Quilting With Recycled Men's Shirts

Updated on January 13, 2017
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Through her passion for writing and coaching, Rachael shares her experience and support in the journey of loving an addict.

Quilting is an extremely popular sewing hobby, with young and old alike creating incredible, home made quilts.

But anyone who quilts will tell you that once you start buying your stash of the beautiful quilting fabrics available, this hobby can become extremely expensive.

But it doesn't have to.

You can make beautiful, modern quilts, with fabrics sourced for a fraction of the cost of new quilting fabrics.

Up-Cycled Fabrics

It's easy to get caught up in having to use only the 'quilting fabrics', but the reality is that there are many other fabrics you can use, which are not only more varied than the fabric available at quilting stores, but are also cheaper, and can have a lot more character.

Choosing fabrics to quilt with needs some careful consideration, but once you know what you are looking for, there is a glut of cheap fabric available at the thrift stores, at 2nd hand clothing stores, and possibly even in your own cupboards.

Some people choose to stick to the general rule of using only 100% cotton fabrics, while others will seek out wool, merino or other natural fibre products.

Then it's just a case of going out and hunting down recycled clothing with the specific fabric types you want.

It's possible to pick up cotton shirts, sheets, table cloths etc for as little as $2 each and 1 item can provide more fabric than you would usually get in a Fat Quarter 3-4 times the price.

Making a Shirting Quilt

Shirting quilts are cost effective to make, and can turn outdated clothing, into a modern quilt.

What You'll Need:

  • 9-10 Mens Shirts of co-ordinating colours
  • 2 x Sheets, Table Cloths or other fabric pieces to co-ordinate with the mens shirts for the sashing and backing fabric
  • Extra fabric for binding if not using the shirts
  • Batting
  • Thread

The first step to make a shirting quilt is to source the mens shirts. You should try to find shirts that are colour co-ordinated and of a similar texture.

Wash the shirts, and then while they are still damp, dismantle them for the usable fabric (also keep the buttons) and then iron the fabric pieces.

These pieces of fabric are what you will now use to make the quilt blocks.

9 Square Block Pattern

This quilt is made up of a simple, 9 square block but you can use any pattern you choose.

To make the 9 square block, cut out 9 x 4.5" squares from each of the shirting fabrics.

Lay out the squares to creating a pleasing combination, then sew the squares together with a 1/4" seam.

You should now have a 9 block square measuring 12".

Repeat for as many squares as you need, depending on the size of the quilt you want to make.

For this quilt, I did 5 x 5, 9 square blocks so needed to make 25 x 9 square blocks.

With each block, I changed the layout of the squares but always tried to make sure that each pattern was nicely spaced from the rest of the same pattern.

Variation: You could also just keep the same pattern for every block. Do whatever pleases your eye.

When you have sewn all of your 9 square blocks, the sashing then needs to be added, in between the block squares.

Variation: You may decide not to use sashing, and instead make more 9 square blocks to create a more solid pattern quilt.

Adding the Sashing

Cut lengths of your sashing fabric at 3" wide.

For the first block of your top row of your 9 square blocks, pin the sashing fabric to left and right sides of your square block. These should be 12" but I tend to pin the sashing to the block first and then cut the sashing fabric to length.

Sew these on and press all seams.

Next, pin the sashing fabric across the top and bottom of your 9 square block, also coming across the sashing fabric on each side so that you box in the square completely.

Sew these on and press all seams.

For the next blocks, until the end of the row, add sashing only to the right side, and then the top and bottom. You already have the left piece of sashing in the block before it.

Once you have completed all the blocks for the first row, you can now sew these all together.

Variation: Many quilt patterns suggest doing all the blocks first, then sewing these together, before sewing the rows together but in this pattern, I like to sew it together row by row. It works either way.

Now you can move onto the next row. This time, for block one, you need to sash the left and right sides, and then the bottom edge. The top edge is provided in the row above.

For each block after that, for this row, you need to sash only the right-hand side, and the bottom edge. The left side and the top edge are provided by the blocks surrounding these blocks.

Repeat the two steps above for all remaining rows.

Stich all blocks together, then stitch the rows of blocks to each other.

You now have a fabulous, modern shirting quilt top!!

