Sewing tutorial

T-shirt Quilt Tutorial

Do you have a lot of old t-shirts that you no longer wear? Not sure what to do with your family’s old t-shirts? One option is turning them into t-shirt quilts. This is a t-shirt quilt tutorial.

This Sewn By Tanya project is for personal use only.


Quilts come in a variety of sizes and creating a t-shirt quilt is a good way to salvage t-shirt fabric that might otherwise go to the landfill. Depending upon the size, number and condition of the t-shirts you have at your disposal, you may be able to cover the top and bottom of your quilt with t-shirt material. If you don’t have enough t-shirts you will need another fabric (such as quilting weight cotton) for the quilt backing. Some type of batting to give your quilt loft is also recommended. If you have an old quilt of a similar size to the area of the your t-shirts, you may be able to re-purpose its batting, top or bottom for your new t-shirt quilt.

  • old t-shirts
  • fusible interfacing
  • quilt batting & quilt backing OR a donor quilt for batting and backing
  • cardboard (optional)
  • washable fabric marking pens/pencils/chalks
  • scissors or rotary cutter
  • ruler
  • iron & ironing board
  • sewing machine

Seam allowance: 1/4” (~0.6 cm) to 1/2” (~1.2 mm)

Step 1 Gather T-shirts

Gather your clean t-shirts and sort them. I had several crop-top t-shirts (unisex medium), and both short and long sleeved regular t-shirts (women’s small). You can use any knitted t-shirt for this project. Examine both sides of your t-shirts and check for damage. A t-shirt that is too thin, overly worn, full of holes, or stained should be used for other projects.

Old t-shirts

Lay out your t-shirts on a bed or clean floor to plan your overall quilt design and estimate the finished sized of the your t-shirt quilt. Quilts are usually square or rectangular so designs such as 3 panels by 3 panels, 3 by 4, 4 by 3, 5 by 5, 4 by 5, 5 by 4 etc work best.

Seam allowances will be needed so your finished quilt will be smaller than your layout. suggests the following quilt sizes and t-shirt numbers:

Your mileage may vary according to the sizes and shapes of your t-shirts. The larger your t-shirts the fewer you’ll need to cover the same area. Crop-tops and tank tops have less fabric than standard t-shirt shapes. I would avoid using children’s t-shirts unless you are making a small quilt and have a larger number of t-shirts to work with.

Step 2 Disassemble T-shirts

This was the most time consuming step of sewing my t-shirt quilt. In order to maximize the amount of t-shirt fabric that is salvageable, use seam rippers to separate your t-shirts along their seams. If you’re less patient, you can also cut you t-shirts along their seams. Feel free to save the sleeves for other projects. I’ve used some of my white t-shirt offcuts for the gussets of panties.

Take t-shirts apart at the seams
Step 3 Interface T-shirts

T-shirts are made from knitted fabric and as a result are stretchy. This stretchiness makes it more difficult to cut t-shirt fabric accurately. Quilts are usually made from woven fabrics which don’t stretch. Fusible interfacing is used to stabilize the t-shirt fabric and help it act like a woven material. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for applying the interfacing to the wrong sides of your t-shirts.

I attempted to fuse several shirts onto a roll of interfacing and found this extremely difficult to work with at the ironing board. If you have large pieces of interfacing, cut it into pieces roughly the size of your shirts. Smaller pieces of interfacing can also be used by overlapping the edges of them  by ~1/4”.

Interface t-shirts

Make sure to press with your iron instead of “ironing” to avoid distorting your t-shirts. Do not press a hot iron directly on any fabric paint or prints that may be on your shirts. The prints will come off on your iron and may transfer to other parts of your shirt and/or other clothes. Use a pressing cloth or iron from the back to avoid this.

T-shirt print transferred to iron
Step 4 Cut Quilt Panels

Measure the printed designs of each t-shirt to determine which design is the largest. To avoid losing any of the designs in the seam allowance, add 2” to these measurements. Create a cardboard template with those measurements and mark the centre of each side.

My largest print was 13” wide by 11” tall so I created a cardboard template 15” wide by 13” tall.

