This is it—the final installment in our t-shirt quilt blog adventure. For those of you diligently following along, your hard work will soon be rewarded! If you’re just joining us, be sure to check our first two posts (Making a T-Shirt Quilt: Prepping Materials and T-Shirt Quilt: Putting the Pieces Together) to get started.
Phase 3 – Final Quilt Assembly
1) Set up your designated work area. I moved all the furniture in my living room and (so long as you have an accommodating spouse/roommate) this arrangement works great! Be sure to have on hand the following:
- T-Shirt Quilt Front
- Quilt Batting
- Patterned or Solid Backing for the Backside of Your Quilt
- Leftover Solid Fabric for Binding
- Embroidery Floss
- Good Scissors
- Pinking Shears
- Sewing Machine
- Water Soluble Pen/Marker
- Iron & Ironing Board
- Straight Needle
- Embroidery Needle
2) Lay out the fabric you chose for the backside of your quilt with the right side (the side you want to see) down. As I mentioned in Phase 1, depending on the size of your quilt, you may have to piece this fabric together. My quilt was less than 108” wide, so I was able to use one solid piece of fabric.
3) The fabric needs to be totally flat. Use weights or classic literature to hold down the corners of your backing fabric. Do not pull it too tight; we just don’t want any wrinkles or loose fabric.
4) Lay your batting on top. It does not matter which side faces up (there’s no difference). It’ll make your life a lot easier if you can wrangle up a second set of hands, otherwise, gently lay the batting down and unfold it taking care not to move the fabric underneath.
5) Smooth out any wrinkles you can, and then lay the t-shirts face up as the final layer of your t-shirt quilt. You will have extra fabric and batting! Be sure to center the t-shirts so there is a bit of overflow on every side.
6) Take a few minutes to baste these layers together before any rogue pets, children, or even DIY t-shirt quilters wrinkle everything up! If you’re not familiar with baste stitching, have no fear. Simply take a brightly colored piece of thread and your sewing needle. Loosely stitch together the solid fabric, batting, and t-shirts. It doesn’t need to be pretty because you’ll remove this thread before finishing your quilt. Try to keep the baste stitching at least 1 ½” away from the edge if you can. We don’t want to sew over this thread when we add the binding.
7) Once you’ve stitched everything together, grab your pinking shears and trim the excess fabric and batting from around the t-shirts. Keep as close as you can to the t-shirts without cutting them too. If you don’t have pinking shears you can use regular scissors. However, I prefer to use the pinking shears here because the zig-zag cut helps prevent fabric from shredding. Since we’re going to be handling and moving this quilt around, this becomes a very useful and practical step.
8) By now you should have a really clear picture as to what your quilt is going to look like when it’s finished. Our next step is to create the binding. Essentially, we want to create a really sharp, seamless edge around the perimeter of our quilt. For this you’ll need to get out the leftover fabric you used for your sashing. If you skipped the sashing you should have just bought enough solid fabric for the binding.
9) Measure the perimeter (length + width + length + width) of your quilt. Add 8” for allowances. This is how much binding we’re going to need. We want one continuous strip that is 4” wide. You’re welcome to make your biding wider, but this size gives you a nice 1 ½” border all the way around.
10) You have a few different options for your binding. You can go straight, or you can go bias. Bias binding is typically stronger, but it does require more fabric. Since quilt is made up of straight edges choose what works best for you; there won’t be a significant difference for this particular quilt. Because my binding was done with black fabric, I’m going to send you off to two great tutorials, with much better pictures!
11) For Straight Binding: http://www.bijoulovelydesigns.com/2012/08/quilting-basics-making-straight-grain.html
12) Now that you have a long strip of binding choose where you’d like to start. I began at the top right corner because I’m right handed and that works best for me. Lay the correct side of your binding (seams up) against the correct side of the t-shirts. Keep your edges flush. Before you begin your seam ½” in (along your pressed fold), leave about 3” worth of binding. When you come to the end, you’re going to need this extra fabric.
13) Soon enough you’ll reach the corner. Continue you seam until you are ½” from the end of the quilt. Fold your binding to the right (over itself) at a 90° angle.
14) Fold the binding back over to the left, this time keeping the crease flush with the edge of the quilt.
15) Turn your entire quilt so you are now working with the edge of the quilt that was just facing you. Begin sewing from the very top. Repeat these steps for every corner.
16) Once you turn out each corner they should look just like this!
17) As you reach the end of the quilt you’ll come across the 3” (or so) that you left at the beginning. Once you’re about 2” from your starting seam, stop sewing. Pinch the binding and pin where the final seam should be—as close as you can be without wrinkling the fabric or creating any gaps.
18) Once you have placed your pin, pull the binding away from the rest of the quilt. Sew your seam to replace the pin. Trim the excess binding.
19) Pull the binding and the quilt flat and you’ll now have a continuous piece of binding surrounding the perimeter of the quilt. Close the gap and finish the seam back to where you started.
20) You are officially done with your sewing machine! Take a few minutes to remove all of your baste stitching if you haven’t done so already.
21) Grab your iron and ironing board. Face the quilt t-shirt side down and fold the edge of your binding at the ½” mark. Press along this crease, making your fold all the way around the quilt. Once you’ve finished pressing you can put your iron away. You may be tempted to fold and press the binding in half to create a crisp edge—don’t! You’ll fold the binding naturally as you finish the backside of the quilt.
22) To finish we’re going to hand-stitch a blind seam. You’ll need a hand sewing needle, thread that matches your binding (you can use what was just in your sewing machine), and a comfortable place to sit.
23) I’m using a ladder stitch because it can’t be seen when you’re done, it’s fairly easy, and I think it’s pretty quick too! This is what a ladder stitch looks like:
24) Tie a knot and begin by pulling your needle from inside the ½” fold of binding to just near the crease you pressed. This is step “1.” Your thread is now visible to you, but on the side of the binding that will lay flat against the quilt. Pressing the binding and the quilt together with your fingers, insert the needle into the backing and batting being careful not to come out on the other side. You’ve just done stitch “1-2.” Slide the needle through the batting about ¼ inch – ½ inch and come up at “3.” Thread your needle into the binding to create stitch “3-4.” Follow along the crease of the binding the same length you did for stitch “2-3” and exit at “5.” Repeat these steps until you finish stitching the binding to the quilt!
25) Done yet? Almost! The very last step is to make sure all the layers are attached. While some quilts are sewn over with elaborate stitching, we don’t want to distract from the embellishment on our t-shirts. Simple knots work just fine for this! In the center of each sashing intersection (where 4 corners meet) we’re going to tack with embroidery floss. If you did not use sashing then simply follow these same steps at every corner.
26) You’ll only need 3 strands of embroidery floss and a length long enough to tack every intersection. Starting from the back of the quilt, pull your needle through to the t-shirt side.
27) With little variation from where you exited the needle, thread right back down again. Be sure that when your needle comes through the back of the quilt, your ends are close together. Once you pull your thread taught, you should hardly see the embroidery floss on the t-shirt side.
28) Double knot the ends and trim. Because the embroidery floss coordinates with the backing, leave about ½” of thread. This makes the tacking look purposeful and decorative.
29) Complete the tacking for every intersection. For my 5 x 4 quilt, I had 12 tacks all together.
30) And that’s it! I hope you are in love with your new t-shirt quilt! Be sure to comment and let us know how your project went, and if you have any other tips or tricks!