DIY: Senior Class Gift Quilt Tutorial

class quilt tutorial by ecokaren*It’s a long-ish post so grab something to drink and read on.*

Finally, she’s done.

Not just the quilt but my baby daughter. She’s a high school grad now! *fist pump* And soon, she will be a “college Co-Ed“. My mental math can’t compute all the zeros in the tuition bill. Retirement is over-rated anyway. Right?

But seriously, her high school was great for her so I hope the college she will be going will be as good to her as her high school. And what’s a better way to show gratitude to the school that prepared her class for the next journey?

A Class of 2013 Quilt a collection of signed pieces of school clothing from all the students, designed and stitched in school colors with the school initial and artwork in the middle, symbolizing teamwork.

If you read my prior posts about this quilt project here and here, you’d know that I’ve been working on this special gift since April…well, since December if you count ‘when‘ I first came up with the idea. It is done and now, it is proudly hanging in the hallway of their school.

Anyway, here is the “how to” story – not necessarily a DIY – on how I tackled this ginormous project that required 55 signatures, 55+ panels, 5 yards of batting & interfacing, 5 yards of backing materials, countless yards of thread, about 5 trips to the fabric store and about 5 weekends of sewing. Do you see a pattern here? And if there was no Pandora’s Adele Channel blasting from my computer, this wouldn’t have been possible.

How to make a class (large) quilt

The basic method is the same as my Memory Quilt but I had to use the applique method in some areas too. If you want to take a class on making quilts, check out Craftsy*. It’s a great way to learn how to quilt when you want and you can go back and watch as often as you want. I probably should have taken that class before I tackled this one. 😉

You’ll Need:

  • Number of square fabric pieces you need, signed in opposite color ink of the fabric (if you are collecting signatures) 
  • Lightweight Interfacing for the back of each squares
  • Lightweight batting
  • Back Panel Fabric of you choice, at least one more yard than what you think you need. I used cotton woven in contrasting color for the back and the binding.
  • Twice the number of yards of thread you think you need and at least 3 bobbins
  • Sewing machine.
  • Seam Ripper. God sent!
  • Pins. Lots of pins.
  • Safety Pins. Lots of Safety Pins.
  • Embroidery floss and needle (optional)
  • Music. A must. Or audible book is great too.

Here are some tips so you won’t make the same mistake I made. Can you tell I made lots of ’em?

  1. Plan early, like 6 months early if you need to collect signatures. You’ll need permission from the school so contact the PTA President and ask for help. As you can imagine, teenagers can be ‘difficult’ to work with. Have the PTA solicit help from the school. A school administrator can help you coordinate collecting the signatures. My daughter school’s Senior Class Event Coordinator was an angel. She collected all the signatures in two days. She made everyone show up at a designated spot and she checked off the names on the list. She was organized.
  2. Make sure to provide the school a template of ‘How’ you want the signatures done. Provide markers if you have to. Even after I specified “where” and “what color”, my daughter had to ask a few of her friends to re-do the signatures.  If you have teenagers, you know asking them to re-do anything is never an easy thing to do.
  3. Allow small-ish seam allowance, like 1/8″. The quilt gets heavy and bulky so narrower the better.
  4. Seam Class Quilt by EcokarenNumber the panels – I didn’t have a large space to leave my work undisturbed. I had to put the quilt away to make room in the living room floor when I wasn’t working on it (and and to make sure my dog didn’t step over it.) So numbering the panels on the back helped a great deal in placing them again when I returned to the project. Of course, I only learned it after I lost their places a few times. Duh!Number panels for Class Quilt by Ecokaren
  5.  Pin. Pin. Pin. Pin more than you think you need. Pin on the back. Pin on the front. Adjust the fabric after  you’ve pinned. And pin some more. If you have to repin (like I did numerous times) because fabric is too taut or too loose, unpin and start over. Trust me on this. This is so much easier than ripping out the seams because the fabric is not lined properly. Oh, have lots of bandaid nearby since you’ll get a lot of pin pricks. I have blood stains on the quilt to prove it. Shhh…don’t tell her class. The class is still trying to figure out where that is.
  6. pinning class quilt by ecokarenI decided to embroider “Class of 2013″ and our name on the back of the quilt after it was done because I didn’t think that far ahead (duh!) so I had to do it on a separate piece of fabric and handstitch it to the back. So take my advice. Plan to embroider or stitch anything on the back panel before you finish the quilt. Maybe planning ahead what will go on the back of the quilt should have been No. 1signature class quilt by ecokaren
  7. Make sure not to cut prematurely. Once you cut, it’s done. I ended up cutting the back panel too close to the edge and ended up being short. So I had to add a piece on the side, to make up for it. Not fun. So if you ‘think’ you have to cut, wait. Re-examine. And reexamine again to make sure you have the right measurement. added strip quilt ecokaren
  8. Oh, the seam ripper will be your best friend. I promise. unstitching Class Quilt by Ecokaren

Here is how I made the quilt.

You might get scared of looking at a pile of t-shirts but once you start cutting the squares out, you’ll see less of a mess and a clearer idea will start to emerge. I had no idea I was going to be able to design anything when I looked at the pile of squares. But then, once I started laying them down, the design just appeared and I had all the necessary squares to fit them all. It was somewhat short of a miracle. Or the “Quilt God” was watching over me.

Class Quilt Stages ecokaren

Steps 1-5: Count how many pieces of each color you have and see if you can use them in a certain design. I was  totally surprised that the pieces fell into the big “H” in the middle when I laid all the pieces down. I had to use the class art work in the quilt somewhere and it fit perfectly in the middle! I’ll admit, not everything fit perfectly. I had to make extra pieces (the two grey pieces on both sides of the “H” on top) to make up for the colors it lacked. So  you’ll have to ‘make do’ if you have to.

Step 6: Once the front is pieced and sewn together, add the back panel (see #5 and #8). If you are going to add any designs or embroidery to the back panel, this is the time to do it. Don’t do what I did and add it afterwards. It’s not fun.

layers class quilt by ecokaren.jpg

Step 7: Add binding. I used the same fabric to make the binding but depending on the size of  your quilt, you may be able to buy a pre-made binding. But why would you? It’s not that hard to make a quilt binding. I used this method and it was really easy.  Try it. binding class quilt by ecokaren

Step 8: Congratulations! You are done! Hang and admire.

Hanging Class Quilt ecokaren

Oh, and if you have leftover  pieces, you can make pillows. Like these.

pillows ecokaren

Again, if these steps look too daunting, try the online quilting class.

Hope you’ll try to make this memorable gift. It’s so rewarding. This quilt was hanging on the wall for everyone to see on graduation day and it was great to see how special this gift truly was – not because I made it but because it was from the class of 2013.

Congratulations to all the graduates!

*This is an affiliate link so if you sign up for the class, I’ll receive a small commission, not enough to even buy a spool of thread.


  1. CarolWhilldinWest says

    Congratulations to your daughter. Her class must have been so elated to give such a personal gift to the school. It looks terrific hanging there at the stairwell.

    • says

      Thanks Carol! They were quite shocked, to say the least. They had no idea the “T-Shirt Quilt” would look like this. They thought it was going to look like a “Grandma’s” quilt with random square blocks. LOL.

  2. herbanlifestyle says

    What a great idea! The quilt looks great, and it will be appreciated for generations to come. A huge congratulations to your daughter on her graduation!

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