T-shirt quilt layout

Today is a continuation of the t-shirt quilt that I started last week. Over the weekend, the shirts were cut to size. Normally, they are cut into 14 inch squares. As I started cutting these, I realized that because the shirts were almost all small or extra small size that the blocks would need to be smaller. Thus, for the first time on a t-shirt quilt I cut all the blocks to 12-1/2 inches. There are some t-shirt quiltmakers that always use a 12 inch square, but in the past it seemed that a great deal of the logo could be cut off. However, since styles have changed and these shirts are more recent, the 12-1/2 inch square works on this one.

For layout, I lay the shirts out on a bed or on the floor and begin arranging until I am satisfied. With the number of shirts for this one — 16, it’s a pretty easy layout of 4 x 4 blocks. I played with 3 x 5 and combining some blocks but in the end I think the 4 x 4 will work best. That gives a final size of 58 x 58 inches with 2 inch sashing between the blocks.

I use my phone camera to record possible layouts so that when I get to the machine, it’s easy to double check the arrangement of shirts. Here are some possible layouts. Remember, this is just to get an idea of how the eye will travel with the shirt colors–it will look very different with the sashing added between the shirts.

Which layout do you like best?

2014-04-28 alt t-shirt layout (Small)

2014-04-28 t-shirt4x4 (Small)

Stabilizing the t-shirts

Yesterday most of the t-shirts were stabilized. Just a few tips about fusing. I have used parchment paper over the years for fusing because the teflon sheets seemed to add puckers. It’s probably just the way I did it, but that’s what happened. Then I saw an article about the Goddess pressing sheet and bought a very large one. And wow, that is a great pressing sheet and works better than anything else I have ever had. The parchment paper seems to leave a residue on the press, and the Goddess pressing sheet does not.

Sometimes the print on the t-shirt gets a little soft when it gets hot. This is especially true of those that have large areas of color and are a little stiff. The way I handle those is to press them and then let them cool completely before removing the pressing sheet. If I remove the pressing sheet when they’re hot, some of the color may stick to the sheet. If it’s cool, no problem.

I noticed yesterday that I needed a much hotter press for the sweatshirts than for the t-shirts. I usually keep my press at about 325 degrees for the t-shirts, but it needed to be 375 for the sweatshirts.

Here’s a quick t-shirt quilt show:

This t-shirt quilt was made for a friend who had run the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta for 30 years. Three months after this quilt was finished, he passed away while on an evening run. He loved this quilt so very much in that short time that it has always made me very glad that I had made it.

2010-10-Steve Luck t-shirt quilt_002-600


This quilt was made for my son-in-law with t-shirts he painted at summer camp along with a few other t-shirts.

2010-03-03 t-shirt quilt JG_001-600


This t-shirt quilt hangs in the Institute of Government at UNC as a memorial to a much-loved professor there.

2010-04-23-t-shirt quilt_022-600

This t-shirt quilt is my daughter’s and has t-shirts from her years as a ballerina.

2010-05-17 KAB Ballet t-shirt quilt_000-600

T-Shirt Quilts–cutting and stabilizer

Someone asked on Twitter last night about how to make a t-shirt quilt–try getting that into 140 characters–so I thought I’d share the process I use for making a t-shirt quilt. About 3 months ago my daughter shipped a box to me of t-shirts that she had in storage and wanted to reduce to have made into a quilt. The box sat in the middle of my office for awhile and then I sat down one night while watching TV and cut them up.

The way I cut up t-shirts is that I cut up each side and across the shoulders so that I have a whole front and back. Then I cut off the sleeves and cut out the neck. If the neckline is something like a polo or Henley shirt, I leave that in place until after the shirt has been stabilized. Later I will replace the bulky placket with some plain fabric from the tail of the shirt. Or, if there is an extra logo somewhere on the shirt, I’ll replace it with that. The shirt has to be stabilized first before doing any stitching on it.

The most important thing is to keep the fabric you’re working with larger than your finished block size of 14″. Remember that you can cut things off AFTER it’s stabilized. But it’s very hard to stabilize if it’s cut to size first. 

