt. Just write something that will help you remember which t-shirt the measurements are for. When you’re taking all of this time to measure the logos on your t-shirts, the last thing you want to do is get confused about which measurement is for which logo. So — make sure you name it!

2. Make a note about whether that particular logo is from the front or back of that t-shirt. This is almost just as important in the recording process as step #1 is. Many t-shirts that I have worked with have had MULTIPLE logos throughout the t-shirt. So, writing down where the logo that you are measuring is located will help stay organized! You can even write “pocket”, “right sleeve” or “left sleeve”, etc. if there are logos in those spots! 

3. Use your ruler to measure & record the MAXIMUM width and height that you could cut your t-shirt logos. For this step, you’re going to want to keep your logo in the center of your measurement. That means, if you’re measuring the height of the logo and it is four inches from the collar… then make sure you use only four inches from the bottom of the logo as well. If you just simply measure how big the t-shirt is on all sides… you will end up with a very lopsided and off-centered logo. Measure what you think is possible all while keeping the logo in the center.  Remember to make sure that you keep in mind a seam allowance for later! 

4. Use your ruler to measure & record the MINIMUM width and height that you could cut your t-shirt logos. When you measure the minimum, give each logo AT LEAST 1 INCH on all sides! It is very important that you do not just simply measure the logo without any t-shirt included. Think about it – if you do not add any t-shirt to your logo measurements, you will be sewing ON TOP of your logo! 

5. As you are doing this, highlight the logos that are most important to you and must be included in your memory quilt. I use the highlighter to mark logos that MUST be in the quilt. I leave the ones that are optional colorless. That way, I can add in logos if needed and I make SURE the most important logos are included.

6. Write down what you want each t-shirt logo to end up measuring in the quilt. This step is after you have decided on your layout, etc. Be sure to write it down! Without the final t-shirt measurement, you will get very confused in later steps! 

After you measure all of your logos, examine the t-shirts and come up with a common measurement for the shirts. Which measurements you use COMPLETELY depends on how you want your quilt to look. I have made 100% symmetrical quilts, rectangle t-shirt quilts, and crazy mismatched sized t-shirt quilts. [Here are some photo examples below]

[Symmetrical]
All of the t-shirts are the same width and height and everything is even on all sides.

[Rectangle T-Shirts]
All of the t-shirts are the same width but every single t-shirt has a unique height.

[Crazy mismatched sized t-shirt quilt]
This quilt has all SORTS of sized t-shirts included in it. This was mainly to accommodate that HUGE yellow t-shirt in the top right hand corner and the small logos on the right hand side.

These days — I couldn’t survive t-shirt quilting without my EQ7 software to lay out my quilt design and tweak all of my projects. HOWEVER — there was a time that I DID NOT have EQ7. If this is you, you can simply sketch with pencil and paper! I absolutely LOVE my EQ7 — but sometimes I enjoy the creative simplicity of just sketching the pattern out by hand!

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

 

Take scissors and cut up each side of your t-shirt, cut the sleeves, and the neckline. Basically, take apart the t-shirt. Just cut the bare minimum that you need in order to take the shirt apart. I say the bare minimum because you do not want to cut off too much and not have enough for your quilt!

This next step is not the most tedious of all t-shirt quilting steps. Use your rotary cutter to cut your t-shirts. However, I make sure that no matter what size you decided you wanted each t-shirt to be for your quilt… add ONE INCH EXTRA to all measurements in this step. Why do I do this?! Because it gives me room for accidental mistakes. Sometimes when I am in the cutting mode… I get on “autopilot” and start making mistakes. Simply adding an inch to each measurement allows me to make a mistake without worrying about ruining the entire quilt.

Other than when I am disassembling my t-shirts, I use a rotary cutter and ruler for this step! It makes it precise and perfect!

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

After cutting my shirts with ONE INCH ADDED TO ALL MEASUREMENTS, I lay the t-shirt pieces on the ground as I want them to be in my quilt.


{As pictured above}, I laid out all of my t-shirts RIGHT next to each other. Don’t worry about the sashing at this point. As long as you make the sashing the same size throughout the quilt — it will only make the quilt BIGGER in the end. I came up with a t-shirt logo combination that made for each column to be perfectly equal.

