T-Shirt Quilt Series - How to make a T-Shirt Quilt

T-Shirt Quilt-Pin Do you have piles of t-shirts around the house with sentimental value that you don't wear? But you don't want to throw them away. What should you do? A clever solution is to make them into a T-shirt quilt.

What is a T-Shirt Quilt?
As the name suggests, it is a quilt made with t-shirts.  A t-shirt quilt is a type of memory quilt.  What is a memory quilt? A memory quilt is a precious memento of an important occasion, person or experience in the past. Some types of memory quilts are tee-shirt quilts, crayon quilts, necktie quilt, photo quilts and quilts made with someone's clothes. A memory quilt can be a wonderful way of preserving lasting memories.

This t-shirt quilt tutorial for beginners will help you learn the DIY basics of how to make a t-shirt quilt.  It is a six-part video tutorial.  So, continue reading this post to our t-shirt quilt tutorial.

The first video in the series is on how to prepare the t-shirt, how to cut the t-shirt apart, how to stabilize it and how to cut the t-shirt into blocks or useable shapes.  To see the video, click the YouTube image or read on for a written explanation on how to make a t-shirt quilt.

Click to watch the T-Shirt Quilt Series - How to make a T-Shirt Quilt video in Youtube.

T-Shirt Quilt Series - How to make a T-Shirt Quilt

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This is the first t-shirt quilt I have ever made.  So I am not an expert but in making it I learned a lot and would like to share this information with all of you.  At the end of this article is a picture of my completed t-shirt quilt which I made for my son.

t-shirt quilt DIY

Planning A T-shirt Quilt

The initial layout and design of the t-shirt quilt is the most challenging part.  A number of questions must be answered.

  • What style of t-shirt quilt do you want?
  • Do you want a single block size or multiple block sizes?
  • What size blocks will be used?
  • How many t-shirts are available?
  • Will it be only t-shirts or will other fabric be incorporated into the quilt?
  • Do you want the t-shirt quilt tied or quilted?
  • How large will the quilt be?
  • Do you want sashing and/or borders on the quilt?

To begin the design process, do a google image search of t-shirt quilts.  Study the photographs. Visit the websites associated with the images you like.  Save or print the images.   What one do you love to look at the most?  Or is there a combination of different ones you like? This is a good starting point for designing the pattern for the tee-shirt quilt.

After researching ideas, it is time to design the t-shirt quilt. Get out some graph paper and sketch out the blocks and layout for the quilt.  If using sashings or borders, also include them.  **Note: The graph paper layout should NOT include seam allowances.**

Once you have the t-shirt layout established, constructing the quilt is EASY.

T-shirt Preparation

The t-shirts should be in good condition.  They should not be thin because after spending all the time and energy making the t-shirt quilt you do not want a t-shirt to rip.

The shirts should be clean. So, wash them but do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets when drying them.  WHY?  The fusible stabilizer may not adhere nearly as well. 

How to Cut the T-Shirts Apart

Place the t-shirt on a cutting surface and smooth it out flat.

With a rotary cutter or a scissor, cut off the sides seams, cut off the sleeves and sleeve seams, and cut out the shoulder seams.  Leave the neckband in tack.  You may wonder why you are not cutting off the neckband.  When cutting the block panels to get the exact size you want, you may just need a little of the neckband. Rather safe than sorry later.

After trimming, you'll have a somewhat rectangular panel.  

Stabilize the Panel

Knit fabrics are flexible and typically stretch in both the warp and weft directions. You do not want the fabric to stretch as you sew the t-shirt quilt together.  To prevent this the knit fabric panels should be stabilized. 

Stabilizing the panel is very simple.  First, place the t-shirt panel on an ironing board and press it nice and flat.

From a light-weight stabilizer, it can be woven or nonwoven, cut a piece 2 inches to 2 1/2 inches larger than the design or block you are cutting out.  On the wrong side of the t-shirt, center the stabilizer making sure it covers the entire image on the front of the shirt.

Fuse the stabilizer to the t-shirt according to the manufacturer's directions.

Cutting the T-Shirt Blocks or Useable Shapes

The simplest shapes to use in t-shirt quilts are a square or rectangular shape. If this is your first t-shirt quilt, I recommend using these shapes because it will be simpler to piece around the blocks to build the quilt.

A helpful tool for cutting the block is the t-shirt transformation ruler.  This ruler can be used to cut any combination of 10", 12" and 15" (finished dimensions) for square and rectangle blocks. Simply center the ruler over the t-shirt design using the 1" grid markings on the ruler, then mark and cut into perfect squares or rectangles. This ruler has a grid with an X to easily center the image and slots for marking the cutting lines.

