Turning Tee Shirts into Memory Quilts Just in Time for Graduation

T-Shirt quilts are the ultimate graduation gift – if you can pry the clothes away from your favorite scholar!  And, they are quick and easy to make.  I know, we always say that, but this time it is really true – you don’t have to be an experienced quilter to make a memory.  Instead of piecing blocks for your quilt, you are simply stabilizing the stretch in the T-Shirts or sweatshirts and cutting them out to the size you prefer.  It can’t get any easier than that!

704407.jpg     fc2319.jpg
Item #704407                                             Item #FC2319 
Retail $ 18.95                                            Retail $8.00

Patterns and Books

There are several patterns and books available that will explain the process in greater detail.  All of these publications remove the intimidation factor.   A Scrapbook You Can Sleep Under and a pattern by Four Corners are for more experienced quilters.  They have detailed information to help you design your own layout and personalize your quilt.  There are many examples shown to get your creative juices flowing!

cq010.jpg     tq01.jpg    
Item #CQ010                                            Item #TQ01                               
Retail $14.95                                             Retail $8.95                                 

Item #1256QD
Retail $9.00

If you are a beginner, the patterns above generally suggest cutting all of the T-Shirts to the same size.  They are just as beautiful!

Designing the Top

This is when those large Creative Grid square rulers are your new best friends!  My favorite sizes are the 12 1/2″ (Item #CGR12); 15 1/2″ (Item #CGR15); and 16 1/2″ (Item #CGR16) squares – but if your child is big enough to play linebacker for Ohio State, you may need the 18 1/2″ (Item #CGR18) square too. 

Item #CGR12
Retail $21.00

As a rule of thumb, twenty T-Shirts are needed for a twin sized quilt; thirty will make a double or a queen.  But, remember, you may want to use the front AND back of some shirts.  You may even want to incorporate small designs on pockets and sleeves into your finished quilt.  These often work well as corner posts in the borders and sashings or as quilt labels. 

This is not the time to turn into Martha Stewart!  The shirts that are the most worn and stained are their favorite shirts and HAVE to be included in the quilt top.  If they are in pristine condition, they never liked them – and there are no memories attached to them.  When the shirts are stabilized, even a hole or two won’t matter!

Place the Creative Grid rulers on the shirts to decide what would be the appropriate size of the finished blocks – but don’t cut them yet.  First you have to design your quilt and stabilize the shirts.  Make a list of the T-Shirts and the ideal size of the finished square.  Then it’s time to get out the graph paper and sketch out a lay-out for your quilt! 

Preparing the T-Shirts

Easy-Knit is a fusible stabilizer that comes in white (Item #EK130PWHT) or black (Item #EK130PBLK).  It is very light weight and doesn’t add bulk or stiffness to the finished quilt.  Believe me, you won’t even know it is there!  When ironed to the wrong side of the T-Shirts, the stretch of the fabric is eliminated so that these fabrics can be sewn to cotton successfully.  But remember, for those of you who are used to only using one setting on your iron – hot – you are ironing a polyester knit that will melt, so adjust the heat accordingly or use a pressing sheet.  I usually just place a square of muslin over the Easy-Knit so I don’t have to worry about it! 

Cut the Easy-Knit at least two inches larger than the size of the squares you wish to cut.  The entire block – including the seam allowance – must be stabilized or you are wasting your time.  Cut up the sides of the T-Shirt and across the shoulder seams.  Then iron the stabilizer to the back of the design.

After the shirts are fused, place and center the appropriate sized ruler on the shirt and trim. 

Adding the Ah! Factor

Many times if you are designing your own top, there will be little nooks and crannies that are created because not all of the blocks were trimmed to the same size.  This gives you an opportunity to truly make this quilt your own!  Add autograph blocks, those logos you saved from the pockets and sleeves, or photographs transferred to fabric.  Easy as Pie Designs even makes a panel of silk screened quotations that can be sewn into your completed top.  Any or all of these additions can be the perfect finishing touch!

Item #EAP103
Retail $ 20.00

Finishing the Top

Since the T-Shirts are stabilized, you can now sew them into a quilt using cotton fabrics for the sashings and borders and “quilt as desired”.  But even those simple words can add meanings to your quilt. 

It takes a village to raise a child, so consider giving your machine quilter a list of the family and friends who are important in your child’s life.  They can machine stitch their names into the quilt as they are performing their magic!  Or, consider having them stitch in the name of the college of their choice.  Favorite quotations are also a nice added touch.

If the finished quilt is less than 58″ wide, consider having the top quilted to fleece.  You don’t have to use batting, it washes beautifully, and has that “snuggle” factor that we all love.  It has the added bonus of being reasonably priced – at around $9.00 a yard for 60″ wide goods – it is the best bargain going, and you save the price of the batting!

OR, you may want to consider using a light fabric on the back so that it can become a canvas for family and friends.  At the graduation party, you could have everyone sign and write a personal message to the guest of honor! 


When you have a graduate in your family, it also means that you have become “attached” to many of their friends who will also be leaving the nest.  A quilt may not be possible for all of them, but consider making them floor pillows!  One T-shirt in the center of a pieced 24″ quilt will brighten any bed – and can be completed in an afternoon.  They don’t even have to be quilted – sew buttons at the seams.  If you use fleece for the back, you don’t even have to sew buttonholes – how easy and creative is that!

One thought on “Turning Tee Shirts into Memory Quilts Just in Time for Graduation

  1. Love all the above information and so timely with graduation just around the corner. I’m going to order all the patterns and a bolt of that fusible for knits. Thanks! Judy

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