Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DIY T-Shirt Quilting for Dummies like ME!!!

I just love trying to be creative and making things that savor memories such as scrapbooks, memory quilts, photo albums, and t-shirt quilts. A t-shirt quilt is a great way to preserve those memories.
T-shirt quilting has been very popular for a few years now. I think anything that preserves the memories that we have made through our t-shirts is a great idea.

But if you know me, you know I never do anything half ass.. so recently I picked out and designed a t-shirt quilt for Ryan's adorable little sister Kayleigh. Who has become my little sister(inlaw) also. I am so glad in the past nine years I have gotten a chance to see her grow into a beautiful woman. I love her like my own sister and was very happy to do this for her. 

I wanted to put my heart and soul into this quilt so after I researched several sites with no real help. I could not find a library book or website that really broke it down for you and I just did not like the look of some of the quilts. They were slouchy and boring. I finally gave up looking and went for it to design my own tshirt quilt by come binding quilting techniques and some tshirt quilting how to do library books.

 I just wish somebody had broken down the basics for me when I was first starting out. Even though I had made a few t-shirt quilts in the past I wanted this one to be easier and different. So here it goes.....

There are a lot of things involved with making t-shirt quilts. So – this post is just the first few tips & tricks that you need to know when doing your first t-shirt quilt. Also – not everyone’s method is exactly like mine. So – find what works for you! The content in this post is simply the method that works best for me!
BEFORE I BEGIN: I suggest to pre-wash EVERYTHING (except the batting and thread) prior to using it in your quilt. Even pre-wash those t-shirts that you have probably already washed 3000 times in your life. It is always better to be safe than sorry! 

This is one of the [emotionally] hardest parts of making your very first t-shirt quilt. Because although you are SO excited about making a memory quilt… letting go of those t-shirts can be tough!
A couple of things that I suggest that you think about when you’re choosing which t-shirts to put into your quilt are:
  • Colors. Although multi-color t-shirt quilts are super adorable… you may want something more uniform in color. Either way – this is the time you decide!
  • Quilt Layout. Look at each logo and the size of your t-shirts. Here’s a quick tip: the smaller the shirt, the smaller you will have to cut the logo. The larger the shirt, the bigger variety of size options you will have when creating your layout. So — although ALL t-shirts are welcome in memory quilts – if you have 5 Large t-shirts and 3 extra small t-shirts… it might cause difficulties in getting a symmetrical pattern. Just something to think about.
  • Sashing  & Border Color. The colors of the t-shirts you choose in your quilt make a HUGE difference in what sashing and border you use.
When it comes to how many t-shirts you want to use... the answer is however many you want!!! There is not a magic number! You can always tweak your layout, sashing size, border size, and quilt size to accommodate however many t-shirts you want to use!

 I prefer working with MORE t-shirts instead of LESS. I think memory quilts are supposed to be super busy and involved. So, {in my opinion}… more is better!
So, it is important to think through what YOU want from your quilt when picking out t-shirts to use. There is a solution for ALL t-shirt combinations! You just have to think about what is important to you in your quilt!

After you choose your t-shirts, sit down and measure each logo. Here is a list of supplies that I use when I do this:
  • Paper
  • Pencil/pen
  • Highlighter
  • Ruler

1. Simply write down the name of the t-shirt. Just write something that will help you remember which t-shirt the measurements are for. When you’re taking all of this time to measure the logos on your t-shirts, the last thing you want to do is get confused about which measurement is for which logo. So — make sure you name it!

2. Make a note about whether that particular logo is from the front or back of that t-shirt. This is almost just as important in the recording process as step #1 is. Many t-shirts that I have worked with have had MULTIPLE logos throughout the t-shirt. So, writing down where the logo that you are measuring is located will help stay organized! You can even write “pocket”, “right sleeve” or “left sleeve”, etc. if there are logos in those spots! 

3. Use your ruler to measure & record the MAXIMUM width and height that you could cut your t-shirt logos. For this step, you’re going to want to keep your logo in the center of your measurement. That means, if you’re measuring the height of the logo and it is four inches from the collar… then make sure you use only four inches from the bottom of the logo as well. If you just simply measure how big the t-shirt is on all sides… you will end up with a very lopsided and off-centered logo. Measure what you think is possible all while keeping the logo in the center.  Remember to make sure that you keep in mind a seam allowance for later! 

