DIY: Funky T-shirt Rag Quilt for Summer Picnics and Winter Snuggling

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I come by both my weird sense of humor and my borderline hoarderness honestly. What that means is I have collections of really funny/awesome/unique/vintage/sentimental stuff that I can’t use, but I really don’t want to part with.

Like a bin of old t-shirts.

Now, I don’t really wear t-shirts. I don’t often find the need to wear old shirts from my ballet or flag twirling days. I stopped wearing the worn out vintage tees that my mom passed down, and I never really found the guts to wear the t-shirts with swears that I thought were my right as an adult.

So they all just sat in a bin in the closet until I found this amazing tutorial at “Sweet Tea in the South” to turning them into a quilt. I made a few adjustments to use supplies I had on hand, but she does an amazing job of going through the process step by step.
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I just want to get this out of the way- this is a labor intensive project with lots of steps, and a metric ton of cutting. Jess at Sweet Tea in the South recommends splitting it up over a few days, and I have to agree. It takes a long time to do, and is exhausting, but here’s the thing…

I think this is my favorite sewing project, ever. I think there might be some romantic love brewing between me and this blanket. It’s thick and soft, and smells lovely. It’s washable and gigantic (mine is 6′ x 6′) and each square is a symbol of who I am and where I come from– the classic rock station I grew up to, the matching t-shirts Safety Husband and I wore to our after prom party, band shirts, and festival shirts.

Supplies

• Old T-shirts- You will need two squares of shirt for each square of your quilt. I used the fronts and backs of shirts, and all-in-all I used about 36 large shirts for my quilt.
• Batting or flannel for the inside of the quilt. I used Cotton quilt batting that I had around. You will need one square for each square of the quilt.
• A template for cutting your squares (instructions below) I used some scrap chipboard.
• A sewing machine with a ballpoint needle and a lot of thread. (I used white all-purpose thread.)
• Straight pins
• Sewing scissors. Optional but recommended – a fabric rotary cutter, and probably a pair of embroidery scissors for snipping.

To Make your Square template

Measure across each of your shirts to see what size square would cut easily out of all of them. My shirts ranged from large to extra-large, and from 14″ – 16″. I used scrap chipboard to cut a 14″ x 14″ square template for my t-shirt blocks, and made another template that was 1″ smaller on all sides (12″ x 12″) for my batting blocks. You can cut your template from cardboard, wood, or anything else you have around.

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Step 1: Cutting the Squares

Lay a t-shirt out smoothly across a protected surface, and center your t-shirt block template around the art.

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Carefully cut around the template.

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Repeat this with each shirt.

When you’re done with all of your shirts, use your batting template to cut out one piece of batting for every 2 pieces of shirt.

Step 2: Building the Quilt Squares

Each square of your quilt will start out as a stack of shirt|batting|shirt. One of your t-shirt pieces will be on the front, the other on the back. I decided that I wanted to make one side of my blanket cool colors, and the other side warm colors, so each of my stacks was coolcolorshirt|batting|warmcoloredshirt. You can arrange them however you want!

To build your block, lay out your first piece of t-shirt, face-down, then center the smaller piece of batting.

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Cover with the other piece of t-shirt, face-up and secure with several pins, making sure to go through the batting layer.

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Repeat with all your squares, until you have a tidy little stack.

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(At this point I laid all of my squares out on the floor and arranged them how I wanted. I marked each square with a letter and number so I knew how to put them back together. It was a lot of work, and I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. Random is OK!)

Step 3: “Quilting” your Squares

There are several ways to quilt the block together, the important thing is to stitch through every layer to keep the batting and fabric from shifting. I used a combination of straight stitches and a zig zag stitches on my machine to make lines across each block horizontally and vertically.

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Repeat in each square, and you’re ready to start putting them all together!

Step 4: Assembling the Quilt

The “rag” in this rag quilt means that instead of hiding your seams, you will leave them out to fray and fringe. With that in mind, you need to decide which side will have the extra fluff. One side will be clean and flat like

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The other will be fringed and crazy

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Start with two blocks, and stack them with the future fringed sides facing out.

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You will pin and sew the two pieces together on one edge, about 3/4 of an inch in (seam allowance). I used a zig-zag stitch for these seams to allow a little more stretch and flexibility.

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Attach the next block in the row the same way until you’ve completed a whole row, then start with the next row.

When you have every row sewn, sew each one to the ones beside it the same way. Make sure you keep your seams facing the same way so that all your fringe is on the front or back.

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Breath deeply and look at all that you’ve accomplished! Now take a break, the next part is tedious.

Step 5: Fringing and Clean-up

The final step is to fringe all those seams so that they will roll up and hide any mistakes you may have made on this quilt, and to cut all your little threads. The embroidery scissors are great for this task, but regular sewing scissors work as well. To fringe the seams make a small cut almost to your seam, every half an inch or so. You will do this around the outside edge of your blanket, as well as at every seam. I suggest a watching a movie.

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It may take a while (several evenings) of trimming in front of the tv, with your blanket in your lap, and your cat cuddled underneath, but when you’re done you might be as in love as I am.

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Now that I’ve done the work, I’m going to use this blanket for everything: picnics, cold nights, hammock times, even make-shift shelter. So if you see a pile of funny/awesome/unique/vintage/sentimental old t-shirts walking around, make sure say hi.

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