T-shirt quilt patterns for beginners: how to stabilize a T-shirt for sewing (tutorial)

There’s a reason why T-shirt quilts are an all-time favorite—they’re simple, they’re personal, and they’re filled with memories. T-shirt quilts are a wonderful way to say congratulations, thanks, and I love you to graduates, sports fanatics, music lovers, and more.


One question most quilters have—since we work primarily with woven fabric—is how to cut and sew knit fabric to quilting cottons. That’s because knit fabric (which tees are made from) stretches! The book Terrific T-Shirt Quilts breaks down the steps. Once you know the steps, you and your machine will be whirring out T-shirt quilts for everyone in your family. And they’ll love you for it!

Too Precious to Pitch T-shirt quilt designed by Krista Moser

Today we’re sharing a few tips from Terrific T-Shirt Quilts about how to get your T-shirts quilt-top ready. If you’ve ever used interfacing, you’re already one step ahead!


From Terrific T-Shirt Quilts

To prepare T-shirts for use in a quilt, you can either plan the quilt and cut out and interface only what you need, or “harvest” fabric from all your T-shirts first and see how much fabric you have to work with before choosing a quilt pattern.

Approach 1: Apply Interfacing to Select Areas

First, plan which T-shirts you’ll use for specific blocks. Then, cut interfacing pieces a few inches larger than needed for each T-shirt piece. This allows for shrinkage or shifting while fusing; once the T-shirt piece is interfaced, you’ll cut it to the exact size. Just before cutting each T-shirt, turn it inside out and place the interfacing behind the logo area so that it ends up where you want it on the finished block.

Go Zags! T-shirt quilt designed by Janet Nesbitt

Approach 2: Apply Interfacing to All Useable Areas

Interface all usable areas with a piece of interfacing that’s a little smaller than the T-shirt area. Later, cut into the needed pieces for the quilt design you’re making.

1. Cut the T-shirt up the sides and across the top to separate the front and back; remove the sleeves.

Using scissors or a rotary cutter, cut up the side of a T-shirt, close to the sleeve seam (so you can save the sleeve fabric, especially if it has a logo). Then cut across the shoulders and neckline, and down the other side.

2. Place the T-shirt front or back wrong side up on your work surface, and then place interfacing, fusible side down, over the desired area. (The fusible side is usually the bumpy side; when heated, the bumps become “glue” that holds the interfacing to the T-shirt.) Following the manufacturer’s instructions, fuse in place and let cool. If you want to use the sleeves, cut off the underarm seam, open up the sleeve, and interface. Be sure to put the stretch of the interfacing perpendicular to the greatest stretch of the T-shirt (usually the greatest stretch of the T-shirt will be around the body).

Cut the interfacing a couple inches bigger in either direction than the piece you plan to cut from the T-shirt. Fuse the interfacing in place, and then trim to the necessary size.

Tween Dreams T-shirt quilt designed by Sheila Markewicz

Terrific T-Shirt QuiltsAre you ready to make a quilt full of memories? The patterns and how-to in Terrific T-Shirt Quilts walk you through all the basics. Create layouts that easily incorporate different-sized images; feature baby clothes and other tiny motifs; create with specialty fabrics like mesh and sweatshirts; and even include embellishments on T-shirts. If you’ve got a stack of tees, Terrific T-Shirt Quilts will help you turn them into a family treasure.

Have you ever made a T-shirt quilt? What was the theme? Tell us in the comments!

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