Over the years I’ve acquired a huge pile of t-shirts from all of the events I’ve competed in. Some shirts are nicer than others. Regardless I’m not going to be able to wear over 20+ t-shirts and I hate throwing away a perfectly good shirt. Solution? Turn the shirts into a blanket! There were plenty of t-shirt quilt examples available on Pinterest, but I didn’t really care for any of them. Then my mom made herself a t-shirt quilt using all of her SummerFest shirts (“it’s the largest music festival in the WORLD” -mom) and it was adorable! She coached me through the process and now as I write this post I’m curled up on the couch wrapped up in my very cozy and warm t-shirt quilt.
A quick inventory of all the materials I used when making this quilt.
- 20+ t-shirts
- Heat n’ Bond Ultrahold (rolls)
- Ironing board
- Quality sewing scissors
- Sewing machine
- Sewing needle for medium-weight fabric
- Various colors of thread
- Bobbins (I used about 10 bobbins with all the different colored thread I used)
- Embroidery hoop
- Embroidery floss (I purchased the package that came with 12-15 different colors)
- Embroidery needle
- Quilting fabric (I used 108″ extra wide fabric and purchased 5 yards)
- Clear acrylic quilting ruler
- Large cutting mat
- Rotary cutter
- Quilting pins (extra long and strong)
- Pin cushion
Here is step-by-step instructions:
1) Gather all of the shirts you plan to use. Naturally, the larger the blanket you plan to make the more t-shirts you will need. I used well over 20 shirts. The beauty of making your quilt this way is that you can pick and choose different sections of the t-shirt that you want to use. For example, I took an old 5K shirt and only used the pair of tennis shoes from the logo, or another where I took just the bike chain graphic.
2) Purchase at least one roll of Heat n’ Bond Ultrahold (I ended up needing two rolls). You can get this at most fabric stores, but it’s cheapest at Wal-Mart. Measure out the Heat n’ Bond over the logo of the t-shirt that you plan to put on your quilt and cut out. Place the adhesive-side (shiny side) onto the backside of shirt (following the Heat n’ Bond directions) and iron on. When the Heat n’ Bond is secured onto the t-shirt, you can cut out the logo. Make sure that you are always ironing onto the backside of the t-shirt. I got distracted a couple times and ironed directly onto the logo and had to attempt to remove the adhesive. It was a mess to remove.
3) I purchased an 108″ extra wide fabric from Fabric.com. I ordered 5 yards (2-1/2 yards for each side). Make sure to wash your fabric before you begin using it, then fold it in half (unless you are using two different fabrics for the front and back). Line up (even out) the front and back and cut so that they are two separate pieces. Trim the edges so that they are straight and the front and back fabric piece’s edges line up. Use a clear acrylic quilting ruler to help guide you in keeping a straight line. You can use a rotary cutter and cutting mat if that is easier than using scissors.
4) Once you have all the sections of your t-shirt cut out, you can organize them out onto your fabric. When you are happy with the organization of your t-shirt pieces, take a photo as you will need to remember later. Pin the center piece of fabric and put away all the rest.
5) Take your layer of fabric with the pinned t-shirt piece and lay it over your ironing board. You will remove the paper from the backside of the Heat n’ Bond and iron the adhesive to the blanket fabric.
6) Secure the logo fully by sewing a straight stitch along the outside of the t-shirt and through the center as needed so that it doesn’t pucker out later. You will repeat steps 5 and 6 for all of you t-shirt pieces. Refer back to the photo you took to guide you where all the pieces go.
Note: Once I got a few t-shirt pieces onto the blanket fabric, I was able to iron just pieces that were of similar fabric color to avoid changing thread colors numerous times.
7) After all the fabric pieces are secured, this is where I purchased embroidery thread, a large embroidery needle and a wooden embroidery hoop (from nearby fabric store) to hand-embroider various words, phrases and images between t-shirt logos. At first I didn’t have plans to do this, but I found it really added to the blanket and personalized it further. I had to get creative. I put my Ironman bib number, finishing time and other various triathlon phrases and images.
8) Now the tedious work really begins. Lay out both the front side and back side of the blanket fabrics together as if the blanket is inside out. Line up all four sides together. Pin together and sew the edges together leaving about a 3-1/2 foot section not sewn together.
9) Next step is to hand-sew the batting onto the fabric so that it is secure for when you flip the blanket back to the right side out. Lay out your batting and trim so that it is about 1/4 – 1/2 inch to the inside of the stitch you just finished putting around the outside. Slide a cutting mat between the layers and line it up where you will be hand stitching the batting to the fabric. This will prevent you from sewing through both layers of fabric. It will get tricky moving that mat around between those fabric layers. Use a bright colored thread (I used yellow) as you will eventually be removing it. Apply a simple basting stitch to secure the batting all around the outer edge and in a few spots within the center of the blanket.
10) Now that the batting is secure, pull the blanket back right side out. Smooth out the corners and edges. Using embroidery floss (I used black to blend in my black blanket fabric) you’ll being the hand-tying process. Insert needle through the top of all three layers, and return back up through about 1/4″ away from the initial spot. Leave a 2″ tail of embroidery floss. Cut thread and tie both ends into a double knot. Trim excessive tail, leaving about 1″. Repeat this tying process throughout the blanket to secure all three layers together.
11) Use a whipping stitch to hand sew up the remaining 3-1/2 foot opening of the blankets edge.
12) Last step! Remove the bright thread that you used to sew the batting on. Voila! You’ve got yourself a fantastic t-shirt quilt!