December 30th, 2013

Military T-Shirt Quilt

by Julie Hirt

This quilt was made for my brother with his Marine Corps t-shirts and cammies from his military years.  He served from January, 2001 to February, 2009.  I was nervous to make this because it’s my first t-shirt quilt, and I couldn’t buy more fabric if I messed it all up!  I know the shirts are special so that first cut was a bit scary.

tshirt quilt 627handworks

I decided LAST MINUTE that I wanted to have it finished and ready by Christmas.  I started the quilting 2 days before I was to give it to him.   Have you ever quilted over t-shirts and had problems with thread?  I did!

My top thread kept breaking, breaking, breaking.  I was beyond stressing!   Using Aurifil 40 wt, I couldn’t see that being the problem.  But after changing bobbins, needles, tensions, and a thorough cleaning, all to no avail, I sent my husband off to the store (in the snow) to pick up some poly Gutermann. Loaded it up, fingers crossed…  and it kept snapping too!  ACK

After taking a big wine break and some serious Googling, I found it was the plastic logo on the shirts.  I laid some thin tissue over the plastic areas  IT WORKED!  Mother of miracles.

I guess the plastic is sticky on the needles and pushes the top thread up causing it to snap or shred.

tshirt quilt 627handworks (1)

I apologize for the poor photo quality. Since the quilt was finished so last minute (hand stitching the binding less than 24 hours to go) I didn’t get take good photos, these are with my phone.

Tried my best to make some kind of camouflage design with the quilting.  The back actually looks pretty cool, it’s Kona Cotton in Khaki and with the green thread, the camo pattern is pretty neat.

I used Pellon 950F ShirTailor interfacing on the back of all the t-shirts.  My 15″ Omnigrid was priceless making this quilt.


tshirt quilt 627handworks (2)

I’m not sure if there will be more t-shirt quilts in my near future, but I’m really happy with the end product and my brother loves it.  After figuring out the thread issue I was able to use my beloved Aurifil (Army Green 40 Wt #5012) throughout.  The finished size is 68″ x 72″.

Happy sewing!



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26 Comments to “Military T-Shirt Quilt”

  1. Great quilt and well deserved! Certainly a sister’s love. Thank him for hios service.

    I was wondering what “plastic” covering you were referring to that caused the problems.
    I want to make one for my grandson too. My husband served in the Navy over 30 years.

  2. Julie, Your brother’s quilt turned out great, I’m sure it will be treasured for many years. I can’t thank you enough for the tip about using the tissue paper. I am planning on making my first t-shirt quilt for my nephew from some of his t-shirts, and I would have probably had the same problems. I am so glad you posted and I read about this beforehand. Thank you again. Nancy

  3. Hi Karen I just happened to see your post. I think what Julie was referring to was, the designs on the t-shirts are kind of rubbery feeling. When the needle pierces the fabric it sticks causing the thread to break. I believe that’s what she meant. Nancy

  4. What a wonderful quilt for your brother. He’s sure to treasure this quilt. Your determination and persistence was well worth it. Beautiful!

  5. What a wonderful quilt. I’m sure it will be treasured.

  6. Very nice finish! I’m scared of Tshirt quilts from all that I’ve heard. Thankfully no I one I know has asked for one :)

    Great job!

  7. Awesome gift!

    I’ve never tried to make one of tshirts or any clothes. Something about those unfamiliar fabrics that scare me a bit. Good for you for jumping in and getting it done!

  8. My mom made 1 each square had a patch or pin my dad had/earned in his 40 years at the post office. It is a great way to honor someone’s accomplishments

  9. What a great quilt! I made a tshirt quilt but did not have that issue, glad you got it done in time!

  10. I had never made a t-shirt quilt until my husband passed – he loved buying t-shirts and had over 100 of them. I made a quilt for myself first – as a test, using the national parks t-shirts he had which we had gone to. Then was my youngest daughters quilt made from the Cactus League t-shirts he had (she had joined us one year for spring training), my oldest daughter has one made from his Hardrock Café shirts – many she either bought for him or was with us when we bought them (the back included the Paul McCartney t-shirt that we bought at concert with our daughter) the next quilt was for a special friend, we call “our other daughter” included shirts from our many road trips. Finally, I asked my son if he was interested in having a special quilt – he not only wanted one, but got to go trough the remaining shirts and picked out what he wanted. Many of the shirts in that quilt were his dad’s favorites and were well worn. All of the quilts are backed with flannel, and are all hand tied – I do not do machine quilting. I am happy that each of our children have a special memento of their dad.

