Adventures in T-Shirt Quilting- Part 1

Posted by Emily Sacharow on

Hi friends! After a few years of quilting, I *finally* got around to making a t-shirt quilt for a friend. I've always been terrified of making one because I was worried about ruining the t-shirts I was trying to preserve, however, when a friend as me to make one out of all white t-shirts I knew it was a great opportunity to try with limited risk before moving on to t-shirts with designs!



I looked at a few t-shirt quilt guides on Pinterest, but honestly didn't see a whole heck of a lot that was super informative or thorough so I thought I'd do a 2 part post about my experience with making t-shirt quilts. This first part will be about this quilt and I'll write a follow up when I make my second quilt.

Supplies used:
Used t-shirts
Additional fabric for borders
Rotary cutter
fabric scissors
Lightweight fusible interfacing
Cutting mat
Ruller or straightedge
Sewing machine
Piecing thread
Quilting Thread
Cotton batting
Backing fabric
Quilt binding

I started with first cutting the sleeves and collar off of all the shirts so I would just have solid panels to work with. I attached the interfacing to the large white pieces I had cut. I honestly don't know all the reasons why, but I was taught to apply interfacing with a damp press cloth and to hold the iron still as opposed to actively moving it around.

The stack of shirts from my friend included a purple shirt that I used for color here and there. Once all the interfacing was applied, I cut everything into 3" strips. The interfacing came 15" wide so I decided to keep it simple by using 3" pieces and working in a geometric brick inspired pattern.

Once all my 3" strips were cut, I spaced them out with 3"x1.5" pieces of white fabric. I started laying everything out and playing around with the pattern organically. I wasn't sure what the t-shirts do when going to sew them, but the interfacing kept everything pretty stable and they didn't stretch out!

I really didn't have any master plan with this other than wanting the purple pieces to be evenly spaced. I used the 3" t-shirt strips and then placed 1.5" stripes of plain fabric in between. I don't know if it was entirely necessary, but I was worried that if I didn't space out the stretchy t-shirt material with less stretchy quilting cotton it might be a problem.

Once the top was assembled, I laid it out in typical sandwich format with the backing, batting, and quilt top like any other quilt. Then, of course, pinned the crap out of it. I was worried about stretching during the quilting process.

I didn't take any photos of the actual quilting part, but it really just like quilting anything else! The interfacing kept the fabric from stretching, although I noticed the stitches weren't quite as defined as they sunk into the knit. I was really worried something crazy was going to happen, but it really was just like regular quilting!

Using the purple t-shirt pieces as color inspiration, I use purple backing, binding and quilting thread. The rest was pretty basic quilting stuff! I finished the binding by hand and took several photos before shipping it off to a friend.

If you have a a way to practice messing around with t-shirt fabric, I highly recommend it! I feel way more confident at tackling a quilt with t-shirts that have designs I'm worried about preserving. Ultimately the big takeaway of this practice was well applied interfacing makes t-shirt quilts really easy and not at all scary!


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