Saturday, November 03, 2012

Old Shirt, New Shirt, Red Shirt, Blue Shirt...

The Idea

James isn't much of a collector, in fact he loves getting rid of things. We even just took another load of stuff to St. Vinnie's yesterday!

That being said, he was going through his clothes one afternoon and had a HUGE stack of shirts he was going to get rid of. I, in my most pack-rattish tone, said "What are you doing with those? You can't just toss them! I could use them for something!" So, I of course put them in my craft room and held onto them for about two years waiting for just the right opportunity.

The Opportunity

I don't exactly remember how the opportunity came up to turn that pile of old sports, clubs, business, mission trips and souvenir shirts into a quilt...but what I do remember was thinking..."oh yeah, that's a great will be easy."

Famous last words. It is all about perspective when quilting. To an experienced quilter, someone who has spent numerous hours measuring, pinning, cutting, re-pinning, sewing, cutting some more and loosing track of time because they are so  into their project, a t-shirt quilt is easy. However, I learned very quickly that deciding to use all 108 shirts to make the grand-daddy of all t-shirt quilts was just a bit more than I could handle as a novice, no, as a non-quilter.

The Process

Sewing together t-shirt material is an art form. T-shirts are stretchy, which is great when you're wearing them and horrible when you're sewing them. So, step one is to fuse (iron on) a stabilizer to the back of each piece you will be using.
All of the designs cut out and placed
Had I read the directions that my awesome experienced-quilter-mother-in-law had shared with me I would have known that fusing THEN cutting makes your life easier. I however, in all my quilting wisdom cut each piece and then proceeded to fuse each piece and yes, RE-CUT every piece again. At this point I was thinking, "This is step 1?"

Well, I made it through the hard part, so I thought. I was super excited to start sewing things together so I called my mother-in-law and said I was bringing down the pieces on my next visit to put it together. Of course I was very
surprised to find out that you had to have things like "precise measurements" and "same sized blocks" and in order to get there you had to use a "fabric ruler" and "rotary cutter" neither of which I had.
The back laid out and ready to sew

Thank goodness for Dawn, she helped me make a plan and cut and get things in order and she gave me all the tools I would need to be successful.

So, I went back home with a mission. I was going to get all the blocks pieced together for the front and back (Oh, yeah, I added that little step of quilting the backside as well as the I nuts?!) before the next visit so we really could start sewing that time.

The back sewn together
I put in a lot of man hours sewing small pieces together to make the larger blocks. I did math in my head and math on the white board and cut and re-cut, so many times that I needed a vacation from my craft time. But, I did it. I got every block finished and packed for our trip down during Christmas last year.

Exhausted after a long sewing session
My mother-in-law was so excited to finally get started on the sewing she did what she always does and double checked  the measurements. Much to my horror each piece was off by about 1/4-1/2 of an inch. Come to find out one of the rulers I had been using was warped and off by about 1/4-1/2 of an inch.

At this point I was pretty sure the quilt was a goner. Had it been up to me I probably would have forced the issue and just started sewing the thing and hoped and prayed that when I got finished no one would notice the crooked seams or lopsided edges. Dawn, the experienced quilter, said..."That's ok, we can just trim them all to match." Oh, such a simple statement. She proceeded to trim each block...all 149 of them to be exactly the right size. Without her help I never would have made it past this step! Thank you, Mom!

Vinnie "helping" me tie the quilt
Once they were all the right size the sewing actually was pretty fast. We got most of the strips put together that week. I finished putting the strips together once I got home. Then on her next visit up Dawn helped me spray the top and bottom with fabric  glue and stick them to the batting to hold them in place for tying. I decided to tie my quilt since I don't have a big enough machine to do any actual quilting through all the layers.

I turned on some CSI and tied until my finger tips couldn't tie anymore. Then (I know the mind reals that there could be more!) I watched a couple you-tube videos about binding the edge. It took about four 2 hour sessions of Olympic highlight videos to get around the whole thing but I remember that last stitch... I felt like one of the athletes I had been watching...accomplished, trained, practiced, I had put my mind to it and finished and I had gotten the gold, well at least I had gotten a finished quilt and had gotten to be poured into by my mother-in-law about a skill and passion that she adored. That was reward enough.

We love our t-shirt quilt. I think Vinnie loves it most of all. And we will have the memories both from the shirts and making the quilt for a very long time.

The Finished Product

Vinnie Enjoying "his" quilt


  1. Lisa Nielsen8:06 PM

    Love your t-shirt quilt! I've been quilting for almost 4 years and have been saving t-shirts...just haven't gotten around to it yet.

  2. Jessi2:34 PM

    It is a fun project! A lot of work for a first quilt but you would probably really enjoy it! Plus it is a great conversation starter to keep on the couch and super cozy.

  3. next level2:17 AM

    your south is owsumYou did a good job i realy appreciate your
    collection for casual clothing sellers.