What you need to know about creating a T-shirt Quilt.

T E E   S H I R T  Q U I L T S!!!!

Over a year ago, I wrote a tutorial on t-shirt quilt assembly (Part 1 and Part 2).

I wanted to share my knowledge with those who may be trying a quilt for the first time and don’t know exactly where to start or what to gather.

This post answers questions and helps you know where to start!

It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to share what I have so far.

Questions about t-shirt quilts and what to ask yoursel: 

–What are the basic steps to creating a t-shirt quilt? The skeleton steps to creating a t-shirt quilt are as follows:

  1. Tally the “costs” and measurements. Go buy the materials when needed.
  2. Assemble t-shirts, sashing/backing fabric, interfacing, and sewing tools.
  3. Prep the t-shirts by ironing interfacing onto them.
  4. Cut the t-shirts into the squares and cut out the sashing and backing pieces.
  5. Sew.
  6. Iron.
  7. Sew some more.
  8. When you think you’re done sewing, take a break, and sew more.
  9. Pin where necessary.
  10. Sew. Again. Iron. Again.
  11. Double check that all corners line up and match.
  12. Sew the border around the quilt. Iron.
  13. Have the quilt top quilted.

–How many shirts do I have to work with? If you have one t-shirt, you’ve got a quilt. Sure, you’ll have to typically create 15-24 other blocks of filler fabric, but you’ll still be able to create a t-shirt quilt from that one shirt. You can have upwards of 100 shirts if the prints/designs on the shirts are small enough and you want to just use those prints and no other part of the shirt. So. No matter how many shirts you have, you can have a t-shirt quilt. Typically,

16 shirts – Full size quilt (This is 4 blocks wide by 4 blocks long).
20 shirts – Queen size quilt (4 blocks by 5 blocks)
25 shirts – King size quilt (5 blocks by 5 blocks)

–Do I want the t-shirts to be uniform in block sizes? Do I want the blocks to be different sizes to accommodate different sized or printed shirts? Uniform block sizes are the easiest with which to work. Your planning and assembly time are cut in half because you’re measuring all the pieces equally and you don’t need to try to piece all the uneven sizes together. Then again, uniform block sizes insist a calm and even quilt. Sometimes you just want a quirky or more visually appealing quilt. For my purposes, my tutorials study uniform block pieces. You could easily decide on a specific block size (16 inches by 16 inches for example) and sew multiple t-shirts or prints into that block size to incorporate into your design. You could add a block of fabric on which you had transferred a photo of your smiling loved one or of a piece of art they completed.

–Do I want the quilt to have sashing (pieces of fabric separating the t-shirt blocks) or do I want the t-shirts to be sewn directly to one another?
Again, this is personal preference. I much prefer sashing so that the quilt squares stand out independent from each other and the quilt has a structured look. If you are running short on budget, skip the sashing. Skipping the sashing will only save you maybe 10-30 bucks, but it will also save you some time in assembly.

–Do I want the sashing to be solid in color or printed? In the past, I’ve done a few quilts with a checkered print between the blocks.  The printed pattern between the blocks absolutely adds a bit of interest to the quilt. Sometimes though, you want the t-shirt blocks to be the point of interest rather than the fabric between them. You wouldn’t want it to be too busy (unless of course your quilt is meant to be busy).

–Will I quilt the t-shirt top myself or have it professionally quilted? I do not quilt my t-shirt quilt tops myself. I send the top to my aunt who quilts it for me. You’ll save money by quilting it yourself as opposed to sending it to someone else to quilt but you will be spending more time invested in the quilt. I, for one, do not feel comfortable quilting the quilt myself and do not a heavy duty machine to handle that much fabric. Because I make t-shirt quilts and sell them, I prefer to have my quilt tops professionally quilted for durability and longevity.

–What tools do I need to create a t-shirt quilt? Non-negotiable tools for a machine sewn t-shirt quilt are as follows:

  • A sewing machine or access to one (thread, needle on it, basically a machine that works and is ready to sew).
  • T-shirts
  • Scissors
  • Interfacing (a stiffening fabric-like material that will save your butt more times than you want to admit).
  • Yardstick/ruler/a tape measure. SOME tool of measurement.
  • Iron and ironing board

Optional albeit VERY helpful and highly recommended tools:

  • Rotary cutter and mat
  • Pins
  • A plexiglass quilting square. If you do not use one of these, you must be VERY prepared to cut straight and even squares with the use of just a yardstick. Yeah. I tried it once and immediately invested in a quilter’s square. ABSOLUTELY worth the money. The quilter square saves me time and stress.
  • Add in 2-4 yards of fabric for sashing and 4-6 yards of fabric for backing if you want it to match the sashing.

