T-Shirt Quilt Project

T-Shirt Quilt Project


In the past I’ve seen some projects as mountains I was scared to attack. I didn’t even want to take baby steps towards a final result. I thought it would be easier to just leave the stack in a corner somewhere, like my other unfinished projects that grow dust. The t-shirt quilt was always a mountain for me. After a few quilts under my belt, and some bad business choices where I pretty much volunteered my time to create some, I learned valuable lessons that not only refined my process, but enabled me to create a better quality product in the least amount of time.


Here are some questions that I now ask my customers up front:

1.My price estimate is $250-$350 after you provide all the tshirts up front. Are you comfortable with that price? 

2.Would you like just the tshirt fronts or any of the tshirt backs included in the overall design?

3.Are you providing enough tshirts to create the quilt for your desired size?

   Twin: 25 tshirts at 15×15” squares

   Full: 25 tshirts at 15×15” squares

   Queen:30 tshirts at 15×15” squares

   King:35 tshirts at 15×15” squares

4.Do you want just the tshirts sewn together, or do you prefer a solid color spacing them all out?

5.What fabric do you want for backing material? A solid or a print?

6.What size overall were you hoping for? Twin? Queen? King?

7.What would your deadline be? I require 8-12weeks from receiving the tshirts to get started, and will need half the money up front for supplies. 

8.Does the person the quilt is intended for have any allergies? We can get interior batting that is either a natural cotton or a polyester blend. 


I. The first step is collecting materials:

You will need the customer to give you agreed upon number of tshirts, and their arrangement preference if they have one. 

Internal batting.

Kona cotton for the sections between the t-shirt panels, 3-4 yards. I used black.

108” backing material in a solid color, 3 yards. I used black.

Edging material. I used an additional 2 yards of the black Kona cotton for the binding. 

3-4 skeins of purl cotton for the hand quilting and a wide eyed tapestry needle. 

Large safety pins to tack layers together. 

8 yards lightweight interfacing. I use Pellon iron on stabilizer.

II. I cut up the sides of each T-shirt, and around the collar and sleeves, separating the fronts and backs. I put in a pile T-shirt sides that should be included in the top design.
III. I measure all the designs from the tshirts I have and see which square size all of the designs will fit into. I typically end up using a 15”x15” square. 

IV. I cut out a square template to use out of that square size from paper. If you have a rotary cutter and clear grids, you can just use that. 

V.I then cut the same number of squares I’m placing on the top quilt, out of the thin, iron on interfacing, the same 15×15” squares. 

VI.Taking one interfacing square, I lay it on top of a t-shirt front and line up the design underneath. I can see through the interfacing to the design, which allows me to line it up straight. I then cut the T-shirt front out to match the size of the interfacing. 

VII.I iron each interfacing piece to the back of the t-shirt fronts I’ve cut out. If you have both cotton and polyester t-shirts in the mix, please remember to adjust your iron settings to each material to avoid any burning. 

VIII.Once you have your pile of square tops that are backed with interfacing, you need to square them up with the rotary cutter and mat, because they probably stretched out a bit when interfaced. Make them all perfect, 15×15” squares.

IX.You could either sew these T-shirt squares directly together, one row at a time, OR, you can add rows of a solid color between them all. To do this, out of cotton material, cut rectangles, 4” wide by 15” tall. Cut as many rectangles as you have squares. 

X.Lay out quilt arrangement on table or floor. Assemble one row at a time, horizontally. Sew one T-shirt to one rectangle, then repeat. Then repeat, sewing each row together. 

XI. You need to now cut lengths of cotton to divide each row up. I cut continuous lengths of 4” strips from the cotton. I placed that 4” solid piece right sides together at the lower edge of the first assembled row, and stitched it on. Then I placed the 2nd assembled row below that divider strip. I repeated that until all the rows were assembled.
XII. I added additional 4” strips to the outer sides of the quilt as well, followed by strips at the top and bottom, enclosing all the t-shirts in the grid. 
XIII.I then made a sandwich, placing the quilt top face down, followed by whatever batting you purchased for the center, then the quilt backing. I place large safety pins across the entire quilt to hold all the layers together. I try to maintain flatness all the way across, occasionally flipping it over to make sure it’s not pulling from the front side. 
XIV. Using purl cotton and a tapestry needle, I use a super long piece of thread to hand stitch (a running stitch) between the rows on the solid color. I typically sew two rows between each section. I do not try to be perfect. It’s my hand stitching that gives it a personal touch. Alternatively, you could take your quilt at this point to a long arm and have it quilted professionally, OR even stitching wide rows over the entire thing with a basic machine. 

XV.I then cut additional strips of 3” width of cotton to do a edge binding with. I sew these strips together to create a length that will reach all the way around the quilt edge. I start by placing the binding strip on the top side of the quilt (you can start it anywhere, just not on a corner) at the edge, folding over the starting point by ½”, and sewing down one side at a time. When you get to a corner, you will need to take it out of your machine, create a 45degree angle with the fabric strip and then continue sewing down the next side. This will create a nice, mitred corner. 

