T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial for beginners


I have a cousin and a niece who live far away. Which means I can’t work with them on the t-shirt quilts they want to make. So I’ve created a PDF tutorial for them, which I thought others may enjoy too. They’re a great way to preserve your favorite shirts, and make GREAT graduation or birthday quilts for teens – who tend to collect tons of t-shirts!

Since they are both noobie’s to quilting, this tutorial is geared towards beginners – but the instructions can be used by anyone who wants to make one of these fun quilts! I’ve included lots of helpful tips and hints to make things as easy as possible.

Pre-sashing makes construction a breeze!

The instructions are in two parts (combined into one PDF file). Part one is for creating the blocks. Part two is sewing them together and adding the borders. It does not include creating the “quilt sandwich”. There are plenty of tutorials out there for this, so I’ve left that to others. Plus, I’m just plain tired of looking at this tutorial – it was quite intensive to create! I forget how involved these tutorials are until I start one. My praise go out to those of you who create these things on a regular basis. You’ve got much more patience than I do!

As always, the usual disclaimers:

There are many tutorials out there on t-shirt quilts. This is how I make mine. It works for me. Please read through these instructions before beginning. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this tutorial. We accept no responsibility for errors or omissions, but welcome your suggestions for corrections or improvements that can be made for future editions.

This tutorial is the property of seamstobeyouandme.com, all rights reserved. Do not copy or redistribute without prior written consent. Please be kind and link to this blog so others may download their own pattern.

Click the picture below to access the PDF instructions….

If you create a quilt from these instructions, please send us a picture! We’d love to show off your creation on our site!

I want to thank Peggi for enduring my endless e-mails, questions and frustrations while I was writing this. Trying to make this easy to understand for noobies – while not “talking down” so much you can’t understand it – isn’t an easy thing to do. Without her help (and hysterical e-mail answers!) this may have never been published. You’re a doll! Here’s a picture of us doing what we do best….when we are able to get together. This pic was taken at the Houston International Quilt Festival this year. What fun we had!

Peggi & Cindi relaxing after the show 🙂

I’ve got the quilt on the frame now, and once it’s completely quilted and the binding is on I’ll post a picture of it. It’s from the t-shirts I collected when we vacationed in Australia last November/December. What a blast we had, and now I’ve got a quilt to snuggle under to remind me of all the places we visited. 

62 thoughts on “T-Shirt Quilt Tutorial for beginners

  1. Thank you for the tutorial! Is the interfacing used to prevent the shirts from stretching when sewing them to a non knit material?

    • Hi, Angela! Yes, the interfacing is to prevent stretching – not only for sewing them to the sashings, but also when quilting the finished top. The shirts often tend to stretch under the presser foot, which will result in wonky quilting, tucks, etc. Fusible interfacing will stabilize the shirts, preventing movement. Thanks for asking!

      • When doing the sides , do i sew interface side up to fold over to finish tee shirt quilt ? I’ve only been quilting a couple of months. Our group does mission work. Thank you for your reply.
        Kindest Regards,

        • I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking, Jacquelina. The interfacing should be ironed on to the shirts. The sashing is sew to the shirt, right sides together. I hope this answers your question!

    • Batting is normally done on quilts, and I do use batting in mine, as I state in the last page of the tutorial. It is completely up to you as to whether or not you use batting, Maryjo. Good luck!

  2. This tutorial is great! I am a complete “noob” and I understand it. Thanks for taking the time to make such a quality tutorial. I was wondering if it is okay to use the front and back of a t-shirt to make 2 separate blocks? Some of the my husband’s beloved t-shirts have logos on the front and back so I wanted to see if it would work. I can’t think of why it wouldn’t work, but then again, I don’t have any experience to draw on! Thanks!

    • Jessica, you absolutely can use the front and back logos! In fact, I’ve even taken logos on t-shirt sleeves and combined them into one block! If you used our tutorial to make your quilt, please send us a pic. We’d love to post it on our blog!

  3. Thank you for this tutorial! I can’t wait to start making my quilt! I was wondering your thoughts on doing t-shirts on both the front and back of the quilt? If it would be too much or would work out? I just have a lot of shirts and would love to put them all together. Thanks!

  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I am finishing up the second quilt made from my dad’s old t-shirts. He passed away in 2011, so this has been a great way to use those t-shirts. The first quilt is on my 6-year-old’s bed and she loves her “Grandpa quilt.” My 4-year-old cannot wait until I’m done so she can have hers. And then I’ll have to scrounge up some more shirts to eventually make one for my youngest child.

  5. Thanks for this PDF I’m currently working on my first T-Shirt quilt for my girlfriends oldest daughter. Will post when done!!

