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Upcycled Shirt Quilt

For some time I have had the desire to have a crack at making a quilt. I am far from precise person so I have hesitated quite a bit about the quality of quilt I would be able to make – lining up 10’s of squares accurately did not seem that plausible.


However the time came to bite the bullet, and combine the quilt making desire with a stash of my husbands shirts, no expense spared!


I started off really well, visiting my local library and borrowing a book “Quilters Bible”. Cutting up the shirts into strips, took longer than anticipated but again went well.

Due to my “precise” skills I decided to go for diagonal squares, creating 3 different coloured blocks, each block comprises of fabric from three shirts. So far so good.



Initially I thought it would be quicker to pin a long rectangle of diagonal strips and cut squares out of these – however it did not seem to work. So I reverted to sewing individual squares.


Once I reached 30 squares I took them to the gym, well why not?! After a lovely swim with a friend we entertained bar staff by laying out the squares and discussing design. Elizabeth helpfully suggested omitting one of the colourways, a decision I am very pleased with. My husband then helped with decisions re direction of diagonal squares.

Next came cutting precise blocks out of my sewn pieces – can I blame the lack of a rotary cutter re the resulting not quite square blocks?!


I pieced them together, and the fabrics seemed to ruckle a bit. Then I noticed I had laid four pieces out in the wrong direction – can you sense my frustration mounting??

Recycled Shirt Quilt

I followed Pam’s (Threading My Way) advice re visiting your local shop to discuss wadding, extremely helpful staff completely got the upcycled element and suggested a fleece blanket – half a day later I had a cot fleece blanket for lining and wadding from the local charity shop, total cost of the project £3!!

I initially made a pocket, turning out, however despite carefully pinning, pulling taught etc.. it just did not fit correctly. I unpicked it and went for a binding edge instead.

Upcycled Shirt Quilt

I have learnt lots but have many frustrations with the project

  • I would love to learn why my fabric ruckled – tension, sewing on the diagonal, blunt sewing machine needle, different weights of fabric?
  • Is it harder to cut accurate squares when the fabric is sewn the diagonal?

Can someone inspire me to have another go – my daughter is desperate I make her one now, and all I feel is frustration and disappointment!


Photograph – Emily Jane Morgan

On a positive note it has inspired my tot to finally give up his much loved sleeping bag, and move to a duvet and his new quilt:)

As usual I am popping by Handmade Harbour 🙂



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Monday 27th of January 2014

Yea for you biting the bullet and just doing it. Clapping for you! I love using old shirts for quilts! If you make another one you might want to consider making each block with the help of a muslin foundation. It will help with the bias frustration. To do this, Cut your shirt into the size strips you want (1 1/2- 2 1/2 or 3" ) but do not sew them together. Instead Lay one shirt strip right side up on the diagonal (left to right) of the muslin square which you have cut to the size you want your block to be. Sew a scant 1/4 inch seam on one side of strip from the top of the strip to the bottom. Place the next strip right sides together aligning the edge of the next shirt strip with the edge you just sewed down. Sew the 1/4" seam right on top of the muslin. Set your seam by just placing the hot iron over the seam for a few seconds. Flip the strip over so you have both right sides showing and press again. Add another strip just like you did the last strip and sew 1/4" Keep doing this stitch and flip method with strips until you have the square of muslin covered. I usually cut my muslin about 1/2 inch bigger than I want my square to be. So if I want 10 1/2 unfinished I will cut an 11 inch square. After all of my strips are sewn on I will trim each square to the size I want. Sewing on a muslin square is called foundation piecing. You might be able to google it for a tutorial. Or you can google how to make a string quilt.

Quilts really are a comfort to those we love. I hope you will make another one. Pre wash your muslin before starting to cut your squares. Best of luck. Janita


Tuesday 28th of January 2014

Thanks so much Janita, that's really helpful:)


Saturday 25th of January 2014

You've done a great job. The first one is always the hardest. I've just finished making my third quilt and I'm only now starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of it. Be warned... it becomes addictive :)

Laura @ Blue Giraffe Crafts

Saturday 25th of January 2014

It looks really awesome and love the upcycled element. Plus it must be pretty awesome as your little one loves it clearly!

Catherine @ Knotted Cotton

Saturday 25th of January 2014

I've been saving shirts for a project like this and it was really helpful to read about it. I feel your frustration but think it looks great and snuggly and it's a really proper piece of recycling!

Celtic Thistle Stitches

Saturday 25th of January 2014

Congratulations on your first quilt Vicky, it looks wonderful.

Definitely agree with the others about the problems of cutting on the bias, starch is the answer. You can apparently make your own starch too although I have never tried it!

Thanks for linking up to New to Me too

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