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How to Make a Small Quilt Using Sweatshirts or Fleece

Loretta learned to sew on her grandma's treadle sewing machine. She began sewing her own clothes in 7th grade and still enjoys fabric work.

Three fleece quilts from three solid colors.

Three fleece quilts from three solid colors.

3' x 5' Sweatshirt or Fleece Quilt: No Batting or Binding

I make these quilts with a serger; however, you can also use a regular stitch on a basic sewing machine. You may need to make your stitches longer or change the tension for the thicker fleece if you usually sew on thinner fabrics.

If you're making a quilt for Operation Quiet Comfort, I find it just as easy to make three at a time instead of one. Otherwise, you could make one for home, one for the car, and one as a gift.

I suggest anti-pill fleece. If you're going to this much effort and some expense, spend just a few dollars more and make the quilt worth having for a long time.

Note: On my serger, I use barely 1/4" for the seam, which makes my pieced front slightly less than the full 3' x 5'. I can live with this. If you want the full 12" square or if you take 1/2" or 5/8" seam allowance, then adjust your fleece purchase and template size to compensate accordingly.

Buying and Preparing the Fabric

Here is how you should go about preparing the fabric.

Buying the Fleece

  • The fleece must be 60" wide for a 5' quilt.
  • If you are making three quilts, you need 6 yards. I like to get 2 yards of three different yet coordinating fabrics. This gives each quilt a different back, and the fronts are a mixture of the three colors or patterns.
  • If you are using 12" x 12" sweatshirt squares for the front, 1 yard of fleece is enough for the backing for one quilt. If you only have three to five sweatshirts, you may want to purchase more of the backing fleece to complete the required 15 squares.
  • Each quilt front needs 15 squares, with each square being 12" x 12".

Preparing the Fleece

  1. Wash your fleece, don't use fabric softener, and dry it until it's nice and fluffy.
  2. Cut a 12" x 12" template from a sturdy brown grocery bag or any lightweight cardboard. You can also use a square of fabric. The important thing is to keep the squares the same size.
Having puppy approved fabric is a bonus!

Having puppy approved fabric is a bonus!

Cutting the Squares

Here is how you should cut your fabric.

For One Sweatshirt or Fleece Quilt:

You may have 15 different sweatshirt designs, or you may decide to use both sides of each sweatshirt. The design from the front and the matching solid from the back will give you two squares per sweatshirt.

  1. Cut 12" x 12" squares from your sweatshirt fronts, backs, or purchased fleece until you have 15 squares.

For Three Fleece Quilts:

If you have purchased two yards each of three separate colors, cut your fabric like this:

  1. Cut each 2-yard piece into two 3' x 5' pieces. You now have six pieces of fabric measuring 3' x 5'.
  2. Set three of these pieces aside for the backing—one of each color or design.
  3. Cut each 3' x 5' yardage of fabric into 15 squares, each being 12" x 12" (or adjusted if you take a larger seam allowance than 1/4").

Depending on the quality and method of your cutting tools (heavy-duty scissors or rotary cutter), you may be able to stack the remaining three pieces to cut. If not, cut each piece separately.

Arranging the Squares

You may have one special sweatshirt square that you want right in the middle. You may want to arrange the pieces by alternating a front design, a matching back, and coordinating fleece.

For solid squares or solid prints, either alternate squares or have a row of each of the three fabrics. Each quilt can be the same, or you can make each slightly different.

You want to end up with three squares across and five squares down.

In the first photo above, you can see the arrangements are simply alternating colors. You could make one row of three all one color, then the next row the second color, and so on. In the photo below, the printed piece is moved in each row.

Assembling the Quilt

After your squares are all arranged in a 3' x 5' grid, follow these steps.

  1. Take your first two squares, right sides together, and sew along one side. (Solid fleece doesn't have much of a right or wrong side).
  2. Take the third square, place the right side against the right side of the middle square, and sew along one side to make a row of three squares.
  3. Repeat until all five rows are done.
  4. Place two rows right sides together, and sew along the length of the row.
  5. Repeat for all five rows.
Finished fleece patchwork quilt

Finished fleece patchwork quilt

Adding the Backing

You now have the top of the quilt that you have pieced together and the solid piece of fleece for the backing. You guessed it; you're going to need to place the right sides together.

Note: Since fleece isn't slippery, I don't use pins to keep everything together while I'm piecing the quilt—it's manageable enough without them. But at this point, I need to roll and jostle the fabric to fit it through my machine, so I do use pins to keep it from shifting. Be sure to pin away from (or perpendicular to) where your needle will stitch.

  1. Sew around three sides, then part of the 4th side.
  2. Leave at least 12" free so that you can turn the quilt right side out.
  3. Turn the quilt right side out through the opening you have left in the seam.
  4. Turn the fabric edges in to create a seam, and stitch up the final opening, either by machine or by hand.
  5. Secure the front and back together. You can either do this with a machine or by hand. You just need to stitch around some of the squares. A few stitches at each square corner will also do the trick.

You now have a quilt (or quilts) that will serve for many years. Congratulations!

Official labels are available once you join the Operation Quiet Comfort small quilts project.

Official labels are available once you join the Operation Quiet Comfort small quilts project.

Donating Your Quilts

If you're thinking of donating your quilt to someone in need, there are a variety of places that would be happy to accept them.

Operation Quiet Comfort

If you like sewing small quilts but run out of people to gift them to, consider the group Operation Quiet Comfort. They support our military with "soft goods" such as these quilts, new socks, and other "quiet comforts."

Hospitals or Nursing Homes

You can also donate them to a local hospital to send home with new babies or others who need them.

Group Project

These quilts can be a great group service project. I made six quilts as a project for Veterans Day with my coworkers. I cut the large pieces at home and took my serger to work. The squares were cut by workmates, and we took turns at break times serging the pieces together. It was too cold to go out for lunch anyway, so staying inside and making something worthwhile was great.

Use your talent. Someone will be happy you did.

Make It a Group Project

My co-workers cutting squares to be sewn together.

My co-workers cutting squares to be sewn together.

This is my serger.

This is my serger.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 The Sampsons


The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on December 19, 2018:

It makes a great group project for winter days.

Christian on December 05, 2018:

Thanks for the guide! Very useful. Making them to donate is a great idea for giving back, too.

The Sampsons (author) from The Ozarks, Missouri on December 04, 2018:

Thank you very much. I hope even just a few people will participate.

RTalloni on December 03, 2018:

A useful DIY post and thanks so much for including the encouragement to work with Operation Quiet Comfort by giving this kind of quilt.