  11. Wonderful quilt! Cool t-shirts! Great brother! And you too of course! Happy New Year!

  12. You did a really lovely job Julie! I really feel for you with the thread breaking. So glad that you found the answer and were able to finish it. You are a very special sister and I’m sure that your brother knows that. Happy New Year!

  13. It’s lovely. What a wonderful gift – nice job!

  14. Love it! What a special gift. Fun experience, but don’t think I would want to do them all the time:) Happy New Year Julie! So nice getting to know you and looking forward to your 2014 adventures.

  15. Hey! You did one! That quilting looks great with those shirts and the theme. I bet he loved it! Happy New Year!

  16. Hi Julie, I live in Topeka so just wanted to say hello. Your quilt is wonderful. You did a great job in putting it together and nice quilting. I have made a ton of memory quilts but have not tried a tshirt quilt yet. It is on my bucket list! I have had a couple of customers ask me to make them one, but I want to make the first one for me so I can get the bugs out LOL.

  17. Just thinking about you. Hope things are well!

  18. I found you via Instagram, saw you had a blog and came for alook see. How neat this is your latest post! My son is currently in the Marine Corps and I have been saving tee shirts, uniforms etc as I want to make him a quilt. I have never made a tee shirt quilt so thanks for the information on how you fixed your thread from breaking. Congratulations on getting it done in time! I’m sure he treasures it. Thank him for his service!


  19. Miss you Julie! Happy New Year!

  20. I just finished my first t-shirt quilt–wish I had known about the tissue paper! I will definitely try it with my next one! Please give your brother my thanks for his service!

  21. Your t-shirt quilt turned out beautifully. My daughter rarely asks me to make anything for her. However, when she does, you can usually count on it being a dozy! She thought she had disposed of all her sorority t-shirts from college. The last time she was home (years ago( she found where I had several of them in a closet. So, she has asked me to make her a t-shirt quilt. I think she wants me to use as many of them as I can. I can’t get her to decide on anything. I was going to use two shades of blue for the sashing/cornerstones because those are the sorority colors – NO! She wants gray and won’t decide on one gray, let alone two grays. So, I finally bought some on sale. When I wanted to add some stars or something for pizzazz – NO! I had cross stitched some sorority related items and she gave them away. I found a duplicate I had made and she can’t decide if she wants that in the quilt or not. She cannot decide on anything for the backing. When I went to visit her, we went quilt fabric shopping. She actually was more interested in patterns. I think she wants me to make a two-sided quilt. NO – I’d rather make her two quilts. This could be a huge quilt. So, I’m just going to make the thing and if she doesn’t like it, she can rip the quilting out and pay someone else to make what she wants. Her FIL died unexpectedly in December and I offered to make memory quilts from his cotton shirts. I specified no t-shirts. Hold on, she hinted at stuffed animals made from his t-shirts. I told you she comes up with the projects when she wants something. She asked me on Friday afternoon to make a Mickey and Minnie costume set for a frat party that Saturday night. I never met the guy. Of course, I pulled an all nighter. Thankfully she doesn’t ask for much. I’m a new follower and am anxious to see what you create this year.

  22. This quilt is amazing! You did such a great job!

  23. GREAT quilt! love your using the camo between the logo-parts! I hadn’t heard about putting paper over the screen prints- I don’t often quilt over that part, just around it. I wondered, though, if you tried a *larger* needle which would have had a larger groove for the thread to travel up & down as the stitch is being made? Again- very impressive for your 1st time- and I’m with you on the scary-cutting part!

  24. Thhis is my first time visit at here and i am genuinely
    impressed to read everthing at alone place.

  25. Julie, I love this Marine t-shirt quilt you made for your brother. I wonder if you can share your pattern with instructions on it. I’m planning on using this for a t-shirt/military quilt for my son-in-law incorperating his late father’s t-shirts, military clothes and patches.

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