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T-shirt Quilt Instructions

These instructions are for making a T-Shirt Quilt top.  They are based on a 14 1/2″ finished square T-shirt block. First, check all your tee shirts to make sure that the designs will fit into a 14″ square. If they won’t you can either crop the designs or make the squares larger – just modify the instructions to the dimensions you need. Remember, all the T-shirt squares must be the same size. All seam allowances are 1/4″. If you’re not sure of the correct size, determine the largest design and cut all interfacing 2″ larger than that size, then trim as needed.

Sizes: all sizes include 1 1/2″ sashing and a 2″ border and are based on a 14 1/2″ finished t-shirt block

12 shirts will make a throw-size quilt, approx. 48″ x 64″ – 3 across x 4 down.
20 shirts will make a twin size quilt, approx. 64″ x 82″ – 4 across x 5 down
30 shirts will make a full size quilt, approx. 82″ x 96″ – 5 across x 6 down.
36 shirts will make a queen size quilt, approx. 96″ x 96″ – 6 across x 6 down.
42 shirts will make a king size quilt, approx 110″ x 96″ – 7 across x 6 down.

Step 1 – Select Shirts – Shirts should be clean and in good condition. Avoid stained shirts.

Step 2 – Fusible Interfacing – Each shirt must be backed with non-woven fusible interfacing to prevent it from stretching. Buy enough fusible interfacing to make a 17″ square for each T-shirt. Select good quality, light weigh interfacing. Fusible interfacing needs to be non-woven, glued only on one side. I’m currently using Pellon 906F.  (In response to many inquiries about interfacing, I now offer fusible interfacing for sale here: 

Step 3 – Fabric for Sashing/Border/Binding – Sashing strips form a decorative grid between each T-shirt block. Plan on 2″ sashing strips (1 1/2″ when finished) between the blocks, 2 1/2″ strips (2″ when finished) for the border, and additional fabric for the binding. Calculate the amount needed and be sure to wash it before you use it – you want to be sure that the color won’t run and that the fabric will not shrink after the quilt is finished.

Step 4 – Cutting Shirts – Separate the front of the shirt from the back. Make sure the shirt is smooth, iron if necessary.

Step 5 – Fusing – Cut interfacing into 17″ squares – one for each shirt. Don’t piece the interfacing, it will show through. Position the interfacing with the resin side down on the wrong side of the t-shirt, trying to center the design as much as possible. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for fusing to the back of each T-shirt. Use a press cloth so you don’t get any glue on your iron.  Beware of wrinkles – once cool they won’t come out!

Step 6 – Cutting the Squares – Square up each fused shirt to 15″.  Make sure you center the design and lettering – measure twice – cut once! Cut with scissors or rotary cutter.

Step 7 – Arranging – Lay out squares on the floor and arrange. Alternate light/dark, busy/not so busy. Make sure the blocks can be read from the desired direction.

Step 8 – Completing the Quilt – add sashing – Sashing strips are the horizontal and vertical strips between blocks. The horizontal strips should measure 15″ in length x 2″ wide. Cut enough sashing strips to add to all the t-shirts except the bottom row. Then sew horizontal strips to the bottom of each block, except the blocks in the bottom row. Sew blocks together to form columns.

After all the blocks are sewn into columns, make long 2″ sashing strips slightly longer than length of each column. Sew the 2″ sashing strips onto the inside edge of the completed columns, one strip to each column (don’t sew a sashing strip to the outside edges of the columns) and sew the columns together. Press toward sashing.

Cut border strips 2 1/2″ wide and add as desired. If you need to do a final pressing, make sure you put a cloth over the shirts – the designs may smear if the iron is placed directly onto them.

Finish – Layer backing batting and quilt top. Baste or safety pin together. If you have some experience machine quilting you can quilt your quilt or you can tie it to hold the layers together. Bind your quilt and be sure to add a label.

Fabric Requirements for various t-shirt quilt sizes are calculated here

Websites with instructions on how to finish quilts – You Tube has good information also


Light weight interfacing for t-shirts, ruler for cutting the squares, cotton batting, and the usuals, like sewing machine, thread, and what not.

This is an example of a finished t-shirt quilt! Soooo cool…


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~Nick’s t-shirt quilt project begins~

This is going to be a long process I know, but I have more than enough time to do it and so much enthusiasm I can hardly contain myself. Let me begin with a little bit of history that got me to the point that I am today, which is, wanting to make a band quilt for my boyfriend.

This… is Nick! My boyfriend of a year and half and the love of my life. Aside from being a wonderful mathematician, Nick is also an avid ska band fan. What might you ask is ska? Well… ska is a music genre that originated in Jamaica around the 1960’s with jazz, rhythm and blues, and calypso influences. As you can imagine I was shocked to find that this man who had a degree in mathematics and drive to become an actuary also had a hankering for this somewhat outrageous music style. Not only was I shocked and amused by his love for ska music, but I was also amazed at the large amount of band t-shirts he owns. Nick will probably never forgive me for saying so, but Nick does not like to get rid of anything! So, his love for music and his love for his t-shirts got us to the crossroads that we find ourselves today. One in which we must ask ourselves what do we do with all of these shirts!!!

Well, as a self-taught quilter and craft lover, I figured what better than a band t-shirt quilt. This idea is good for both of us. Nick will be able to keep his shirt collection and I get another drawer in the dresser for all of my clothes! Score… Now, please do not think that I forced Nick to agree to this plan. He agrees that holding on to all of these old, tattered, and stained t-shirts is a little “call the Hoarders show on TLC” worthy and is more than ok with my plans for the fabric.

Today is not the first day that I began working on the quilt. Oh, no, no, no… I began several weeks ago by gathering the shirts that I wanted to use and cutting them into large squares. I must admit that this did give me moments of sheer panic. What if I cut them wrong? What if I ruined the shirts that were signed by the bands? And so on and so forth. But, trying to be as fearless as possible I overcame my worry and was able to cut all of the shirts I wanted to use for the project.

For those of you who are interested in making a t-shirt quilt my best advice is measure!  But, do not measure once, twice, but at least three times to be sure that you are cutting the material appropriately. Now I am breathing a sigh of relief because I did this! I measured three times just to be sure I was not ruining some of my love’s most prized possessions. Honestly, other than cutting the shirts into large squares writing about it in this blog is probably the most I have gotten accomplished. But, that is ok! I am ok with that. Next on my t-shirt quilt agenda is to put permanent fusible stabilizer on the back of each t-shirt square.

This Fuse’n Stitch permanent stabilizer is what I have chosen to work with on this project. This is the first time I have ever used anything like this and again my anxiety returns. Which is why I am not actually ironing it on to the back of the shirts at this time! I am only writing about doing it. This is my attempt at gaining a “kick butt” attitude about this next step in the quilt making process. Not all quilts require this type of stabilizer! Only ones that use t-shirt material that is flimsy. Go me for picking material that isn’t easy to work with. Sigh…

For this quilt I cut 20 of Nick’s band t-shirts and must iron this permanent stabilizer to the back of all 20 of them! This… is going to take some time. Therefore, I am going to end this blog post by saying that I have my work cut out for me! Do not feel sorry for me though. I enjoy a challenge and look forward to the end result of this process. Keep your eyes open for another posting by me on my blog, with the full step-by-step directions on how to make a quilt like this if you are interested! I will also keep you up to date on my progress.

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