Thursday, April 16, 2009

t-Shirt Quilts

T-shirt quilts are a great way to save memories and empty your dresser drawers or closet shelves. I am not a scrapbooker, but give me a set of t-shirts and I am sure they can be turned into a quilt that will keep you warm and bring on memories that will make you smile. Most of the t-shirt quilts I have made have been made in the style shown, but I have made a couple of others that are simply scrap blocks from the leftover shirt material and another that used the little shirt front logos as cornerstones and the back panels as the main block. Jon and Jamie's quilts were made up of the shirts they wore from age 4 through college, so I did need to be creative with the small shirts in order to keep the block size uniform. I left in the neckline and reversed the back to fill the space, and for several blocks I also had to leave part of the shoulder fabric. The overall look must have been satisfactory because 10 years later they are still using them. The photo on the left is of some of my husband's running shirts. (He is back to running again, so there may be another quilt in his future.)

Beyond using t-shirts, I have used other favorite pieces of clothing to create fond memories for a friend. One of my male teaching partners has always worn oxford shirts to class, so we took his shirts and created a design that we both like and then I made him a king-size quilt. It was the first quilt of that size for me to quilt on my long arm. Based on my friend's response, I would say it was a success. When others saw it they immediately recognized it as being a quilt for this man.

There are lots of different ways to construct t-shirt quilts. The bottom line is that you need to remember that t-shirt fabric is generally fairly stretchy and needs to be stabilized in some way to maintain shape. I have used light-weight iron pellon. I place the logo side of the t-shirt face down on a pressing sheet and iron the pellon to the back following the manufacturer's instructions. Then I cut out the squares using a square acrylic ruler as my template. That way I can center the logo before cutting. Next, cut the sashing strips and sew everything in rows. The outer border or borders can be cut larger to increase the size of a quilt. When the quilt is sandwiched together, you have the choice of hand tying or machine quilting. The machine quilting will help to make the quilt wear better, in my opinion. Either way, follow the instructions on the batting concerning how closely you will need to quilt in order to get the best and longest lasting results.

Longarmer Note: If you are going to have the quilt quilted by a longarmer, take the time to press all your seams consistently and trim off all the threads. The more finished your work, the less you will have to spend to have it quilted. Squaring up the quilt top is also very important. If you have been accurate with your cutting, piecing and seam width, you will find that your quilt top is generally pretty square. However, check it again before sending it to be quilted. It will help both you and the longarmer to create a better end result.

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