April 28, 2016

Three Generations of Shirts: Tutorial

When my paternal grandfather passed away a few years back, I had asked for a few of his shirts to make a quilt. So many times I sat down to think of ideas and nothing was coming to mind. 

Emotionally I wasn't ready. 

Recently, in the midst of cleaning out my own closet the idea popped into my head. What about taking some of my old favorite shirts, my grandfather's shirts, and stealing some from my dad to make a three generations quilt. 

The idea was a winner. 

To start ... 

Take all the shirts (I had ten in total) and cut them up using a pair of scissors.  First, remove the sleeves from the body of the shirt. Then cut following the seam to make a panel of fabric. Second, remove the collar. Then cut from the neck to the sleeves seam following the shoulder. Third, cut down the side to create three separate panels of fabric. One from the back and two from each side of the front.

Iron and starch all the pieces. When I did this process I didn't starch and only have regrets. 

Next, start cutting! This part was a bit scary due to the irreplaceable nature of the shirts. 

When cutting I intentionally left some of the parts; cuffs, buttons, pockets, seams, and other details from the shirts themselves. I also took and cut some on the bias so the pattern would shift visually.  Be careful when sewing the bias pieces went a little crazy. 

Here are some of my favorite details ...

Hint: Make sure buttons and bulk are away from where seams would fall. This will make piecing easier.  Hand (or machine) stitch any open seams so they will not open in the finished quilt. 

Some filler fabric was also added to break up the heavy plaid and stripes in the shirts. Last year I picked up some fabric with architectural prints. My grandfather was a builder and my dad is a builder. I was supposed to be an architect, oops. The fabric fits the family.  Then some brighter solids to break up all the blue and plaid.

The finished size of each block is 4 inches square, so cut to 4.5 inches square. Cut some 4.5 inch squares and some 5 inch squares blocks from each shirt.

To add more interest, HST are also scattered throughout the layout. Cut the HST blocks to 5 inches square. Draw a line diagonally and sew a scant quarter inch on each side. Trim to 4.5 inches square. 

Layout all the blocks so the pattern is appealing to the eye. Be sure to take note that different values are used throughout the quilt. Sew the blocks together into rows, then sew the rows together. 

TWIN QUILT: 17 blocks x 22 blocks = 374 blocks needed 
THROW QUILT: 14 blocks x 16 blocks = 224 blocks needed
BABY QUILT: 10 blocks x 14 blocks = 140 blocks needed
SHAM: 5 blocks x 7 blocks = 35 blocks needed

All 10 shirts and filler fabric yielded approximately 580 blocks. This was enough for one twin sized quilt, one pillow sham, and a bonus baby quilt.

Here is a little peak on the progress ...


  1. Hi! Your quilt top is beautiful! Great tips and I like your idea to use also some button- and other pieces. I have two quilts with hb's shirts (stars and swirls). I really them but the hand quilting was hard; many fabrics were very 'stiff' (Gant uses beautiful and strong fabrics). x teje

  2. Yay! I am glad we have another shirt convert!
    I left all the cuffs and collars out and didn't starch anything on mine. I did keep the buttons in place when I used a shirt front as a cushion back. That worked well.
    You have more interesting variety in your shirts. My dad and hubby only seemed to have shades of blue. :(
    Will you keep it or give it to your parents? Obviously, this one has to stay in the family.

  3. This is awesome and a great idea! I'm definitely going to be looking at old shirts in a different way now.

  4. This is such a brilliant idea! I love how it's turning out. I've always had a fear of working with t-shirts but button down type shirts are definitely an option.

  5. Looks fabulous and you are keeping it in the family - you are a quilt buidler! and designer and creative textile artist...

  6. That is looking great. Memory quilts like this can be so emotionally tough. I am glad you gave yourself permission and space and time to think about how you wanted to work with the shirts. <3

  7. Loving the quilt so far. I have a few of my own check shirts that I thought would make a quilt, for watching tv etc. I wasn't sure on the layout as I didn't think I would have enough fabric, but I like your idea of adding HST's and squares cut on the bias. So, another idea for my 'to do' list - thanks :)

  8. Yay -- it's been fun hearing about this quilt, stepping over it at the retreat, and seeing it come together. I've shied away from using old garments in quilts -- knits in particular scare me! -- but your selection seems easier to work with. Well done!

  9. Stunning! I love the details you retained from the shirts! The colors and architectural fabrics work so well with the shirts. Adding HST's was brilliant!

  10. This is going to turn out so wonderful!!! Love the idea of including three generations of shirts. :D


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