How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt (Part 1)

I work at a great school and each spring we host an Annual Gala & Auction. I was asked to make a t-shirt quilt to donate to the Silent Auction. This is always a fun project and I’m happy that I can contribute to my school. 

The first t-shirt I ever made was for myself. It’s not quilted (I didn’t know how to machine quilt then) — it’s tied, and I used a flip-and-stitch foundation method that my mom invented. This makes for a nice, heavy blanket and I still use it on my bed in the winter.

Last summer, I accepted my first commission quilt: two t-shirt quilts. I used the flip-and-stitch foundation method that I used in the past, but I machine quilted them instead of tying them. The quilts turned out well, but the quilting ended up a bit lumpy, because of the stretchy nature of the t-shirts. I like to think the quilts had a comfy, handmade feel, and my client was happy with the results.

BUT I think I can rid myself of the lumps. I’m going to try interfacing. My mom’s flip-and-stitch foundation method works great for tying, but I suspect interfacing will work much better for machine quilting. That’s probably why most directions for t-shirt quilts tell you to use interfacing.

Why haven’t I used interfacing earlier? I’m concerned that the interfacing will make the quilt stiff. I’m also worried that the assembly process will be more labor-intensive. And I have a mild, irrational fear that the adhesive-based interfacing is not the best thing for my beloved (and new) Bernina.

So let’s try this thing, and I’ll let you know how it goes!


To make a 3×4 quilt (finished size 62″ x 76″), you will need:

  • 12 T-shirts – I wash and dry all my shirts before beginning. No need to iron them, you’ll iron after cutting them apart.
  • Fusible Interfacing – I used Pellon PLF36 Ultra Lightweight Interfacing. I found inexpensive 15″ x 3 yard packages at Wawak Sewing Supplies. I used two packages to complete this quilt (I got 8 shirts out of one package).
    SIDE NOTE: I like the 15″ wide interfacing, because I am planning on cutting my blocks at 12.5″. A lot of interfacing is sold at 20″ width, which would result in more waste.
  • Sashing – 1 yard
  • Cornerstones – 1/4 yard
  • Border 1 (I used white) – 1 yard
  • Border 2 (I used navy) – 2 yards
  • Backing – 4 yards
  • Twin size batting

Notes: All fabric widths are standard, about 42″. All seam allowances are 1/4″

STEP 1: Arrange your t-shirts: lay them out and take a photo of the final arrangement. The photo is a useful reference when you’re ready to sew your blocks together.


STEP 1: Arranging the quilt. I auditioned various t-shirts and color schemes before choosing cool colors in the arrangement shown.

STEP 2: Cut up the side of the shirt and across the neck to separate the front from the back. Make sure you’re cutting much larger than the final size of your block. You will trim the shirt down to the correct size after you’ve ironed on the fusible interfacing.


STEP 2: I placed my 12.5″ ruler over the shirt logo to make sure I wasn’t trimming too close

STEP 3: Place your shirt face down on the ironing board. Give it a once over with the iron before placing your interfacing. Position your interfacing, making sure it’s centered over the logo. Trim the interfacing. Iron on the fusible, following the directions on the package. I used the back of one of the t-shirts as a damp press cloth.


STEP 3: Once again, I placed my 12.5″ ruler over the center of the shirt to make sure I cut the interfacing large enough

STEP4: Trim the shirt from the front to 12.5″ x 12.5″, centering the logo as best you can. I have a ruler exactly this size, which makes trimming really easy. Repeat with all your other t-shirts.


STEP 4: Trimming

STEP 5: Lay out your completed t-shirt blocks in the arrangement you planned in Step 1, using the photo for reference. Sew your blocks together in rows, then sew your rows together.


STEP 5: Arranging the quilt on my design wall


After Step 5, I stopped for the day, and I’ll tell you why. I wasn’t thrilled with the appearance of the quilt. It looked flat to me, and I thought it was too small. I think it needs sashing. I played around with the layout in EQ7, and here are the results:


I think the one with sashing is a better looking quilt and a more functional size. It’s difficult to tell, but the sashing is pale gray and the first border is white. I don’t have any gray fabric, so that’s going to hold up the project for the moment.

I’ll be back with Part 2 to finish the quilt once I get to the fabric store!


One thought on “How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: How to Make T-Shirt Quilt (Part 2) | Becca Makes A Quilt

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