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How to Create a T-Shirt Memory Quilt

Updated: Jan 15

Hey, Everyone! Today, I'm here to share the supplies and the steps that I took to create a memory quilt made with t-shirts.


Find the video tutorial here:


A little backstory here...a potential customer reached out to me after her father passed away and wanted to create quilts out of all of his shirts. She sent me home with two big totes full of various shirts with the hopes of creating a quilt for her mom, daughter, sister, and herself. Her mother chose this pattern for herself. I was so excited to get started and grateful for the opportunity to create such a special keepsake for their family.

A quick note: This is not my pattern. I purchased it on Etsy and am sharing how I used it to create this quilt. I don't give specific details about cutting measurements so you'll have to purchase the pattern to learn more!


Supplies:

P.S.: If you click and purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I’ve personally vetted and loved. Southern Sewing Co. is reader-supported. Affiliate links help me to offer this content to you for free :)

Per the Pattern, you will also need background/border fabric as well as backing, binding and batting.


Directions:



Getting Set-Up and Cutting Shirts:

After downloading the pattern from Etsy, the first step, and possibly the most important, is to choose the shirts you want to use in your quilt!

When using shirts instead of quilting fabric in quilts, you should be mindful of the material and thickness of the shirts you're considering.

Really slinky/polyester materials, thick cotton, heavy flannels, or very delicate material will be difficult to work with. Especially once you get to the quilting part. Not saying they can't be used, but they may be more difficult!


I decided to pick about 12 shirts and planned to use 2 blocks and multiple hearts from each shirt. Using each shirt more than once in the quilt keeps things more cohesive and balanced with the colors.


Next, cut out the blocks that you'll need for your quilt.

Some tips on cutting:

  1. When using patterns such as plaids/stripes, you can align the edge and the lines on your ruler with the lines/plaids on the shirt. This helps to keep the block straight. If you cut out the block crooked, it's going to look crooked on your quilt.

  2. Take your time cutting the shirts. This isn't quilting cotton where you can run through a row and instantly have 5 blocks. You're cutting each block individually from each shirt.

  3. Consider keeping pocket logos, buttons, etc. in your block. I decided to keep buttons on a shirt in my quilt and it made it so much more special. Just make sure your buttons won't fall into your seam allowance!


Hearts:

Now that you have your blocks cut out, it's time to work on the hearts! Download the heart template from your pattern and print/tape it together. Refer to the instructions to determine how many large, medium, and small hearts you need to cut out. Trace that number of hearts onto the HeatnBond and roughly cut out the hearts, leaving about 1/4" around each. This doesn't have to be exact, just eyeball it.


Next, fuse the HeatnBond hearts to the BACK of the same shirts that you used to cut the blocks out of. It's up to you how many of each heart come from each shirt. I think I did about 5 hearts from each. After finishing this step, carefully cut out each heart.


Next, take your blank centerpiece, fold it in half twice, and then iron it to make reference creases so that you can center your heart pattern. For the next step, I moved to the floor, where I laid out towels and then the heart pattern template. It was easier to have more room!


Your heart template has pretty bold colors on it. If you're working with a light-colored background fabric, you should be able to see the heart template through your background fabric. Lay your blank centerpiece fabric over the top of your heart pattern template. Then, move your fabric around so that the hearts template will be in the center of your fabric. Take your time to center the heart in the middle.


When you're happy with where the hearts will go, take the paper back off of the HeatnBond hearts you cut out of the t-shirts and arrange them however you'd like, matching them to the template placement. Carefully fuse the hearts onto the background fabric. Go slow with this part to make sure the hearts don't shift around while ironing. Next, we're off to sew!


Using whatever stitch you'd like, stitch the hearts into place. I used a regular straight stitch for a raw edge applique, but you may prefer to use a zig-zag stitch. Once this is done, it's time to sew your shirt blocks together in rows.



Sewing your Shirt Blocks into the Quilt:

For this step, I laid out my shirt blocks on the floor to make sure I liked the arrangement before sewing. Next, I sewed together the right and left sides, then the top and bottom.

Some tips on sewing together t-shirt blocks:

  1. Clip the blocks together before sewing. I don't bother doing this with quilting cotton but definitely do with t-shirts. Many of the different shirts can be stretchy and don't line up properly within clips. I usually pin the two corners together first, then fill in one or two clips in between.

  2. Be mindful of directional blocks. If you've fussy cut something (such as the G in one of my shirts) make sure it's facing the right way when you start to sew.

  3. For blocks with patterns, set up the blocks with your 1/4" seam allowance and then find a line to sew down. For plaids and stripes, the lines give you a nice guide to follow along as you sew. Then, when you open your blocks up, the pattern can be seen as straight instead of crooked. This is definitely the time you figure out that you cut your blocks crooked!

The next step is to clip your block strips together to the center heart piece and sew. You can plan to sew the top and bottom rows first, then the sides on. I found it easiest to nest the corner seams first, then go back and clip down the sides. Take your time here! You definitely want everything to look nice and straight.


Last but not least, it's time to sew on your border pieces and your quilt top is complete!



Finishing the Quilt:

I reached out to my customer at this point to figure out what fabric she may like for the backing. After going back and forth with a few options, she choose a beach-themed fabric as she and her husband had plans to retire at the beach. *Insert heartbreak*.



With most of my t-shirt quilts, I quilt in an all-over meandering line. Not only is this super simple but it keeps the main emphasis of the quilt on the t-shirts and not on any dense quilting.



Binding:

**ALERT: Math is about to be used**

To add to the awesomeness of this quilt, I was able to bind it in one of his t-shirts!

To do this, add up the measurements of all four sides of the quilt. Add about 15" to this to account for mitered corners and the seam allowance to sew binding strips together. This number is the amount of inches of binding that you will need. Next, measure the shirt to figure out if there was enough of it to use. I took the width of the whole back and divided it by 2.25, which is the width of binding strips I use. This number is how many strips I could cut from the back of his shirt. Next, I measured the legnth of the back of his shirt. I multiplied this number by the number of strips I would be able to cut. This number represents the amount of inches in strips you can get from the shirt. As long as this number is bigger than the number of inches in binding you need on your quilt, you should be good to go! Remember, you can also pull a few strips from the front of the shirt.



Thank you so much for following along with the making of this quilt! I hope it helps you to create a memory quilt of your own! Feel free to send any questions or comments my way. Stay tuned for more!

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4 Comments


Kim Balmores
Kim Balmores
Dec 25, 2023

This really was a beautiful quilt. I actually reached out to the Etsy designer and asked if she would consider designing a star design for a masculine design for boys. I’m having to do about 8 like this and half are girls and half are boys. I hope she does. If not I’ll try to wing it!! What was the final size of your blanket? Thanks for doing the demo!! Really helpful!

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Ashley
Ashley
Dec 28, 2023
Replying to

Hey!! I really think this is something you could do yourself if you don’t hear back from the seller. Once you download the pattern- create 3 different sized stars roughly the same size as the hearts and keep the same diagram. This will be sk cool! I can’t remember the exact dimensions here- but I know they were the same as the quilt pattern! Let me know how your quilts turn out!

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Thank you so much for sharing this memory quilt on your site. It is lovely. Your tips were very helpful.

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Ashley
Ashley
Oct 06, 2023
Replying to

I’m so glad you thought so!! Thank you for reading ❤️

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