Instructables T-Shirt Quilt




Introduction: Instructables T-Shirt Quilt

About: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for students and Makers to put together.

Question: You're a long time Instructables poster. You've documented dozens of projects and won a few Instructables Prize Packages. Now you find yourself with a weird plethora of Instructables shirts in your closet and only 7 days in the week to wear them. What do you do with them all?

Answer: Ask your retired mother to turn them into a quilt for you, document the whole thing, and hopefully win yet more shirts.

I recently moved across town and my wife noticed that I had a bunch of Instructables shirts that I never wore. Like many men, I tend to wear the same small batch of shirts until they fall apart while all the other shirts I own collect dust at the back of the closet. Instead of just moving the shirts from the back of one closet to another I asked my mother if she'd be interested in making a quilt out of them since her quilting hobby had turned into a near obsession. (Everyone in the family and extended family keeps getting custom quilts from her. We're not complaining because they're really nice quilts and it gets cold in the winter around here.)

In this fun filled Mother and Son write up we'll show you have to make your own Instructables Quilt!

Step 1: Instructables Shirts and General Quilting

When I started this project I had five or six Instructables shirts to turn into a quilt. However they were all either red or orange which wouldn't make a a very visually interesting quilt. I emailed a contact at Instructables and they were kind enough to send me a box of different colored shirts to supplement this project.

In general this write up is a pretty standard 'turning old shirts into a quilt' kind of guide. My mother is no quilting expert and is using standard quilting/ sewing tools. She did add a few fun flairs and fabrics to the project to give it a very Instructables type style, such as the 7 Segment Fabric and the Robot style stitching.

If you're looking for some general quilting tips and tricks I'd recommend checking out this detailed guide by instructables user jessratfink or this other guide by user Sew Craft. They're both great starting points for people who have never quilted before.

Step 2: Parts and Supplies

Consumable Materials:

Shirts - 14 for our quilt, but you can use as many as you want for the size.

Fabic - Something fun as filler


Sewing Machine

Micro FlashTex Sharp Needle - For your sewing machine

12 x 12 Template

Cutting Matt

Rotary Cutter



Fusible Light Weight Interfacing

Pressing Sheet

Optional Tools:

Long Arm Quilting Machine (For doing the robot pattern)

Cat (for scale)

Mother with a lot of free time

Step 3: Cut Down Shirts

Choose your shirts and what parts of your shirts you want to use.

Rough cut the shirt, meaning you cut along the seams to remove the sleeves and split the front from the back.

Cut a piece of fusible light weight interfacing paper about a bit larger than your shirt. Then put a piece of pressing paper on top. Iron all together. (This prevents the iron from melting the designs on some types of shirts.)

Take your 12.5 inch template and center it around the design you want to use on your shirt.

Take rotary cutter and cut around the plastic template. Do this on your cutting mat.

Step 4: Measure and Cut Sashing

Sashing connects the shirts together. Long long Sashing are 2.5 inches wide by 12.5 inches long, and our corner squares are 2.5 inches wide. We used 40 long smashes and 25 corner squares

We used a fun digital '7 Segment' design that complimented the Instructables robot design. You could use any type of fabric for this.

Step 5: Lay Out Fabric and Evaluate

You now have all your fabric pieces. Lay out all the squares and figure out your design.

More or less you're doing the "eyeballing it to see if you like it" approach.

Step 6: Add Sashing to Shirts

Using your sewing machine add one strip of sashing to the left side of each shirt in the row. (Black Shirt Picture)

For the last shirt in the row add a strip of sashing to the right side as well. (Red Shirt Picture)

Then connect the shirts + sashing together to make your rows. You'll end up with sashing on the far left and far right, shirts and sashing in the middle. (As seen in the third photo up top.)

Press each section of shirt into the sashing.

You'll now have your rows of shirts ready to go. In our case we ended up with four rows of shirts. Again, lay things out to make sure you like how everything looks.

Step 7: Make Sashing Rows and Connect Everything

Start with a corner square and connect it to a strip of sashing. Follow the same method and we used with our rows of shirts and sashing.

Then, sew those new long rows to the TOP of each of your shirt rows.

Press seams towards the sashing strips.

Lastly you'll connect each of your new shirt rows to each other.

Step 8: Make the Backside

This step can be easy or difficult depending on what you want to do.

The most simple way to do this is to just use a single large sheet of fabric.

The most difficult way is to make a big pattern similar to your front, repeating all the same steps as before.

We took a medium approach. We used the backsides of several shirts along with some leftover "digital" fabric to create the back. This created a nice long strip of material which then had some standard black fabric added to the sides.

At this point you should also add in your batting (filling between layers).

Optional: If you're taking your quilt to a Long Arm Machine you'll need to have extra fabric along each side. It's recommended you have four inches extra on each side of your back, for a total of 8 extra inches wide and 8 extra inches tall.

Step 9: Long Arm Quilting or Self Sewing

Many quilters will now take their project to a local shop or person who has a Long Arm Quilting Machine. If you don't know anyone ask for a reference at your local fabric or craft store.

A Long Arm Machine will sew a wide range of fun patterns into your quilt. My mother chose some whimsical robots. You'll have lots of options to choose from.

Alternatively you can just do this yourself using a sewing machine. Most people just do straight lines for a quick and easy quilting process.

Step 10: Binding Your Quilt

Once you've gotten your quilt back home you'll need to close it all up via a process called Binding.

There are many ways to bind up your quilt ranging from hand sewing to using a machine. We recommend watching the above video to give you a in depth look at some options.

My mother does all her binding by hand, but she admits that she has a couple of printed out 'cheat sheets' to help her along the way.

Step 11: Enjoy Your Quilt

At this point your quilt is finished. You can now use it to enjoy measuring evenings of sitting by the fire, enjoying glasses of wine, or listening to some records play.

But in all seriousness, we all have heaps of old shirts around that we're not wearing anymore. Turning them into a fun quilt is a great gift for friends or family and goes those shirts a second purpose in life. Or if you're an avid instructables user this just means you have a chance to turn your shirts into yet another fun project.

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    4 years ago

    Well done! I saw the picture and thought "someone has won a lot of contests..."
    Voted, may you get another shirt to add to the collection!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Ha ha ha. Not THAT many, just a few. However instructables was super kind in sending me a bunch of shirts. I just realized that they no longer give out shirts, but instead slick coffee mugs. Thats a shame because I love going to Maker Faires and seeing heaps of people wearing instructables shirts. We can all give each other the 'head nod of coolness' to each other as we walk by.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Aw, that's too bad- good thing I nabbed one before that ended, I can be part of the exclusive "head nod of coolness" club! Maybe I should get into coffee now...


    4 years ago

    Yeah!!! This has been something I've wanted to do for so many years. I'm really glad to see that someone has done it. Well done : )


    Reply 4 years ago

    The hard part is finding enough shirts of the right type and variety. Thank goodness that the fine folks at Instructables were keen on the idea and sent me a box of additional shirts.


    Reply 4 years ago

    They are a fine group of folks indeed!! ; )


    4 years ago

    The long arm patterns are super-fun. Nice quilt!

    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    4 years ago

    This is an awesome collection of shirts and an amazing quilt! I also love the pattern on the other fabric you used to make this! I guess I just love everything about this :)


    4 years ago

    I love the border fabric - this is really wonderful! :D