Condo Blues: How to Make a T Shirt Quilt

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.


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

Rotary cutting wheel & a self healing mat


Sewing machine



Backing material (I used a flat jersey top sheet like this one)

Quilt batting or a thin blanket (optional)

Disclosure: I have included affiliate links in this post for your convenience. 

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.

4. Sew blocks together to form columns.
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.

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.

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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Anonymous said...

What a great idea. I've never tried quilting but have been thinking about it lately. Thanks for the info

Micah and Katie said...

My mother-in-law did that for my husband and gave it to him for his birthday.

Anonymous said...

That's a great idea. You know something is wonderfully personal when your kids are going to look at it someday and say "What the heck?" :)

I have a T-shirt of my husband's that I confiscated because it was shrinking shorter and shorter ... I keep meaning to make it into a pillow.

I wonder if you could stiffen the T-shirt pieces with corn starch solution to make them easier to stitch?

Anonymous said...

Wow! what a great idea! I think it is a great gift made with loving hands. Good job!

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Micah & Katie - that's an awsome quilt! I'm going to make another one out of Husband's running shirts (if and when he decides to part w/ some of them) as picnic blanket for his car.

Cheap Like Me - I didn't have any problems sewing the t-shirts for my quilt just as they were. I don't have a fancy sewing machine either. I'm still sewing on my Mom's old 1972 Kenmore! However I did use a new needle for my project.

Heidi said...

This would also be a great idea for a duvet cover that I can't ever find in the stores! thx

Lori said...

Such a great idea!!! I actually have a box in my crawl space that is holding my kiddos' tshirts as they outgrow them....then I'm hoping my MIL will quilt them!!

Anonymous said...

Very cute, I actually have already keeping personalized shirt my 2 year old has to make her a shirt quilt. Yours looks great!

Anonymous said...

We buy shirts wherever we travel and this would work out great for us!

Anonymous said...

Now I know what to do with all those T-shirts my mom saved from when I was a kid.

Thanks for entering our giveaway at Chic Critique. Good luck!!

R.P. said...

THANK YOU for posting this. i have shirts that i want to put together and i know i will some day. horaaay!

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of a quilt made out of tshirts. The theme ideas are endless and maybe I could weed out some of those worn out tshirts that my kids refuse to give up.

Anonymous said...

Included in the Carnival Of Homesteading - SnowFall Edition

RecycleCindy said...

This is a great quilt and I love that you are using old recycled tee-shirts. Outstanding!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great DIY tip.. Time to get creative with my T-Shirts.

Handmade Cute said...

Aloha! Thanks for this great tutorial. Your article has been posted at

Angela Cassidy said...

Great description. I found this page while I was looking for someone to make one for me. Unfortunately, I can't quilt but I found Campus Quilt to make one for me. I asked them lots of questions based on how you descibed making one. Maybe next time I'll try my own.

Anonymous said...

if you're having a hard time getting nice seams (they seem puckery) use a ballpoint needle on your machine. it will be much easier to sew and you don't have to double the t-shirt material. Only cost-about $1.

Sarah said...

I am just finding your post after searching for a good tee shirt quilt tutorial. Thank you so much for giving clean instructions and making it seem easy. You are so right about the quiltzillas making it sound impossible to an amateur quilter.

Megan_Hallmark said...

By far, this is the most encouraging quilting instruction I've come across. I'm in college and have been wanting to make a quilt for some time, but I always get discouraged at the time it would take. This definitely inspired me to give it a shot anyway. Thanks so much for posting this!

diyanuh said...

I've been thinking about doing this kind of thing, and had already started collecting t-shirts. Most concerts or shows I go to don't carry t-shirts in my size, but I refuse to leave without one.

I'm glad you made this kind of project easy! Quilting seems very daunting and tedious, but I'm really excited to get started now!

Jill said...

Great quilt! My parents are in England and I'm in Australia - so I'm safe from the decluttering - (apart from one suitcase full each year - but I can cope with that!)