  6. Very excited by your pdf – i have all different kinds of materials and want to include images from scarves – what is your thoughts please?

    • Deliah, I’ve never done scarves, so I won’t be much help with those thoughts, but as long as the scarves are sufficiently stabilized and able to withstand numerous washings, I don’t know why you couldn’t!

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  8. I’ve been looking for a beginner quilt project and your tutorial is perfect! My husband has lots of sentimental t-shirts. Wish me luck 🙂 and thank you for sharing

  9. I have had the tshirts set aside for years to make a quilt for my brother. The only problem was that I didn’t feel like I had enough information to do it right. I have just finished reading through your tutorial and will leave it up on my computer as I work. It has more than enough information for me to tackle my task. I’m NOT a newbie seamstress, but I learned a lot from your post. Thank You, thank you, thank you!

  10. I was delighted to find your tutorial. I saved some t-shirts a couple of years ago. After seeing this tutorial, I’m all revved up to make a quilt. Thanks for all your hard work!

  11. Pingback: Lil’s Quilt | Needle and Foot

  12. My husband is a retired Stagehand. He has several boxes of T Shirts given to him when he worked various shows. We had planned to ask a friend to make him a quilt but now I think I want to tackle it myself.

  13. My granddaughter who’s just off to college asked me to make her a T shirt quilt. Never having made a quilt of any kind, I went looking for help and luckily found this tutorial. I’m almost finished with what’s turned out to be a reversible quilt since she had so many shirts, and I was going crazy trying to combine colors and designs and then limiting it all to 15 squares!
    Just wanted you to know I could NOT have done it without your tutorial which I followed, practically to the letter (as in “to a T”–pardon the pun) ;D
    I’d be happy to send you photos once it’s complete. In the meantime, thank you very much for making this an enjoyable and successful venture!

  14. Just what I was looking for. Hoping to be able to start soon and get it done for our son for Christmas. Just the inspiration I needed THANKS!

  15. This is by far the most detailed and best illustrated tutortial I have found for t-shirt quilts. My son turns 30 soon and I have created a quilt top with what his Dad says looks like a “life quilt”. Thanks so much for giving me the confidence to complete this project.

  16. Thank you for the time on making this tutorial. I am new to the sewing machine svend in general. I’m more a crocheter but I wanted to really learn. I just have one question. When it comes to the vertical sashing, I’m confused why it’s only an inch longer and not a 1 1/4 inch for the extra on top. Wouldn’t that not then be added to the seam when you’re sewing them all together because it would be flush with how much horizontal sash would be showing between the shirts? In my head the picture you give for an example is different. Its perfectly flush with the top before it is sewn to another block which would mean it has that extra 1/4 inch making it 15 1/4″ and not just 15″. I just dont want to mess up. I’m hoping this makes sense.

    • Hi Brianne! What a great question. The math in quilting can be SO confusing, can’t it?? Let me see if I can explain it a little better. You’re on the right track, but you have to remember what is included in that seamline – the sashing and the t-shirt block. After sewing the sashing strip to the block, it is now 1-1/4” because we’ve sewn a ¼” seam line. But your t-shirt block is also reduced to 13¾” because of the ¼” sewn seam. I think this may be where your confusion lies.
      My block is 14”
      Sashing is 1½”
      Total length AFTER sewing sashing to block = 15 inches (13¾ t-shirt block +1¼ sashing). Remember, you’re taking away 1/4” from the sashing AND the block. So my horizontal sashing would need to be 15”.
      Just remember that when you sew a ¼” seam, you’re actually losing ½” from those two blocks you’re sewing together– ¼” from each of the two pieces you’re sewing together. I’ll be honest, that was SO hard for my head to wrap around when I first started quilting, LOL! Now, go make yourself another martini and make that quilt!
      PS: I admire that you read the entire tutorial before making the quilt. It’s a GREAT habit to establish – you’ll do well with quilting because of that one habit alone. Understanding before beginning is SO important, especially when you move on to more difficult patterns!!

  17. Cindi,
    Loved your tutorial for the t-shirt quilt. Have just finished the top for my Grandson’s graduation. Now I’m stuck….and spoiled to your clear instructions.
    Have looked at other website for “finishing”, but they leave me confused. Please advise. Also, should I attempt the actual quilting on my machine (no long arm) or have an experienced and equipped quilter do it for a fee? Thanks!

    • So glad you liked the tutorial, Myra! My advise would be that if you’re comfortable doing your own quilting, then do it yourself. Otherwise, I’d say have someone do it for you. After all your work putting this together, it will be worth the money. As far as binding instructions, if the links I provided confuse you, then Google “binding a quilt” and look at the videos they list. Missouri Quilt Company always does very good video tutorials, and they’ve got one on binding a quilt. Congratulations on making your quilt! Send us a pic when it’s finished!

