Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Blogger -- T-shirt Quilts

I met Ann when we first moved to this area 11 years ago. Back then we just had a one year old and her "baby" was in kindergarten. We ended up kid-sitting for their 4 kids for about a week while she and Brad went on a cruise or something fun like that. Now her "baby" is a HS junior and the only kid left at home.

We have talked on a number of occasions about the t-shirt quilts that she makes for her kids when they graduate from HS and move on to college. To be quite honest she is the only one I know who has actually done this for her kids. And I don't mean just using a couple tees, but using LOTS of tees that have been saved over the years. I asked her if she would tell us a little about how she put these great gifts together.


T-Shirt Quilts
from Ann

Here's the history behind my quilts.

My son (who is now 23) loves to hang on to things – all things! When he was very young – elementary school age, he wouldn’t let me throw away his t-shirts, even when they were too small (or too stained!) to wear anymore. When his dresser drawers were busting at the seams, I bargained with him and said, “If you will let me take some shirts out of your drawers, I’ll save them and someday I’ll make them into a quilt.” He reluctantly agreed, and every year we would tuck away a few more of his “special t-shirts.”

The years flew by and finally his high school graduation was on the horizon. I decided it was time to make good on my word and have a crack at the long talked about “t-shirt quilt.” What transpired was a wonderful project that we truly enjoyed together as he spent time choosing his favorite shirts and reminiscing about all the fun memories. We had shirts from sports teams, family reunions, church retreats, school clubs, fun vacations, town festivals and much more.

Of course, it became clear very quickly that I would eventually have to make three more for each of his three younger sisters. It has now become a wonderful tradition and during each senior year of HS we take this walk together down memory lane and create a personal history in a quilt!

Here are some of the details.

  • First I cut the t-shirts in half right up the side seams so I have a flat piece of fabric.
  • The next step is the most important: before cutting the shirt into a square, I iron “wonder-under” or some kind of iron-on pellon interfacing to the underside of the shirt. Once this is done, the squares are easy to cut using a rotary cutter. The interfacing keeps the shirts from stretching out of shape.
  • I chose to make 12” squares (before sewing) because that seemed to be large enough to include most graphics from most shirts.

  • I tie the quilts at each corner of the blocks.

Other details:

  • I used 3” wide strips (before sewing) for the sashing between the squares. I let the kids choose the fabric for the back. All three chose flannel which worked well.
  • If the designs on the shirts were smaller I would piece together two t-shirts or sometimes even four shirts. This allowed me to include more shirts on the quilt.
  • The middle quilt square below was t-shirt not quite large enough to make a 12" block, so we cut out the graphic and then appliqued it onto a plain square in order to use it.
  • I went with 7 squares in the length and 5 across the width. This makes for a quilt that is approximately 8’3” X 6’. It is pretty big, but has worked nicely in their dorm rooms.
    My son had one dinosaur shirt that he couldn’t bear to have cut up because it had been such a favorite. So I got creative and carefully cut the shirt in half. Instead of cutting out a square, I appliqu├ęd the entire front of the shirt onto the middle of the back. He LOVED it!
    On my oldest daughter’s quilt we used denim for the sashing strips between the squares and so we decided to put some jean pockets on the backside just for fun. We put them on the bottom so they wouldn’t bother her when she snuggled in. We both thought they would’ve been cute sewn upside down on the underneath top so that they would show when you fold down the top of the quilt.
    My second daughter was a gymnast and that was a HUGE part of her life. So along with many gymnastics t-shirts, we also cut up a few of her favorite leotards and used those.
    I now have one daughter left at home – a junior in high school. That means one more quilt to go! It’s funny, the quilts are so fun that sometimes we find ourselves looking at t-shirts and saying “We should buy that shirt, it would look so cute in my quilt!”


  1. Okay Ann, these are AWESOME!! I'm going to start saving shirts immediately! And the fact that your son loved his dinosaur shirt so much he wouldn't let you cut it up is hilarious. These are special momentos for sure!

  2. Oh, I never thought of that idea!! And I LOVE IT! What a fun tradition and memory maker for the family! :)

  3. Those are really cute! My mom did that for my brother and youngest sister, and has offered to do one for me, but I don't think I hoarded enough. =) Great idea!

  4. Thanks for posting this! I have saved the majority of my son's t-shirts (he is now almost 17) and planned to make a quilt. For his graduation would be PERFECT and that gives me some time too. I don't think he has a clue that I have all the shirts so it could be a great surprise. Your quilt are GREAT!

  5. A friend of mine told me about this awhile back so I started to save my boys' sport tee's just so I can do this when they are older! Love this post!

  6. What a wonderful idea! My son is three so I am going to start saving some of his favorites, what a special way to save them! I was just giving them away once he no longer fit them :(

  7. Fabulous idea. Thanks for sharing! Tiffany

  8. What GREAT looking quilts! I've made one, and I know how much work one is, you have a great eye, and determination!



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