Sometimes, I've had other quilters tell me that they'd never put a T-shirt into a quilt. When I asked "why not?" they replied, "its not like cotton, I tried and it gets all bunched up." I have taught classes on recycling since the early 1990's. But fair is fair, its all about knowing how to handle recycled cloth. Not everything I recycle ends up in a quilt! For sure there are limits. You certainly don't want to waste your quilting time on fabric that is not good quality, so lets start there.
Having said this, you can make a t-shirt quilt from cotton t-shirts and iron on a stabilizer on the back or not. Its all about what kind of quilt you want in the end. Many of my customers for T-shirt quilts don't really care, but I do, so I usually recommend a stabilizer on the back side of your T-shirts and here's why.
Looking at this photo, you can see all sorts of draping going on as the various pieces hang from my design wall. Drape and body shape is exaggerated once any piece of clothing has been worn. So I find it much easier and less taxing on my old brain if I stabilize first. The quilts turn out fantastic, my customers are thrilled and all is well in my studio.
Stabilizing is not just for T-shirts, you can also stabilize dress shirts, blouses, dress materials, lace, the list goes on. Do a little test, just for yourself. You don't have to show it off or blog about it unless you want to. Just try it out?
Another beautiful thing about making T-shirt quilts is that if you have change something, you can and its won't show up in the finished product. You can use tea towels, doilies, hankies, lacey stuff, you name it. I think we should have new categories in Canadian Quilters Assn annual quilt show and any other show? What do you think? Would you support a "Retro Quilt" category? Let me know how you feel about not recognizing the efforts of those who enjoy working with alternative fabric pre-used from clothing?
Here is an example of a recent t-shirt quilt. Enjoy! I'm the one in purple.