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T-Shirt Quilt with Borders
Sewing a t-shirt quilt is such a fun way to keep past memories close to you! This tutorial will show you how to make a t-shirt quilt with borders. You can add borders just around the outside edge of the main t-shirt quilt or you can add borders around each t-shirt piece or just between sections; like rows. Let’s get started…
I made this particular quilt for my youngest son for Christmas 2022 and decided to make a tutorial as I made the quilt.
T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial
I did some reading on other t-shirt quilt tutorials and found there are many different ways to put together a quilt top! This tutorial will give you some simple ideas and then you can choose how to put your t-shirts together. The actual size of each shirt square and quilt row sizes are up to you as well. If you have been saving t-shirts for many years, the sizes of shirts and designs may vary which requires some flexibility in the actual design.
Basic Sewing Skills to have for this project
There are a few skills that I’d suggest you have before starting this project in addition to having had some sewing practice. First, Know how to use your sewing machine. Second, Understand your sewing machine tension settings. (You will be working with several layers at the end of this project) Third, be able to sew a baste stitch also known as a running stitch but sewing longer stitches.
Materials for T-Shirt Quilt
- T-shirts (Keep extra t-shirt fabric that is left after design is cut out)
- Medium weight Fusible non-woven Interfacing
- Fabric for Borders and Back of quilt (I used cotton flannel)
- Quilt Batting ( I used 50/50 cotton poly batting- Pellon Brand)
- Basic Sewing Tools
- Rotary Cutter, Cutting Mat and transparent ruler
- Wonder Clips and Curved Quilting Pins are VERY helpful for making quilts.
This quilt tutorial for beginners is divided into two sections, with a total of 10 steps. The first section, Creating and Sewing Quilt Top has Steps 1-5. The second section, Layering the Quilt, has Steps 6-10.
Creating and Sewing Quilt Top
First Step- Decide on the size of your t-shirt quilt
What size would you like your quilt? Maybe you have just a few shirts and you want to display quilt as a wall hanging. If you have many shirts, you can make a cozy blanket! After you cut out all your t-shirt designs, you can lay them all out and get a better idea of the size of quilt you’d like to make.
Have you seen my post about Sewing a Project from Scratch? Get more tips here!
Second Step- Cutting out t-shirt designs.
Third Step- Iron on Interfacing to wrong side of t-shirt pieces.
Use a medium weight fusible non-woven interfacing to iron on the wrong side of the t-shirt design. (Make sure to follow directions on interfacing package for heat settings on your iron)
Your t-shirt design may be very worn, stretched out or very wrinkled but that’s OK! After ironing on the interfacing, the t-shirt design looks like new or at least pretty darn close!
Fourth Step- Sew together t-shirt pieces
If you’d like to add borders around each individual t-shirt design, sew borders on first BEFORE sewing t-shirt pieces together. You can use extra interfaced t-shirt fabric pieces to make random colored borders, or you can buy a knit fabric color to have the same color border around all main t-shirt pieces.
After borders are on t-shirts, you can then figure out how to sew them all together to make your desired size quilt top. If your t-shirts are all different sizes you could just sew all the t-shirts together, using extra interfaced t-shirt pieces if needed for piecing.
I decided to use FOUR rows in my quilt top with each row having the same dimensions. Decide which t-shirts to use in which row and use any extra knit filler pieces to sew the t-shirts together and make a row.
Use a 3/8″ or 1/2″ seam. **Usually quilt seams are a standard 1/4″ BUT I found that using a wider seam allowance works better sewing with the knits. Why? The seams will be thicker with the knit fabric and interfacing. Having the wider seam allowance makes for easier pressing of the seams too.
Fifth Step- Sew on Outside Edge Borders
You could sew a horizontal border between the rows to separate each row; I didn’t even think of that until now as I write; I just used a simple outside edge border.
First thing you’ll do is decide how wide you’d like to have your border. I made this quilt with a 5″ border width. (After sewing with seam allowances the finished width is about 4 inches.)
Measure the width of the finished top quilt. The top/bottom border fabric pieces will be cut to the width measurement of quilt top BY 5″(border width). Cut, pin or clip, and sew these border pieces to top and bottom of top quilt piece. **No interfacing necessary on the border pieces.
Now measure each side; measurement should include borders you just added to top and bottom of quilt top.
** I recommend adding a few extra inches to EACH border length. Why? Knit Fabric tends to shift with sewing and its better to end up with a bit extra border length at the end than having it be too short. After seams are stitched- you can then trim any extra border.
Press seams after you are done stitching and congrats to you- your t-shirt quilt top, with a border, is almost finished!
Layering the Quilt
Sixth Step- Pin AND Baste Batting to back of Quilt top
Lay quilt top on top of batting. It is helpful to have a large space to lay out the batting. You want to make sure you have excess batting of 4-5″ on all edges. The batting will shift a bit while pinning and basting- just trust me on this. It may seem like a waste, but will eliminate frustration if batting ended up being smaller than the quilt top.
Pin quilt top and batting together– make things easy and get curved quilting pins for this step! Starting in the middle of the quilt and place a pin about every 6″ working your way out to the edges. Smooth out the batting/fabric as you pin.
After all pinning is done, it’s time to use that Basting Stitch! For my quilt, I stitched horizontally across at each row and then did some vertical basting within each row. I also basted around the edges where the border/quilt top meet and then one final basting area around outside edge of borders. Just use a thread color that will be easy to see later when the basting stitches get removed.
Seventh Step- Pin Back Fabric Layer to Quilt Top/Batting
I had a few extra t-shirt graphics (interfaced) that I added to the top of the flannel. I first did a straight stitch around the t-shirt piece and then a zig-zag stitch to finish the t-shirt piece edge. If you add any extra graphic t-shirt pieces to quilt back, do this before you start pinning the quilt back to quilt front.
I found dark blue cotton flannel fabric for the back of this quilt. I had to sew several pieces of this fabric together to get the size I needed; make the backing piece the same size as the batting piece.
Use a large table or the floor and lay the back side of the quilt fabric with WRONG side facing up; Then place quilt top/batting on top of the wrong side of quilt back.
Pin all three layers together. You can re-use the pins already in the quilt; take out the pin and re-pin through all three layers. Start in the middle of the quilt and work your way to the outside edges. Smooth out wrinkles as you pin.
Eighth Step- Add top stitching called ‘Stitch in the Ditch’
What is ‘Stitch in the Ditch’? That is a quilting term for straight stitching in the seam lines. I chose to stitch in the seam lines that made my rows and around the seam line of the quilt top and border. Just stitch in enough seams that will keep the top/batting and quilt back together; smoothing out fabrics as you stitch.
Ninth Step- Trim excess batting and backing fabric from outer quilt edges.
Using the clear ruler and rotary cutter, line ruler up with outer edge of quilt top, and trim extra batting/backing fabric. Do this trimming on all four sides. (top/bottom and both sides)
Tenth Step- Add extra quilting design stitches and Finish outer quilt edges with fabric bias tape.
I don’t have many informative articles about beginning quilting just mostly tutorials on a few beginner quilting projects. I did find a great website that can give you more detailed info on the beginning quilting techniques:
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See ya soon!