It is SO important for you to have your t-shirt measurements at this point so that you can refer back to it if you need to trim any of the t-shirts to make the columns equal.

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

To me, backing the t-shirts is one of the very most important parts of making a clean and beautiful t-shirt quilt. Take the time (and money) to purchase high quality backing. It will make YOUR life easier when you’re piecing the quilt together. Here is what I use:

Personally, I buy mine by the bolt. However, you can always buy it by the yard! One thing that I LOVE about using fusible interfacing is that when you’re down to the last couple of pieces of interfacing and you still have more t-shirts to back… you can easily piece the scraps together (like a puzzle), iron them down and voila!

One thing I want to be sure to tell you is to be VERY careful during this step. You want to be 100% sure that you are ironing the interfacing to the BACK of the t-shirts. If you accidentally iron it to the front of the t-shirt… it is irreversible (at least, in my experience)

The first time I backed my t-shirts, I got really concerned. The interfacing does makes the soft cozy t-shirts VERY stiff. However — I’m here to tell you (from experience) NOT to worry about that. After a few washes (once your quilt is finished), your t-shirts are back to cozy and soft!

 

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

After you’ve backed all of the t-shirts, refer back to your measurement sheet. Whatever size you decided each t-shirt needed to end up being, add 1/2 A INCH TO THE WIDTH AND HEIGHT. This is your seam allowance.

Be VERY CAUTIOUS and tedious while doing this step. You DO NOT want to cut too much off of your t-shirt! Think it all the way through before you start cutting!

I also highly recommend that you use a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and ruler to do this step. It will make you want to pull out less hair and get a cleaner cut in the end. 

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

I’m not going to elaborate much on this step. The sashing all depends on the design you wanted for your quilt in the beginning. Make sure to choose a color that compliments your t-shirts and overall design. You want your sashing to enhance the t-shirts that are showcased in your memory quilt… not DISTRACT you from them! 
T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!
Okay – so, after my t-shirts are trimmed and ready & my sashing has been cut… I lay EVERYTHING out on the floor. Then, I piece them together {either} one row or column at a time. For some quilts… this is a relatively quick process. However… it can also quickly become daunting! Just be patient and work slowly and steady — you WILL finish!

As you can see in the photo above, this is two rows from the quilt that I made for my cousin. The first t-shirt “cluster” in the top left hand corner had to be pieced before I could move on to the larger pieces.

 

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

THIS step is where many quilters may disagree with my method. I do not even ATTEMPT to pick out a border color until after my quilt top is pretty much completely pieced. There are a few reasons for this.

For one, what I had envisioned in my head prior to piecing the quilt together may not actually look right once the top has been put together.

Another reason why I wait is to MAKE SURE that the color {if I’m doing a solid color} matches the quilt.

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

Borders make a HUGE difference — EVERY TIME. So, make sure you are SURE about the border you choose prior to putting it on the quilt!

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

I typically ALWAYS choose to match my border on the front of my quilt with the backing. I make it easy — I just use the same color/pattern of fabric! I think it really ties it in nicely.

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

Purchasing enough backing fabric is typically a really hard task for me. But — NEVER FEAR! I have a hubby who can calculate exactly how many yards I need. He is usually always right! One tip: the more fabric the better! You’d rather have TOO MUCH backing fabric than NOT ENOUGH! 

Also — be sure to IRON YOUR BACKING after you make it! This will prevent “bubbles” when you are making the quilt sandwich (and ALOT of headaches).

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

There are many different methods of making quilt sandwiches. For me, I find a huge space in my house and do it on the floor. However — if a basting wall is something you’ve used in the past — go for it!

I suggest that you purchase HIGH QUALITY cotton batting (like Warm & Natural) and Quilt Basting Spray. Both of these products are going to make life SO much easier for you!

I always start with spreading my batting out on the floor. Then, I lay my backing on top of the batting. After that, I fold back 1/2 of the backing and spray the batting with the quilt basting spray. Always spray the basting spray on the batting! Lay the backing back over the batting and smooth it out from the middle to the outside. It really is easier with more than one person — my husband almost always assists me in making quilt sandwiches (yes.. he is a wonderful hubby).