My cardboard template

If your shirts are larger, you may be able to use a 15” square or 16” square as recommended by

Find the centre of each t-shirt’s design and draw temporary lines in a “+” shape from the centre mark. Trace your cardboard template on each t-shirt with washable sewing pencils, washable fabric chalks or washable markers. Align the centre marks on each side of the template with the centre lines of each design to centre the template.

Trace template onto t-shirts

Alternatively, if your t-shirts are not printed, align your cardboard template parallel to the grainlines.

Cut out your t-shirt panels using either a rotary cutter or a pair of sewing shears.

T-shirt panels
Step 5 Sew Quilt Panels Together

Lay out your quilt panels as you would like your finished quilt to look. This is a good sanity check to make sure you have enough panels.

Layout your t-shirt panels

Pin your panels right-sides together in rows or columns. If your panels are rectangular, pin the longest edges together first. If your panels are square, either pin the rows together or the columns together.

Sew with a 1/4” to 1/2” seam allowance. I had planned to use a 1/4” seam allowance, but some of my panels didn’t have square corners. If you encounter the same issue, increase your seam allowances to avoid gaps in your quilt.

Sew t-shirts into columns

Press the seam allowances open then pin your strips together. Sew with the same seam allowance as before. Press the new seam allowances open.

Sew columns into a rectangle
Step 6 Prepare Backing

If you have enough t-shirts to do so, repeat step 5 to create a back panel for your quilt. Make sure you use the same template and seam allowances as you did in step 5.

If you’re using a separate batting and quilt backing, pin the batting to the wrong side of the quilt backing. Alternatively, you may use a basting spray to stick them together or baste them together along their perimeter. If you’re using a donor quilt, make sure it’s clean.

Lay your top panel on the backing with the right sides together. Pin the backing and top panel together then cut the backing to size. If you’re using an old quilt as the donor backing, make sure you’re not including any worn sections in the new quilt.

Quilt top RST on a donor quilt used for backing

I was having trouble keeping all the layers of my new t-shirt quilt together so I decided to trim the excess batting after sewing. Another option is to use safety pins to secure the layers of your quilt together closer to the centre.

Step 7 Quilt Layers Together

Sew the perimeter of your t-shit quilt with a 1/2” seam allowance. I used a roller foot which made dealing with bulky batting easier.

Sew perimeter of quilt

Make sure to leave a turning gap of ~4” (or the width of your hand) so that you can turn your quilt right side out. Trim the excess backing if you haven’t already done so and clip the corners.

Turn your quilt inside out and push out the corners.

Stop 8 Top-stitch

Top-stitch the perimeter of your t-shirt quilt with a 1/4” seam allowance, making sure to close the turning gap.

Top-stitch with a 1/4″ seam allowance

Sew along the seams that attach each panel together to prevent your quilt layers from shifting. Either stitch directly along the previous seams or stitch 1/4” away from the previous seams.

Sew through all layers to prevent shifting

Here are some photos of my finished t-shirt quilt.

Top of finished t-shirt quilt
Bottom of finished t-shirt quilt

My goal was to make a t-shirt lap quilt (36” x 45” or 45” x 45”). When I laid out my t-shirts, I knew they were a little too small and too few in number to reach that goal. My finished quilt is 40.6” wide by 35” tall and it’s a great size for my 5’3” frame.


A t-shirt quilt is a great way to upcycle old t-shirts (and maybe an old quilt). I was surprised by how warm mine is and have heard the same from others who have made their own t-shirt quilts. T-shirt quilts make great gifts. Showcase t-shirts that you’re attached to and no longer wear by sewing a t-shirt quilt.

Have you made a t-shirt quilt? Did you enjoy this t-shirt quilt tutorial? Subscribe so you don’t miss a post. Comment below and/or Pin Me for later.


Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tutorial: How To Sew A T-shirt Quilt
Sewn By Tanya Sewing Tutorial: How To Sew A T-shirt Quilt

Help support Sewn By Tanya

If you love what I do, have learned from reading my blog, and/or want to support my work financially, consider becoming a Sewn By Tanya patron. Your monthly donation of $1 or more will help Sewn By Tanya grow and expand. A minimum $6 per month gives you access to Sewn By Tanya Patreon only content. There’s so much I’d love to do and you can help make it happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.