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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How to Make a T Shirt Quilt

My mom decided she wanted to declutter her house. Unfortunately, that meant that she was going to clutter up my house with a bunch of boxes of my childhood stuff.

Try as I might I could not convince her that it was a far better use of storage space if she kept those boxes rather than me. No dice.

I eventually went through the boxes and found a ton of old t-shirts. I was in a boatload of clubs, plays, service days, etc. in high school, college, and adulthood. If I wanted to commit a fashion faux pax and wear nothing but those t-shirts every day, I wouldn’t have to do laundry for about, oh, 3 months.

I really needed to thin the t shirt herd. I donated some of the shirts to a thrift store. But, I’m a softie. There were some shirts that I didn’t want to give up even though I wasn’t going to wear them again.

What to do? I decided when life gives you T shirts – make a quilt!

So I did.

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I’m not a quilter. In fact, this t-shirt quilt is my first real quilting project.

Note: Please don’t feel intimidated by this project! Some of the quilting sites I checked while researching this project made me feel like there were tons of rules and “you musts” when making a simple t-shirt quilt. Some of those Quiltzillas made me feel like this project was way too hard and I’ve been sewing since I was 5 years old! A t shirt quilt is a good beginning sewing project because it can be as easy or as difficult as you want to make it.

A t-shirt quilt also makes a great graduation gift or a gift for someone who participates in local sports, clubs, or just has lots of t shirts.

Make a T-Shirt Quilt the Easy Way!

You will need:
A 12 x 12 inch piece of paper/plastic/cardboard to use as a template
Scissors or a rotary cutting wheel & mat
Pins
Sewing machine
Thread
T-shirts
Backing material (I used an old flat jersey top sheet)
Batting or a thin blanket (optional)

Make it:

1. Center the template on the t shirt design and cut a 12 x 12 inch square from each t-shirt using the scissors or rotary cutter and mat.
  • Depending upon the size and design of the shirts you are using you may be able to get two squares from each shirt if you cut a square from both the front and the back of the t shirt.
  • If you have some large t shirt scraps leftover you may be able to cut them into squares and use them as dust clothes or hem the edges and make handkerchiefs from them, or cut them into long strips and braid them into dog or cat toys.
  • For each size quilt you will need approximately the following number of squares for the following size t shirt quilts.
    - Twin = approximately 45 squares
    - Full = approximately 63 squares
    - Queen = approximately 72 squares
    - King = approximately 81 squares
2. Lay out squares out on the floor and arrange them into columns and row.
  • For each size quilt you will need approximately the following number of squares for the following size t shirt quilts.
    - Twin = 5 rows wide x 9 rows long
    - Full = 7 rows wide x 9 rows long
    - Queen = 8 rows wide x 9 rows long
    - King = 9 rows wide x 9 rows long
  • To keep the quilt from being too busy I tried to alternate a printed shirt front square with a blank shirt back square.
  • Now is the time to get creative! For example, I used red and white t-shirts to make a St. George’s Cross on my quilt.
3. Once you have the t-shirts laid out in the pattern you like. Pin the t-shirt squares together into columns that are nine blocks long.

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4. Sew blocks together to form columns.
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5. Pin the columns together.
  • It’s a good idea to put the pinned together quilt together on a bed to check that it will be the desired size. If not add or subtract rows/blocks as needed.

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6. Sew the columns together.
  • Press the seams between the squares opened if desired. My mom taught me to always press my seams open when I sewed. So that’s what I do. I think it looks neater and helps me avoid the,”Oh my God Lisa - I taught you better than that!" speech.
  • If you don't press your seams open you probably won't get this speech from your mother.
7. Make a quilt sandwich. Pin the top of the quilt to the backing fabric right sides together. If you are using batting, layer the optional batting/thin blanket on top of the backing fabric.

8. Sew all of the layers together along three and a half sides of the quilt.

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9. Remove the pins, turn the quilt right side out, and press the seams. Again, because that’s how Mom taught me. And again, it’s a good way to avoid The Speech.

10. Sew the opening closed by either by hand or by machine.

11. Finish the quilt so that the layers will not shift while you’re using it or when you wash it.
  • Hand Quilt Method - The easiest way to finish the quilt is to you can tie the layers together at each square with yarn, ribbon, or crochet thread.

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  • Machine Quilt Method - I sewed down each column and then sewed a crossed each row. I like this look better but it was difficult because I have an older sewing machine that doesn’t have a lot of room around the sewing arm when I was trying to finish the inside of such a big quilt.
  • http://www.victorianaquiltdesigns.net/FinishingYourQuilt.htm has more detailed information on how to finish a quilt. This site has great information although I think they make it sound a little more complicated than it was.
Tips/Variations:
  • It helps if you wash and iron the t-shirts before you cut them into squares.
  • If you find that your sewing machine doesn’t sew t-shirt material easily, you can back each square with interfacing to prevent it from stretching.
  • Instead of using interfacing, do what I did and back each square with a second square of t-shirt material with the grain of the material in the opposite direction.
  • For a fancier look you can use a contrasting material around each square/the quilt as sashing/border/binding.

If you don’t think you’ll have the time or gumption to finish this project, don’t sew, or just don’t want to make it yourself consider contacting stitch’T. They are a cool company that makes t-shirt quilts using your own t shirts!

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