T-Shirt Quilt Part One: Preparing Your T-shirt Blocks

Hi and welcome to part one of our T-shirt Quilt Sew Along!

Before we get started, I want to take a moment to go over our quilt’s dimensions.

#1 If you use the recommended 12 blocks that each start out as 15″x15″ squares, and if you use the recommended width of sashing to frame out each of your 12 blocks, (sashing details provided in Part Two of our sew-along)  the finished quilt will be about 54″ wide by 70″ tall.

#2 You are welcome to make your 12 quilt blocks whatever size you prefer, just keep in mind it does affect the finished size of your quilt.

Preparing Your T-shirt Blocks

The first thing you need to do is take a minute to read through this entire post before you cut anything!

For part one of our sew along, you will be cutting out your 12 t-shirt blocks by following the steps below.

  1. The first thing you will do is mark and cut out your 12 squares of light weight fusible stabilizer.  I like to make a 15″x15″ template out of poster board and use this to draw the squares onto my stabilizer.  I know it’s a time eater to do it this way, but it’s the best way I’ve found to not run short on my stabilizer…

    Might be a little difficult to see, but I used red marker to draw 12 squares onto my stabilizer and then I used my rotary cutter to cut them all out.

    2.  After your stabilizer is all cut out, the next thing to do is to cut open the side seams of each t-shirt and separate the shirt fronts from the shirt backs.


3.  Once all your shirts are split, press them to remove any wrinkles.  Note:  If your shirt has graphics, do not lay your iron directly onto the graphics.  (They might melt!)  To prevent melted graphics, use a pressing cloth when ironing.

4.  After your shirts are pressed, take one shirt and lay it wrong side up.  Lay one square of the fusible stabilizer on top of your shirt with the glue side of the stabilizer touching the wrong side of your shirt.  Position the stabilizer so that it is over the area that has the graphics on your shirt and use a pressing cloth to fuse the stabilizer in place.  Repeat for all 12 t-shirts.

5.  Once all your shirts have a 15″x15″ square of stabilizer fused to them, you can use the stabilizer square as a guide to cut out each t-shirt block.  (I like to use my rotary cutter, mat, and ruler for this step.)

See pictures and frequently asked questions below:

Let the cutting begin!

Chop! Chop!


“Why do I have to fuse stabilizer to my t-shirts?”

I have found that if you take the time to  fuse a light weight stabilizer to each of your t-shirts before you cut them into quilt blocks, the blocks stay squared and do not become stretched out of shaped when assembling your t-shirt quilt.

“What if my shirt graphics are really close to the shirt neckline and won’t be centered on my t-shirt block?”

It’s really up to you.  One option is to leave it as is and just have a non-centered graphic on that particular block.  The other option is to do the following:

  • Fuse stabilizer to the area behind the shirt’s graphic design.
  • Carefully cut out the area that has the graphic design.
  • Create a blank quilt  block by cutting a 15″ x 15″ square out of a stabilized, blank, t-shirt or out of a piece of plain cotton fabric.
  • Use your sewing machine to center and applique the graphic design to your blank quilt block.

“I want to sew an applique to one of my t-shirt quilt blocks, but I don’t know how.”

Take a look at these step by step instructions and then experiment on some scrap fabric before you try it on your quilt.

1.  Once you have cut out your section of shirt graphic that you want to use as an applique, you should fuse Sewable Heat n’ Bond to the back of it.

2.  Once you fuse this to the back of your applique, let it cool and then you can peel away the paper backing.  Now your applique is a fusible patch!

3.  Next cut out your 15″x15″ blank quilt block and then lay your applique in the desired position on your blank quilt block.  Use a pressing cloth and fuse the applique in place.

4.  Set your sewing machine for a zig zag stitch or a decorative stitch and sew around the edge of the patch to permanently attach it to your block.  I used a satin stitch on mine.  Here are some recommended settings and also tips to try:

  • select the zig zag stitch
  • set the stitch width to 5mm
  • set the stitch length to .40mm
  • you may need to lower the thread tension a little to prevent the bobbin threads from showing on top of your fabric
  • if possible, attach an open toed presser foot to your machine

An open toed foot allows you see your stitches as you sew an applique so you can keep an eye on what you are doing.

  • When you first begin sewing, make sure the right hand swing of the needle is just to the right of the edge of your patch.  Begin sewing at the bottom left corner of your patch.

Just a picture to show that I began at the bottom left corner of my patch.

  • Sew to the first corner and stop stitching when you get to the outer edge.  Make sure your needle is down and on the right hand swing of the zig zag.  Raise the presser foot and pivot the fabric so that you can sew along the next edge of your patch.  Lower your presser foot and continue stitching.

  • Repeat the applique pivoting method for each corner of your patch.
  • When you get back to the beginning of your stitches, be careful to guide the fabric so that your stitches will be able to overlap and re-trace your beginning stitches for about 1/2 an inch.

I'm coming back to the beginning and I've got things lined up pretty well to re-trace my previous stitches. Yay!

  • I made sure my stitches overlapped in the bottom left corner of my patch and everything looks A-ok!

Nice Job!

Here is the 1st finished block of my T-shirt quilt!  Yay!

Now, I’ll take some time to do this for the other 11 blocks of my quilt…..

Oh, and another option is to do a machine embroidery design on your blank t-shirt blocks.

  • Fuse stabilizer to the wrong side of your blank block
  • Mark center front on block
  • Hoop the block
  • Stitch your preferred design in the center of your blank block

Well, that’s all for part one.  I hope you found this post helpful!

Take some time to get your 12 blocks all ready and stay tuned for Part Two:  Quilt Lay Out Tips and Preparing our Sashing Strips….

Let’s get sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego:  StitchinJenny

This entry was posted in Project Tutorials and tagged , , , on by .

About Jennifer Sosa

Jennifer Sosa is a mother of 2 wonderful, creative daughters and grandmother of 1 adorable little boy. During the day, she is an Independent Sewing/Serging and Machine Embroidery Educator teaching Private and Group Classes. In the evenings, she is planning to take over the internet with her amazing online sewing/embroidery tutorials, videos, and blog posts. She's also a bit of a dreamer... P.S. Thank you for checking out my site!

5 thoughts on “T-Shirt Quilt Part One: Preparing Your T-shirt Blocks

  1. Rose

    How did you know that my daughter in law just asked me to make her one of these from her favorite T-shirts ! Thank you so much for this tutorial.

  2. Pingback: T-Shirt Quilt Part Two: Quilt Layout Tips & Preparing Your Sashing « Sew Vac Outlet (Humble Sewing Center) Blog

  3. Kathleen

    Thank you for these directions! You’ve done a great job describing what needs to be done. I’ve made a t-shirt quilt from adult-sized t-shirts and was able to create a good sized square without having to utilize the applique technique. I found it easier for me to fuse a piece of interfacing to the back of the t-shirt fabric larger than what the finished size would be. That way, I could trim it once I figured out exactly how I wanted the design on the finished square.

    A friend of mine made a t-shirt quilt out of black concert t-shirts with red sashing and binding and it was very striking.

  4. Pingback: T-Shirt Quilt Part Two « StitchinJenny's Blog

  5. Jacque (jackie)

    Hello! I’m doing a T-shirt quilt but I have a slight delimma. Some of my shirts are not 12 inches square. I put them with stabilizer on which you see. Do I trim excess off , which is the neck and arm pits? ) ( arm pits
    ____. Bottom of 12 in square
    The shirt itself is prob2 to 3 inches smaller than the 12 in stabilizer. I’ve pinned the batting and backing on ready to free motion quilt them.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s