I’ve seen some projects as mountains I was scared to attack. I didn’t even want to take baby steps towards a final result. I thought it would be easier to just leave the stack in a corner somewhere, like my other unfinished projects that grow dust. The t-shirt quilt was always a mountain for me. After a few quilts under my belt, and some bad business choices where I pretty much volunteered my time to create some, I learned valuable lessons that not only refined my process, but enabled me to create a better quality product in the least amount of time.
Here are some questions that I now ask my customers up front:
1.My price estimate is $250-$550 after you provide all the t-shirts up front. Are you comfortable with that price? **Please note that supplies may run you between $80-$110, and depending on layout design, I expect you’ll spend anywhere from 15-40 hours on just one quilt. These should not be made cheaply ($) for your time and labor considered.
2.Would you like just the t-shirt fronts or any of the t-shirt backs included in the overall design?
3.Are you providing enough tshirts to create the quilt for your desired size?
Twin: 25 tshirts at 15×15” squares
Full: 25 tshirts at 15×15” squares
Queen:30 tshirts at 15×15” squares
King:35 tshirts at 15×15” squares
4.Do you want just the t-shirts sewn together, or do you prefer a solid color spacing them all out?
5.What fabric do you want for backing material? A solid or a print?
6.What size overall were you hoping for? Twin? Queen? King?
7.What would your deadline be? I require 8-12weeks from receiving the tshirts to get started, and will need half the money up front for supplies.
8.Does the person the quilt is intended for have any allergies? We can get interior batting that is either a natural cotton or a polyester blend.
I. The first step is collecting materials:
-You will need the customer to give you agreed upon number of tshirts, and their arrangement preference if they have one.
-Kona cotton for the sections between the t-shirt panels, 3-4 yards. I used black.
-108” backing material in a solid color, 3 yards. I used black.
-Edging material. I used an additional 2 yards of the black Kona cotton for the binding.
-3-4 skeins of purl cotton for the hand quilting and a wide eyed tapestry needle.
-Large safety pins to tack layers together.
-8 yards lightweight interfacing. I use Pellon iron on stabilizer
1. I cut up the sides of each T-shirt, and around the collar and sleeves, separating the fronts and backs. I put in a pile T-shirt sides that should be included in the top design.
2.I measure all the designs from the tshirts I have and see which square size all of the designs will fit into. I typically end up using a 15”x15” square.
3.I cut out a square template to use out of that square size from paper. If you have a rotary cutter and clear grids, you can just use that.
4.I then cut the same number of squares I’m placing on the top quilt, out of the thin, iron on interfacing, the same 15×15” squares.
5.Taking one interfacing square, I lay it on top of a t-shirt front and line up the design underneath. I can see through the interfacing to the design, which allows me to line it up straight. I then cut the T-shirt front out to match the size of the interfacing.
6.I iron each interfacing piece to the back of the t-shirt fronts I’ve cut out. If you have both cotton and polyester t-shirts in the mix, please remember to adjust your iron settings to each material to avoid any burning.
7.Once you have your pile of square tops that are backed with interfacing, you need to square them up with the rotary cutter and mat, because they probably stretched out a bit when interfaced. Make them all perfect, 15×15” squares.
8.You could either sew these T-shirt squares directly together, one row at a time, OR, you can add rows of a solid color between them all. To do this, out of cotton material, cut rectangles, 4” wide by 15” tall. Cut as many rectangles as you have squares.
9.Lay out quilt arrangement on table or floor. Assemble one row at a time, horizontally. Sew one T-shirt to one rectangle, then repeat. Then repeat, sewing each row together.
10.You need to now cut lengths of cotton to divide each row up. I cut continuous lengths of 4” strips from the cotton. I placed that 4” solid piece right sides together at the lower edge of the first assembled row, and stitched it on. Then I placed the 2nd assembled row below that divider strip. I repeated that until all the rows were assembled.
11. I added additional 4” strips to the outer sides of the quilt as well, followed by strips at the top and bottom, enclosing all the t-shirts in the grid.
12.I then made a sandwich, placing the quilt top face down, followed by whatever batting you purchased for the center, then the quilt backing. I place large safety pins across the entire quilt to hold all the layers together. I try to maintain flatness all the way across, occasionally flipping it over to make sure it’s not pulling from the front side.
13.Using purl cotton and a tapestry needle, I use a super long piece of thread to hand stitch (a running stitch) between the rows on the solid color. I typically sew two rows between each section. I do not try to be perfect. It’s my hand stitching that gives it a personal touch. Alternatively, you could take your quilt at this point to a long arm and have it quilted professionally, OR even stitching wide rows over the entire thing with a basic machine.
14.I then cut additional strips of 3” width of cotton to do a edge binding with. I sew these strips together to create a length that will reach all the way around the quilt edge. I start by placing the binding strip on the top side of the quilt (you can start it anywhere, just not on a corner) at the edge, folding over the starting point by ½”, and sewing down one side at a time. When you get to a corner, you will need to take it out of your machine, create a 45degree angle with the fabric strip and then continue sewing down the next side. This will create a nice, mitred corner.
15.Once you’ve made it all the way around, you will turn the binding strip towards the back of the quilt, and tuck under the edge and secure with pins, exactly like bias tape is used. If you’re talented, you could stitch in the ditch from the front of the binding, or if you’re not that confident like me, you can just hand stitch the binding down on the backside, being sure to mitre those corners.
That’s it! Your quilt should be complete!
Congratulations! You’ve made your t-shirt quilt!