A Solar Eclipse Quilt

Thursday, May 2, 2024

It's been a few weeks since the total solar eclipse passed across the US, but I wanted to share the quilt that I made to mark the occasion!

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

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I'm not sure if you remember, but there was a total solar eclipse seven years ago too. Back then, we realized we lived within driving distance of the exact spot where both the 2017 AND the 2024 paths of totality would cross. So we planned ahead - 7 years ago - to view the eclipse in that spot - near Carbondale, Illinois. I made t-shirts for us to wear too! (Tutorial for those HERE!)

Black thread, fabric, and batting

Now fast forward those 7 years back to this year, and we planned to watch the eclipse again - in the exact same location near Carbondale, Illinois. We have moved since the last eclipse, so it was a bit more of a drive and planned trip this time. But I knew I wanted to make new shirts for us to wear, and I also wanted to make a matching quilt!

Supplies for bleaching t-shirts and fabric

I got everything for the quilt from Missouri Star: 1 3/4 yards of Riley Blake solid black fabric for the top and binding, 1 1/4 yards celestial fabric for the backing, Quilter Dream Poly Select Midnight black batting, and a spool of Aurifil black 50wt thread. 

Bleaching t-shirts to make solar eclipse shirts

I purchased a spray bottle from the dollar store and grabbed some bleach from the laundry room. For the shirts (purchased from JOANN), I used a plate on the top, then sprayed the bleach around the edge of the plate. The bleach works FAST, so it takes just about one minute for the color to change from black to orange. Once I was happy with the color, I immediately rinsed the shirt with the garden hose. 

Bleaching solid black fabric to make solar eclipse quilt

I followed the exact same process for the solid black fabric for the quilt. I used a charger plate for the center, sprayed the bleach around it, waited one minute, then rinsed it out with the garden hose. (Of course I was working outside, and I was using 100% bleach.) Once I had rinsed the shirts and fabric out really well, I took them inside to wash in the washing machine. If you want to see this happen in real time, I recorded it and shared it on Instagram! Watch the video HERE!

Note: I did not use anything to stop the bleach. You can use a hydrogen peroxide rinse, and there is a product called "Bleach Stop" that can stop the chemical reaction so the bleach doesn't weaken the fabric over time. I did not use these on my shirts or fabric for the quilt. We still have shirts from seven years ago, and all are still in great shape. I personally am okay with the fact that my quilt fabric might deteriorate over the time of a few years. If it does, then I will make a new one. And I'm counting this as an experiment. I'll definitely update this post if I notice any changes to the fabric in the coming years.

Celestial fabric

Once the fabric was out of the washer and dryer, I pin basted it with the celestial backing fabric and black batting.

Pin basting

I wanted to mark out a rough guide for my quilting, so I grabbed this pack of pencils from my stash. The white pencil worked great! 

Marking pencils including water soluble pencil

I marked and drew lines to cut the center sun section into eighths, and drew out a few designs.

Marking quilt with water soluble pencil

Once finished, I used a damp rag to wipe away the white lines, and they all came out completely.

Marking quilt with water soluble pencil

I put the free-motion foot onto my regular machine (a Juki TL-2010Q), then started in the middle with the black thread and started working my way out!

Marking quilt for free motion quilting with water soluble pencil

I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do, but most of it was just making it up as I went.

Free motion quilting bleached black fabric to look like solar eclipse

After all the quilting, I used the extra solid black fabric for the binding, and sewed in one of my satin quilt labels too.

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

I am so thrilled with how the quilt turned out! From afar, you immediately see the bleached part that looks like an eclipse. And up close, you can really see the details that make it a quilt!

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

I don't think I got as good of photos from this eclipse as I did seven years ago, but I'm putting them here just to document the event.

Solar eclipse 2024Solar eclipse 2024Solar eclipse 2024Solar eclipse 2024

If you've never experienced totality during a solar eclipse, it is something amazing. The science of how the moon is perfectly the right size and distance to make it happen is absolutely fascinating. And the experience is 100% worth seeking out. The next total solar eclipse in the lower 48 in the United States is in 2044. Let's plan a viewing party!

Solar eclipse 2024 totality

Yes, the quilt was on site during the eclipse too, so it serves as a souvenir of our trip.

Solar eclipse quilt made with bleached black fabric and free motion quilting

And here we are in our shirts! I'll have to make new ones for us all to wear in 20 years!

Solar eclipse DIY tshirts made with bleach

Here are a few more detail shots of the quilting.

Solar eclipse quilt made with bleached black fabric and free motion quilting

Have you ever bleached fabric?

Solar eclipse quilt made with bleached black fabric and free motion quilting

This is my second time bleaching fabric for a quilt. (Read about the first one HERE!)

Solar eclipse quilt made with bleached black fabric and free motion quilting

And yes, this is all free-motion quilted on my domestic machine. If you're thinking I'm some magical quilting expert, I would laugh. That's most definitely not the case!

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

I can just attest to the saying "practice makes progress," and I just keep going even if I think it is not very good. I could point out 100 ways that this is not very good, but that's not helpful to any of us. It is my best for now, until I am better next time. 

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

So don't be afraid to bleach the fabric or try something else outside the box! Experiment and play and learn something new! It's just fabric!

Solar eclipse quilt made by bleaching black fabric

Now I have 20 years to think about the quilt I will make to commemorate the next total solar eclipse!


  1. Wow! I love this! I too made a quilt for each eclipse.

  2. I love this! I've used bleach on a jean jacket and have thought of playing with it on fabric but haven't done it yet. Now I'm inspired!

  3. What a fun idea -- thanks for sharing!


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