Onesie Quilt

As moms, we get attached to a lot of the things our kids wear.  We’ve made great memories with them in these clothes, and they just look so darn cute in them!  Like most moms, my sister had a stack of onesies that she couldn’t part with, but my niece had long outgrown.  So for Christmas this year, I’m making her a onesie quilt!  Getting one on etsy is super expensive (at least $100 for a small one), but making one isn’t too hard at all!

Just like a standard T-shirt quilt, the first step is to cut your onesies up.  I found that a 7″ square is about the largest I could do, especially when there were 0-3m onesies in the mix.  Keep in mind that you’re going to lose 1/2″ from each side of the square, so if there are some seams in there, they likely won’t show on the finished product.  Once it’s put together, that leaves a 6″ square, which is big enough to see whatever design is on the shirt.  But unlike adult T-shirts, onesies are a lot more varied in their designs, so you have to get a little creative with how you make your blocks!

My niece also lives in Florida, so there were several onesies that were adorable spaghetti straps.  I could have just used the design on the shirt, but the straps are part of it’s appeal, so I didn’t want to just cut them off!  I cut my usual 7″ square, but left the straps long.  Then I measured how far down the arm holes went, and cut a piece of coordinating fabric a little larger.  I ironed that onto my fusible batting (carefully so I wouldn’t get the glue on my iron), then layered the onesie on top and ironed the bottom part on.  But the top of the onesie was still flapping in the breeze, so I cut a small piece of Wonder Web (Heat N Bond would work too) to “glue” the shirt onto the overlapping fabric.  Then I stitched around the neckline and straps of the shirt to complete the square, and trimmed the extra strap length.  This same method can be used for bibs!  (Check out this shirt on the finished quilt below – I love how the frilly straps went over the spaces between the squares!)

Spaghetti Straps

Left: 7″x7″ square, but straps left long. Second: Adding the back piece. Third: Shirt has been ironed on the bottom. Right: Adding Wonder Web to attach the top of the shirt.

Another popular onesie design has a faux skirt over the snapped bottom.  In this case, the onesie had a cute design near the bottom of the skirt hem.  So I cut the skirt to be about 6″ long instead of 7″ and used a piece of fabric from the onesie below the skirt to finish off the block.  You can see there is a flap again, but I stitched it in place along the hem of the skirt, so I didn’t need to glue it down.


I used the underside of the onesie below the skirt to layer it and show off what the onesie used to look like

My niece had the cutest outfit for the 4th of July (Peach actually wore it the day Radar left) with a tiered skirt.  I wanted to show off one of the tiers, so I let the ruffles lay naturally when I cut, so it’s a little 3-dimensional.  It gives the square the girly feel of the dress without compromising quality or stability because it was layered in the original garment.


It’s like a skirt still!

Often, the embroidered design on a onesie is right up near the collar; if you were to cut it to exclude the collar, most of the quilt block would be empty space.  Plus, you are cutting off those cute little bows that girls’ onesies often have!  So I used a similar method as I showed above with the spaghetti straps to incorporate a collar into the quilt block.  Measure the width and depth of the opening of the shirt (once your block is cut out) and cut a piece of coordinating fabric to fill the gap.  Iron it on the fusible batting, then layer the shirt on top and iron on.  There should not be so much overlap that Wonder Web is necessary, but you’ll definitely want to stitch along the collar line to keep it in place.


Just a little fabric below the collar, but it shows off the pretty bow and keeps the design from being right at the top of the block

And don’t let zippers or snaps scare you – you can still have them in your quilt!  A zipper won’t come undone once it’s sewn into the quilt, but I would stitch down the sides of the snaps to keep them from coming open.


Zippers are not a problem!

My sister didn’t give me hers, but it would be super cute to include a square with your child’s hospital blanket – I don’t know about you, but I can’t part with them, even though I don’t use them any more!  You could also add hats using the fabric layering method and Wonder Web – the sky is really the limit if you’re creative!  Another great idea to include in a onesie quilt is the cute animal faces they like to put on the little butts of onesies and pants these days – adorable!

To assemble the quilt, I used the same method as I detailed in the T-shirt quilt tutorial, so I’m not going to go into super detail about that and risk being redundant (if you don’t understand the method for putting it together, you can also check out my king size quilt, which uses the same method).  I didn’t actually quilt the individual squares this time, though – they’re only 6″ square finished, so the backing doesn’t really need to be held in place, and the designs on the onesies are so tiny and intricate I felt that quilting would detract from them rather than add.  I just layered the back square pieces with the front of the quilt blocks as I assembled the quilt.


I think it turned out pretty well 🙂

One more super nifty thing about this method is that with a little work, it can be added to!  All you need to do is pull off the binding, and more squares can be added!  I bought too much of the panda fabric on purpose with this in mind, so as my niece continues to outgrow her adorable clothes, the quilt can grow with her!  It’s an easy Christmas gift that keeps on giving!


