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 Β£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 πŸ™‚



This post is linked up here

26 thoughts on “Upcycled Shirt Quilt”

  1. Fabulous to have finished a whole quilt! Yes, sewing on the bias (diagonal) is harder because it stretches more (which is why bias tape is so useful for binding curved edges). It will also make it harder to cut straight and more likely to ruckle. But well done!!!

  2. Well done you! Your quilt has turned out beautifully and looks wonderful on the bed. I too am having a go at making a quilt for the first time this year and am also a little lacking in cutting and measuring skills so will no doubt encounter some similar problems. Practice makes perfect though, eh? I’d dive straight in and make one for your little girl x

  3. I think your quilt looks great, my daughter took some persuading out of her sleeping bag too. Well done for persevering with a new project, its so easy to get frustrated and give up, but great when you finally achieve it.

  4. Hurrah! You did it even if it was a real pain at times. Those pieces on the diagonal/bias mess me up time and time again. I read yesterday to spray well the pieces you are sewing together with quilting fabric starch and either pin or baste well….NO STRETCHING ALLOWED! I know, that’s easier said than done. Your quilt really did turn out well, and no one else is ever going to know the problems you had. I love the way it turned out. Good job. genie

  5. Vicky, your quilt looks fabulous!!! No one else will notice any small imperfections. What they will see is the overall look of the quilt… the design and colours which look SO good. Wendy has answered your question.. anything cut on the bias stretches. I find a rotary cutter is more accurate than scissors. I was reluctant to use one at first, but am glad I did. I look forward to seeing your daughter’s quilt.

  6. I think your quilt looks wonderful, and even more so because it is upcycled. I am not a great expert but I think using different weights of fabrics definitely makes it harder to stop it from puckering and keeping everything straight. I find pinning every seam before sewing helps keeps the lines straight and the squares all lined up, and lots of practice πŸ™‚

  7. Vicky, it might have been frustrating but it looks great, and all upcycled. My Mam made me a double quilt and some of those squares have puckered a little, and the odd seam has come adrift where it’s been too close to an edge. But it’s one of my most treasured possessions, as I’m sure yours is too.

  8. I thoroughly enjoyed getting your quilt out at the Gym and brain storming with you. But I just absolutely love that you might look at the imperfections in the finished article but it’s become a beloved item for your little boy. I believe quilts should used, so I hope this one gets battered & bruised as a small child’s beloved quilt should be. xx

  9. well I think you did a great job! Yes, different weights of fabric are difficult to piece together neatly. Cutting on the bias (diagonal) means the fabric stretches and is harder to piece together. A lack of rotary cutter didn’t help either. BUT it doesn’t matter! Loads of experienced quilters don’t have matching seams, it’s really not that important, unless you make it important.

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

  11. 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 πŸ™‚

  12. 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


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