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The sample used in this Instructable is for a throw size quilt. However, the process can be applied to any size quilt.

Supplies:

  1. T-shirts, jerseys, sweat shirts and just about any kind of clothing you would like to include. If you have patches, they can be appliquéd onto 100% cotton quilting fabric (stabilizer is strongly suggested when including appliquéd blocks, otherwise, patches tend to pull and are generally, well, less stable!)
  2. Interfacing / stabilizer for shirts. My preference is Staple Sewing Aids' 288 French Fuse. It's 60" wide, irons easily, adheres well and, because it's 60" wide rather than 20", my experience has been there's less waste. Also interfacing, like t-shirts, stretches one way more than the other, and many of the designs I create have sections that are more than 20" long.
  3. 100% cotton quilting fabric (prewashed)
  4. Tape measure
  5. 15" square quilting ruler (for cutting blocks)
  6. 6" to 8.5" wide x 24" long quilting ruler (for cutting sashing and border strips)
  7. Rotary cutter and mat

NOTE: This Instructable is for putting together a Custom Variable Style Quilt Top with sashing. It does not include instructions for backing preparation, actual quilting or binding.

If your sewing machine has quilting capabilities, you can learn how to quilt your own on YouTube. If you want to send your quilt out for longarm services, please consider Foxtail Quilting. If you started your project and have questions or can't seem to finish it, I can help! Inquiries may be sent to info@FoxtailQuilting.com.

To view more of my work, please visit:

Thanks, and I hope you find this Instructable informative and helpful!

Step 1: Determine Desired Quilt Size & Number of Shirt Emblems Needed

1. Determine the size quilt you'd like to make. Below are some guidelines. Often times I include more than the number of shirts set forth below. Actual shirt emblems, whether emblems are fully preserved or cropped, shirt arrangement and desired finished size are the determining factors for how many shirts can be included. The sample photo is a throw size and has 23 shirts in it.

  • Throw size (approx. 51” x 67”) 14 to 18 shirts
  • Twin size (approx. 67” x 83”) 23 to 30 shirts
  • Full (approx. 83” x 99”) 35 to 42 shirts
  • Queen (approx. 99” x 99”) 40 to 48 shirts
  • King (approx. 115” x 99”) 48 to 54 shirts

2. Subtract 4" from the length and width of the desired finished size. This measurement makes it easier to focus on the size the top needs to be before a 2" border is sewn to the top, bottom and each side. For the sample quilt pictured in this Instructable, I wanted it to finish at a throw size of approximately 51” x 67”. I ended up having to go slightly larger because of the number of shirts and designs I needed to include.

For purposes of preliminary layout, strive to work within the borderless measurement.

Step 2: Preliminary Layout and Shirt Preparation

1. Cut each shirt apart staying as close as you can to the seams at the sides, arm holes and neckline.

2. Place a sheet on the floor and fold the edges under to the reduced size, i.e., the size calculated for quilt top not including the borders.

3. Fold the shirts under at the edges and lay them out on the sheet as you would like them to appear in the quilt top (staying at or near the sheet edges as much as possible since the sheet has been pre-folded to the desired size - see photo). Keep in mind these quilts are sewn in sections, so start arranging with the area containing the most shirts. In the sample, the most condensed group of shirts are in Section 1 (the entire area between the long black shirts with the monkey emblems on either side). Because Section 1 contains the most shirts, it will be the most challenging one to keep within the desired width and length, so I'll want to sew it first.

TIP: Keep color balance (darks / lights) and intensity of emblems (busy / not busy) in mind when you lay the shirts out. Try to alternate darks / lights and busy / not busy as much as possible. It's worth the time to try several different layouts and take a picture of each with your phone (you'll have to stand on a step ladder or chair to do this because you want to be high enough to capture the overall design). Scrolling through the photos offers a quick visual comparison, and a picture really is worth a thousand words -- you'd be surprised at the clarity this offers for layout selection.