Repeat this process for the other half of the backing AND the quilt top.

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

I am not going to elaborate much on this step only because there are ALOT of things I could say about quilting your quilt together. I always free-motion my t-shirt quilts. However, you can just as easily straight line quilt it, too! Whatever you are the most comfortable with!

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

On this step you want to make sure that your quilt is SQUARE (or rectangle – depending on the size). Basically — You don’t want it to be lopsided or uneven. My tip for trimming is to figure out how wide you want your border to be. Take your ruler and measure the right length from the seam all around the quilt. You can make little markings to know where to set your rotary cutting ruler. Then just trim it!

This can be one of the most frustrating parts about finishing up the quilt. If you’re a perfectionist (like me)… you will want it to be PERFECT. Just breathe — if you keep working with the quilt then it will eventually be exactly how you want it to be.

T-Shirt Quilting BASICS!

Although I do have plans to write a binding tutorial… THIS is not that tutorial. Binding is frustrating and time consuming. Currently, there are a lot of wonderful tutorials on Pinterest and YouTube for binding quilts. However — stay tuned in to Wee Share for a tutorial in the upcoming months!

Since I am not going to get into the details of HOW to bind a quilt, I want to spend this section of the tutorial talking about the type of binding used on t-shirt quilts. I LOVE STRIPES. I feel as though they add dimension to the quilt and an overall design. However, you can use just about any kind of fabric/pattern for your binding. I prefer to use BOLD and fun designs. WHY? Because t-shirt quilts primarily revolve around the t-shirt logos. Typically the t-shirts are the focal point of the quilt and the sashing is a solid or very faint pattern. With the binding — you can really add some design to a quilt with a bold fabric! Don’t shy away from it – GO FOR THE BOLD!

After your quilt has gone through the previous 14 steps… trim off any “fly away” threads. I ALWAYS have these. After you do that — throw it in the wash! I highly suggest using Shout Color Catchers and Oxy Clean when you’re washing your quilts for the first few times. This will prevent most bleeding that the multicolor materials will cause! 

Phew — that was a super long tutorial. I hope this helped y’all and cleared up some questions you may have about t-shirt quilting! If not — please feel free to comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer any questions that y’all have!!!

 

47 comments

  1. dee says:

    I am in the process of making a t-shirt quilt, it’s my first time. I don’t have enough T-shirts for the entire project, so I purchased some material for filling in the blocks & I was wondering if I should use the fusible backing on the fill in fabric as well as the sashing??

  2. Vicky James says:

    Have read your tutorial and anxious to start my granddaughters tshirt quilt. So new to all this, I need to ask what type of material do I use for the saying, binding, and backing? May be silly question for most but I’m just learning though I’ve made six quilts. I appreciate an email if possible so I’ll be sure to get your response. Thank you!

  3. Lori says:

    A very helpful post. But I have a question. I was asked to finish a t-shirt quilt that my Aunt had started. She passed away before she could get it done. She had it half done. No backing. I finished it, doing the same thing. I could really go back and put the backing on. What is going to happen when I go to quilt it? Do you think it will work? What is your advice?

  4. Wona says:

    I am about to embark on my second t-shirt quilt and I have a question and I’m open to suggestions from anyone. The last quilt I made i used the light weight fusible interfacing and I was please with how it worked it did not make it as stiff as all the other blogs were saying as a matter of fact I love how it smoothed out the tees and I thought even made them softer to the touch. I used a decorative stitch and just took three long stitches across each block.

    But for my next quilt I would like to quilt it a little more I think. And I know that you said that you do an overall quilting on yours but I am thinking that I don’t want to go across the emblems on the the tees. For one some of them have a rhinestone type sequin on it. So I was thinking to try to quilt around them. My quilting is all done on a regular heavy duty domestic machine and I do a quilt as you go QAYG block and then piece the quilted blocks together. I want to plan the back with a solid gray and add some accent blocks so that it will almost be a double sided quilt. And here is my dilemma. I am concerned with using this solid material on the back and having areas of unquilted sections in each block that it is going to make my quilt look a bit unfinished. Any suggests? Or should I just give up and go to a busy back to hide this?

