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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

T-Shirt Quilts


I've been creating traditional quilts since High School. When it comes to quilting, I am a novice at BEST, but it is something that I enjoy doing in my free time. In the past few years, I have taken an interest in more modern and contemporary quilts, specifically memory quilts. My interest got further sparked when I saw my husband Keith take scissors to the sleeves of his college fraternity t-shirts and start shredding them up to wear to the gym. THOSE ARE MEMORIES! Granted some of those memories didn't involve me (ahem) but that is okay. I wanted to find a way to preserve his t-shirts and this is what led me to investigate t-shirt quilts.

I started by looking for ideas online. There are a lot of different types of t-shirt quilts, but many follow a basic and uniform square/box pattern and have a lot of what I call "space filler material". Not to mention, you often can't use t-shirt images because they are too large for the allotted square/box size used in the t-shirt quilt pattern. I wasn't looking for a one-size-fits-all quilt pattern, I wanted something that would be more about the t-shirts then a specific pattern.

Too Cool T-Shirt Quilts was my saving grace! Owner, Andrea Funk developed a very unique approach to t-shirt quilts. Andrea created a book (available on her website) which walks you step-by-step through the quilt making process. Or for the non-quilter, Andrea offers her services and will create the t-shirt quilt for you.

I have since created a second t-shirt quilt for my sister in law, Sarah (below). We started working on the quilt together, then she totally bailed on me (boo). So I decided to finish it for her as a birthday present. 


Happy Quilting! Pin It

76 comments:

  1. Gwen how did you start when it came to sewing it together. I have made the quilts in 12x12 squares an 6x12 strips but they were all in rows and was easy to sew together.

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    1. Hi Cindy! If the piece edges aren't the same length, you just want to leave about an inch un-sewn from the edge so that you have room to attach the other piece. Then go back in and finish the seam.

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  2. This is EXACTLY what I've been looking for to do with my kids' old cute t-shirts! They are just too precious to me to give up... no money for the book so I'll have to figure it out on my own, but thanks for sharing the photo! It's gorgeous!

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    1. Figuring out the layout of the quilt was the most difficult part. I spent a good amount of time playing with the blocks to get them all to fit together. I found the book helpful for this portion but otherwise the quilting was pretty self-explanatory.

      The best tip I can give is to make sure all your blocks are cut in a size divisible by 4 (ie. 4x4, 4x8, 12x12, etc.). Then it should all fit together like a puzzle.

      Good Luck

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    2. What was your final dimensions of the entire quilt?

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    4. No need to buy the book if money is short, I got it from the library on inter-library loan.

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  3. Hi Gwen,

    I am a quilter but have only used cotton and flannel. Did you run into any problems when you used the t-shirts? Also, did you machine quilt over the screen printing? Do you feel like I would really need the book to make one if I am a confident quilter? Thanks for your help!!

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    1. The book advises not to use a stabilizer behind the t-shirts. The author thinks it gives the quilt a softer quality. I on the other hand preferred to use an iron on stabilizer (very light weight) because with t-shirt material (as you know) it stretches and I found the t-shirts lost their shape very easily. I had no problems with my sewing machine when stitching through the t-shit/stabilizer.

      When it came time to top stitch (long arm) the quilt - I did experience thread breaking when stitching over screen printing. It wasn't always necessary for me to stitch through the screen prints, but when I did, I slowed my speed and used a spray on acrylic directly on my thread spool.

      As for the book - I found it helpful when laying out the quilt top. It surprisingly entailed a good deal of math. :-) Otherwise, the steps were pretty self-explanatory for a confident quilter.

      Good Luck!

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    2. Great job, Gwen, love the asymmetrical design. Can you tell me more about the spray you used to help prevent the thread from breaking? Thanks.

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  4. Just had to pop in and say "hi!' I saw your awesome quilt on Pinterest. My son is currently a Freshman at UNH and loves it! Even though he is so far from home (we are from Ohio) it makes me happy to see him in a place that makes him happy.
    Also, he's adorable. So, if you know any cute girls who are there now..........;)

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    1. UNH is great! I'm glad it appeals to out of state kids. I don't know many underclassmen so unfortunately I can't make a love connection. :( but who knows he might just meet his future wife there (that's where I met my hubby)!