3. Apply interfacing to each shirt in accordance with the product instructions. Make sure each piece of interfacing is large enough to cover the entire back of each block after it's cut to block size. It may seem wasteful, but it's better to cut the interfacing too large than discover, when you trim the shirts to the proper size, that the interfacing doesn't make it all the way to the edges. After applying interfacing, refold and replace each shirt on the sheet back in the desired layout.

TIP: For applying interfacing, heat iron to "cotton". Place a towel or other protective fabric over your ironing board. From the shirt remnants you do not plan to use, get the largest piece (with no emblem on it), and use it as the press cloth (place it over the interfacing being careful not to wrinkle the interfacing). A setting higher than "cotton" may melt t-shirt designs, and even a cotton setting will ruin synthetic fabrics upon direct contact.

TIP: Interfacing, like t-shirts stretches one way more than the other. T-shirts stretch more widthwise. Interfacing should be placed so that the maximum stretch is lengthwise (the opposite of the shirt -- the goal is to not have both easily stretching in the same direction)

Step 3: Quick Way to Prepare and Cut Sashing and Border Strips

I like to cut sashing and border fabric lengthwise rather than along the width of the fabric for two primary reasons:

  1. Because it gives sashing strips and borders a cleaner look (not pieced)
  2. Because I find it easier and quicker to cut multiple strips at one time

For the sample quilt, I know the finished length will be approximately 72.5". I want to have a lengthwise piece of fabric that allows a few extra inches, so 2 1/4 yards of fabric will be needed. If you're economizing or don't think you'll use the leftovers, you may choose to cut sashing and borders from the width of the fabric -- you'll use less that way.

TIP: I like solid or tone-on-tone sashing and border fabrics for t-shirt quilts. Prints tend to compete with the shirt designs.

  1. Prewash and dry the fabric
  2. Iron it (starch makes cutting easier and more precise)
  3. "Square" the fabric. Here's a link to a You Tube video showing how to do this. In the video, the fabric is only a small piece, but the same thing can be done with a longer piece holding the center and letting the ends hang. Once I've squared the fabric, I do press the fold (the video doesn't say to do this). It makes it easier to hold in place while cutting long strips.

Lay the fabric on the cutting mat lengthwise, and cut strips in sections as you go, i.e.:

  • Trim the raw edges of both layers along with width of the fabric up to the edge of the mat
  • Cut the 2 strips at 2.5" for the four borders of the quilt up to the edge of the mat
  • Depending on the size of your project, cut a few more strips at 2" to use for sashing (between blocks)
  • Slide the lengthwise fabric down to the uncut portion and repeat the two steps above until you have a few strips cut the entire length of the fabric (see photo)
  • Hanging the strips and leftover piece over a coat hanger and labeling them prevents me from accidentally grabbing the wrong size (see photo)

Step 4: Calculating Block Sizes

Calculating block sizes is the most difficult part of making custom t-shirt quilt tops with sashing, but it's fun because it's like putting together a puzzle!

1. While the blocks are arranged on the sheet / floor, use the 15" square ruler to help visually determine which sections contain the most shirts and have the largest design emblems (these are the most complex sections need to be diagrammed and sewn first). Diagram 1 shows the Sewing Sequence and Sections for the sample quilt top. With a little practice, you will be able to skip this step and proceed to Block Size Calculations as depicted in Diagrams 2a and 2b.

NOTE: When measuring the blocks in the sample throw, it became apparent that the shirts wouldn't fit into the desired throw size, however, by allowing a few extra inches width and length, it could still be made into a slightly oversize throw. (This quilt includes 23 shirts, and a variable style throw size quilt usually contains 14 to 18 shirts.)

TIP: It helps to have a Quilter's FabriCalc (see picture) because it quickly converts from decimals to fractions and back again. Of course, if you're really good at math, you may not need this! The decimals are handy for writing out a diagram, while the fractions make cutting the fabric (using the quilting rulers) easier.