    Oh and here is a link for a view of the last one that I made. http://dragonfliesandlillypads.blogspot.com/2015/05/my-survivor-and-1st-t-shirt-quilt.html

    • Kim says:

      Wona,

      I made my first and only t-shirt quilt so far about a year ago using the quilt as you go method. I made an NFL t-shirt quilt for my son for Christmas. And it did end up being a double sided quilt. I did not use solids but different packers fabrics with some small yellow prints to accents for the backing. It is basically like laying out two quilt tops. I had to print off and iron on some of the nfl team logos, so I did not want to sew through those. I basically quilted around each of the emblems, so the emblems showed through on the back (but would be inverted). I was worried about the same thing of it looking unfinished or not matching but it worked out great. Hope this helps. Good luck!

  5. Vicki says:

    I want to make a t-shirt quilt and your instructions may have actually given me the courage to attack this. He is grown and I have t-shirts from his baseball days. I noticed that someone had asked about using the back and fronts of the t-shirts. However, I must have missed the response. Can you address this again. I would really appreciate this.

  6. Virginia G says:

    Thanks for the tutorial! I already pieced my quilt top, making several errors along the way, but now I know how I would avoid them in the future. I apreciate you taking the time to say what kind of batting to use – I’ve looked at several tutorials just trying to find that information. I just had a baby, so it may be a while before I actually get the whole thing assembled, which is frustrating because I really want to see what it will look like! Again, thanks for sharing this with us.

  7. Lisa Lerner says:

    I have a friend who wants me to add three shirts to her already made t shirt quilt. She wants me to cover up three shirts that she now decided she doesn’t want in the quilt. What would be your advice for this type of work? I was thinking of using a fusible to iron the new shirts down, but then would I straight stitch or zig zag around the shirt to hold the edges down? It doesn’t seem like that would look good.
    After attaching the new shirts, I was going to quilt the shirts to the existing quilt matching the style of the original quilter as best as possible.

    thanks for any tips

    Lisa

  8. Mary says:

    I am wondering if you have published these instructions for the t- shirt quilts? If so, how do I purchase your booklet!

  9. Debbie Megrue says:

    I have started a “practice” t shirt quilt, before using the tshirts I really want to use. Question: do you have special machine to do the quilting. I just have a regular sewing machine and thinking about the bulk of the quilt fitting under the arm of the machine. Thanks for your wonderful information. I was very nervous about even starting until reading this post.

    • Debbie says:

      i finished a very small practice quilt and hand quilted. It looked beautiful. Now I am working on a large “real” quilt. One thing I started doing was cutting the Pellon the size of the shirt pice. Then laying it over the shirt and cutting with the rotary. Much easier that trying to cut the shirt first! I guess I’ll have to hand quilt this big boy because I’m not comfortable try to machine quilt.

  10. Rachel says:

    Hi! Thank you so much for this tutorial – it has made my first adventure into t-shirt quilting a lot less intimidating! I am making a t-shirt quilt for my husband out of all the t-shirts he bought from his travels in Europe. Needless to say, they are precious to him and I DO NOT want to ruin them! So, I have a couple of questions that I am hoping will give me a lesser chance that :)

    I bought the interfacing you suggested – it says no pre-shrinking necessary, but do you wash it before adhering it to the shirts? If so, what temps do you wash and dry it on?

    I have a sheer silk organza pressing cloth. Will that work for the ‘damp press cloth’ needed to adhere the interfacing to the shirts, or should I get a cotton one?

    Do you press the t-shirts before you back them just to make them smooth?

    If you could let me know your thoughts on these questions, I would really appreciate it!

    Thanks so much :)

    Rachel

    • Angela says:

      Hey Rachel!
      I’m sorry for the slightly delayed response — I am student teaching this semester to finish up my Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education AND I have a 3 month old! Life is crazy right now :)

      I’m so excited that you’re going to take on a t-shirt quilt! It’s a huge undertaking but TOTALLY worth it!!