XVI.Once you’ve made it all the way around, you will turn the binding strip towards the back of the quilt, and tuck under the edge and secure with pins, exactly like bias tape is used. If you’re talented, you could stitch in the ditch from the front of the binding, or if you’re not that confident like me, you can just hand stitch the binding down on the backside, being sure to mitre those corners.

That’s it! Your quilt should be complete! 


Old Memories = Current Smiles

Old Memories = Current Smiles

Amy brought over today a large box of my childhood memories. My mom is doing some fall cleaning at her house and wanted us to have our childhood memoribilia back. It’s been collecting dust for about 20 some years in her attic, so it’s time to go for sure. I got such a kick out of sorting through all the old notes, school binders, and pictures! Let me show you what I found:

These checkbooks, credit cards, and ID cards are from when I was about 10 years old, or so. I had bunk beds in my room with drawers underneath. I would take out the bottom drawers, leaving a foot of clearance under the bed, stack up my red building blocks, make a “teller” window, climb under the bed, and than have everyone in my family come visit me at “The Bank.” My Mom said we girls use to “pretend” play almost everytime we came back from an errand, whether to the library, store, church….we made everything fun!

Birthday cards to me, with my grandmothers signatures, who have lately passed. Aww. Thank you, Great Grandma Stockstill and Grandma Wilges!

I was the flowergirl for my Aunt Darlene when I was 5 years old. These are the rice roses that they “threw” after the ceremony. They are made of silk, and the flowers were filled with rice. When the couple exited the building to their reception limo, you would flick the flower at them, causing the rice to fly out. You out there who are 30 years and above will recollect rice throwing at weddings. The now generation will only remember bubbles : ).  

3rd and 4th grade Valentine’s. So sweet! I guess Garfield was very popular in the 80’s. While the t.v. show, Garfield & Friends, was one of my favorites, I have to say that Alf was my absolute favorite at the time. See the Alf Valentine on the far right? You can still watch old episodes of Alf at casttv.com, and Garfield & Friends at sidereel.com for free! Horray!

One of my favs…Bazooka Joe comics and coupon. That gum was yummy, but only good for about 5 minutes in your mouth before it turned to a hard lump. But it was good! I mean, what gum today comes complete with comic strips included?

And check out the expiration date on this coupon! I must have thought saving it for 22 years would make it more valuable : )! Wow!

Love letters from Jr. High…..from 4 different boys saying they  love, love, love me. I was a popular girl I guess!

Remember this paper? We had one of those track printers….you know where the outer holes here went on the side spokes? Well, you know what I mean. And that noise the printer made. Unforgettable.

A pile of encouragement cards from all my fellow 4th grade friends, when my oldest sister was hospitalized from a serious car accident. It was nice to look through these. I had not remembered all those who reached out to me.  I mainly remember visiting Julie at the hospital often and staying with our friends, the Robeys.

Letters from my sisters, Amy & Julie. Can you read some above? Julie said that she was sorry that I didn’t get a note from the guy I liked at the time but to have a good day, and Amy said that I was soooo slow and she liked to boss me around ; ) . I know they both love me very much, as I love them! They are truly wonderful sisters!

Letters from the Tooth Fairy (AKA, my Mom). So precious! When I would lose a tooth, I’d put it under my pillow, and in the morning, instead of the tooth I’d find one of these pieces of paper with usually a stick of gum and some change, or if it was a big tooth, it would be a whole dollar! woohoo! I always knew the Fairy was my Mom, but it always puzzled me how she snuck into my room and did that without me knowing! Love you, Mom!

And remember these too? I found a huge pile of scantron test forms in my notebooks from Jr. High. I’m old enough now to think that scantron tests started with my generation. Do they still use these?

But, I love pictures…and it was so much fun to look back at them!

This is me on the left with my friend Tiffany. She lived a few streets away from us, and we enjoyed playing in the trees in her backyard, and guess what?….we both loved Alf! Notice the matching outfits above, complete with bobby socks and white canvas shoes?

Tiffany and I again. Maybe at the amusement park? I’m chillin’ there with Grumpy smurf and Tiff is with Smurfette. See kids, these characters did exist, before the movie came out this year!

And while I knew Tiffany for a few years, I’ve known Mary, my whole life. Our moms were friends before we were even conceived. Mary and I grew up together, and remained best friends even through high school. So many of my childhood memories include Mary, and they are great! I’m pleased we are still facebook friends now, even 30 some years later. I love you, friend!

I’d have to guess this one is me in 5th grade perhaps. I think I was fishing in a derby with my Dad. This could have been the fish my cane pole broke on. Either way, I’m sure my Dad was proud of me catching such a big one! I love you, Dad! Thanks for teaching me cool skills in life…how to tie a knot, how to bait and catch a fish, how to roe a canoe, how to ride my bike, how to rollerskate, and how to bowl!

Childhood ID cards from 4th and 5th grade. So funny! I look really weird in the top one. My sisters did my bangs that morning for me, for the one on the bottom, and it’s been my favorite school picture ever since!

And from all those memories, this is all I kept…the pictures, one letter from Mary, stickers, and the notes from my family. I love you all so much! Thank you for all the great memories!