2. Sketch a diagram showing block placement, Sections (order of sewing), and block size calculations (see Diagrams 2a and 2b ). The first area to note on the diagram is every place you'll have 1.5" finished sashing (made from the 2" strips cut during the previous Step). On sample Diagrams 2a and 2b, a red dot indicates 1.5" is to be added to each row and column. I've also tried writing "1.5" on the lines and circling it so I'm always reminded to account for sashing in my calculations.

3. The next areas to fill in on the diagram are for individual blocks. The more complex Sections containing the most shirts should be calculated first. The most complex Section should be laid out, diagrammed, cut and sewn first. As blocks are sewn together and as Sections are completed, intermittently ensure proper width and length using a tape measure and visual comparison (putting groups of sewn blocks and completed Sections next to each other). Mixing different types of fabric will throw off an exact quarter inch seam (especially if you are mixing polyester / nylon sports shirts with cotton t-shirts and thicker sweat shirts). Therefore, it's helpful to keep the tape measure and quilting rulers handy for frequent measuring, and to place sections next to each other to double check alignment before cutting subsequent blocks. This way any minor cutting adjustments to shorten or lengthen can be made as necessary.

4. By this stage, I've determined the sequence in which I need to sew the blocks and sections (Diagram 1), the desired finished size and a realistic approximate size of the finished quilt top given shirt designs and the number of emblems that need to be included, so I'm ready to tackle individual block sizes. For the sample quilt top, my realistic width and length are 56.5" x 72.5" before attaching borders to the edges. To determine a finished approximate width and length, 4" is added to each, making the final approximate size 60.5" x 76.5".

5. Keeping in mind the borderless size of 56.5" x 72.5", I am able to confirm each Section will finish at 56.5" wide (Diagram 2b):

Width of Section 1 (It's labeled Section 1 because it's sewn as the 1st section - it's actually the third "row" of of the quilt; block widths are noted from left to right as on Diagrams):

  • Block 8 will be 4" wide
  • Blocks 4 and 5 will be 15" wide
  • Blocks 1, 2 and 3 will be 12.5" wide
  • Blocks 6 and 7 will be 15" wide
  • Block 9 will be 4" wide
  • Sashing (1.5" x 4 strips) 6" wide

4 + 15 + 12.5 + 15 + 4 + 6 = 56.5" This is the sewn size -- Diagram 2b shows CUT size to account for seam allowances

Width of Section 2 (It's labeled Section 2 because it's sewn as the 2nd section - it's actually the bottom row of of the quilt; block widths are noted from left to right as on Diagrams):

  • Blocks 11 and 12 will be 16.5" wide
  • Block 10 will be 20.5" wide
  • Blocks 13 and 14 will be 16.5" wide
  • Sashing (1.5" x 2 strips) 3" wide

16.5 + 20.5 + 16.5 + 3 = 56.5" This is the sewn size -- Diagram 2b shows CUT size to account for seam allowances

Width of Section 3 (It's labeled Section 3 because it's sewn as the 3rd section - it's actually the second row of of the quilt; block widths are noted from left to right as on Diagrams):

  • Block 18 wil be 11" wide
  • Block 16 will be 10.25" wide
  • Block 15 will be 8" wide
  • Block 17 will be 10.25" wide
  • Block 19 will be 11" wide
  • Sashing (1.5 x 4 strips) 6" wide

11 + 10.25 + 8 + 10.25 + 11 + 6 = 56.5" This is the sewn size -- Diagram 2b shows CUT size to account for seam allowances

Width of Section 4 (Reference Diagram 1 Sewing Sequence -- this is labeled Section 4 because it's sewn last - it's actually the top row of of the quilt; block widths are noted from left to right as on Diagrams):

  • Block 22 will be 12" wide
  • Block 20 will be 14" wide
  • Block 21 will be 14" wide
  • Block 23 will be 12" wide
  • Sashing (1.5 x 3 strips) 4.5" wide

12 + 14 + 14 + 12 + 4.5 = 56.5" This is the sewn size -- Diagram 2b shows CUT size to account for seam allowances

6. Keeping in mind the desired size of 56.5" x 72.5", I am able to confirm that the quilt top (without its borders) sewn together will finish at 72.5" in length:

  • Section 1 will be 19" long (individual lengths for pieced blocks in this section add up to 19" when sewn)
  • Section 2 will be 22" long (individual lengths for pieced blocks in this section add up to 23" when sewn)
  • Section 3 will be12" long
  • Section 4 will be 15" long
  • Sashing (1.5 x 3 strips) 4.5" long

19 + 22 + 12 + 15 + 4.5 = 72.5"

7. Once the finished block sizes are diagrammed, it's easy to calculate the sizes to cut the blocks, but it does require concentration.