T-Shirt Quilt, Part 2

This is the second (and final) installment of my post on how to make your own easy t-shirt quilt.  In part 1, I did a tutorial on making each t-shirt’s block, including cutting the shirt, using fusible batting, and quilting the complete block, including the back.  Then I laid out my shirts to determine how they were going to be put together in the finished product.

I found the most brilliant way to turn my 25 blocks into a quilt here.  I can’t believe I never thought of this method!  It’s a way to quilt as you go for the blocks, then attach them with minimal effort compared to machine quilting an entire quilt without a long-arm quilting machine.  I went a little picture-crazy here, but it’s necessary to keep things straight and clear.

I recommend using a grid method to label the location for each block.  In my case, my columns were A, B, C, D, and E, and my rows were 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  I wrote each block’s location on a sticky note and safety pinned it to the block so that I wouldn’t get them mixed up in the next steps.  I also drew myself up a key, just in case I got confused about letters and numbers being rows or columns, or if any of the sticky notes tore off.  Better safe than sorry!

So once you’ve figured out where everything is going and labeled appropriately, it’s time to start sewing again!  Well, in a minute… first you need to cut some more fabric.  For each vertical seam between pieces, you’ll need a strip that’s 1 inch longer than the height of the blocks and 2 inches wide and a strip the same length and 3 inches wide.  For each of my internal 11″ blocks, I cut a 12″x2″ piece and a 12″x3″ piece.  I had 16 vertical connections inside the quilt (4 rows and 4 columns), so I cut 16 of each.  Then press the 3″ blocks in half so they’re 1.5″ wide.


All my vertical connection pieces

Starting with your top left block (A1 in my case), pin a 12″x2″ piece along the right side on the back, and a folded 12″x3″ piece with the raw edges also on the right.  Be sure to remove the pins from the back before you sew, or it can mess up your machine.

Assembly 1

1: Block A1. 2: Pin the 12″x2″ piece on the back of the right (when t-shirt-side-up) side. 3: Flip it over. 4: Pin the folded 12″x3″ piece with the raw edges on the right side.

Sew the 3 pieces (12×2, quilt block, folded 12×3) together using a 1/2″ seam allowance.  The seam allowance must be as exact as possible, as I will demonstrate in a little bit!  Repeat this process on the right side of all blocks EXCEPT the last column (hence, I only needed 16 for a 25 block quilt).


I’ve found a production line method is easiest: rather than pulling off and clipping the threads after each square, I pin them all at once, then just stitch on nothing for an inch or two before feeding in the next square. When I’m done, I just clip the threads between the blocks.

Once you’ve completed this, it’s time to start putting the blocks together into rows.  Place your first block, A1, right side up and line up the 12″x2″ piece with the left side back of the block to its right, in my case B1 (2nd column, 1st row).  Be sure to line up the blocks, not the strips between them!  Stitch along the edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance (again, precision is necessary).  I recommend doing this for all of the first and second columns at once: adjoin the A piece’s 2″ strip to the left side of the back of the B piece with pins, then sew all of them at once.  When you look at the back side, you’ll see that there’s now a strip of fabric (that was your 2″ strip) sewn neatly between the backs of the two blocks.

Assembly 2

Left: A1 upside-down, and B1 with the left side at the top. Center: A1’s 2″ strip pinned to the back side of B1’s left side. Right: The back side once the seam has been sewn.

Once you’ve sewn the back(s), it’s time to attach the front flap(s).  Flip the block over to look at the front, and you’ll see the 3″ piece that’s folded is flapping in the breeze.  Fold it down onto the right quilt block and stitch along the edge, making sure to cover any seam that may show from the back.

Assembly 3

Left: Pin it up. Right: Sew right along the edge to secure.

It’s starting to look like a completed quilt already, isn’t it?  If you look from the top or the bottom, you’ll see why you needed to stick to the 1/2″ seam allowance:


I didn’t follow my own rules – I went with a scant 1/2″, so there’s a small gap between the blocks. Learn from my mistakes!

Repeat a bunch of times until you have each row all stitched together.  Be careful with that last column, make sure your blocks are right side up (it’s a little trickier without the strips already attached to identify the right side).  Trim the excess length from the strips between the blocks so it’s all even and pretty.


The rows are completed (see, I told you I’d get that last block in there!)

Now it’s time to follow the same process for attaching the rows.  Cut 2″ strips of fabric the length of each row (plus a little, for wiggle room) and 3″ strips of the same length (ironing them in half just like before).  Mine ended up being about 56″ long!  Pin the 2″ strip to the bottom of the back side of the top row, then flip it over and pin the folded 3″ strip with the raw sides aligned with the bottom also.  As before, stitch in place with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Repeat for all rows except the bottom one (just like you left out the last column above).