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  5. I have been wanting to do this with my son's 1st year clothes and ran into the issues you stated with most guides about block size, so.this is awesome. one delay, I'm nervous about trying to rip out the current stitching so I can cut out blocks. I have a stitch puller. Any suggestions?

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  6. I was just perusing my Pinterest home feed and saw your t-shirt quilt with UNH shirts and got wicked excited! I graduated from UNH in 2011 (even though I hated it, I'm still proud of it!). Lately I've been wanting to make a t-shirt quilt since I have so many shirts from school stuff, races, and Marine Corps shirts from my husband...thought it would be a good way to preserve the memories and free up some space in my drawers! I'll definitely follow your advice...thanks for the post! :)

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  7. What sort of material did you buy to sew all of your t-shirts onto?

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    1. Before I cut the t-shirts, I backed each with a lightweight iron-on interfacing (Pellon - Easy Knit Fusible Tricot Interfacing). Any light weight interfacing is fine. I liked this one because it had some stretch so the quilt wasn't stiff but it offered enough stability so that the t-shirts didn't roll up on themselves or alter their shape after they were cut to size.

      As for the quilt backing - I used a cotton flannel fabric. Flannel is nice because it is soft but everything sticks/clings to it. A regular quilters cotton is fine for the back or you could use a flat bed sheet so you don't have to piece fabric together.

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  8. Fabulous!! I've been making the boring square block t-shirt quilts, and have wanted to do something like this, but couldn't figure out how in the world you could make it work. I just ordered the book, so hopefully I can make one similar to yours. Thanks for posting the pictures!!

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  9. I love this! A great modern take on the t-shirt quilt. Can you tell me what is the finished size of these quilts? Thanks!

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    1. Both the quilts are roughly 64" x 84" finished which is about the size of a twin quilt.

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  10. If I purchase the book could a beginner attempt learning how to sew this quilt. I want to learn how to quilt but prefer learning the "baby steps" on my own.
    Your quilts are beautiful!

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    1. Yes - this quilt top is actually great for beginners because it comes together really quickly once you have the template laid out. If you can sew a straight line then you are in good shape.

      With that being said, when it comes time to quilt the top, batting and back pieces together you may want to consider other options besides long arm if you haven't done it before. Hand tacking, machine tacking or you could send it out to have it professionally long armed. I found this to be the most difficult part of the quilt. I actually went as far as to take a course in long arm.

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  11. So for the quilting aspect, I don't have a long arm nor do I plan on investing in one. Would it be possible to machine quilt a straight line design across the entire quilt and still achieve the same effect?

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    1. or is it posibble to just quilt the shirts indivually? like can I do the quilting on on tshirt and then attach to the row?

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    2. That wouldn't be a good idea because you want the quilting to do the top and the back and the middle of your quilt. Quilting is what holds your quilt together. If you wanted to, you could just stitch in between your seems once you get everything together, but that would be difficult considering the size of the quilt. There are also stores that you can rent a long arm for a few hours and just work on it in the store. That's what I've done in the past.

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    3. Yes! There are even free-range foots that attach to most standard sewing machines if you did want to do some free hand design.

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  12. Marvellous collection and the way it has been design. We can select any of the design from this and get our t-shirts customised with the same.

    buy status quo t shirts

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  13. You can comment on the description of the blog.

    Funny T-Shirts

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  14. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  15. Love the look of this! I've made them before but the squares were all lined up perfectly. I like the scattered look better but I can't figure out how you did that?! Did you sew the small ones to the large ones?

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  16. Beautiful job(s)! Thanks for sharing and including some about your process. I'd like to make something like this for my daughter. I am definitely a beginner. I took a look at "Too Cool T-Shirt Quilts" and saw that, besides the "how-to" book, she also sells a set of templates. At first I thought they seemed pricey, but now I'm wondering if I'd be sorry if I didn't order them. Can you tell me how did the template- making/buying/using process went for you? Thanks again.