  • If two sides of a block are in the interior of the quilt top (it will be sewn on 2 opposite sides), add .5 to obtain the cut size.
  • For instance, if you want the finished width to be 15 and you're sewing it on both sides, cut the width to 15.5.
  • If a block is to be sewn only on one side because it is on the top, bottom, right or left edge, add .25 for the seam allowance.
  • For instance, if you want the finished length to be 22" and it's on the top or bottom, it will have an unsewn edge, therefore, only .25 needs to be added to the cut size.
  • Diagram 2b shows details of calculations which may be helpful if you need a visual reference for this process.

8. After noting the desired finished size for each block on a diagram, I write the "CUT" size underneath (the CUT size will have either .25 or .5" added to each measurement to allow for one or more seam allowances on each block's width edges and length edges).

Step 5: Piecing a Quality Quilt Top

Referencing your diagram cutting measurements, cut and sew Section 1, which should be the section that contains the most shirts and has the most complex design.

The attached Diagram 1 labeled "Sewing Sequence" shows the order in which I pieced the sample quilt top.

TIP: I sew variable style quilts starting in the middle of each section and work my way outward on either side. As stated earlier, 1/4" seams are difficult to maintain consistently because shirt textures and thicknesses vary. I sew the middle and work my way outward, using a tape measure and side-by-side comparisons of rows to determine if I need to add or subtract a fraction of an inch. This way any correction can be made in a balanced portion and inconspicuously on the outer blocks.

TIP: It's almost impossible to use too many pins when piecing blocks and sewing sashing. Always pin the outer edges first, then the middle and work outward, pinning about every 3". Doing so will make your blocks match perfectly and prevent tugged fabric and misaligned seams.

Here are details of the steps for the sample quilt referenced in this Instructable. Of course, every custom project is completely different, but this information is provided in order to show a sample of the logical progression of block and section assembly. It's done in such a way that the sashing strips are as long as they can be, i.e., they are continuous strips and do not have extra seams:

Section 1:

  • Cut and sew 2" sashing strips to the bottom of blocks 1 and 2 (all sashing is from the 2" strips previously cut -- recall that the 2.5" strips are border strips for around the edge of the quilt and are applied last)
  • Press all seams toward sashing being careful not to touch iron on any synthetic fabric or shirt emblems (hereinafter this process is noted as "press")
  • Sew blocks 1, 2 and 3 together; press
  • Cut and sew sashing on both sides of pieced blocks 1, 2, and 3; press
  • Cut and sew sashing to the bottom of blocks 4 and 6; press
  • Cut block 5, and sew blocks 4 and 5 together; cut block 7 and sew blocks 6 and 7 together; press
  • Cut and sew sashing to the left side of blocks 4 and 5 and to the right side of blocks 6 and 7; press
  • Sew blocks 4 and 5 to the left side of the middle section (blocks 1, 2 and 3); sew blocks 6 and 7 to the right side of the middle section (blocks 1, 2 and 3)
  • Measure for desired width and make allowances if necessary when cutting blocks 8 and 9
  • Sew remaining blocks (8 and 9) as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Cut and sew a strip of sashing across the top of Section 1; press
  • This completes Section 1.