4. Use your ruler to measure & record the MINIMUM width and height that you could cut your t-shirt logos. When you measure the minimum, give each logo AT LEAST 1 INCH on all sides! It is very important that you do not just simply measure the logo without any t-shirt included. Think about it – if you do not add any t-shirt to your logo measurements, you will be sewing ON TOP of your logo! 

5. As you are doing this, highlight the logos that are most important to you and must be included in your memory quilt. I use the highlighter to mark logos that MUST be in the quilt. I leave the ones that are optional colorless. That way, I can add in logos if needed and I make SURE the most important logos are included.

6. Write down what you want each t-shirt logo to end up measuring in the quilt. This step is after you have decided on your layout, etc. Be sure to write it down! Without the final t-shirt measurement, you will get very confused in later steps! 

After you measure all of your logos, examine the t-shirts and come up with a common measurement for the shirts. Which measurements you use COMPLETELY depends on how you want your quilt to look. I have made 100% symmetrical quilts, rectangle t-shirt quilts, and crazy mismatched sized t-shirt quilts.

Take scissors and cut up each side of your t-shirt, cut the sleeves, and the neckline. Basically, take apart the t-shirt. Just cut the bare minimum that you need in order to take the shirt apart. I say the bare minimum because you do not want to cut off too much and not have enough for your quilt!
This next step is not the most tedious of all t-shirt quilting steps. Use your rotary cutter to cut your t-shirts. However, I make sure that no matter what size you decided you wanted each t-shirt to be for your quilt… add ONE INCH EXTRA to all measurements in this step. Why do I do this?!
Because it gives me room for accidental mistakes. Sometimes when I am in the cutting mode… I get on “autopilot” and start making mistakes. Simply adding an inch to each measurement allows me to make a mistake without worrying about ruining the entire quilt. I also purchased a large t-shirt Ruler Mat at Hobby Lobby that matches most t-shirt logo sizes.
Other than when I am disassembling my t-shirts, I use a rotary cutter and ruler for this step! It makes it precise and perfect!

After cutting my shirts with ONE INCH ADDED TO ALL MEASUREMENTS, I lay the t-shirt pieces on the ground as I want them to be in my quilt.
To me, backing the t-shirts is one of the very most important parts of making a clean and beautiful t-shirt quilt. Take the time (and money) to purchase high quality backing. It will make YOUR life easier when you’re piecing the quilt together. Here is what I use:
Personally, I buy mine by the bolt. However, you can always buy it by the yard! One thing that I LOVE about using fusible interfacing is that when you’re down to the last couple of pieces of interfacing and you still have more t-shirts to back… you can easily piece the scraps together (like a puzzle), iron them down and voila!
One thing I want to be sure to tell you is to be VERY careful during this step. You want to be 100% sure that you are ironing the interfacing to the BACK of the t-shirts. If you accidentally iron it to the front of the t-shirt… it is irreversible (at least, in my experience)

The first time I backed my t-shirts, I got really concerned. The interfacing does makes the soft cozy t-shirts VERY stiff. However — I’m here to tell you (from experience) NOT to worry about that. After a few washes (once your quilt is finished), your t-shirts are back to cozy and soft!

After you’ve backed all of the t-shirts, refer back to your measurement sheet. Whatever size you decided each t-shirt needed to end up being, add 1/2 A INCH TO THE WIDTH AND HEIGHT. This is your seam allowance.

Be VERY CAUTIOUS and tedious while doing this step. You DO NOT want to cut too much off of your t-shirt! Think it all the way through before you start cutting!
I also highly recommend that you use a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and ruler to do this step. It will make you want to pull out less hair and get a cleaner cut in the end. 

I’m not going to elaborate much on this step. The sashing all depends on the design you wanted for your quilt in the beginning. (Sashing is the fabric that separates your t-shirts) Make sure to choose a color that compliments your t-shirts and overall design.
You want your sashing to enhance the t-shirts that are showcased in your memory quilt… not DISTRACT you from them! I actually started out with circles and triangles to add to the sashing then x the idea and decided it was to busy.

