How To: T-Shirt Quilt (Fabric & Sashing)


Figuring out how much fabric to buy can be tough and take a bit of time depending on your pattern.  Do you want sashing between the t-shirts?  How wide?  That is mainly up to you and personal taste.  I decided to incorporate my alma mater colors (black and gold) into the sashing to tie all the shirts together.  Since my finished t-shirt block was 12 inches square, I decided to make my sashing a finished width of 4 x 12 inches.  So I needed vertical and horizontal 5 x 13 in sashing blocks (pictured in black) to allow for a 1/2 in seam allowance.  Where the sashing met would be 4 x 4 in finished block (pictured in gold).  These blocks would be cut 5 inches square.

How Many?

All sashing should be cut along the same grain of the fabric.  Figure out how many vertical and horizontal blocks you will need.    For my quilt, I needed 25 vertical blocks and 24 horizontal blocks.

Why does Grain of Fabric Matter?

Fabric is woven, so it will have more stretch/give one way then the other.  Also, sometimes the fabric will reflect light a different way based on the grain.  To learn more, here is a great article from

Calculating Yardage

Calculate the vertical and horizontal sashing yardage separately, then add together.  For example, the vertical blocks.  Most fabric by the yard is 45 inches wide.  Divide the total width of the fabric by the cut width (5 inches) of your sashing.  In this case it ends up being 9 blocks exactly.  If this is the case, be conservative and allow for shrinkage or miscut fabric.  So I will assume I can cut out a row of 8 blocks, so with the total number of blocks needed – 25 – I need 4 rows.  Now the length.  Take the cut length of the sashing (13 inches) and multiply by number of rows (4).  52 inches of fabric.  Wait till you calculate the horizontal amount before calculating total sashing yardage.  My horizontal blocks will need 40 inches of fabric, 92 inches of fabric equals 2.55 yards, so allow for a bit of extra…2 3/4 yards.

The square blocks will need much less fabric…30 total.  So, 8 blocks across and 4 rows.  Exact length of 20 inches, .55 yards.  So we’ll again allow for extra and get 3/4 of a yard.

Why get Extra Fabric?

As long as your math is right, you can buy exactly what you need.  However, as any crafter will tell you, mistakes do happen.  The sales person might cut the fabric unevenly, or you might cut something wrong.  There will be a bit of fabric left over, but that’s okay.  Better that then have to run to the store to buy more in the middle of a project.  It also allows to do a secondary project.  For example, I had enough sashing fabric left over to make a travel pillowcase.  Where there is a will, there is a way.

Right/Wrong Side of Fabric and Marking Fabric

There is a right and wrong side to fabric.  Most of the time the ‘right’ side of the fabric is folded to the inside when it comes off the bolt.  When in doubt, as the sales person.  With some material it is very easy to tell, such as patterned and napped (example: velvet) fabric.  With non patterned fabric it can be a bit tricky.  Once you have established the right side, mark it with a safety pin before washing.

When cutting, to minimize confusion, cut one batch of sashing blocks at a time.  For example, the vertical blocks, and then the horizontal blocks.  For each batch, mark the pieces with a chalk pencil on the WRONG side of the fabric so you match up the pieces RIGHT/RIGHT side when piecing and establish orientation in case your pieces get mixed up later.

Buying Backing

Piecing the back of your quilt can be a pain, luckily many stores have wide wide widths of fabric just for that purpose.  Call around to see what colors and widths are available, you will have better luck at quilting/specialty store if you are looking for a wider variety of colors.

Table of Contents
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Introduction)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Tools)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fabric and Sashing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fusing and Piecing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Assembly)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Quilting)


How To: T-shirt Quilt (Tools)

Need to Have:

  • T-shirts. laundered*
  • Fabric for sashing and backing
    (Poly/cotton blend works well.  Pre-wash before cutting to get rid of sizing.)
  • Fusible Interfacing
    (calculate yardage based on number/size of quilt squares)
  • Pins
  • Ironing board or large padded surface
  • Iron
  • Chalk pencil
  • Large Work Surface
  • Sewing Machine
  • Thread to match fabric

If you have this, it ‘Makes it Easier’:

  • Clear quilt piece cutting grid (square and rectangular)
  • Rotary Cutter and Mat
  • Sewing weights

I found that investing in a large clear quilting grid, rotary cutter, rotary mat and fabric weights make this very quick and easy. These items are on sale fairly often, and if you’re into crafts you will use this stuff all the time.