      I do not pre-wash my interfacing. If you bought the same kind that is featured in my article, I highly suggest NOT to wash it until your quilt is completely finished. The back of the interfacing has adhesive on it – and although I’ve never pre-washed it before – I am afraid that washing it might take away from the effectiveness of the adhesive backing.

      The instructions on the interfacing say to use a damp cloth — however — I have never used that. I put my iron straight on the back of it and it works like a charm!

      As far as ironing the t-shirts: I simply wash and dry my shirts BEFORE I cut them, and then I don’t iron them again. Some logos on t-shirts melt when they are ironed. SO, I usually only expose my t-shirts to heat ONLY during the backing process so that I don’t ruin the front of the shirts. Exposing them less is always better!

      Let me know how it comes out and if you have any more questions!!
      Thanks,
      Angela

  11. Kaitie says:

    This is the BEST and easiest t-shirt quilt tutorial I have read yet! Thank you so much for writing this and sharing it with so many people. I have only made one t-shirt quilt before, and that was almost five years ago. I am wanting to do more, and thanks to your tutorial I feel much more confident moving forward!

    • Priscilla says:

      Hi! Thank you very much for the amazing tutorial. I appreciate all the effort you put into it. Could you please help me understand how much of the t shirts should be interfaced, since the more precise cuts will be made later. Also, I will be graphing so many multiple sized pieces by hand, so could you offer any insight on that process. I’m kinda “stuck”, fearing I’ll cut my daughter’s precious t shirt logos too small etc. Is it okay to have different inches on top and sides of the logo … for instance 2 inches of fabric on top and bottom and maybe 3 inches of fabric beyond the logo on left and right? Will that look strange? Thank you in advance for any help you may offer!

  12. Krystle says:

    Thank you for the time and effort you put into this fantastic tutorial!

    I apologize if this question is redundant or if I missed the explanation but I was wondering if you can use the logos on the front and the back of a shirt; or if you can only choose one because the shirt needs to be two layers. Thank you for any clarification you can provide and I hope your family is getting plenty of quiet bonding time!

  13. Candi M. says:

    I am so thrilled to have found this tutorial! Thanks for the great information! I have just one question: what size needle and kind of needle do you use? Do you have to use a ball point needle because of the knit fabric? Or can you get away with a typical14 or 16 sized needle? Thanks so much!

  14. Kim says:

    Angela,

    I just wanted to thank you again for this tutorial. I have almost completed the NFL t-shirt quilt you had offered some help on. I wish there was a way that I could post the picture so you could see it. I decided to quilt as you go, simply machine quilting around the logos or lettering as some of the logos were so thick I was told to not try to quilt over them. Now all I have left is the border and the binding. I am very excited to give this to my son for Christmas…boy, those t shirt quilts sure are heavy:) Thanks again for your great tutorial.

    • Lindsey kvaternik says:

      Wow! Very informative , I feel like I could make one , ha! I love all of your quilts and wonderful information ; however I don’t have the skills to even sew on a button. I am curious if you make these t- shirt quilts by special order ? :) or if you don’t, do you know someone who does …? I would love to have one made for myself and my sister if it’s something affordable. Plz contact me 318 348 1316 Lindsey or Lindsey.kvaternik@usfoods.com or FB. Hope to hear from u soon thanks !!!!! Lk 12-31

  15. Alison says:

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! My husband is a t-shirt collector, it seems, and I’ve been able to convince him to let a few go to a quilt. :) This info will come in very handy for that project!

  16. Amanda says:

    Hi, Angela.

    So glad I found your post! Your tutorial is great. I’ve been wanting to create a quilt for my daughter’s upcoming 18th birthday. The problem is I can’t sew and I don’t own a sewing machine anyway. I was hoping I could ship my daughter’s t-shirts and some baby pieces that you can cut and incorporate as you see fit. I wanted a memory quilt of “through the years.” Anyway, I really like the one you did for your niece in terms of color scheme and fabric pattern for lining. It will be a variety of colors and sizes for sure.

    Could you please let me know if you take online order such as this and how much the project may cost? Thank you so much!