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    1. I actually didn't purchase the templates. In the book the author gives their dimensions - so I went to the local home improvement store and had then cut from acrylic sheets. Then using a ruler and magic marker I added the seam allowance lines and a center point to help me line up the t-shirt images.

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    2. Great Idea, Gwen! I must try that, as well. I won't be buying the book...I own WAY too many books as it is...but I hope to figure out sizing independently.

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  17. what size seam allowance did you use?

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    1. 1/4" seam allowances used throughout.

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  18. I have been saving this site for over a year now. Do you make the quilts for other people and how much do you charge? They look awesome!!!

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    1. Thank you Sharon! I've definitely considered making these quilts for others but unfortunately I don't have the time available to quilt more than just a hobby. With that being said, the site where I purchased the t-shirt quilt book offers a service to make the quilts. I have a link to the site in the blog post above.

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  19. Hi Gwen, your quilt is beautiful! Great job! I'm about to make my first (and 2nd) quilt for a friend. I've cut most of the shirts to 12"x12", some to 12"x6" and one (that will be in the middle) to 12"x9". I've already laid out the design and it will all line up fine. My friend wants the backing to be done with fleece. Which is fine. However, my question is about the actual quilting. I plan to quilt up and down every 12 inches...that part will be easy. My dilemma is with the side to side quilting. I want to sew ever 6 inches in an effort to line up with the 6" panels. But some of those lines will go right thru the middle of some of the 12" panels and at an awkward point of the 9" panel. My question to you is, is that ok? Am I just being anal? lol I plan to use transparent thread. So a "colored line" isn't the problem. What are your thoughts/suggestions? Thanks in advance for your advise.

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    1. I think that would look fine! With the longarm machine I with stitch patterns right through images and still thought he finished product looked good. The stitching is so subtle - especially if you're using a light or transparent thread.

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  20. Just to Say...yours is the BEST t-shirt quilt I have ever seen! I've been saving t-shirts from DD21yo and DD10yo, as they outgrow them, and I think I am almost ready to get started on my older girl's quilt.

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  21. Did you had quilt these. Love them!

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  22. Nice blog.
    Looking good and comfortable tshirts.
    thanks for sharing with us.
    Funky tshirts

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  23. Useful information shared. I am very happy to read this article. Custom shirt printing Utah famous in t shirt printing services.I appreciate this post.

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  24. are the sizes divisible by 4 as you cut them or after they are sewn

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  25. Your is truly the best T-shirt quilt posted on line. I am going to purchase the Too Cool T-shirts book; however, I've read online that the book is "very small," there are no color photos-all black & white, and the quality of the print is faded and poorly copied. Did you find this to be true? I don't want to pay the $21.00 price if this is true.

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    1. I purchased the book several years ago and at that time (aside from the cover/back which were laminated color prints) the rest of the book was black and white with limited pictures. I didn't find the print quality to be poor though. Having basic sewing knowledge I found the book descriptions and limited pictures were very easy to follow.

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    2. Also - I just loved the authors layout method so much - having that alone was worth the cost of the book.

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    3. Just found your picture and this post. I have made t-shirt quilts with and without sashing - the uniform 12" blocks. The next quilt I need to make - I have lots of t-shirts and want to do the random method you have. In her book, does she give you a dimension of a quilt then suggest the different 'blocks' to cut? I was also looking at her templates, but don't really want to spend $100 on them. I have lots of quilting templates from my MIL, so was wondering if you used her templates. I can't wrap my head around not lining them up all the same sized blocks. Thanks for sharing CindyML

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    4. Hi Cindy - Actually, the method is just the opposite. You actually measure your t-shirt images first, then determine how large the quilt will be finished. Its difficult to explain - but the book does a great job. It's a bit of a mathematical equation. As for the templates, they are all divisible by 4 (4x4, 4x8, etc.) with a 1/4 seam allowance. I did NOT purchase her templates, but rather went to my local home improvement store and had them cut out of plexy glass and drew the grid-lines myself. The necessary measurements to make your own templates were included in the book as well. Yes $100 was a lot for the pre-made ones but I was more concerned what shipping would be since all together they would be pretty heavy. :-)

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  26. My Mother made crazy quilts. . . placed her peices on a sheet as in paper piecing. . thinking that is the way to put mine together!

