Make a T-Shirt Quilt the Hoecake Way


This is my first.  This is my first joint project for Hoecakes & Hemlines, my first auction item, my first paid project, and my first T-Shirt Quilt.  This is the first post of a series on how to make your own T-Shirt quilt-The Hoecake Way.

This project began with a call from a fellow Hoecake asking if I would like to join her in making a quilt for her daughter’s PTA auction.  She said it was a paying gig and I was sold!  I was in… then I heard that it was a T-Shirt quilt and we had 4 weeks to get it done… EEEEP! I’m always up for a challenge and agreed!  We began by reading up online and taking bits and pieces of what we found and adding our own spin on things.  We learned a few lessons and I will share those with you as we go along.


20+ T-Shirts **

Fabric for the Back *

Fabric for the Border***


Fabric for the Binding*


Quilter’s Safety Pins

HeatNBond Lite (Not Featherweight)

Roatary Cutter and Self-Healing Mat

Acrylic Quilting Ruler


Sewing Machine


Mary Ellen’s Best Press (starch can be used, but this stuff is FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC!)

*Yardage will depend on the finished size of your quilt.

**Depending on the finished size of your quilt you may need more or fewer shirts.  The Hoecake Way does not include sashing between blocks and require more shirts.  This method utilizes both the front and back of the shirts to allow for the least amount of waste possible.

*** A border is not necessary, but it is up to you.  We had the kids from the school sign and draw on our border.  This added some personalization for the auction item.

1st  – Decide what you want your finished quilt size to be.  This is important so you aren’t going back and forth trying to find more meaningful shirts when you have already begun cutting.  I would hate to learn that someone had to donate blood just to get the t-shirt to finish their quilt (you should donate blood because there is a need and it is a good thing to do).  Our finished quilt was 65 inches X 75 inches.  This is plenty big enough to cuddle up with in front of the TV.

We got 5 1/2 total yards of fabric and 5 yards of batting for this project.  This was enough fabric for the back AND binding.  I used the Robert Kaufman’s Android App called The Quilters Little Helper to assist in these calculations. I used several different types of fabric, because I think the back is just as important as the front of a quilt.  Boring backs just aren’t for me.

After assembling all of your materials gather all your t-shirts and get to cutting!  We cut the t-shirts 2 ways.  You can cut the design you want to show first  and then apply the heatNbond lite or you can apply the heatNbond lite and then cut.  Either way works but *******DON’T REMOVE THE PAPER BACKING!!!!!!!************  Apply the heatNbond lite to all pieces according to the manufacturers directions.  Do not attempt to sew jersey material without the backing!  When you cut jersey the material will roll up on the edges when the heatNbond lite is applies this will not happen.

If you have a small self healing mat, you can put it inside the shirt, cut, flip and cut again.  We used graphics that were on the backs of the shirt as well as the small graphics that were on the front.  There is a place for everything. Keep your scraps!

Lay your designs out on the floor or a flat surface.  I begin in the center and then work my way out.  I also try to align blocks to make a row.  Rows are easier to put together. Look for spots that need to be filled, measure and cut a piece to fit that space.  You can add a 1/2 inch to each measurement to allow for some adjustment if you wish, but it isn’t necessary if your measurements are accurate.  Nothing has been sewn together at this point.  TAKE A PICTURE!  This will help you remember your placement.  Carefully pin each row together and begin sewing.  Using the individual rows as a guide rather than trying to tackle everything at one time.

Piece the top with the paper backing still on.  Keep some rubbing alcohol close by in the event that your needle begins to gum up.  ******You will be sewing through the paper backing!*****

When you finish each row, lay the whole thing out again and make sure you still like how things look together.  Sew the rows together.

If you are going to do a border… this is when you measure and cut your border.  When you piece this make sure you sew on the bias (sew on a 45 degree angle).  Begin with the short sides first and trim the excess.  Finish by adding the long sides and trim the excess.

Your front is now finished!  Sit back and marvel at your work!

Stop marveling and turn the whole thing over.  Begin the peeling process.  Begin with the corners and peel to the center.  Use the tweezers to pick out the large pieces of backing left under the seams.  This takes a while, but it is totally worth it!


For this project I took a fat quarter to a friend to be embroidered.  She did this as payment for me watching her house and feeding her critters while they were on vacation.  First I find the center of the top and mark it with a safety pin.  Then I get masking tape and tape the whole thing to the floor.


I took the embroidered piece and centered the words in the center and trimmed the excess.  I then cut my other pieces of fabric for the back in strips of 12 to 18 inches wide and set them out on top of the top taped to the floor.

Keep laying out pieces and sewing them until you have at least 5 inches of excess or more on each side of the quilt top.  You can use really big chunks of fabric for this step.  It can be as complicated or simple as you want it to be.  This is your quilt!  If you love it, go for it!!!!

Grab Mary Ellen’s Best Press and iron the entire thing with open seams or seams to the dark side of the fabric.  Your choice on open or to the side… Now go get your batting and let’s get on the floor!

Lay out your batting over the top which is still taped to the floor.

(Ok, here is a refresh… the quilt top is taped to the floor with the pretty side to the floor.  The batting is laying over the quilt top and the quilt back is pressed with seams how you like them and hanging out somewhere ready to be used.)

Trim the batting to at least 6 inches in excess of the quilt top.  Gently tape to the floor.  This keeps the batting and the top from moving as you are putting the quilt sandwich together.

Mark the center of the back with a safety pin and line up with the safety pin on the quilt top. (You didn’t take that out did you?)

Smooth out all the wrinkles and make sure the horizontal lines are horizontal and get out the pins!

Begin pinning in the center and work your way out.  Making sure that you smooth out the bubbles and wrinkles pin and pin and pin some more.  When you think you are done… put 10 more pins in!

Gently remove the masking tape from the floor, batting, top and move to the ironing board.  We are using the heatNbond lite to baste to the batting.  Do this step with the pins in!  This way it won’t move.

Off to the sewing machine!

Quilt with the “stitch in the ditch” method over the entire surface.  This is to sew along the seams of the top.

You can also use the seams as a guide and sew 1/4 inch on each side.

Read the directions on your batting and make sure that you are quilting close enough for the recommended spacing for your batting.  Some of my blocks required me to add stitches.  I used the masking tape again to accomplish clean straight lines.

I also used the masking tape to determine width between the lines.

This is what it looked like as I was sewing.

Peel the tape off and now it is off to cut binding!

Cut your binding.  I choose to cut mine to 2 and 1/2 inches wide.  I sew on the bias (45 degree angle) and then head to the ironing board. Trim the excess on the 45 degree angles to 1/4 inch.

I use Mary Ellen’s Best Press and iron, wrong sides together.

Back to the sewing machine!  Place the binding on the top of the quilt with raw edges together. Sew to top using 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Flip and secure back of binding to the back of the quilt.

Jenny at Missouri Star Quilts can explain it much better than I can.  Here is a link. Missouri Star has a ton of tutorials and have helped me in many ways.

Last step, pull threads and enjoy!

Open a bottle of wine, put on a good movie and curl up in your t-shirt quilt you made the Hoecake Way!


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