    Amanda

    • Angela says:

      Amanda,
      I would absolutely love to do a quilt for you. I am unsure of how soon your daughter’s birthday is, but, I am currently pregnant and due in a few weeks {October 3!}. I am not taking any new quilt orders until a few weeks after my daughter makes her big entrance – to give my family and I some quality time with her AND to figure out a schedule and routine for having a newborn!

      I would be happy to get in contact with you when I am taking new orders again! Here is a link to my {currently unavailable} T-shirt quilt listing on my Etsy shop. It will give you the run down of my prices and how the process works. I will re-activate it once I am taking orders again and I would be happy to contact you once that happens!

      https://www.etsy.com/transaction/115409074?

      Thanks!!

      • Amanda says:

        Angela,

        Thank you so much for getting back to me so quickly. My daughter’s birthday is Dec. 11th, but if it can’t be done by then, it’s ok…I’ll just say a surprise is coming. We would just be extending her birthday! :)

        Anyway, sounds like a plan. Please let me know when you are able to accommodate orders again. Congratulations on your soon-to-arrive bundle of joy. How exciting!

        Amanda

  17. Brenna says:

    Hi there! Thank you SO much for taking the time to post this about t-shirt quilts! I am fairly new to quilting and am making my dad a t-shirt quilt for Christmas. Due to the dramatic difference in the sizes of the logos on the shirts, it will ultimately be similar to your ‘Rectangle T-Shirts” Quilt above… with the quilt made up of columns but different heights. Anyway, do you have a tutorial on how you did the sashing for a quilt like that? I need the length/width that the sashing will add to the quilt but I don’t know how to do it with different size ‘squares/rectangles.’ I hope this makes sense! Thank you so so much!

    • Angela says:

      Hey Brenna! For that quilt, I cut my sashing at 3 inches wide {and it came out to about 2.5 inches wide/sashing after I sewed it all together}. I decided to keep my sashing the same size throughout the quilt. That way, I was tweaking how tall my t-shirts were instead of how big my sashing should be. This kept a “uniform” look throughout my quilt – even with all the t-shirts being so different in heights.

      Are all of your t-shirts going to be the same width?

      My suggestion to you {if they are all going to be the same width} is to first measure all of the maximum and minimum heights for each logo of your dad’s t-shirts (make sure to think about your seam allowance!). Then, decide how big you want your quilt to be. After that, draw out a sketch of how you want the t-shirts to lay on the quilt. You’re going to have to play around with the numbers a lot! So, what I did was I made a sketch and added up how tall each t-shirt in each column is PLUS the amount of sashing between each t-shirt. The measurements that you take of your logos will come in handy when you’re trying to make it work where each column ends up being the same size as each other. You can refer back to your measurements to see if you can add/take away any inches from the height of your t-shirts.

      Does that make sense? Please let me know if it doesn’t — I want to do anything I can to help! :)

      • Brenna says:

        Thank you so much for your quick (and very helpful!) response! I sketched out the quilt and laid the shirts all out accordingly… The shirts in each column will be the same width (although each column is slightly different widths… hopefully it will look OK). I did as you suggested and printed out your worksheet and measured each logo – that was incredibly helpful! I’m trying to decide if I should do sashing or not – have you made any quilts without? I think I may need the width and length that it adds to the quilt, so I most likely will do it. What pattern do you usually use for a quilt that is for a man? I was thinking of just using dark gray sashing, black border, and then the dark gray for the binding, but that may be a little boring.

        Thanks again for your help and advice!!

        • Angela says:

          Brenna –
          I’m so glad you found my worksheet helpful! I have not made any t-shirt quilts without sashing before… and this is ONLY because I have always needed the sashing to help make the quilts large enough! That’s one thing I love about sashing, it REALLY helps add inches to the overall quilt size! But — I know it can be done without sashing ~ and they end up looking great! I actually have a HUGE stash of my old college t-shirts {like 100+ logos}, that I am saving to put into a t-shirt quilt without sashing. As soon as I find a free moment – I plan on making a quit without sashing with those t-shirts!

          I have also done many t-shirt quilts with columns that are different widths from each other – it has always turned out looking good! Just make sure that each column is the same height as the others, and it will turn out great!

