T-shirt quilts borrow the whimsical storytelling of scrapbooks and the practical creativity of recycling to create a unique craft that warms both the heart as well as the feet. For those craving a trendy twist, create a photo scrapbook by simply subbing the T-shirts for photo-printed fabric like the urban quilt highlighted in this Craft Bits article via C Merry. Want to go the extra mile? Decorate your T-shirt or scrapbook quilt with easy applique or embroidery.
Not sure you're ready for sewing a quilt? Get a crash course in quilting via our interview with Meg Cox, author of "The Quilter's Catalog."
- 12-20 T-shirts, washed and free of wrinkles and stains
- square plastic or cardboard template (template's size will vary depending on the size of the quilt)
- fabric scissors, or a rotary cutter and mat
- fusible interfacing (non-woven, light-weight, adhesive is only on one side)
- damp cloth or misting spray bottle
- iron and ironing board
- sewing pins
- sewing machine and thread
- backing fabric in a corresponding color (slightly larger than the batting and finished quilt top)
- quilt batting
- thread and hand needles
- embroidery needle and embroidery floss
Don't want a lap quilt? Get common quilt sizes and how many T-shirts you will need to make it from Goose Tracks!
1. Check that all T-shirt designs can fit into the template, and then crop all T-shirts to fit the template.
2. Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of each cut T-shirt block by wetting the T-shirt with a damp cloth and then ironing the interfacing to the block. (Interfacing stabilizes the fabric and prevents warping.) Make sure that the interfacing has latched to all T-shirt blocks. Trim the now fused T-shirt blocks, leaving at least a 1/2" seam allowance.
3. A generous seam allowance covers many a sewing sin, 1/4 to 1/2" at least.
4. With the T-shirt squares now fused and trimmed, arrange the T-shirt blocks on a flat, clean surface. Light to dark designs and busy to not busy are a common pattern. Pin along just the the rows, not the columns.
5. With your sewing machine, sew the now-pinned rows by placing the second block down onto the first square. The designs should be touching. Pin the edges, and then sew with a straight stitch. With the second and third block, place the block face down (designs are touching), pin and then sew the touching edge. Continue sewing this way for each block in the row and then for each row in the quilt.
6. Sew along the columns. Make sure the the stitching is done on the wrong side of the fabric.
Quick-Turning the T-Shirt or Scrapbook Quilt
Much like sewing a pillow, quick-turning leaves a gap in the outer stitching to pull the fabric through.
7. On a clean surface, lay the batting on the bottom, then the backing, and lastly, the quilt top, designs facing down. Pin through all three layers on the outside and also throughout the middle of the quilt.
8. Sew the edges of the quilt with a 1/4'' hem. Leave a 20'' unpinned gap in the stitching. Trim any extra batting or backing.
9. Rolling is the easiest way to turn the quilt inside out. To do so, remove any pins. Starting at the edge furthest from the gap, roll the quilt towards the gap. When at the edge, pull the roll through the opening and unroll it. The T-shirt designs should be visible now. Pull the fabric and batting so that all the layers are lined up. Hand stitch the gap closed.
Quilt-tying stabilizes the quilt's middle and also skips machine sewing bunches of fabric.
10. To tie, thread an embroidery needle with floss. Push the needle through a block corner and pull it back up about 1/8'' from the original point. Leave about 1'' of floss at both ends. Double knot the floss and then trim it, leaving about 1/2'' of floss at each end. Continue at 2-4” intervals or at each block corner.
- Print favorite photos onto fabric to sub for the T-shirt blocks like the one from Shelly Greenier.
Get free instructions on printing photos onto fabric via Cats Who Quilt.
- Add applique to the scrapbook quilt like a simple white square and add captions using fabric markers. Or, get inspired with unique quilting techniques via our round up of easy but charming quilts for kids and babies.
- Try your hand at simple embroidery via Instructables and customize each T-shirt or photo block with hand-sewn fraternity symbols, dates or even your own doodles.
All article images by Sarah Kay Carroll except the bottom one by flickr.com/shellygreenier. Category promo photo by flickr.com/tess_marie.