Many have collections of T-shirts from trips, college, and experiences. Making a quilt of those shirts can be used as a way to preserve memories and recycle old shirts while making a functional and special item. I made this quilt out of Detroit Red Wing T-shirts as a Christmas gift for a hockey lover. The collection of shirts were purchased from second hand shops such as the Goodwill. This instructable could be used to help you preserve memories or make a unique gift for family and friends.
- Thread (black)
- Iron-on paper backed interfacing
- Quilt Batting
- Sewing Machine
- Laser cutter
- Rotary cutter/cutting mat
- Iron/ ironing board
Step 1: Collect Your T-shirts
Collect the shirts that you want to make your quilt. I went to several second hand shops to get all of the shirts since I wanted it to be a Red Wing quilt and did not have enough to make the whole quilt. Also going to a second hand shop I was able to get a variety of shirts that averaged $2-4 each when new they would have been $25 and up! I used shirts of all sizes from baby onesies to 3XL.
Since the shirts were different sizes I measured each design on the shirts to see how large of a patch could be made by each. I measured rectangles that were multiples of 4in.
I then sorted the shirts into the size of patch that would be made from each shirt.
The size patches that I could make were 4x4, 4x12, 4x8, 8x8, 8x12, 12x12, 12x16, and 16x16.
Step 2: Make Your Pattern
In the image you can see the pattern that I used for this quilt.
I started by making a to scale piece of cardboard of each of the sizes of shirt patches I had. By the process of trial and error I arranged the pieces to fit into a full 68x80 in rectangle. The pattern was then drawn onto a finished paper the was on a 1/8 scale.
*Note if you use shirts with all roughly the same size pattern or are not concerned with trimming parts of the pattern you could make a simpler pattern of all the same size patch such as 10x10in or 12x12in.
But if you are up for a challenge and want to make it unique use the trial and error method I did to make it your own!
Step 3: Prepare Your Patches
Start by cutting each t-shirt in half to separate the front from the back and to get rid of the sleeves.
I then cut iron-on fuse-able paper backed interfacing into rectangles for each of the sizes of patch.
*Note that you will need to cut the interfacing larger than the actual size of the patch to account for seam allowance while sewing.
I used a 5/8 seam allowance so I needed my interfacing and patches to be cut with the allowance.
Ex: A patch that will end up being 12x12 on the quilt needs to be cut to 13.25x13.25 in.
Iron the shirt to get rid of creases with the design side down. Then place the interfacing rough side down on the shirt over the design and area that will be used on the patch. Iron the interfacing to the fabric using the directions from the interfacing you are using.
The interfacing is to keep a stiffer structure for the stretching fabric to make cutting easier and uniform.
Step 4: Cut Your Patches
For this step I used a laser cutter at TechShop Detroit. For this I centered the design in the cut area and then used the program to cut exact rectangles from each of the shirts to the size matching the pattern.
When cutting each shirt remember to add seam allowance to each of the patches. I used a 5/8in seam allowance.
*This step could also be achieved by using a rotary cutter on a cutting mat or with sewing scissors if you do not have access to a laser.
Step 5: Lay Out the Design
Following the written pattern I arranged the cut patches onto a work table. Once all of the patches have been placed I rearranged a few patches, switching those of the same size so to not change the pattern, until I was happy with the final look of the quilt.
I then marked each patch in chalk with a letter and wrote each letter to the corresponding space on the pattern so that they could be laid out again if moved or packed up.
I also color coded the pattern as a plan for sewing. Each of the colors were sewed together into manageable strips and sections.
Step 6: Sew the Patches Together
Placing the design sides together stitch a straight seam with a 5/8 seam allowance. I did this for each of color coded strips on my pattern.
After the patches were sewed into strips I trimmed off the seam allowance using a rotary cutter and cutting mat to make the seam allowance 1/4in or smaller. This was to make the strips lay flatter when opened and reduce excess bulk.
Finish the front of the quilt by sewing each of the strips together into one final pieces and trimming off any extra seam allowance.
Step 7: Make the Backing of the Quilt
For the back of the quilt I used the backs of the t-shirts. I used the same process of cutting them all into equal rectangles since I did not have to worry about design size. I also arranged them into a pattern for aesthetic appeal with the different colored shirts.
I sewed these patches together into strips using a 5/8in seam that was then trimmed. These strips were then sewn together into a solid backing for the quilt the same size as the front.
*Note: A solid piece of fabric could also replace the patch-work back.
Step 8: Add the Batting
To add the batting I laid it out flat on the table. I then put the back of the quilt right side up on top and then the front of the quilt right side down on top of that as shown in the photos. After smoothing out the fabric and lining up the corners I pinned the cloth together along the edge.
*When doing this step make sure to have the pins go all the way through both quilt sides and the batting to make sure it is all secured together.
I then used a straight stitch with a 5/8in seam along the edge all the way around the quilt.
I made sure to leave an opening along one side to be used to turn the blanket right side out.
Once stitched trim the excess batting and seam allowance as close to the stitch as possible to help the quilt lay flat.
Step 9: Turn the Quilt Right-side Out
Reaching inside the quilt from the section that was left open on one side and pull the quilt right side out.
Once it is all turned out flatten and smooth the quilt.
Step 10: Finish and Close the Open Section
To close the open section used to turn the quilt right side out I folded the edges in on itself and pinned and sewed a straight stitch along the edge with a 1/4in seam.
Step 11: Edge the Quilt
I followed along the same 1/4in stitch around the outer edge of the quilt. This was to make the blanket lay flat without curling in on itself and to give it a finished edge.
Step 12: Tack the Quilt Together
This step was to help attach both sides of the quilt together and to the batting to make the quilt more stable and to keep it from shifting or moving.
After smoothing the quilt I pinned both from the top down across the whole top and then also flipped it over and pinned the entire back down to make sure that it was all together.
Then I used a very tight zig-zag stitch at the corner of each of the patches on the front of the quilt.
This was a difficult process because I needed to get to the center of the thick quilt for a stitch and had to shove it up against the inside of the sewing machine.
After each corner is tacked down spread the quilt back on the table and be sure to remove all of the pins throughout and trim any loose thread.
Step 13: Celebrate!
I finally finished my first t-shirt quilt! Celebrate by showing off your work, using it to keep warm, or give it as a gift to a loved one.