How to Layout and Cut Shirts – T-Shirt Quilt Series Week 2

**Check out this post for the series overview and printable checklist!**

Once you have all of your supplies gathered and have chosen a stabilizing method, it’s time to get to work! This week we’ll be choosing a layout and cutting our shirts into oversized blocks.


Quilt Layout Basics

To make a rough, but educated, decision on the size and design of your quilt, fold your t-shirts to showcase the design you want from each one and arrange on the floor.  Are you using shirts that all have a large design on the front or back?  Choose a block size that will fit both the largest design and the smallest shirt and make a patchwork quilt with all equal sized blocks.

If you’re hoping to showcase designs of different sizes (perhaps there’s a logo on the sleeve or a smaller design on the back), you can choose one of two layouts with varying block sizes. The first possibility is a layout with uneven rows, but equal columns (or vice versa).

The second is what I call “pieced patchwork”. This layout is kind of like a puzzle pieced together, except done row by row or column by column.  This is my favorite layout because it lets me use a variety of design sizes from shirts, but still isn’t too complicated. 

Choose either the basic patchwork or uneven layout from above, then sew smaller shirt pieces together to get to the block size you’ve decided on.  Some blocks may be just one shirt design, some may be two or more shirts sewn together.  When trimming your shirts for this layout, make sure to adjust your seam allowances depending on how many shirts you’ll be sewing into one block!  For example, if you want to have a finished block size of 10” x 10” for your quilt, you will need a 10.5” x 10.5” quilt block to start with.  When sewing a four patch (four shirts into one block), each small piece will need to be 5.5” x 5.5”.

**Note:  For our sewalong, we’re going to stick with quilt layouts that do not have sashing.  Sashing is a fabric border around each t-shirt quilt block.   If you really like the look of sashing, though, here’s a good tutorial for you!

Once you decide on a layout style, take a picture before picking all of your t-shirts back up.  No matter how much you think you’ll remember the layout, it’s always nice to have a picture to refer back to!

Another way to keep track of your chosen layout (and one that makes it easier to make changes in dimensions) is to sketch it out on a piece of graph paper.  If you don’t have graph paper handy at home, here’s a 1/2″ square printable sheet  or a 1/4″ square printable sheet sheet you can grab.


How to Cut Your Shirts

Once you’ve decided on a block size (or approximate sizes), you can start cutting the shirts down to the pieces you intend to use for your quilt.  The video below shows three ways to start the cutting process.  You can use a pair of scissors or a rotary cutter for this step.  

Make sure to cut the pieces larger than your final block size!  You will be trimming them down later during the stabilizing process.  The goal here is simply to cut off the extra fabric you do not need (usually the back side of the t-shirt).  This makes it easier to lay the designs flat for centering and trimming.

Here is my 3 step process:

  1. Cut off both shirt sleeves, including the sleeve seam.
  2. Cut from hem to armpit on both sides of the shirt.
  3. Cut across the shoulder seams. 

As with the last shirt shown on the video, if you do not have a design on one side of your shirt, you can trim through both the front and back parts of the t-shirt at once using the block size you decided on for your layout for reference.  Trim these blocks a couple of inches bigger than your final block size.  You will be centering and trimming again after stabilizing. 

Cautious types, lay the shirt pieces out again to double check your layout and finalize what size you’d like each piece to be.  Note the size(s) either on a photo you take of the layout or on your grid sheet of paper.  You can skip this step if you’re a risk taker ;).

If you haven’t already, cut the designs out of your shirts with a couple of extra inches on each side.  It’s better to go too big at this point than too small!  You can do this with your rotary cutter and ruler or a pair of scissors.

I’ll be back next week for stabilizing and trimming. Send me a message with any comments or questions in the meantime!

Next Post >> Week 3 – Stabilizing and Trimming


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and breathe meaning, joy, and life into our sewing.


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2 thoughts on “How to Layout and Cut Shirts – T-Shirt Quilt Series Week 2

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