  18. Cindi, thank you for a truly great guide. I’ve finished a beautiful and meaningful 4-square x 6-square quilt (15″ squares) for my son. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever made. The only mod I made, which worked very well, was to sew the vertical columns together once the horizontal sashes were in place and then sew single, pre-marked vertical sashes between the columns. This saved a lot of cutting and piecing, though I understand the downside of working with a large item. I’d like to send a picture, but so far have not been able to understand where to send it … any help would be appreciated … I’ll keep looking. Thanks again!

    • That’s wonderful that you’ve finished your quilt! Yes, your modification is a good one! For many beginners, getting the blocks to line up with that long horizontal sash can be frustrating. So for true beginners I thought it would be easier for them the other way. In fact, it’s the way I do almost all my quilts if they’ve got sashing. It takes a little longer, but I have little patience with lining things up, LOL! I’ve emailed you so you can send us a picture. Can’t wait to see it!!

  19. First off! Thank you, thank you, thank you for making this for me. I finally read the blog about it, and not just the download, and took the liberty of assuming that I am the cousin so far away.

    I am off for two weeks starting tomorrow and think I will begin this project. Having said that, I keep seeing the comments that your lovely followers are going to send pics, but can’t find any on your blog.

    I would love to see a noobie quilt, as yours is, of course, perfect and I would like to see what mine could be!


  20. Hi, I just found your site and have downloaded the pdf for the t-shirt quilt. May I ask what kind of interfacing you are using because I have never seen any that says to adhere like you did. Thank you for your great advise.

    • Hi Theresa! As stated in the tutorial, I use Pellon 906F. It’s an extremely sheer fusible, and won’t add weight or stiffness to the t-shirt blocks. It’s my go-to interfacing – it works great!

  21. Thank you so very much for posting this. I have so many of my late husband’s running tee shirts and can’t wait to get started on this now. You’re so generous with your knowledge. I so appreciate it.

  22. Just wanted to say, “Thanks!” for the T-Shirt tutorial. This was my 1st and your instructions were a HUGE help. Thanks for taking the time to do this. I made my quilt for my daughter’s birthday (she’s 40 +/-) and most of the T-shirts were from her teens. It was a big hit.

  23. I just finished my quilt, from your tutorial, I am getting it quilted soon, how do I send you a picture of the finished quilt? And also, do you think fleece is ok to use for backing??

  24. I hope to start my quilt soon. My question is – I have t-shirts from when my children were growing up. I know some of them are much smaller than others. Should I put the smaller ones on a second piece of material to make the squares all the same size? What material would you suggest?
    Now I just have to dig into my closets to get out all the t-shirts I have saved!

    • Hi Janet! You could back those smaller shirts with the fusible interfacing, then sew the shirts together to create a block. You really don’t need to sew them onto another piece of fabric. Sewing them together will work just as well, and is probably easier…

  25. Question: I have my t-shirt quilt top all pieced together. My t-shirts are stiff. Could I wash my quilt top before quilting to soften the t-shirts or will the interfacing come off. I want to hand quilt that’s why I need them softer. Thanks

    • While a small portion of it will be the adhesive from the interfacing, it can also be from the thickness of the tees, too. I don’t suggest washing the quilt top before quilting it, unless you’re prepared to block it. It’s never a good idea to wash just a quilt top before it’s quilted and bound, as it can stretch out of shape too easily. While it may feel a bit stiff now, once it’s quilted and washed it should soften up.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial. It was so nice to have a step by step guide with pictures to refer back to. This was my first quilt and I am still amazed how nice it turned out! Thank you again!

    • Glad you like it, Susan! If you scroll down the blog post, you’ll see a paragraph that says “click on the picture for the PDF tutorial. Just click on the pic, and there it is!

  27. In your instructions from “How to make a T-shirt Quilt”, you state to save any pieces of the original shirts in case you need it. I just finished a T-shirt quilt for my granddaughter. I decided to take the remainder of the material left over from the shirts and make a simple block quilt to donate to the children’s charity, Project Linus, who gives handmade blankets and quilts to children and teens in hospitals across the nation. The quilt will be donated in my granddaughters name. I will present her with her quilt and a photo of the donated quilt upon her graduation next month.

  28. First time ever – I’ve got the shivers! This is a really important quilt for cancer survivors. I wasn’t planning on sashing – just joining the shirts together. Do I need batting between the front and back? Excited to start but afraid to pick up those dang scissors!

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