Top Tips for Making T-Shirt Quilts
If you're wondering how to make a t-shirt quilt, read on! We have all the helpful tips and techniques you'll need to know before you begin
Got some old t-shirts with sentimental value, that you just can't bear to part with? Stitch them into a t-shirt quilt! Want to sew a sustainable quilt with upcycled fabrics that you already have lying around in your house? Sew a t-shirt quilt! Perhaps you'd like to hand-make a thoughtful gift for a loved one to commemorate an achievement such as their graduation, or in honour of their favourite sports team. Buy them a card! Just kidding, you should definitely make them a t-shirt quilt.
T-shirt quilts are great because they're so totally unique: by using up an assortment of old t-shirts, the chances are that no one else will have a quilt that looks quite like yours. This results in a cosy quilt that's completely personal to you! Plus, they make great gifts, as you can choose a collection of t-shirts which relate directly to your loved one's interests. There are various different ways you can go about making a t-shirt quilt: you may opt for a more traditional style, which features t-shirt blocks all in the same sizes, lined up in rows and columns. Or, you may want to vary the sizes of your t-shirt blocks, highlighting some designs more than others, piecing a mosaic style t-shirt quilt. Plus, there are plenty of ways to add personalisation, including adding funky borders and background fabrics of your choosing. Read on to get some quilty inspiration, and take in all our handy tips and tricks to help you piece the perfect t-shirt quilt.
Before you read our t-shirt quilting tips read through our beginner's guide to quilting. It covers all the basics of quilting. If you also need some new materials and equipment check out these best sewing machines for beginners and these fabric panels for quilting.
7 T-shirt quilting tips
1. Fleece Backing
There's no need for batting when it comes to t-shirt quilts: you can back your quilt with fuzzy fleece fabric instead, like Too Many T-shirts has done here! Simply line up your fleece and quilt top and stitch in the ditch (quilting directly on top of your seams) to keep the layers together. You'll be left with a super snuggly blanket to keep you warm in the winter months.
2. Checkerboard Borders
If you've not got enough t-shirts to make a quilt in the size you want, or perhaps you just want to add a fun, personalised pop of colour to your quilt creation, you can take inspiration from Too Cool T-shirt Quilts and add borders all the way around the edges of your quilt and in between the blocks. You can use up fabrics from your stash, or utilise the plain fabric on the backs of your t-shirts by snipping it into handy squares and strips so that it doesn't go to waste! This quilt is in the Too Cool puzzle style, featuring different sized blocks puzzled-pieced together.
3. Simple Borders and Coordinating Colours
If you're framing logos and graphic prints from your favourite tees, you're likely to find that they're all different shapes and sizes. To keep the quilt maths simple and the block sizes consistent, find the largest logo and use coordinating colours to add simple borders around each block. This will give you evenly-sized squares and tie the whole quilt together with consistent colours!
This quilt by Baking and Bobbins uses t-shirts all of the same colours, adhering to a colour theme of blue, yellow and white. It also features a design of alternating t-shirt blocks and square blocks made from a fun print background fabric. This technique allows you to make a quilt using a smaller selection of tees, meaning you can pick the perfect ones without having to make any compromises. Plus, a print fabric with a matching colour scheme will tie in nicely, while also keeping the quilt fresh and visually interesting!
4. Commemorating Achievements
You don't have to stick to plain cotton t-shirts for your quilts – we love the idea of transforming running tees from memorable marathons, charity events or races into quilts to commemorate your (or a loved one's) achievements! This is a traditional style t-shirt quilt by Too Many T-shirts with square blocks of the same consistent sizing, lined up neatly in rows.
Top tip: Many quilters sew iron-on interfacing onto the back of their t-shirt blocks in order to make them sturdier and easier to work with, without the fabric puckering. This will help you make a quilt with stretchy, non-traditional quilting fabrics such as t-shirts. However, take note that this will make the finished quilt stiffer overall.
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5. Coordinating Leading Borders
A great way to tie in all the colours of your quilt and unify the composition is to frame your blocks with leading borders of a single colour. Why not follow the example of this quilt by Too Cool Quilts, using a mixture of t-shirts with plain white backgrounds and leading borders of a single colour? This design allows you to add a fun pop of colour to your t-shirt quilt while still maintaining matching colours that go together perfectly. Black leading borders around a variety of colourful t-shirt blocks also work well, creating a stained glass window effect!
6. Mosaic T-Shirt Quilts
Your t-shirt quilt doesn't have to feature regimented blocks of the same size! Pick and choose graphics and trim them to size to make rows, columns or sections. Then piece your sections together to make a t-shirt quilt with a fun, scrappy vibe, like this mosaic t-shirt quilt by Meg's Quilted Memories. This design is useful if some logos are bigger than others – you won't need to crop the larger ones and potentially cut off some of the text or pictures, and you also won't need to have loads of empty space surrounding the smaller logos!
Top tip: If the t-shirts you're working on are all different colours, try to find common shades that are featured in a few of them and tie the blocks together with sashing strips or background fabric. This quilt features colourful sashing blocks which coordinate with the t-shirt colours, filling in gaps to make the quilt look complete!
7. Whole T-Shirt Improv Quilt
Who says you need to cut up your favourite tees to transform them into a beautiful quilt creation? You can take inspiration from Russell James Barratt's Spotty Clothes Blanket and make a modern work of art by stitching a whole item of clothing onto your quilt top. Russell's design features a fun pink t-shirt sewn directly onto his improv quilt, creating a quilt that feels totally unique.
Keen crafter and editing aficionado Sophia loves to keep tabs on the latest trends in modern quilting and work with leading quilt designers worldwide to produce top quality content for Love Patchwork & Quilting magazine. Sophia feels at home in the crafting community, having successfully run an indie biz on Instagram (@sewphiacano) selling hand-embroidered hoops, t-shirts and tote bags alongside studying for her degree from UCL in History of Art & Philosophy and running her university magazine as editor-in-chief. When she’s not busy editing, she’s probably embroidering at home, snuggled up in a jumper knitted by her abuela, or a blanket crocheted by her mum (evidence of her lineage from a long line of amazing crafty women).