This is the finished quilt which is made from t-shirts that my son received for participating in tennis tournaments. The t-shirts were collected over an 8-year period and I wanted to find a creative way to use and display them. Designing this keepsake quilt was my way of giving him a gift he would enjoy for years to come.
Step 1: Transforming the T-shirts Into Quilt Blocks
First I washed and ironed all the t-shirts and selected the ones I wanted to use. I chose them for their designs as well as for the size of the artwork. To ensure that the t-shirts didn't stretch and make them easier to work with, I first cut the neckline, sleeves and backs from the t-shirts and used iron-on interfacing to stabilize the front fabric of the t-shirts. This also kept the t-shirt edges from curling and raveling after they were cut to size. I used a rotary cutter, large ruler and cutting mat to ensure straight cuts. Since I was making the quilt for a twin-sized bed, I wanted 16 blocks that would be 10 inches by 10 inches. I cut them to measure 11 inches by 11 inches so I would have a half inch seam allowance. For the top and bottom rows, I cut 6 blocks that measured 13 inches by 13 inches so I would end up with blocks that were 12 by 12 inches. For the center row I cut 2 blocks 12 inches wide by 8 inches tall so I would end up with blocks that measured 11 inches wide by 7 inches tall. The center block was cut 11 inches wide by 8 inches tall, so the final block would be 10 inches wide by 7 inches tall. Yay! The t-shirt blocks were all cut.
Step 2: Adding a Decorative Touch
The next step involved sewing green and white fabric together to resemble a singles tennis court, using gray fabric for the net in the center. Since I wanted them to be 5 inches wide by 12 inches tall, an inch was added for the seam allowance and they were cut 6 inches wide by 13 inches tall. Four of these were made so there would be 2 in the top row and 2 in the bottom row.
Step 3: Personalizing the T-shirt Quilt With Photos
I wanted to personalize the t-shirt quilt with photos of my son, so I chose 2 recent photos of him on his high school tennis team. One was a head shot and the other was an action shot. I purchased t-shirt transfer paper from an office supply store and printed the photos on this paper. I then ironed the images onto some of the fabric that had been cut from the back of the t-shirts. I didn't need to use iron-on interfacing because the iron-on transfer stabilized the fabric.
Step 4: Creating the Center Row of Blocks
I sized 3 t-shirt blocks to go in the row with the photos of my son and placed a block from his high school tennis team t-shirt between the photos. I placed these in the center row of the t-shirt quilt to draw attention to the photos.
Step 5: Sewing the Top and Bottom Rows
Now to start sewing! I chose 3 of the largest blocks for the top row and another 3 for the bottom row of the quilt. I placed the blocks in the order I preferred and sewed the outer blocks to the tennis court blocks. I then sewed the other side of the tennis court block to the center t-shirt block.
Step 6: Laying Out the T-shirt Blocks Into a Quilt Design
Next came the layout of the other blocks. Most of the blocks were from white t-shirts, but there were 4 that were cut from gray t-shirts. I placed these in the outer corners of the second and sixth rows and arranged the other blocks in the second, third, fifth and sixth rows. I then inserted the 3 rectangular blocks and photos in the fourth row.
Step 7: Joining the Blocks With Decorative Fabric
For the fabric between the blocks I chose a green material that reminded me of the fuzzy surface of tennis balls. I cut long strips measuring 2 inches and 3 inches wide. I sewed the sides of the t-shirt blocks for the second, third, fifth and sixth rows to the 3 inch strips of green fabric, except for the outside edge of the first and last block in these rows. The sides of the fourth row of blocks were sewn to the 2 inch strips of green fabric, except for the outside edges. I trimmed all the edges of the green fabric even with the t-shirt blocks. Next the horizontal rows were sewn to the 2 inch wide strips of green fabric, which joined all the rows together. I then sewed the 2 inch wide strips of green fabric to the top, bottom and sides of the quilt top.
Step 8: Adding the Fill and Backing to the T-shirt Quilt Top
I used the same fabric for the back of the quilt. Since the quilt was wider than the width of the back fabric, I used the full width of the green material for the center of the quilt and sewed wide strips of fabric on each side to make the quilt back match the width of the front. I used fleece fabric for the fill and layered it between the front and back pieces of the quilt. I basted the layers together to stabilize them and made sure all the edges were straight and even.
Step 9: Finishing the Edges of the T-shirt Quilt
To finish the edges of the t-shirt quilt, I cut 1 inch strips of the green fabric and sewed it with right sides together to the front edges of the quilt using a quarter inch seam. This fabric was wrapped around the edge of the quilt, turning a quarter inch of the raw edge inside, which was then hand sewn to the back of the quilt using small, hidden stitches.
Step 10: Adding the Decorative Buttons to Finish the T-shirt Quilt
In order to attach the layers of the quilt together to prevent the 3 layers from shifting, I used yellow buttons which were centered in the green fabric between the blocks on the front of the quilt. I sewed 3 in each row and attached them to buttons on the back side of the quilt. This finishing touch completed the t-shirt quilt. I presented it to my son who was thrilled with it. He keeps it as a memento of his years playing tennis. This proved to be a great way to recycle his old t-shirts into something he could use and enjoy.