–How much should I charge someone for the t-shirt quilt or how much can I expect to pay? This price will depend on how long you spend on the quilt (time invested/labor), materials you assemble for the quilt (if a person wants a very specific sashing and backing fabric, say, a licensed sports team or character fabric, the cost of the fabric is exponentially more than if you were to just buy a plain cotton fabric on the cheap. Catch the drift?) and the price will also depend on if you are quilting the top yourself or sending it to a professional to do it for you. For my purposes, I purchase sashing and backing fabric and pay for the quilt to be quilted. Therefore, my prices for quilts the majority of the time for a typical and straightforward sashed quilt are:

Full size quilt: $250
Queen size quilt: $350
King size quilt: $450

When assembling your material and tools, take advantage of sales at Joanns, Hancock Fabrics, or wherever else you purchase your sewing tools. A coupon can save you a load of money!

–I don’t know…a t-shirt quilt sounds really complicated and hard to make. Can I do it? Yes. Yes you can. Have faith! The hardest parts of creating a t-shirt quilt are figuring out the measurements for cutting your sashing and quilt blocks. Once you’ve done that, you just need to make sure you know how to sew a straight line and can pay attention to detail. That’s it. Really.

Prepping the quilt is about 80% of the mental work. the other 20% is just paying attention to the quality of your sewing.

The time spent on a sashed t-shirt quilt is about 20% preparation, 55% sewing, 20% ironing, and 5% quality check.

–How long will it take me to make a t-shirt quilt? Let us assume you have all of your materials gathered and you are creating a sashed t-shirt quilt. You will need to cut all the t-shirt quilts, fuse interfacing onto them, cut to create the blocks, cut the sashing fabric, sew the sashing onto the blocks, iron, sew the sashed blocks together into columns/rows, iron, sew the columns/rows together, iron, and sew a border around the whole thing. Bigger quilts take a bit more time but not much. My fastest time for putting together a queen size quilt was an afternoon (4-5 hours). This was before I had my uber darling baby crawling around and demanding my freely given love and I was super focused.

–What are the measurements for the t-shirt square blocks and sashing fabrics? How big of squares should I cut? I want 16 inch t-shirt blocks. I add .5 of an inch for seam allowance (.25 inch per side). I use a 16.5 inch quilters square to measure/cut my interfaced t-shirts. This will yield a 16 inch t-shirt square by the time the half inch is consumed in seam allowance. I cut my sashing fabric based on the desired finished size as well. I typically want a 2.5 or 3 inch wide piece of sashing. I add .5 inch for seam allowance. My sashing fabric would therefore be cut 3.5 inches wide by 17 or 18 inches long. I cut a smidge extra just for my own benefit and as a safety net. You’ll also need longer sashing pieces that measure the width and length of the columns+sashing together.
16.5 inch block + 3.5 inch sashing sewn on the right side of each block = 20 inch product
20 inch product X 4 sewn together in a horizontal strip = 80 inches long (including seam allowance).
Sew a 3.5 inch by 80 inch sashing piece between each strip of 4 products.
Sew a 3.5 inch by 80 inch sashing piece on the top, bottom, and left side of the quilt top.

*******NOTE** Because I want to make sure I have enough sashing, I usually add a few extra inches to each sashing piece just to be sure. I’d rather have to trim at the end than have to piece fabric in because it wasn’t enough.  *****

And yes, I did just spend 30 minutes creating this in Microsoft Paint. You’ll need to click on it a few times to make it bigger. Hope it makes sense!

You don’t necessarily have to sew the sashing to the right side. You could sew the sashing to the bottom, the left side, or the top of the t-shirt square as long as you keep what you’re doing the same. As in, don’t sew sashing to the top of one and then to the left side of others. You’re creating WAY more work for yourself than needed if you do it that way.

–How long does it take for my t-shirts to become a t-shirt quilt? From the day I get the t-shirts to the day I hand the quilt to you (or ship it to you), the time is usually between 2 weeks and 4 weeks. This depends on how busy my quilter is and how long it takes her to get it finished for me. This also depends on how busy I am here at the house with my daughter.


Feel free to ask any questions you may have. I will add to this tutorial as I have time between airplaning my daughter, building block houses with her, and helping her grow up.

Don’t forget to check out my t-shirt quilt sewing tutorials next! 

Thanks! Happy Sewing!


20 thoughts on “What you need to know about creating a T-shirt Quilt.

