Category Archives: Fabric and Pre Cuts for Quilting

Get shirty

Hello Dear Friends and Readers, today I wanted to discuss shirtings. This is by no means a new concept. Using clothing and other fabric leftovers like feedsacks to make scrap quilts has been much documented in historic quilts. Feedsacks were so popular during the Depression Era of the last century and are still popular finds today and much sought after. Clothing was expensive and fabric was a luxury which wasn’t wasted as is the case today. Any pieces, whether cotton, silk, wool or chintz were used for quilts. Presently we have a lot of throw away clothing, some of which is so cheap it can literally be worn only once and thrown out. And the quality is often not there. I find it amazing that there are so many items which are cheaper than a takeaway meal.

Shirtings have been a popular fabric to use in quilts. Shirts have been made in many different fabrics but for the purposes of today discussion we will focus on cotton.

Here is some interesting history of shirts.

There is a significant amount of fabric in a man’s shirt. It requires 2-3 metres or yards of fabric to make a shirt depending on style and size. Many shirts are made of high quality cotton. The weaves will differ somewhat but the fabrics can still be utilised. Many shirts are pretty expensive and the fabrics a fine quality. Most often they are woven rather than printed so both sides are good and the patterns very square as a result. Some of the fabrics have a beautiful sheen and the weave is exceptional. Some of them feel like fine lawns and they can be quite expensive like Liberty Lawns. You can check some out in the link below. Please be aware the prices are in pounds.


Recently I have been cleaning out some clothes. One thing which has occurred to me in particular, is that many shirts are of a lighter value. Pale colours and light checks, which brings me to my point and why I had to keep some of the shirts.
It is so tempting when buying quilting fabric to buy the colours and designs that we enjoy. However the missing link I seem to have in my stash is light or background fabrics.
I have often included my husband’s shirts somewhere in my quilts. The fabrics are lovely and they fit the bill beautifully for background fabric and can be a nice sentimtal touch. Men’s shirts are often expensive and that is because they require a lot of fabric and detailed sewing.
So it’s a great opportunity to increase the background fabric in your stash which can be added for no extra cost. This is especially marvelous for scrappy quilts and certainly a consideration for charity quilts.

I remember seeing a snowball quilt years ago in a magazine which was all made with shirtings. I’ve never forgotten it and I take that as a good sign. I would still like to make one eventually. And for anyone who is sentimental about a family member, some of those old shirts which still have good fabric could be included.

Be selective about choosing the fabric. Best not to include heavily worn or stained areas. Presoaking and then giving a good wash before using is ideal. Cut from the main areas, the back, fronts and sleeves. Keep the pieces you like. Don’t forget to cut off the buttons too as they are so handy, still expensive to buy and a real pain if you have to make a trip just for the odd button.

Just as a last point, more fashion shirts for men are being made which have beautiful paisley and floral designs which would be a great addition to any stash.

The process is easy and results in a good yard or metre of fabric, depending on the size of the shirt, whether it has long or short sleves and how pedantic you are. Here is what I started with.

Get Shirty –

I didn’t fuss too much. I adopted a snip and tear technique.

If you have a pair of good heavy dressmaking scissors, this can be useful but not essential.

I cut the buttons off into a bowl with the heavy scissors. It’s quick.

Then I ”cut” Snip and tear out the back. I lay that down then add the other pieces. Lay them out and spread them flat with your hands. Avoid areas of heavy wear like the armpits. I didn’t worry about cutting off the pocket. I can easily rotary cut around that later, when I’m using the fabric.
Get Shirty
Get Shirty

Fold into a nice size square that will fit into your stash. The pieces are all enclosed in the back piece.

This is so handy if you just need a couple of bits and you don’t want to haul out yardage.

Get Shirty
Make Quilting Fabric from Mens Shirts

I’m feeling quite accomplished. I have a lovely stack of fabrics and buttons and cleaned up and made some space. I didn’t’ have to make a trip to the shops, and made use of some lovely fabric.

Get Shirty
Making Fabric from Men’s Shirts

Remember, its often the plainer background fabrics which can make the others shine. I’m looking at these and thinking how lovely they would be in a log cabin. After all this chat about fabric, Iam feeing inspired myself. I’m going to go and cut some fabric.

I hope this inspires you to rethink some background or scrap fabrics.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like,

About buying the fabric

Cut Up Your Quilting Off-cuts

Signature Pre-Cuts from Your Stash

How to buy fabric?

Even if you can‘t sew today, prepare some fabric for tomorrow!