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  27. I love the asymmetric design! I saw this picture showing shirts on both sides. What do you think about that? Would it be too weak?

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  28. I bought a super soft plush blanket and wanted to know if I could use that for the backing. Do you think it will stretch too much? I am a newbie at this. I have all my t-shirts cut and backed but I am nervous about using the plush blanket. My son REALLY wants that to be the underside of the quilt though so I thought I would ask for some advice.

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    1. I would say it depends on if you are planning to use a long night arm machine to quilt it. Long arm frames will often stretch the material taught and if there is too much stretch it can skew the fabric into an odd shape. But if our planning on using a standard machine you might be able to make it work. I'd suggest using a low loft batting (like a warm and natural) and attach the batting to your back fabric usi a long basting stitch. The batting will almost serve as an interfacing to keep it from stretching it of shape as you quilt. Good luck!!!

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    2. In my experience as a quilter, with a blanket lining, leave out the batting and hand tie the quilt with pretty embroidery thread.

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  29. I'm using fleece on the back of my older daughter's t-shirt quilt. It's soft and fluffy, goes well with the quilt, AND I don't need batting! I suggest that you carefully baste your layers together using more basting rows/columns than you generally do. (My rows ended up being about 6 inches apart.) Also, lengthen your stitch, and don't try anything 'fancy.' (btw, I stabilized the t-shirt parts of my quilt.) Have fun!

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  30. Love your design! I'm trying to help a friend make a t-shirt quilt right now. Though I am a quilter, I haven't ever made a t-shirt quilt so I'm looking for advice. My question to you is what color thread to you use to quilt your t-shirt quilts?

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    1. I usually use a variegated tan or gray as they tend to blend well with the majority of the t-shirt colors. With the long-arm quilting, the stitch length is rather short, so the thread color doesn't show very much.

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  31. When you had your templates cut, was the seam allowance added to each template? Half inch all around?

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  32. Thanks Gwen. I'll order the book and go from there.

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  33. What kind of stitch did you use to attach all the T-shirts to each other?

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    1. Straight stitch to make the quilt top.

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  34. I plan on making my first t-shirt quilt (and second ever quilt) for my grandson's graduation. I have only stitched in the ditch to attach backing and batting. How much does it cost to have someone do the quilting for you?

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    1. I've found it can vary a lot depending on where you live and how big the finished quilt is; beginning in the $100s. Also depends on what type of design you want sewn. I did a variety of designs on my quilts (different on each square) and I imagine they'd charge a lot more for that than if you wanted say a loopTloop freehand design done throughout. I'd definitely shop around. Check with local fabric stores because home run businesses often leave their information posted there.

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  35. When you had the store cut your templates, did they include the seam allowance? Or did you add a half-inch to include the seam allowance?

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    1. I added the half-Inch. Then after they were cut I used a black perm. marker on the plexi to mark out the 1/4 seam allowances so that when I centered the template over the tshirt I could make sure that the tshirt image wouldn't be partially lost in the seam.

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    2. So, your templates were 4.5 inches X 4.5 inches and so forth? Thanks!

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  37. Hi quick question!
    I have SO many t-shirts and no need for more than one t-shirt quilt, so I was thinking of doing a two-sided "quilt."
    I am very unfamiliar with the quilting world but an avid reader and quick learner, so I was wondering what your initial thoughts are regarding my "plan?"
    I was thinking: skip the backing, include something in the middle to add weight/stability (either batting or maybe what is used for backing?) and do a free hand design to still combine the 3 layers.
    Do you see a problem with this? Would one side look unfinished because of the quilting? I wouldn't trace any of the designs because I know they would clash and was thinking I could just use a light/transparent thread

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  38. I want to make this quilt. The colors don't please me when I lay it out and found that adding a pale pink for sashing looks great. Trouble is I am making it with all different size random squares and wondered if you had some ideas about doing this. Is it impossible?
    Jane

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