Rows 1

Left: Pin the 2″ strip along the bottom of the back of all rows but the last one. Right: Flip over and pin the raw edges of the folded 3″ strip also along the bottom.

Just like when you created the rows, you’ll connect them by first sewing a 1/2″ seam with the first row right side up, attaching the 2″ strip to the top of the 2nd row.  Then flip over and pin down the flap from the 3″ strip, covering any seams from the back.

Rows 2

Left: Back of 2nd row, front of 1st row, lined up and pinned. Center: Be sure to align the columns between each block. Right: Fold the flap down on the front and stitch down on the edge.

Now it’s REALLY starting to look like a quilt – all you have left is the binding!  To make the binding (which does not need to be done on the bias), cut strips of fabric 4″ wide.  You need to make one long strip, long enough to go around the entire quilt – measure it, you don’t want to find out you’re short while you’re sewing it on!  To connect pieces of fabric to make the binding, lay the pieces at a 90 degree angle and sew from corner to corner along the diagonal (PAY ATTENTION TO WHICH SIDE IS “GOOD” AND WHICH IS “BAD” – I had to redo about 6 of these because I wasn’t paying attention!).  You want all your seams on the same side of the strip so that they’re all hidden when you’re done.  Then trim the excess off, leaving about 1/4 inch, press to one side, and turn over to admire your work.

Binding 1

Left: Sew along the diagonal with the two adjacent pieces at a 90 degree angle. Center: Iron the seam to one side. Right: Pretty binding ready to be folded in half.

Once you’ve got about 12 miles of your binding (that’s an approximate number, but what it will feel like), fold in half and iron so you have a 2″ strip with a fold on one side and 2 lined up raw edges on the other.

To bind your quilt, pin your binding on the back side of the quilt with the raw edges lined up with the outer edge of the quilt.  At this point, I recommend switching to a walking foot. If you’ve never used one, the purpose of this tool is to help your machine push the fabric forward from both the bottom AND the top.  It’s helpful when you have many layers of fabric going through (like a t-shirt, batting, quilt backing, and 2 layers of binding, for instance).  It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will make your life much easier.

Walking Foot

This contraption is a walking foot. The plastic pieces right by the presser foot act as dog feeds on the top of your fabric, helping it to feed through the machine. Consult your manual for proper installation – it can be a bit tricky!

Start stitching a few inches from the end of the binding, using a 1/2″ seam allowance.  When you approach a corner, stop stitching 1/2″ from the end of the quilt (I used chalk because it’s not going to show anyway).  If you’re not using a walking foot, backstitch a few times.  If you are using a walking foot, you’ll find out quickly that you can’t backstitch – that’s ok, just stop where you are.  Clip the threads and fold the binding fabric up so that the 45 degree angle goes through the corner of the quilt.  Then fold it down so the fold matches the top of the quilt, and pin in place.  Pick up stitching again 1/2″ from the top of the quilt (maintaining a 1/2″ seam allowance).  Repeat at each corner.

Binding 2

Top: Start about where my pin is, a few inches from the end of the binding. Center: At the corner, stop 1/2″ from the edge of the quilt. Left: Fold binding up to match the corner of the quilt. Right: Fold binding down to match the top of the quilt, then begin stitching 1/2″ from the top.

When you approach your starting point, stop a few inches from where the binding begins (about 6 inches from where your first stitches started).  Trim excess binding off so there’s about 1″ overlap, and fold each edge of the binding back so the folds meet.  Pin in place, and iron binding.  Then, pull the binding away from the quilt and attach the two ends along the creases you just made.  Replace binding onto quilt back, pin in place, and sew the last bit in place, overlapping the stitches already there.

Binding 3

Left: Pin the binding ends and iron so folds touch. Center: Stitch along the creases. Right: Pin down binding and finish attaching to quilt back.

Finally, we are at the last step!  Fold the binding piece around to the front side of the quilt and pin in place.  Work the corners to create a mitered finish.  Stitch along the edge of the binding to secure.  Your stitches will show on the back side, so be sure to use a coordinating thread.

Binding 4

Left: Pin the binding to the front. Center: Wiggle the fabric to get a mitered corner. Right: Back side of corner.

You probably noticed that I used black thread to first attach the binding to the back of the quilt; I recommend buying 2 spools of thread for this project!  I BARELY had enough to finish the binding… there was a lot of appealing to the gods of sewing to help me have enough thread to finish!


Too close for comfort!

But I finished it!  And I think it looks great if I do say so myself!

Completed Quilt

My dad held it up for me… don’t you just love the designs on the back?? Such a unique way to show off your favorite shirts!