Table of Contents
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Introduction)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Tools)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fabric and Sashing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fusing and Piecing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Assembly)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Quilting)

How To: T-shirt Quilt (Introduction)

We all have them, t-shirts from a chapter of your life you’d like to keep and treasure. In totes…in drawers…everywhere.  The phrase ‘oh! I’ll make a t-shirt quilt.’ runs through your mind. Well here you go!

Before we get started, a couple things to keep in mind.  If these terms are vague to you, go to your local library or online and do your research!  It will make things much easier for you later on.

Pick out the t-shirts you would like to use for your quilt. Is there a theme?  Certain period in your life?  Colors?  Lay them on the floor to brainstorm ideas and what shirts work together.  This will help to figure out backing and binding fabric colors as well.  My quilt is based on my college years, so black and gold will be the fabric colors featured.

When figuring out the size of your t-shirt quilt block, keep in mind the size of the graphics on the t-shirt. You don’t want to trim off a favorite shirt by accident!

Here are some shirt quantities to estimate a quilt size.  If you use sashing, the size of your sashing can take a row and column of shirts out of this estimate.  Sashing can be used to separate blocks that clash and give you the flexibility to make the quilt the exact size you want.

T-shirt blocks are assumed to be about 14 inches, adjust as needed.
12 shirts = throw-size quilt, approx. 48″ x 64″ – 3 across x 4 down
20 shirts = twin size quilt, approx. 64″ x 82″ – 4 across x 5 down
30 shirts = full size quilt, approx. 82″ x 96″ – 5 across x 6 down
36 shirts = queen size quilt, approx. 96″ x 96″ – 6 across x 6 down
42 shirts = king size quilt, approx 110″ x 96″ – 7 across x 6 down

I’ve seen it either way with the t-shirt blocks sewn together or with fabric (sashing) placed inbetween them.   Using sashing will effect the time it will take to complete your quilt.  Decide at the beginning if you will use sashing or not.

Batting is the fluffy stuff inbetween the quilt top and the backing and effects the warmth of the quilt. Thankfully there are all kinds of batting out there and the way it is woven can allow you more quilting options to keep the batting in place over the life of your quilt.

Binding is found on the edge of the quilt and binds the front and back together.  Binding can be purchased or made from the fabric you are using.  Binding is usually cut on the bias, but can be cut on the straight edge as well.  Bias binding is sturdier then straight edge, and double fold is stronger then single fold.

Quilting traditionally kept the batting in place over the life of the quilt.  Many old quilts have intense quilting patterns to keep the cotton batting in place.  Today, a variety of batting is available made from a variety of materials.  The tighter the weave, the less quilting you need to keep it in place.  Quilting is more of an art form or for decorative use.  You will want some kind of quilting, influenced by how much it will be used, and it is done either by hand or by machine.

  • Tie tacking (by hand)
  • Stitching along blocks or designs within the block (by hand or machine)

If you plan on using this everyday, make sure your materials are high quality to stand up to washing and use.  The degree of use will effect the type of sashing, binding, quilting and batting you will need.

This is a lot of information to take in, so research will make this less intimidating. It can also take some time.  If you’ve never done it before, keep it simple.  For the quilt I’m going to walk you through….in sewing time, it took about a week or two. In reality for me – 6 years. Picked the shirts in 2005, assembled the front in 2010, completed in 2011.  6 years, 6 apartments.  Life happens.

Now time to get started…wait, do you have a cat? Put the cat away…now you’re ready to get started.

Table of Contents
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Introduction)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Tools)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fabric and Sashing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Fusing and Piecing)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Assembly)
How To: T-shirt Quilt (Quilting)