Missing Man TShirt Quilt

Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Finished!


I am so excited to be writing a blog post and not doing more behind the scenes website work today. I still have a few kinks to work out, but in general I believe my website migration is complete. Please let me know if you see anything amiss!

As I said, I am really excited to get to share a quilt finish with you today. I received a collection of about 27 TShirts last August, and I have slowly been working to turn them into a TShirt quilt. The TShirts are grouped together to honor friends who have died or “gone west”. As they are all related to the aerospace / flying community, I honored them by placing groupings of the TShirts in a Missing Man formation and setting them against a bright blue sky (using Robert Kaufman Kona Stratosphere).

Missing Man TShirt Quilt
Missing Man TShirt Quilt

I got pretty choked up at the response the quilt elicited from my friend / client:

I saw your email on the way home, and have been thinking about this all evening. The top turned out perfect- words can’t do justice to how healing this project has turned out for me. I originally loved the “Missing Man” idea, and think we’ve honored that. Looking at it finished, though, what strikes me about the empty spaces is not so much what has been lost, but what room remains to add- room for friends, memories, and events as yet undiscovered. We honor the legacy of the friends we’ve lost, and acknowledge the impact of the loss- and yet we still have room on the quilt for so much more. Thank you!

Missing Man TShirt Quilt
Missing Man TShirt Quilt

I will say that quilting the TShirts was both challenging and not as difficult as I had worried. In general they quilted just fine. A few of the TShirts were covered with thicker ink / pigment. The thicker ink bunched and flowed differently and was fine in the end, but I learned quickly to take my time on those shirts.

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Backing Fabric
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Backing Fabric

The quilt is backed in 108″ wide Essentials Cosmos in Navy that I purchased from BackSide Fabrics (note: BackSide Fabrics is a sponsor, but this is not an affiliate link). As I was putting the quilt into the wash, the voice in my head told me to include a color catcher, and I am glad that I did. If you use the Navy Cosmos backing, I would recommend a color catcher or pre-washing.

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Planning the Layout
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Planning the Layout

Getting the quilt top pieced as an adventure all in its own. As you can see from the photo above, I started with as completed groupings of “missing man” formations as possible and laid them out on my living room floor. My trusty tools (tailor’s tape, calculator, and scratch paper and pencil, seen at the bottom of the above photo) were essential.

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Piecing the Top
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Piecing the Top

I slowly worked my way from the top…

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Piecing the Top
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Piecing the Top

…through the middle…

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Piecing the Top
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Piecing the Top

…carefully sewing multiple Y-Seams along the way.

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Piecing the Top
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Piecing the Top

I would pause to remeasure and check fit along the way. The final step – sewing the top and bottom together – was a welcome finish!

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Finished Flimsy
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Finished Flimsy

In all, the quilt top took me 15.5 hours to design and piece. The quilting and binding took another 6 hours, for a total time of 21.5 hours to go from TShirts to a finished quilt.

Missing Man TShirt Quilt - Binding
Missing Man TShirt Quilt – Binding

There was enough Kona Stratosphere left over to bind the large (90 inches square) quilt. For the quilting and binding, I used 50wt Aurifil 2715 (Robins Egg).

Trimming a Large Quilt is Challenging (Under My Kitchen Table)
Trimming a Large Quilt is Challenging (Under My Kitchen Table)

I will be linking up with Finish It Friday.


  • Such a beautiful quilt made for keeping memories. Sounds like you put your heart into it and learned a lot along the way.

    I’ve been working on a quilt made from cotton shirts for a neighbor who lost her husband about two years ago. I just finished the piecing the back and have been fretting over how to quilt it…once again your double loops have caught my eye and I think that’s what I’ll do!

    I also have a box of t-shirts for a commissioned quilt and it will be my first time…I may hit you up with a few questions when I get started ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I’m always blown away with the sonic speed at which you are able to go from concept to incredible finish. What an amazing memory quilt!!!

  • What a touching quilt. It’s an honor to read about it today. You did a top notch job! I’m impressed with your quilting over screenprinting. I’ve always had major issues with that (maybe it’s because I quilt on a domestic?)

  • I am so happy to see this! Yvonne it is amazing! Of all the t-shirt quilts I’ve seen, this one is by far my favorite! The story behind it makes it even more special. Congrats on the finish…you have got to be pround of this one!!

  • It has been so fun watching this come together, you took a tshirt quilt and created a really unique and interesting layout. The response from your customer is so perfect! I think the all over quilting really works too,simple, but great texture! Also a forgiving pattern for the issues you encountered!

  • Yvonne, what an incredible t-shirt quilt with such meaning! Thank you so much for sharing it with us; it truly is an amazing and spectacular quilt! Have a fantastic and creative day!

  • Oh well done. So moving, and filled with “rightness” in each choice and drtail, if that makes sense. Now I need to find a hamky.

  • T-shirt quilts can sometimes be packed with emotions. This is one of the most touching I have ever seen Yvonne. Your friend’s words are beautiful and full of hope too. Wonderful work!

  • Thank you for a wonderful post. This touches my heart. Your workmanship is so great and I can see you put lots of thought into this project to make it come out so perfect.

  • The thought and care you put into getting the Missing Man formation just right throughout the quilt paid off Yvonne. The quilt works brilliantly . The blue is a lovely background . Thanks for sharing the feedback from the client. It is very touching.

  • You ROCKED this Yvonne! Your friend’s response made me emotional, too… but she’s right. What a wonderful tribute. You also expertly fit it all together–I love the process shots! Congratulations on a big finish (both this quilt, and the site migration).

  • I love all of the thought that went into every aspect of making this quilt. You have made what could have been a simple tshirt quilt into a beautiful, moving tribute. So lovely!

  • What an awesome tribute Yvonne. I love reading your thought process. When I’ve quilted T-shirt quilts with thick ink that the hopping foot doesn’t want to glide over, I’ve used Press & Seal over the area. Works great and usually peels off after quilting easily.

  • You did a fantastic job with this one, Yvonne (as usual!). I love the meaning behind the layout and the quilting looks beautiful. The response is so sweet too, very thoughtful and insightful, so fitting for the work you do. Congratulations ๐Ÿ™‚

  • What a wonderful response to your quilt, I love the forward looking side to it especially. And the quilt turned out so perfectly – meaningful and looking good as well. Brilliant backing choice too, at least with the trusty colour catcher!

  • Thanks for sharing the process, the client’s message (which is very moving, and well-said) and the beautiful finish. Did you use Aurifil in the top and the bottom when quilting? I’ve found it to be fairly fuzz-creating, and that’s just using it in one or the other not both.

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)