          For men, I always use ALOT of solids. Guys really like that. Actually, almost every client that I have had that has been a male has requested solid fabrics for the sashing and border. To make these quilts a little more intriguing, I used striped {either red & white or black & white} fabrics for the binding. It was JUST enough pattern to make the quilt POP without looking feminine.

          However, I did have one male client that wanted a pattern to his quilt. He was a pro-baseball player when he was younger. SO, I knew I needed to keep it sporty and manly, yet simple. It was SO difficult finding a “manly” fabric that coordinated well with all of the t-shirts. I ended up using a gray/white/black plaid pattern for the sashing in between the t-shirts, a red border, and that same plaid fabric for the binding– and he loved it! :)

  18. Kim says:

    Angela,

    I am so glad that I found your tutorial. Now, I actually have more confidence that I can do this. I am making a nfl t-shirt quilt for my son for Christmas. I have only machine quilted one quilt, with basic stitch in the ditch quilting and hand quilted two others. My question is can you hand quilt a t shirt quilt? Someone at the fabric store said it would be too thick to hand quilt a t-shirt quilt, that it would be like quilting through cardboard. Have you hand quilted any of your t-shirt quilts? What would your recommendation be for a beginning quilter? Thanks so much for all the help!

    Kim

    • Angela says:

      Kim –
      Thank you so much for reaching out! I think that it is most certainly possible to hand quilt a t-shirt quilt! I have seen a couple of completed t-shirt quilts that have been hand quilted and they turned out looking fabulous!!

      Personally, I do not hand quilt my quilts. I am in no way against this method of quilting — I actually find hand quilted quilts SO charming and traditional — it’s a look that you just can’t get on a machine! I also have a deep respect for those individuals {such as yourself} who use this method of quilting!

      I {attempted} hand quilting on the very first quilt that I ever made {which was not a t-shirt quilt} — and it was an absolute DISASTER! I made multiple “newbie” decisions on that quilt and it turned into a horrible and very frustrating experience. For example, I chose to use clear nylon “invisible” thread on that quilt because I thought that I didn’t want my stitches to show up. I don’t know if it is easy for other people to use that type of thread — but for me, it kept getting knotted up and breaking (not to mention it was CLEAR, so I couldn’t see when it was getting all tangled as well)! I should have just stuck with cotton or polyester hand-quilting thread. After that quilt, I quickly learned how to straight line quilt on a machine… and then nearly immediately tackled free motion quilting — which is where my heart is now! I have such a passion for quilting that I didn’t want my bad experience from hand quilting to discourage me from continuing to explore the world of quilting — which is why I moved to free motioning so quickly.

      Although I have not attempted to hand quilt any of my t-shirt quilts — I know it can be done. I believe that It will be slightly different than quilting a normal {non-tshirt} quilt because of the thickness and weight that the t-shirts {and backing} add to the overall bulk of the quilt — but it is most certainly not impossible. Again, the reason I give this advice is because I have seen t-shirt quilts that have successfully been completed via hand quilting {and they were beautiful!}.

      You mentioned that you are a beginning quilter — my advice is to start with what you’re most comfortable with. If you feel the most confident hand quilting your projects — start there with your t-shirt quilt! If you get started on your project and decide the method you chose is just not working for you, you can easily take out what you’ve done and try a basic walking foot stitch on your machine.

      If anyone happens to read through this thread and has experience hand quilting t-shirt quilts, we’d love to hear from you! I wish I had more advice regarding this question — so anyone who might have more insight please feel free to chime in! :)

      Let me know!
      Angela

      • Kim says:

        Angela,

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. I used your template for t shirt measurements. That was a huge help. I added two columns to it, one for cut size and one for finished size, just to keep the numbers straight in my head :) So, many of my t shirts have iron decals on them, ones that I printed off on our printer using ink jet heat transfer paper. I have heard that the iron ons can be hard to quilt through and can leave small puncture marks in the design from quilting, so that it is best to quilt around those designs and not through them. Is that your experience? Also, have you ever made a t shirt quilt using the quilt as you go method? If so, can that method be used with a variable size t shirt quilt? The one that I have laid out has 5 distinct columns but in each column the height of the items differ. Just wondering if it is possible, if that would help with the iron on transfers, being able to quilt each square differently.

