In Phase 1 of our T-Shirt Quilt tutorial we covered all of the preparation that goes into making our quilt. If you’ve returned from the fabric store, welcome back! If you’re just now joining us, be sure to take a peek at our last post so that you can join in too.
For Phase 2 we’re going to be assembling the entire front portion of our quilt. You will need to have on hand:
- T Shirts
- Iron-On Interfacing
- Spool of Thread
- Solid Fabric for Sashing and Binding (if you’re using sashing)
- Rotary Blade or Good Scissors
- Sewing Machine
- Cutting Mat
- Water Soluble Pen/Marker
- Straight Pins
- Iron & Ironing Board
1) In Phase 1 you determined what size squares would work best for your quilt – 15”x15” pieces usually work best. If you haven’t done so already, cut your shirts into square pieces using a rotary blade or scissors. Hold off on using pinking shears if you’re tempted; straight cuts make it easier to assemble our pieces. You can discard the scraps; we are only using the fronts of our shirts.
2) Sort your shirts into piles by color. In order to create a pattern that looks organic we’ll need to know how many shirts of each color we have. I split my piles into grey, white, black, and colored (since I had so few colored shirts).
**You’ll notice two of my shirts to the left are not perfect squares and therefore not in their respective piles. This particular quilt was intended for someone else, so I had to work with what I was given. You’ll see some minor differences in a few photos, but this will not be reflected in any of the other instructions or change what you need to do for your quilt!**
3) On a scrap piece of paper come up with a color pattern that makes sense for the size of your quilt. It turned out I had 5 white shirts, so with a 5-row quilt I knew I needed one white shirt per row. From there I added in the black shirts, grey shirts, and then colored shirts until I had a pattern where no matching colors were next to each other.
4) Once you know the layout, start pulling from the piles to create a layout that corresponds with your template. Feel free to move it around as you need to! I tweaked my layout so that I didn’t have similar organizations, designs, or colors clustered together. I moved this layout around up until I was sewing the final pieces together. Do whatever looks best to you!
5) Working in rows, we’re going to start ironing on all of the interfacing to the backs of the shirts. Do not skip this step!! Interfacing works to help bulk up your shirts, making them easier to work with, less prone to tearing (which is necessary once you’re actively using this like you would a regular quilt), and less likely to shirk upon washing. There is nothing worse than putting hours of work into a quilt only for it to look wrinkly and uneven. Can you tell which one has the interfacing?
6) Begin by laying your shirt out on the interfacing and trimming around it. Flip your shirt over, with the interfacing still on the back, and iron. Follow the directions on your interfacing regarding iron heat. Otherwise, use a warm iron (I use the synthetic setting) and continuously move your iron around until you have fully adhered the interfacing to the shirt. Once I’m confident I have everything stuck together I flip the shirt back over for one final pass of the iron. Lay a cloth over any screen-printing or decals so the iron does not melt them.
7) Trim off any excess interfacing you may have left around the edges!
8) Once every shirt square has been ironed, lay them all out on the floor in their final pattern. This is the time to confirm that you like the way they’re organized.
9) For those of you joining me on the sashing bandwagon, read on! If you’re skipping the sashing you can move on to step 11.
I chose black fabric for both my sashing and binding because I felt that it would look the most cohesive and polished, but you can use whatever color matches best with your shirts. Begin by laying out the fabric. Lay the length of the fabric horizontally and allow the bulk to hang of the table if necessary. Mark your fabric vertically in 4-inch increments. Once you connect the markings you’ll notices that this creates the strips that you will need.
10) Although all of the sashing will be 4 inches wide, you’re going to need 2 different sashing lengths—long pieces between your columns, and short pieces between your rows. Here’s where some more math comes in.
For example, my final quilt length minus the binding will be 82” (5 shirts at 14” after seams and 4 pieces of sashing at 3” after seams). That means the sashing between my columns should be about 92” long once we add a few extra inches for seam allowances and any potential mistakes in measurement as we begin assembly. This is why I bought the 2 ¾ yards length at the fabric store. Since I have 4 columns of shirts I need 3 pieces of long sashing.
The sashing for the rows will be done in pieces attached individually to the squares. With 5 rows of shirts we’ll need 4 rows of sashing. Multiply that by the 4 columns and in total we’ll need 16 short pieces of sashing. These strips are also 4” wide and will each be 15” wide to align with the shirts. Because we’re already cutting 92” lengths for the sashing between the columns, I divided 92” by 15”. I can get 6 pieces of short sashing for every 1 piece of long sashing.
In total I’m going to cut 6 strips of sashing, each 4” wide and 92” long. Three I will keep as is for the columns. The other 3 will be cut down into 15” long pieces until I have 16 pieces in total. Depending on the size of your quilt, you’ll need to follow this same process. Save the extra fabric! This will be your binding, which we’ll go over in phase 3.
11) Let’s sew! We’re going to work through the quilt in columns, beginning with the square at the top left corner of your quilt. Take a short piece of sashing and lay it at the bottom four inches of your shirt square, front to front. The edges should be flush so that as you sew you’re leaving a consistent ½ seam allowance on each side. I marked my sewing machine with a piece of tape so it was very visible where my seam should be. If you are skipping the sashing, do the same thing, but with the next t-shirt in the column.
12) Press your seams as you go. This is an often missed step, but most definitely worth it. If you want your quilt to look professional pressing your seams is the best thing you can do.
13) Continue sewing the columns together, alternating between sashing and shirt squares, front to front. Don’t forget to press the seams as you go.
14) Because everything is pre-cut and pre-measured, the columns should come together quickly. Be sure to keep all of the seams at the same ½” allowance. Consistency is key so that all of our squares line up together. Once you have sewn the first column lay it down and begin the next by following the exact same process. You’ll end up with something like this!
15) Remember how I said you need to keep pressing your seams? As you begin to attach the long pieces of sashing you’ll end up with quite a few cross sections of seams. Ironing as you go allows you to have a quilt that is flat and not bunchy!
16) Starting with the first column, lay your next piece of sashing (front to front) along the right 4 inches with the edges flush. Sew as you did for the short pieces of sashing. Once you’re done, press the seams! Flip the second column over the sashing so those are front to front and sew again so that you now have on solid piece, 2 columns by 5 rows. If you’re not using sashing, do the same, just with the next column of shirts instead!
17) Repeat this process for the 3rd and 4th columns. (If you have a larger quilt, I suggest sewing your pieces together in smaller sections so they are easier to manage.) Add your sashing to the 2nd column, then attach the piece that includes columns 3 and 4.
18) Voila! You have finished Phase 2 of your t-shirt quilt! Grab your batting and check out Phase 3—we’re almost done!