  1. Wow. What a nice tutorial. Thank you. I’ve read through it and actually think I could maybe accomplish this. I’ve been collecting shirts and want to make one for my daughter. I’m a crafter not a seamstress. I made a personal quilt once compiling student artwork for a teacher’s wedding a few years ago. I have a few questions, is there an email I could send them to or post here? Blessings, Janet

  2. For the sashing do you end up using regular quilting fabric or do you use a knit? Do you have to use a different needle? It sounds like once the t-shirt is ironed to the interfacing you treat it like “normal” fabric..I just wonder if the contrast in texture between the t-shirt knit and the cotton sashing is weird or not. I am planning one for my sister that will really get used..so I want it to feel right..not just look good?

    1. Hi MrsB– I use Kona Cotton fabric for the sashing. I’ve never tried a knit sashing before. The only thing I have to watch out for is the grain of the cotton sashing, as one way when tugged will give a little and the other way won’t. Hope that makes sense! Also, When the quilting process is complete, I’ve found the quilt to feel sturdy and not odd with the different fabrics (tee fabric and the stiffer sashing).

      I use one solid needle throughout the whole process.

  3. Thank you for the great tutorials! Have all the blocks cut to 15 inches, ironed with interfacing. Sashes are cut to 3 inches. Do you recommend using a 1/4 inch seam allowance always? Does this allow better success with seams lying more flat and corners? Thank you

    1. Honestly, I prefer a bigger seam allowance for pressing the seams flat. I just use 1/4 as a basic standard. With lighter colored sashings, I use a smaller seam allowance (the 1/4th inch) so that the seam won’t show through.

      Best of luck with your quilt!!

  4. I was wondering, since my family like the extra thick quilts, is it possible to machine quilt each square to only the interfacing and then finish quilt top and insert thicker batting and tie the quilt. I have never machine quilted before and thought doing each square first would make it much easier. I think I would sew sashing around the square before I machine quilted to give it more stability. What is your opinion. I am looking forward to your quick response, as I need to get this t-shirt quilt done for a birthday gift. Thank you.

    1. Sorry I didn’t get back to you as quick as I should have. A newborn is consuming my time!

      I am not sure how that would turn out– I never would have thought of doing it that way! If you give it a try, let me know the results!

      If I wanted to do that, I would probably sew sashing on all sides of each block and quilt through it, then attach them together in columns at a time.

  5. I was wondering, since my family likes the extra thick quilts, is it possible to machine quilt each square to only the interfacing and then finish quilt top and insert thicker batting and tie the quilt. I have never machine quilted before and thought doing each square first would make it much easier. I think I would sew sashes around the square before I machine quilted to give it more stability. I am looking forward to your quick reply, as I need to get this t-shirt quilt done for a birthday gift. Thank you.

  6. I am a runner and have about 80 t-shirts stuffed in 2 drawers. Some are nylon and some are cotton. Can I mix the materials together or should I stay with one type of material. I really don’t want a “quilt” I am hoping for a “blanket”. Just something to get them out of the drawer but not throw away.

    1. Hi Robert! I would be most concerned with some of the shirts stretching/shrinking while the more sturdy nylon ones would stay put. I’ve mixed them before and had the quilting done closer together on them. Best of luck!!

  7. Great tutorial. What kind of quilting pattern does your aunt use? Is stich in the ditch enough or will the t-shirt fabric be too poof?

    1. Hi Vickie!

      She usually does a wandering or meandering wavy line pattern all around. I would be more concerned about the t-shirts poofing and stretching without a little bit of tacking on them! A good option is to quilt as close as you can to the vinyl printing or design and then let the design be!

      Have a wonderful day!

  8. Loved the info. I’ve made a few myself and my problems stem from the iron on interfacing. I don’t want stiff backing but do need it to adhere and have tried different ones. Hoped you had recommendation for the best. It’s very humid in Florida and wonder if that makes a difference. I made my first one in 1988 and just figured it out as I went along. It was for a woman who had been a triathlete and was severely injured in a boating accident and was wheelchair bound. It is a king size wall hanging memory for her now. Thanks Vickie Showalter

    1. I don’t have the specific interface types at hand right now, but I would recommend playing with a few different stiffnesses. I found that the very stiff iron on interfacing was hard to work with. Then again, there is interfacing that is so thin it seems almost pointless to use. I know it may not be much help, but finding a middle stiffness one will really be of great use to you! And what a lovely memory quilt you created for her! I bet she treasures it always! Thank you Vickie! Best wishes,

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