Assembling the Quilt Layers

Once you have your quilt top, it's time to assemble the quilt layers.

You will need your quilt top, the batting for the middle, and the backing fabric you have selected.

See the video on the right for details on how to assemble your quilt layers.


Next, it's time to do the actual quilting.

Quilting is the process of stitching together all the layers of the fabric, with either a simple stitch or a decorative stitch.

Just be aware that you will see your stitching on both sides of the quilt so be mindful of how you decide to stitch your layers together.

For the 9 square block quilt I decided to work with the formal lines of the men's shirts and quilted with straight lines 1/4" inside the blocks, and a 1/4" outside the blocks, running both parallel and horizontal, but you can do any quilting pattern you feel compliments the quilt top.


The last step for making your quilt is to do the binding.

If you have enough fabric from your shirts, cut lengths of 2.5" wide strips and then sew these diagonally (see video) to create a binding strip long enough to go around your quilt.

Variation: If you only have scraps of fabric left, not enough to make enough binding, then consider looking for a 2nd hand cotton sheet in a solid colour that compliments the shirting fabric. A sheet will give you plenty of good long strips for your binding.Otherwise, if you really can't find anything 2nd hand to use, purchase a fabric that is complimentary to the shirt fabrics to complete your binding. There are plenty of neat striped fabrics out there.

Once you have your full length of binding strips, fold and press the strip in half horizontally, wrong sides together, so you have two layers of fabric.

Place and pin your binding along the right side (top) of your quilt, with the raw edge running along the raw edge of your quilt.

Variation: Some people prefer to simply leave the binding free and stitch it as they go. If you are comfortable with this, go ahead. I tend to do a combination of both, leaving my binding mostly free but pinning it sparsely around the quilt just to hold it in place and not get in the way.

Stitch the binding onto the quilt from the top, with a 1/4" seam leaving a 6" opening, with the lengths of binding which will close it, hanging free.

See the video above to see how to finish off the binding with a clean, tidy seam.

Well done! You have finished your Modern, Upcycled Shirt Quilt. Now give it a wash and then enjoy!

Questions & Answers


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      • profile image

        Tnt meyer 

        16 months ago

        Can quilting fabric and cotton fabric from shirts be used in the same quilt

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        What size is your quilt that is pictured? I'm planning to get a set of sheets for the backing and to use for the sashing and want to know what size I should buy.

      • profile image


        6 years ago

        Beautiful color combinations. Dress shirts fabrics are so nice, aren't they? The hard part is getting the owner to part with his beloved shirt, some wear their clothes for years until they're threadbare (myself included!)

      • SimeyC profile image

        Simon Cook 

        7 years ago from NJ, USA

        What a clever idea! Sharing this with all the 'crafty' women I know!

      • KatSanger profile image

        Katherine Sanger 

        7 years ago from Texas

        We have some local thrift shops that will have a morning (or day) when you can get a bag full of whatever you can fit in it for $1 or $2. Great way to get shirts for quilting or to use for other craft projects! Always worth checking out!

      • moonlake profile image


        7 years ago from America

        I love quilts from old clothes. I save shirts when I like the fabric to use in a quilt. Thanks for sharing. Voted up and shared.

      • Millionaire Tips profile image

        Shasta Matova 

        7 years ago from USA

        I love being able to use recycled fabric for quilts. Not only can you save money, you are reducing how much you are putting in the landfill, and adding value to your quilt since the fabric comes with memories. I recommend the book, Scraps and Shirttails by Bonnie Hunter which uses recycled shirts and makes gorgeous quilts.

      • lilmrslay profile imageAUTHOR


        7 years ago from New Zealand

        Lol tuiteakid! I agree but luckily there are 2nd hand shops and thrift stores full of unwanted mens shirts, and in all sorts of patterns, colours and quality. I have picked up $150 shirts for $2 and got a good amount of great quality 100% cotton from them. Just have to be willing to look around a bit.

      • tuitea kid 5 profile image

        tuitea kid 5 

        7 years ago

        hahaha i don't think boys will like to cut up there clothes but anyway that is really really creative

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        7 years ago from New Delhi, India

        Nice, creative and interesting hub. Very well explained and illustrated. Thanks for sharing.


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