Okay – so, after my t-shirts are trimmed and ready & my sashing has been cut… I lay EVERYTHING out on the floor. Then, I piece them together {either} one row or column at a time. For some quilts… this is a relatively quick process. However… it can also quickly become daunting! Just be patient and work slowly and steady — you WILL finish!

THIS step is where many quilters may disagree with my method. I do not even ATTEMPT to pick out a border color until after my quilt top is pretty much completely pieced. There are a few reasons for this.
For one, what I had envisioned in my head prior to piecing the quilt together may not actually look right once the top has been put together.
Another reason why I wait is to MAKE SURE that the color {if I’m doing a solid color} matches the quilt.

Borders make a HUGE difference — EVERY TIME. So, make sure you are SURE about the border you choose prior to putting it on the quilt! With Kayleigh's quilt I decided to go indie/bohemian with lots of textures and colors to match her corky/fun personality. Plus, a big chunk of her t-shirts were black and charcoal coloring and needed a pop of color to make them pop!! :)

Purchasing enough backing fabric is typically a really hard task for me. This step worked best for me but there are many ways to do this.  I measured my entire quilt top with extra for a border then added enough to fold over for a small trim on the front. 

One tip: the more fabric the better! You’d rather have TOO MUCH backing fabric than NOT ENOUGH! 
Also — be sure to IRON YOUR BACKING after you make it! This will prevent “bubbles” when you are making the quilt sandwich (and ALOT of headaches).

I am not going to elaborate much on this step only because there are ALOT of things I could say about quilting your quilt together. I always free-motion my t-shirt quilts. Free-motion gives you so much room for creativity and texture. (and you really can't mess it up like a straight line) However, you can just as easily straight line quilt it, too! Whatever you are the most comfortable with!

On this step you want to make sure that your quilt is SQUARE (or rectangle – depending on the size). Basically — You don’t want it to be lopsided or uneven. My tip for trimming is to figure out how wide you want your border to be. Take your ruler and measure the right length from the seam all around the quilt. You can make little markings to know where to set your rotary cutting ruler. Then just trim it!
This can be one of the most frustrating parts about finishing up the quilt. If you’re a perfectionist (like me)… you will want it to be PERFECT. Just breathe — if you keep working with the quilt then it will eventually be exactly how you want it to be.

When it comes to binding your quilt I simply don't do it.... this where I use the left over edging from the backing and fold it over to the front. Then I bind it down like if you were using binding.

After your quilt has gone through the previous 14 steps… trim off any “fly away” threads. I ALWAYS have these. After you do that — throw it in the wash!

I highly suggest using Shout Color Catchers and Oxy Clean when you’re washing your quilts for the first few times. This will prevent most bleeding that the multicolor materials will cause! 

 Phew — that was a super long tutorial. I hope this helped y’all and cleared up some questions you may have about t-shirt quilting! Here's a few more up close pictures of my latest creation.

 ( IZZY says HI!!!)

Hope this helped!!!


  1. AMAZING tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing! My friend sent a bunch of her old t-shirts to have this done a couple weeks ago and I like the look of your home-made version MUCH more. What a fantastic keepsake. :)

    1. Thanks, a lot of love and special touches went into this quilt. I wanted it to be more of a memory quilt then just a tshirt quilt.

  2. Love the look! Have you considered going into business? Would love to send you the thirst I'd to have quilted an pay for the service! If you're interest drop me an email at bestbballmom@gmail.com. Crossing my fingers!

    1. Thank you so much for comment. I have really never considered doing it as a service it was made for a family member and took awhile to make due to me being a nurse. But for all the materials and labor it would probably cost around $350-$400 and that's a rough estimate. Due to the detail and it being back and front quilting. Again, thank you so much for the suggestion and complement! Hopefully, you come back for more helpful tutorials!@bestbballmom

  3. real estate is the most lucrative business, any man can make a fortune in real estate business.. how to start a t-shirt business

  4. When your website or blog goes live for the first time, it is exciting. That is until you realize no one but you and your. custom screen print shirts houston

  5. For people who live the super fast paced life of today, it is almost impossible for them to include in their schedule a favourite hobby for many, which is shopping. Embroidery Miami

  6. This website is my inhalation, really fantastic layout and Perfect written content. https://24hourwristbands.com/custom-t-shirts