Make a T-shirt Quilt from Your Kids’ Old Clothes

Some parents are really sentimental when it comes to their kids’ old clothes. They hang on to them even though they don’t expect to have another child or have a use for them again.

If you’ve been holding on to some special items that you can’t bear to part with at a Rhea Lana sale, making a T-shirt quilt (or clothing quilt, it doesn’t have to be all T-shirts) is a great way to preserve some of those memories while turning them into something useful.

Step 1: Gather Materials

The first thing you need to do to get started on a T-shirt quilt is to find all the clothing you want to include. You might already have a box of precious items at the ready (I have a big box full of T-shirts of mine from high school that will become a quilt…someday) or you may have to hunt for some things.

Once you have them gathered you may want to wash them, to make sure they are clean and to get out any wrinkles that might have formed while they were in storage.

Quilt by Beth Macre

Step 2: Cut out Squares

When your materials are clean, it’s time to decide how you want your quilt to look. In some cases you may be able to cut squares of the same size out of all your garments, but you might not be that lucky, especially if you’re working with clothes from a range of sizes.

You can choose to just cut out the part of the garment with a logo or make squares of a certain size. Half-squares can be sewn together with pieces from other shirts to make the size consistent, or you can cobble them together as you go.

Step 3: Design

As you cut you’ll naturally start arranging the pieces where you want them to go. Think about the colors and patterns of the different garments you are using and try not to bunch all the pink in one place or put a bunch of dinosaur prints together in one part of the quilt unless you do it intentionally.

If you have a place you can lay out your whole quilt before you sew, that will help you see the big picture. Or you can sew things together randomly for a scrappier look.

Remember, too, that you can add actual fabric if you like, making borders to bring unity to a quilt if you like. The book T-Shirt Quilts by Linda Causee (Leisure Arts) shows T-shirt squares with borders or even mixed in with traditional quilt blocks, giving her quilts a different look.

Quilt by Beth Macre

Step 4: Sewing

Using a machine or sewing by hand, sew the pieces together. I know a lot of people are afraid of sewing knits (that’s what T-shirts actually are) on their sewing machines, but you’ll find it easier if you use a ballpoint needle, polyester thread and a short zig-zag stitch instead of a straight stitch.

Some people call for fusing interfacing to the back of their T-shirts before sewing to stabilize them, but that can make the quilt stiffer and I don’t recommend it.  

The easiest way to put together your T-shirt quilt is to sew all the pieces together for each row, then sew the rows together.

To make it a true quilt, you’ll want a layer of batting in the middle (though that’s really optional) and a backing piece of fabric. You can use purchased knit fabric, flannel, more T-shirts, whatever you want.

Use your sewing machine to sew the layers together by sewing along the stitching lines at the edges of the squares. Then sew bias tape or another edging fabric over the edges.

Alternatively, you can sew the quilt top and the back together, with their right sides together, close to the edge, most of the way around. Turn the quilt right-side out through the unsewn part of the edge, then sew that down by hand, folding the raw edge in. Then quilt the top or tie it, using small lengths of yarn or thread, tying knots at the corners of the blocks.

More T-shirt Quilt Tips

Once you’ve made your first quilt you might want to make the next one a little more interesting. Too Cool T-Shirt Quilts has some great tips on making your quilt look extraordinary, including using blocks of different sizes that don’t line up in rows and columns.

If you want to explore using stabilizer on your quilt, the tutorial from Totally Stitchin has some good advice. Quilt Keepsake has guidance on how big to make quilts for different beds, adding a name, edging and more.

Another option is to keep whole pieces of clothing that are sewn onto blocks and then made into a quilt. This is a little more complicated if you’re new to sewing but it gives the quilt a completely personal look. Too Cool T-Shirts is a company that makes clothing quilts, but you can see some examples of this method on their website.

And of course if you don’t have enough material for a quilt you can make a pillow or do something else to preserve that precious clothing.

Have you saved special garments from your kids? I’d love to know how you use them! 


Post by Sarah White of