How to Make T-Shirt Blankets

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Use different-colored, bright T-shirts for an eye-catching quilt.
Use different-colored, bright T-shirts for an eye-catching quilt. (Image: serezniy/iStock/Getty Images)

Don't give up on those old T-shirts yet! Even after you've worn the rest of the shirt to rags, you can use the front panels to create a warm, soft, quilted blanket that will preserve all the memories associated with your favorite shirts. If you don't have enough T-shirt fabric to make a whole blanket, you can round out your project with old linens or quilting cotton in complementary colors.

Things You'll Need

  • Old T-shirts
  • Iron
  • Laundry starch
  • Quilting ruler or empty picture frame
  • Rotary cutter
  • Cutting mat
  • Quilting batting
  • Spray adhesive
  • Old sheets for backing and binding

Front of the Blanket

Press the T-shirts flat and, if possible, apply spray starch to make the fabric easier to handle. Let the starch dry before you proceed -- depending on how much you've saturated the fabric, this may take as long as 20 to 30 minutes.

Use a quilting ruler, an empty picture frame or a piece of cardboard as a template to cut same-size panels out of every shirt front. The cutouts can be any size, as long as they're all identical; each one will be one block in your blanket.

Lay the cut-out panels on the floor or, if you have it, a quilter's design wall -- an extra-large sheet of batting pinned to an empty wall. Shuffle the cut-out panels around until you're happy with the layout of your blanket. If you need more blocks, piece them together out of T-shirt scraps or old bed sheets. You can also use quilting cotton in complementary colors, but watch out for loud, distracting prints that will ultimately distract from your T-shirts as the focal points.

Cut strips of fabric to place between the cut-out blocks; this is called sashing. Each block should have a complete sashing "frame": a 1.5-inch-wide strip across the top and bottom, a 1.5-inch-wide strip on each side, and a 1.5-inch-square piece in each corner to complete the "frame" around each block. Side-by-side blocks can share pieces of sashing with their neighbors.

Stitch each row of sashing pieces or blocks and sashing pieces together, working from the top row down. Place the fabric pieces right sides together and using a .25-inch seam allowance. Press the seams flat as you sew.

Stitch the rows together, again using a .25-inch seam allowance, to complete the front of the blanket.

Completing the Blanket

Lay the front of the blanket out and use it as a template to cut an old sheet or large piece of fabric into the same size -- this will be the backing.

Lay the backing fabric out, wrong side up, and place a piece of batting over it. Cut the batting to be 1 inch narrower and 1 inch shorter than the backing fabric.

Apply a basting adhesive to the wrong side of the backing fabric. Center the batting on the backing and smooth it down so it adheres.

Lay the blanket top on the floor, right side up. Place the backing pieces over it, right side down. Pin along the edges.

Stitch around all four edges of the blanket using a .5-inch seam allowance, but leave an open gap wide enough to turn your blanket inside out. You should be sewing more or less right outside the edge of the batting.

Reach in through the gap and turn the blanket inside out. Whip stitch by hand, or use an invisible machine stitch to finish the last seam, closing the gap. Press the edges to create neat seams.

Quilt the blanket by sewing right through all three layers of the fabric in the pattern of your choice. This keeps the batting from separating or falling to pieces when the blanket is washed. If you don't have a specific quilting pattern in mind, you can "stitch in the ditch" -- stitch along each of the seams you created when you pieced the sashing and blocks together. Stitch an outline around any logos or patterns inside the T-shirt blocks.

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