        Thanks for your help again!

        Kim

  19. Angela says:

    Sandi –
    As long as the cheerleading uniforms are not mesh {or, have little holes in them}, you can back them with the Pellon 911F and sew them into your quilt just as you would any other t-shirt (and, the same way I have described in this tutorial). They will be much thicker than the rest of the t-shirts — but — sometimes this makes for an amazing textured quilt! :) My favorite types of textures to add into my quilts are embroidered t-shirts and thick sweatshirts! They COMPLETELY change how the quilt feels and I love it! :)

    Denise –
    As far as my preference for free motion quilting, there is not a technical reason that I choose to use this technique for all of my quilts. When I first began quilting, I quilted with my walking foot. However, I have always been {obsessively} drawn to the look that free motion quilting gives to a quilt. I gave it a try, and after a lot of practice, I fell in love with this technique.

    Sometimes, I feel that having my feed dogs down to use my darning foot {during free motion quilting} helps me move the quilt around easier under my needle. T-shirts have many different textures and thicknesses, so, I really like the freedom of being able to quickly and easily move my quilt around underneath the needle. HOWEVER — I have not straight line quilted a t-shirt quilt before. I know that it is absolutely possible ~ because I have seen it done many times! SO – my first piece of advice is to not give up on the straight lines! If it’s the look you’ve imagined for your quilt, my suggestion is to continue trying until you get it to look just as you imagined it/wanted it to! You will be much happier with your product in the end.

    After thinking about your question, I remembered a few times that I have had trouble with some logos on t-shirts. Are you referring to the type of screen printed logos that the image is almost “plastic” on the front of the t-shirt {opposed to the logos that have the same texture as the actual cotton shirt}? Even with the freedom of my feed dogs being down, there are some types of t-shirt logos that are really unattractive to stick a needle through. IF this is the type of t-shirt that you’re having trouble with, my suggestion is to find a way to avoid putting stitches on top of it. Those thick logos are almost “sticky” – and although I have my feed dogs down during my free motion quilting which gives me a lot more freedom to move my quilt around, I have trouble with those types of logos. I have had to completely avoid the logos altogether to avoid an ugly stitch.

    Let me know!!

    • Denise says:

      Angela, thank you so much for responding to my questions. While I called myself doing my homework before starting my t-shirt quilt project, the information you have shared initially and questions you have responded to have been invaluable. (I just wish I had come across your blog and information prior to starting my project.) To answer your question concerning the logos I’m having difficulty with: yes, they’re the thick, plastic type, and unfortunately I’ve already stitched through some and then had to remove stitches because of puckering. However, since I’ve switched to free-motion quilting (after reading your blog), I’ve gone over those areas again (to obviously fill stitching holes left behind) but now there’s no puckering. The switch made all the difference!!!!

      Unfortunately, the combination of trying to please my friend and being unaware of these issues – almost made for quite a nightmare. LOL. I am so thankful for your post because many don’t share the possible issues you could run into with the actual “quilting” – just stretch issues and fusing, You said just enough to make me feel comfortable enough to inquire further. Thank you!!!

  20. Denise says:

    I’m currently working on a t-shirt quilt for a friend. Of all the quilts I’ve made, this one seems to be the most challenging when it comes to the actual quilting. I’ve noted that you free motion quilt all of your t-shirt quilts, and am wondering is there a specific reason why you do? I decided to use the walking foot and do straight line/squiggly line quilting because the quilt is quite large and cumbersome but due to some of the graphics on the shirts, I have found that the needle drags and causes puckering in these specific areas. Consequently, I have had to remove the stitching in a few of those areas and feel that maybe I should have attempted to free motion quilt it after all. Before I proceed in either direction, I would love to know the reasoning for your preference in free motion quilting. I’m thinking I may have to switch to this method to salvage what could potentially turn out to be my first disaster.

  21. Sandi says:

    I want to make a t-shirt quilt for my daughter and incorporate some pieces of the cheerleading uniforms. Do you have any suggestions on how to do this?

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