Section 2:

  • Cut block 10 and sew sashing to both sides; press
  • Measure and place Section 2 over Section 1 to confirm correct width and make allowances if necessary before further cutting blocks 11, 12, 13 and 14
  • Cut blocks 11, 12, 13 and 14, and sew sashing to the bottom of blocks 11 and 13; press
  • Cut and sew block 11 to 12 and block 13 to 14 as shown in Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Sew remaining blocks of Section 2 together as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Cut and sew a strip of sashing across the top of Section 2; press
  • This completes Section 2

Section 3:

  • Cut blocks 15, 16 and 17
  • Cut and sew sashing to both sides of block 15, the left side of block 16 and the right side of block 17; press
  • Sew blocks 15, 16 and 17 together as shown in Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Measure and place Section 3 against Sections 1 and 2 to confirm correct width and make allowances if necessary; cut blocks 18 and 19
  • Sew blocks 18 and 19 to the outer edges as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Cut and sew a strip of sashing across the top of Section 3; press
  • This completes Section 3

Section 4:

  • Cut blocks 20 and 21, cut and sew sashing to both sides of block 20 and the right side of block 21; press
  • Sew blocks 20 and 21 together as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • Measure and place Section 4 against completed Sections to confirm correct width and make allowances if necessary before cutting blocks 22 and 23
  • Cut and sew blocks 22 and 23 of Section 4 as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1; press
  • This completes Section 4

Sew Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 together as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1:

  • To keep the quilt uniform when joining Sections, align Sections (right sides together) and pin together at either end, then the middle, flattening the fabric as you progress; continue pinning from the center outward, approximately 3" apart to ensure the finished product is properly aligned.
  • Sew Sections 1 and 2 together, then 3 and 4. Then complete the piecing portion of this project by sewing the top two Sections to the bottom 2 Sections as shown on Sewing Sequence Diagram 1.

Border:

  • Place the quilt top back on the sheet / floor. Trim one end of all 4 of the 2.5" border strips. Place 2 of the border strips across the entire middle of the width of the quilt (be careful to keep trimmed ends together and align the trimmed ends with the left side of the quilt top), measure the middle width to confirm it's what you anticipated (it should be very close, especially if you pressed as you sewed). With a quilting ruler, evenly mark the 2 border strips at the right edge and cut with scissors or rotary cutter.
  • Pin and sew the top and bottom borders to the quilt top. Again, pin each of the corners, then the middle and outward on either side, pinning about 3" apart for stability. Press seams towards the border.
  • Place the quilt top back on the sheet / floor. Repeat the above process for the lengthwise borders, placing the remaining two 2.5" border strips over the quilt top in the middle of the length of the quilt, measure, mark, cut, pin and sew the side borders.

Step 6: Finishing Your Project - Quilting, Backing & Binding

This Instructable is for putting together a Custom Variable Style Quilt Top with sashing. It does not include instructions for backing preparation, actual quilting or binding.

If your sewing machine has quilting capabilities, you can learn how to quilt your own on YouTube. If you want to send your quilt out for longarm services, please consider Foxtail Quilting. If you started your project and have questions or can't seem to finish it, I can help! Inquiries may be sent to info@FoxtailQuilting.com.

To view more of my work, please visit:

www.FoxtailQuilting.com

www.FoxtailQuilting.etsy.com

www.facebook.com/FoxtailQuilting

www.instagram.com/FoxtailQuilting

www.twitter.com/FoxtailQuilting

www.pinterest.com/FoxtailQuilting

Thanks, and I hope you find this Instructable informative and helpful!

<p>pretty cool...I hope I voted correctly...SOAP BY VICKIE</p>
Since your comment showed up, I bet your vote counted. I surely hope so! Thank you Vickie!<br>
<p>Great tutorial! My Wife has been wanting a Memory Quilt just like this! </p>
<p>Thanks! Like anything worthwhile, it takes time to make, but they're wonderful keepsakes! Hey, that's a really cute dog you have!</p>
<p>Thanks for sharing this tutorial. Voted :)</p>
<p>Thank you for voting!</p>
Excellent step-by-step instructions and Foxtsil does quality quilting!
<p>Thank you!</p>
Awesome! I always wished someone could teach this in such a manner that I could follow.
<p>Thank you! It took several quilts to get proficient at putting these together. They are so fun and rewarding to make!</p>

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