Do you have a stash of old t-shirts that you will never wear again but can't bear to throw away? Why not make a memory quilt out of them that's both practical and sentimental?
Note: I am writing this guide for the T-Shirt Transformation contest.
- A LOT of t-shirts to destroy. For a quilt of 5 x 6 squares, that's 30 squares of fabric. If you're willing to use the plain backs of t-shirts like I did, you will still need 15 shirts minimum, but using more prints will make your quilt more interesting.
- A large piece of fleece material that will be at least as big as the total number of squares once you've put them together. I bought three yards to be safe. (Any colour.)
- Lots of extra thread. You will probably use at least one spool on this. (Any colour.)
- Optional: quilt batting about the size of your quilt. I didn't use it but I wish I did so my quilt was thick and luxurious :-}
- Fabric scissors
- Utility Knife
- Thick card stock or cardboard to make a square template
- A marker or pencil
- A clean floor or large table
- SEWING MACHINE. You will use the basic straight stitch the whole time, but I wouldn't hand sew this project for a thousand dollars.
- Something to make sure your squares are perfect
- Iron (recommended)
Step 1: Cut Your Shirts Up
First make a template to make sure all the squares are equal size.
Grab your cardboard and measure and cut out a perfect square. The square is a template for the fabric cut out of the shirts. This template includes the part of the shirt you want in the quilt as well as the seam allowance, and it needs to be small enough to accommodate your smallest shirt, but big enough to use the most of the fabric.
I used men's shirts that were M and L, so the smallest shirt allowed me to cut a 15" square from the chest. My quilt squares will be 14" but I'm leaving a roughly 1/2" seam allowance around each side. 14 + 1/2 + 1/2 = 15!
(BTW a 5x6 square grid with 14" squares gives you a quilt about 70" x 84". If you want it bigger or smaller, either adjust the fabric square size or the number of them.)
Trace this template on your shirt, then cut out the fabric. Cut out the back if you like, and discard the rest of the shirt.
Repeat until you have ideal number of perfect squares (in my 5x6 example, 30 squares).
Step 2: Design, Pin and Sew
Lay your squares out on a flat surface (like the floor) to see how it looks. You could organize your shirts by chronology to tell a story, or by colour, or just make it random.
Taking two squares at a time, line them up on the edge you need to sew and put them right side against right side (aka. face to face). You should pin this edge together as shown.
Use a sewing machine, do a straight stitch 1/2" from the edge. Lock the stitch on both ends.
Open up the shirts and add the next square to sew. Continue for the rest of the squares in this column.
When finished, repeat the process for the other columns.
If you're following the 5x6 layout you should now have 5 columns of 6 squares sewn together. In the next step we'll sew the columns together.
Step 3: Combine the Columns Into the Grid
Now instead of pinning and sewing individual squares together, we're going to sew an entire column together.
Take two columns that are adjacent in your design and put them face to face. Pin the edge where they should connect and sew another straight stitch.
Repeat for the rest of the columns and soon you'll have the full grid finished
Step 4: Add the Layer of Fleece and Sew It Together.
You will now add the fleece to the other side of the quilt. The fleece you bought needs to be at least as big as the quilt. Lay the fleece over top and pin in to the quilt. You can trim them together if the quilt is not even enough.
Sew a straight stitch all the way around the edge, leaving a relatively small gap in the middle (12" is probably good). Then pull the insides out through the gap until the quilt is the right side out.
(Optional: you could add a layer of quilt batting or another soft fabric in between the layers for a heavier, warmer quilt. However I skipped this and have no advice to give :)
Step 5: Top Stitch the Quilt Closed
To connect the top and bottom layers and give the quilt a ... uh... quilty texture, you're going to sew a pattern (top stitch) all over the quilt. This means you are sewing through every layer of the quilt at once, so pin the layers together, take your time and make sure nothing gets bunched up. I started near the edge and sewed in a rectangular spiral around and around until I got to the middle. However you could work in sections or be more creative.
Once you finish that last lock stitch, you're all done! Congratulations, you earned a nap.
Let me know if I left anything out!
Runner Up in the
T-Shirt Transformations Challenge
Participated in the
Beyond the Comfort Zone Contest