In the video, I used a rotary cutter to cut slits in the fabric through the slots in the ruler. However, I have now decided that a simpler way to mark the block would be using a fine point fabric micro-pen or quilter's chalk to mark the cutting line through the slots in the ruler.

After marking the slots, line a quilter's ruler with the marks and cut out the quilt block.

How to Resize Images by Adding Fabric

T-shirt block with fabric added in cornersThe photo above shows fabric added to upper corners

Sometimes the dimensions of the t-shirt image will be too small for the project or you want to combined images together.  This can be done with complimentary fabric or even with a leftover piece of t-shirt fabric.

Our second video in our series, T-Shirt Quilt How-To Tutorial Part 2 -  How to Adjust Image Size, will show how to add additional fabric to the t-shirt motif/image so it will be the correct block size.  Also, learn about a mistake I made when joining two pieces of fabric together (see a photo of my mistake below).

Video How to Resize Images

My Mistake

I tried to join two pieces of stabilized fabric together. Here is the result:

T-Shirt Quilt Block - Bulky PiecingThe sewn pieces caused a bulky appearance.

I definitely was not happy with the result.  I wanted to use this image and saying as part of the quilt.  So to solve the problem, I use a seam ripper to remove the seam and added a small piece of knit jersey fabric between the two pieces.  Problem solved.  Then, I resized the block.

Arranging and Sewing T-Shirt Quilt Top

Referring to the graph paper design lay the quilt blocks on the floor.  If you have blocks all the same size, lay the blocks on the floor and begin arranging in the order you wish to sew them together.  If some of the blocks are smaller, frame them with fabric to accommodate the layout design.

Optional, sashing strips can be added vertically or horizontally between blocks.  This is your t-shirt quilt so sew the top together any way that is pleasing to the eye.

Sew the blocks together in rows.  Then sew the rows together.  The quilt top is finished but there is still more to do.

Completing the Quilt

To complete the quilt it must be quilted, a binding has to be sewn on to cover the raw edges and a quilt label has to be made and applied to quilt.  We have tutorials for all of these steps for finishing the quilt.

Deciding How to Quilt

T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial - Machine Quilting Who will quilt the quilt?  Are you going to quilt it yourself or send it out to a professional long-arm quilter?  Part 3 of our t-shirt quilt DIY tutorials will show the way I decided to quilt my t-shirt quilt and how I marked the quilt line.

How to Make A Quilt Sandwich

T-Shirt Quilt - Pinning the Quilt If you decided to machine or hand quilt the t-shirt quilt yourself, the quilt must be layered into a quilt sandwich.  What is a quilt sandwich?  A quilt sandwich is made up of a quilt top, the batting and the quilt backing.  These layers must be secured in place in order to machine or hand quilt. Learn how to hand pin the layers together in part 4 of the T-shirt Quilt Video Series.

Machine Quilting - Straight Line Quilting

Quilting - Straight line Quilting Example For the t-shirt quilt I made, I used straight-line quilting.  The fifth part of our DIY t-shirt quilt series is on straight line quilting.  This video will explain, show and give you tips on straight line machine quilting. Besides the straight line quilting, some other popular methods are stitch-in-the-ditch,  meandering, serpentine stitching, free-motion quilting, stitching a motif design and quilting with decorative stitches that come with your machine.

Binding and Labeling

T-shirt quilt - Binding example The conclusion of our T-Shirt Quilt tutorial is Part 6 on binding and labeling the t-shirt quilt.  If the quilt will be hung on a wall, a hanging sleeve should be added to the back of the quilt.

The binding covers the raw edges of the quilt to give it a finished professional look.

All quilts should have a label. The label preserves the identity of the quilt so future generations know about it.  A label should contain the four "W"s. Who? When? Where? Why? 

If the quilt will be hung on the wall, a hanging sleeve should be sewn on the back of the quilt.


T-Shirt Quilt - Part 1: Stabilizing and Cutting the T-Shirt Blocks
T-Shirt Quilt - Part 2: How to Adjust Image Size
T-Shirt Quilt - Part 3: Deciding How to Quilt
T-Shirt Quilt - Part 4: How to Make A Quilt Sandwich
T-Shirt Quilt – Part 5: How to Machine Quilt – Straight-Line Quilting
T-Shirt Quilt – Part 6: Binding & Labeling

T-Shirt Quilt - Finished QuiltT-shirt Quilt Idea - My son owns Maximum Impact Karate and each year an original t-shirt is designed for his business.  This is the t-shirt quilt I made for him hanging in his karate studio.


If you have any questions about this project, contact us through the YouTube Video comments or our Contact Us page. We respond to questions in e-mails and YouTube comments regularly.


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