Quilting With T-Shirts

At some point you may find yourself wanting to collect special t-shirts and make a quilt top out of the printed sections. Working with knit fabric presents some unique challenges.

-- You'll want to use an interfacing. Several are available as iron-on webbing, but you want to find one that will stay soft after it is affixed. Otherwise you'll have a stiff quilt! Look for interfacings made especially for knits.

-- If you plan to hand quilt, look for a lightweight interfacing. If you plan to machine quilt you won't have as much difficulty getting through it.

-- Fuse the interfacing to the knit before cutting the shirts up.

-- Make sure your interfacing is fusable on one side only. Beware of the really cheap bondable webs, as they may not hold up very well and are likely to come unstuck.

-- For a quick finish tie off each block with crochet thread instead of quilting. You can quilt if you want to, just be sure you can get a needle through the bonded knits.

-- Use a woven fabric (not a knit) for the sashing between each block. This will help stabilise the whole quilt and keep it from stretching way out of shape.


There really aren't any special patterns for using t-shirts. You can use any quilt block pattern that you like. Most of the time, however, traditional patterns have too many pieces that will stretch out of shape as you work with the knit fabric. T-shirt quilts are most often made by cutting a square around the shirt design, and assembling those squares with a regular fabric sashing and backing. Sometimes, if you have designs of different sizes you can plan out how to use the different size blocks in a pattern, such as using all the small blocks on the border, and the largest one in the middle.

If you think you can't do this without a published "pattern", try Keepsake Quilting. Last time I saw their catalog they had a book with instructions on making quilts from old t-shirts.

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