I would love if you came and linked this project to my clothes upcycling page. It has a long term linky, so your project would stay there for more than just the week of a usual linky. We have over 60 projects linked up now – some fantastic ideas – and this month I’m upcycling lots of clothes and trying to feature lots of the links too!
Do come and take a look!

Rachat de credit said...

Thank you so much it is a wonderful support, now to make a t shirt quilt is definitely easy with the help of your information. Kudos

Mary Jo said...

I am doing some research before I start my t-shirt quilt. Thanks so much for your step-by-step instructions. One question - you said you used t-shirt material instead of interfacing. Did you fasten the 2 pieces together as you would do with interfacing, before sewing squares togther?
Thank you!!
Mary Jo

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

Mary - No I didn't sew the extra bit of t shirt fabric to the back of my shirts before I pinned the squares together. It worked fine and saved time and lead me to write this little rhyme.

Mutuelle sante said...

Good tips on how to make a t shirt quilt. Highly detailed and fairly great advices. Thanks

Unknown said...

thanks!!! im going to try this!!:) yay!

Anonymous said...

The only thing I would do differently, and I've sewn 7 quilts to date, is I'd pin the sandwich together, back material wrong side towards you and right side on the floor, put the batting on top of the wrong side of your back material, then put your tshirt top part of the quilt, right side up and pin all around the edges to hold it together. Trim so all edges are even and then save yourself time and buy actual quilt binding, pin to the edges and stitch along the binding. Also, I found, with my quilts, they wrinkled easily just either stitching in the "ditch" along all the rows and columns, so using a dressmaker's chalk, I drew figure 8's all down the quilt (before finishing it with the binding) and placed these figure 8's about 4" apart across the quilt. Then I hand basted in a bright color those figure 8's. Starting at the center figure 8 I machine stitched right next to the basting, until I'd sewn all columns of figure 8's. the most difficult part of this is how hard it is to work from center until you get nearer the edge of the quilt because you have so little arm room. The larger your quilt the harder it is to do this, but it's well worth the struggle. Once I have all my figure 8's sewn I remove the basting. Then I trim the edges even and sew the binding on. You can lay on the quilt and it does not wrinkle!

Anonymous said...

You are a lifesaver! and a poet too. Thank you for this post!!!

Anonymous said...

WHAT A GREAT IDEA!I made a quilt out of Sweat Shirts for a friend who was from back east & said she was always cold.I used the lightest batting for the center & Flannel for the backing, otherwise there would'v been alot of hard seams.Even tho all I had were dark colors, I set the blocks on the diagonal,making them look more like diamonds & I used black for the sashing,border, & binding,and it brought out all the colors even more. It looked like a box of crayons had been spilled on her bed. She loves her quilt & won't share it with anyone. I live in Arizona & even tho we really don't have "winters" here,having that 1 good warm blanket when the 1 cold night does hit, sure helps.When I came across all of my old T-shirts, instead of just putting them aside for a later project,I cut them into the sizes for the pattern I already had picked out & got rid of the remnants, giving me more storage space.I added a picture of the finished product so when I get ready to start on that project I will have everything ready.I aleady had another quilt started between the Sweat Shirt quilt & the T-shirt quilt.The idea to iron our pieces before is also a very good idea. I have discovered STARCH & it works great on all fabrics, T-shirts too & it really helps when cutting & sewing. Best invention ever!It makes for easier & more accurate cuts & easier to piece together too. HAPPY QUILTING!

God's Little Princess said...

thanks for posting this:) i have been searching for someone that would do it at a reasonable price. but now I am doing it myself! thanks:)

Anonymous said...

I will tell you as a professional long arm quilter that most quilters will not quilt this for you. Each block needs to be stablized before it's sewn together. Tshirts are very stretchy and the only way to keep them from crawling all over is to stablize them.

Kay Dee said...

You've inspired me to try this! Love the idea of using a jersey sheet for the backing!! Love all of the tips in the comments, too.

vickie said...

All you need to do is use some medium stiff pellon, Iron on. it works great!

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