If the front and back both have logos, I keep both of them. If one side is completely plain, I throw it away or put it in the rag bag for those who work on cars around here. Even if the back has a small logo, it can be used in case an extra block is needed. Small shirts can have borders added. Sock tops and small logos can be combined into a single block. If there is a small logo/date on the back or front of a shirt, or a date on a sleeve, that small piece can be stabilized and stitched onto the shirt front.

My goal is to have 14″ blocks to stitch into my quilt. Here’s a picture of some of the shirts my daughter sent. One has crystals in it–that’s going to be difficult to quilt around, and she sent a pair of socks. Some of these shirts are very small so will be combined into a single block or have some border rows to bring them up to size.


Tomorrow I’ll talk about stabilizing the shirts. I use something called French Fuse which is a nylon tricot interfacing. This is also called Easy Knit interfacing. I found it on Joann’s website, but they’re out of stock. I did find it on Amazon.com–of all places–they must have everything 🙂 When looking for this, key “knit interfacing” into the search box and you will get results.



Wednesday projects

Just a little update on what’s going on in my workroom. I’ve been working on this t-shirt quilt for over a month now. Part of the long time was that I had to wait for backing fabric that I ordered. But I’ll tell you some of the ups and downs in the construction of this quilt. Here’s a photo of the quilt before quilting.

There were only six t-shirts so the customer had Spoonflower print some of the school logos onto knit fabric. The printed fabric was wonderful. And the cost was very reasonable. The knit fabric they used was a high quality, and I was able to fuse and zigzag the logos into blank areas of the existing t-shirts. I used red and blue which are the school colors, and the customer helped design the borders. I love this design as it is very geometric and the quilt is for a scientist/teacher.

Because of the dark color on the front, a dark color was chosen for the backing. I ordered a couple of different fabrics, but in the end chose to use a Fusions dark blue print. I had used a black Fusions on the back of a table runner a couple of Christmases ago and found that because it is not a yarn-dyed fabric that little white spots show in many places where the needle comes through. This is not bearding of the batting, but just the nature of longarm machine quilting. I use a “smaller” needle (size 18), but this still happens. I know that this will disappear after the quilt has been washed a couple of times, but it bothers me to give this back to a customer. The lesson I learned is that I will only use yarn-dyed dark backings in the future. Kona cotton comes to mind – as I think this will work well.

As for batting, ideally for a dark backing one would use dark batting. However, with the white shirts on the front, this was definitely not advisable. And then the thread question came up. For t-shirt quilts, I always use Monopoly by Superior Threads. It is a very, very fine monofilament made of polyester. This seems to me to be a better selection than using a nylon thread as polyester is so very durable. In the bobbin I used Aurifil Mako50 dark blue to match the backing. Normally thread tension is not a problem for me, but with this quilt it was a problem throughout the entire quilt. Little dark dots showed up randomly on the front of the quilt. I do believe that washing this quilt will seat those threads in the batting and all will be well, but it was very frustrating to one who normally has very few issues with thread tension. There was one little section that I have removed the threads and will put the quilt back on the frame and restitch that area.

As always I cut the sashing strips with my Accuquilt GO, and I used EQ7 for the layout. I love being able to take digital photos, import them into EQ7 and layout t-shirt quilts exactly the way they will turn out.

It’s a beautiful quilt – but not “easy as pie” this time.


Peachtree Road Race t-shirt quilt

This is a t-shirt quilt I just finished quilting. I have always wanted to record myself quilting, but never figured out how to do it. Normally the camera records my arms and not the quilting machine. This time I put the camera at chin level between the frame and myself. It made quilting a bit difficult, but I did get a short video. After that I had a little fun playing with my video software (Nero), and was able to add a slide show of the shirts. Can you believe one person has run the same race every year for 30 years? I’m impressed.

Now, I’m off to do the binding on this quilt this Monday morning.

Wednesday – on the frame (12/2/2009)

Here’s a photo of the quilt I finished yesterday. It’s a t-shirt quilt for Emily for Christmas. These are her sports shirts (tennis and softball) from high school. It is quilted with a freehand overall swirl pattern. Now it’s ready to be bound, washed and dried, wrapped and put under the tree.