Quilt cover

068: Turn old T-shirts into a heritage duvet cover

Cost of taking action: £/$/€ LOW

This action is a fantastic family project to re-use old clothing

We all throw away T-shirts when they get a bit worn, or the logo or character on them goes out of fashion, or when a child grows out of them, but here is a fantastic way to turn old T-shirts into something that will keep them out of landfill.

You can turn them into a duvet (quilt) cover that is also a family memento. It will remind you of those places where you bought tourist T-shirts, those concerts you went to, your children growing up, and more.

It’s a family project. You’ll need to collect T-shirts from your family, and maybe friends too. You’ll need about 28 shirts for a single duvet cover and 49 for a double one.

But – and this is important – you must only collect T-shirts that were going to be thrown away anyway. The idea here is to re-use things, and create a memento, not create more waste! You can use plain fabric from other end-of-life clothing if you need a few “fillers”.

The basic idea

  • collect 28 (49) old T-shirts
  • cut squares from the front (incorporating your logo, place or event) and from the back
  • sew the front squares together to create a 4 x 7 (7 x7) patchwork
  • do the same with the back squares
  • sew the two patchwork sets together back to back along 2 long sides and 1 short side
  • make buttonholes and sew buttons along the fourth side, or use Velcro
  • bingo, a new duvet/quilt cover for your bed!

More detail about the process below!

Why is this a “green” project?

We should all try to make our clothing last longer of course, but eventually, we know, especially in the western world, it gets discarded. Most of what we discard ends up in landfill or in incinerators, both of which is really bad for our environment. We are filling landfill far too quickly.

Lots of our clothing is made from man-made materials too, so we are putting plastics into landfill. This breaks down into tiny microplastics and poisons our environment.

This kind of project can help. There are other advantages too …

  • it keeps a load of old clothing out of landfill
  • it can reduce micro plastics entering the environment
  • it’s a great fun family project
  • you will create a permanent reminder of family times
  • children can learn sewing skills
  • children will learn about the importance of re-using things
T-shirt quilt

(Picture from https://www.babylock.com/learn-and-create/how-to/diy-basic-t-shirt-quilt-tutorial-part-1-1)

Project details

(You can learn more too by clicking on the link above, which although for a slightly different project idea does include lots of useful instructions and pictures)

You will need

Old T-shirts
Sewing Machine
Rotary cutter (ideal)
Buttons or Velcro strips

What to do

Decide how big your duvet cover is going to be and work out the number and size of fabric squares you will need. This will depend on the size of your duvet and the size of your shirts! Our 28 shirts is based on a 7 foot x 4 foot single bed duvet cover.

Each square needs to be 1 inch wider than the area it will cover. So, in our case, we are using 28 1-foot squares, but we start with 28 squares that are 13 inches x 13 inches to allow for the joins.

Now that you have your measurements, it’s time to start cutting! Mark and cut the squares as evenly as you can with a rotary cutter or with a ruler and scissors from the front and the back of the shirts. Do the front and back squares separately, don’t try and cut two squares at the same time! your squares need to be nice and accurate so they all match up later on.

Remember to think about the position of the logo on your t-shirt – the graphics aren’t always completely centre or even.

When cutting, measure, re-measure, and measure again to ensure accuracy!

Lay your squares out to work out exactly how you want to organize them.

Sew your squares together to make your rows. For your first row, lay square on square 2 (logo sides together) and sew the left side. The seam is sewn at a ½” in. Work your way along the row, making sure you are sewing the correct seam for the correct order of your shirts. Consistency here is key to an even and accurate cover. Once you’ve sewn a row, sew all remaining rows. Some people like to iron seams open to create less bulk but, do be careful to use a cover cloth while ironing if part of a graphic is showing in the seam allowance.

Next, sew your rows together. Pin the seams evenly first to ensure even-ness and once or twice within each square. You’ll put row 1 onto row 2 (logo sides together) pin, and sew the long seam – make sure you are sewing the correct seam, i.e. the bottom of row 1, so that you don’t have to take out an entire row of stitches!

You can see pictures of how this works at the link at the top of this paragraph, but ignore the parts about “interfacing”.

Work your way down the rows similarly, making sure each row is the right way up and you are sewing along the right seam each time.

Your t-shirt duvet cover main panel is now finished.

Now, complete the bottom panel in the same way, using your 28 (or however many you worked out you need) back squares. Be careful to make all your seams even again so that the front and back panels are exactly the same size. You’ll have some tolerance, but not much, maybe half an inch overall to keep it neat.

Then, on the floor, lay out your duvet cover bottom (good side up) and place the top (logo side down) on top of it. Smooth it all down (you might need to iron them) and make sure that they match up all around the edges. Pin all the way around your cover making sure that you leave enough space that you can sew all around three of the sides with a 1/2 inch seam.

Work out where your hole (for putting your duvet inside!) will be. This is probably going to be most (if not all) of your short edge. Start  where your hole will end and sew around part of your fourth side, the other three sides, and back part way along the fourth side leaving your hole open. Be sure to double stich and make secure at each end of the hole where it might come under strain later.

Now you can turn your duvet cover right side out through your opening.

Finally, depending on your preferences and ability with the sewing machine, you’ll need to add a few buttons and buttonholes, or some Velcro strips to enable you to close the hole when your duvet is inside!

And there you have it, clothing that would have been thrown into landfill turned into a useful and lovely memento!

… and we’d love to see pics of what you do, so tag us on your social media accounts.

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