T-Shirt Quilt, Part 1

Normally I just sew whatever strikes me, usually for the kids (as you’ve probably noticed).  But a friend approached me a few weeks ago to ask if she could commission a T-shirt quilt.  Normally, I’m not into sewing for pay (although Radar wishes I were!), but I’ve been wanting to tackle a T-shirt quilt and this was just the excuse to do it!  The problem is, I HATE rolling up and trying to stuff a quilt into the small space under the arm of my machine to quilt it.  Because of this, you may have noticed I tend to use various quilt-as-you-go methods (like here and here).  But so far, I haven’t figured out how to put the blocks together and not make it into a rag quilt or look like kindergartener sewed it.  Finally, though, all my Pinteresting and web browsing paid off, and I found a method!  So, I’m going to do a tutorial for a T-shirt quilt that does not require advanced quilting techniques to sew, in 2 parts: part 1 will be about making the blocks, and part 2 will be about putting it together.

To start off, choose your shirts!  The number you need will depend on the size of each block and the size you want your finished quilt to be.  My friend will be mailing hers to her husband who is deployed with Radar, so we didn’t want to go too big – we ended up with 25 11″x11″ blocks to make a square quilt that will be about 55″x55″ when we’re all said and done.  I would recommend 11″ or 12″ blocks for adult shirts (you’ll get most of the design printed on each shirt, but it will still work for size small shirts).  If you’re using smaller shirts, like onesies or kid’s shirts, you’ll need to make your blocks smaller.  Also, be aware that you’ll lose about 1/2″ on each edge of each block when you put it together.  Cut out each of your shirts with a clear ruler and rotary cutter, trying to keep the fabric from stretching.  I find it’s easiest to cut up the sides and across the shoulders of the shirt first.  It gives me maximum placement room but gets rid of the bulk and lumps of the back.


I folded in the edges to really show where it was cut – up the sides and just below the shoulder seams

Now let’s discuss the batting for the quilt.  As you were cutting your shirts, you probably noticed the knit fabric stretched all over the place.  That property makes a shirt comfy, but more difficult to sew.  So, rather than using regular batting, I recommend using the iron-on thicker batting, like Pellon Fusible Thermolam, to stabilize the shirts.  But the directions on the batting say to lay the batting glue side up, place your fabric right side up on top, and iron on the right side of the fabric.  Unfortunately, screen-printed T-shirts don’t take well to direct ironing!  They will stick to your iron, peel off the shirt, and make a general mess.  So, after some playing around, I recommend the following method:

  • Cut your batting to the same size as your shirt square.
  • Lay batting glue side up on your ironing board.
  • Place shirt square right side up, lined up with batting.
  • Set your iron to the cotton setting.
  • CAREFULLY press (down, no side-to-side motion) any parts of the shirt that DO NOT have screen printing.
  • Lay a damp presscloth (I recommend a light tea towel or other lighter cotton towel) over the screen printed parts and press until towel goes dry.
  • Your shirts will be damp when you’re finished, and the bond isn’t perfect, but you won’t melt the shirts and it will hold long enough for you to quilt it!
  • If your screen printing is really old and doesn’t have that plastic-y feel to it any more, you can be less careful with the iron – it won’t stick.

Now you need to cut out the backing for each square.  I cut them to be the same size as my finished blocks, but I suggest you cut them a little larger; you’ll see in pictures later, if I didn’t make my squares perfectly, I had some pulling and the backing was a little too small.  It’s easier to trim later than to wish it was bigger!

Now you finally have all your layers together, so it’s time to start quilting!  Lay your backing good side out on the back side of the batting and flip over.  Use safety pins (quilter’s safety pins are even better, if you have them) to pin up your block.  Try to avoid pinning through the screen printing, as the holes will stay forever.  Also, keep in mind that you need to get your machine through, so don’t put the pins too close to where you plan to sew.  There is pretty much no such thing as too many safety pins!  If you don’t use enough, your backing will move around and you’ll have to take your stitches out – trust me, I have experience with this!  Then use the design on your shirt to guide you as you quilt around.  You can get as intricate as you want, although I prefer to keep it simple.  And whatever design you follow on the front will show up on the back of your block – pretty nifty, huh?  I used matching thread for the front of the shirt, and maroon to match the back, but contrasting thread would give a nice effect, too.


See how many pins I used on this one? And I was super careful not to poke through the printing. I also put an unused pin in the corner so you can really see the bend in the quilter’s pins.

You’ll just repeat this process as many times as you need until all your shirts are turned into perfect, quilted blocks!


It’s so satisfying to look at your stack of finished blocks!

The really fun part now is laying them all out and deciding how to arrange the blocks!  Below, you can see all the fronts, and I also got a shot of all the backs with their unique quilted patterns.  I tried to mix up colors on the front, and intricacy of patterns on the back.

Blocks Front Back

I know there is one missing, but don’t worry, it’ll be there on the finished product! I was just waiting on one more shirt from my friend.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll show you an easy way to put all your blocks together into your finished quilt!