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Planning a T-shirt Quilt

Do my T-shirt need to be in good condition for a T-shirt quilt?

August 9th, 2021

By Andrea Funk

We can use T-shirts with the following problems:

  • A T-shirt with a hole in it
  • T-shirts that are old and thin
  • T-shirts with faded text 
  • T-shirt with letters falling off
  • T-shirt with the designs peeling off
  • T-shirt that have already been cut

We get questions about what condition a T-shirts needs to be in to used in a quilt. "Can this T-shirt be used in a quilt?"

Here are a number of questions and our answers. Generally, the answer will be “yes, we can use it!” You need to answer, should you use it.

“Can you use a T-shirt with a hole in it?”

Hole in shirt 2Holes should not be a concern when you are deciding if you want to use a particular T-shirt in your quilt. We have seen T-shirts with everything from pinholes to gaping holes. 

These blocks are repaired before we put them in your quilt. The blocks with small pinholes are backed with another piece of T-shirt material. Then the hole is glued with special fabric glue. T-shirts with larger holes are backed with another piece of T-shirt material. We will then sew around the hole and glue the edge.

We repair the holes, but that does not mean that the hole has gone away. They are just repaired.

Do you want to use such a T-shirt in your quilt? That is totally up to you. If it is a favorite shirt with great memories, I would say to use it.  Ask yourself, “Does the T-shirt mean more than the holes in the T-shirt?” If so, go ahead and use it.

Below are two examples of T-shirts that had holes in them. This is how we fixed them.

whole fixed fixed hole 1

“My T-shirts are old and/or thin – can you still use them?”

Thin shirt 2Some of the best T-shirts are old and thin! That’s because we love them so much. And yes, we can use them in your quilt.

Other T-shirts come thin. Have you seen T-shirts called burnout? These have thin and thick spots throughout the shirt. 

We place a piece of new T-shirt material behind these T-shirts. This keeps the quilt soft while giving the thin T-shirt a little extra thickness.

You most likely won’t be able to tell that there is another piece of T-shirt material behind the block. If at some point the thin T-shirt wears even thinner or develops a hole, there will be another piece of material you will see and not the batting.

Should you use you thin T-shirts? Yes.





“The text on my T-shirt is faded, can you still use it?”

Letter cracking

Yes, you can still use it in your quilt.  But as with holes, putting the faded block in the quilt will not magically make the faded T-shirt not faded.

It will remain faded and will continue to fade over time. Although, T-shirt quilts are not washed as often as you may have washed your favorite T-shirt. This means the fading will slow down. 

Should you use the faded T-shirt? Yes, if it tells part of the story you are putting into your quilt. No, if you can’t remember what it said and it was not an important T-shirt.   

“Letters on my T-shirt are falling off. Can that T-shirt still be used?”

This mostly happens when a name has been added to a T-shirt. Yes, we can use that T-shirt in your quilt. But the letters will continue to fall off.

Were iron on letters, try to iron the letters back on. If that fails to work, then when we quilt that block, we will either trace the letters so when they totally fall off, you will still be able to read it. Other times we will trace through the letter to sewn them down. 

If this shirt is very important, I would encourage you to include it in your quilt. If something else in your stack of shirts says the same thing, I would leave it off.

“The design on my T-shirt is peeling off. Should I use it in my quilt?”

paint falling offI have found that paint on some cheap tourist T-shirts falls off.

I have some T-shirts that you can no longer even tell what the design was.

If the paint is falling off now, it will continue to fall off. And there isn’t much we can do here to fix it.

The other issue is where they T-shirt might have been printed. If it wasn't in a developed country, the paint that is falling off might contain lead or some other toxic ingredients. 

Unless it is a very important T-shirt, my suggestion would to be to leave it out.

“My T-shirt have already been cut; can they still be used?”

already cut blockYes, we can use T-shirts that have already been cut. No problem. 

You are not the only person that has T-shirt pieces. This happens all the time, so you are in good company. 

Whether you or someone started to make a quilt or if you just cut the logos out for the sake of storage, those pieces can go into your quilt.  

The quilt below, all the blocks had been precut.  See, they will work. 

We will take blocks that are too small and put them on top of a blocks the correct size. We build them up so they can fit into a quilt.  Here's more about already cut T-shirts. 

Made from precuts


Yes, we can make just about any scrap of material work in a quilt. Scraps of material are what quilts are all about!

I hope this helps you determine if you can or should use a T-shirt in your quilt. 

Back to: Planning Your T-shirt Quilt

Andrea Funk

Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.