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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How to Be Awesome at Quilting: T-Shirt Edition

There were a combination of reasons that I decided to go ahead and start my t-shirt quilt, even though I'm not finished with my first one.  First of all, when I started actually quilting my ladybug quilt, I realized that I don't know jack about actually quilting.  This came as a shock to me because I grew up watching my mom do it, and really, it's just basically sewing, so that's not hard, right?


Quilting is extremely difficult, and even after watching three or so videos on, I am still not able to do a decent job of it. 

The Practice Piece of Shame

That right there puts it in the "difficult" category.  If I can't watch a video or two online and figure it out, it's gone past the "moderately challenging" level.

So it occurred to me that maybe, like with so many other things, I have started at a level that is above "beginner."  I thought maybe if I do a simple quilt, it will give me the background for how to be awesome at difficult quilting.

Also, as I was packing stuff the other day, I found the giant stack of t-shirts that I have been saving to make a quilt with, and I figured that making it would be easier than packing them all up and hauling them to the new house.  T-shirts are heavy!

Having already had a tutorial in basic quilting from Bekah and Mrs. Woosley, I started by making a pattern and cutting out my squares.  I wanted each square to be twelve inches, since that seemed, from the Google searches I did, to be the typical size for t-shirt squares.  It's big enough for most logos.  I finally broke down and bought a big rotary cutting mat, so that made things easier, too.

Most real sewing people (people other than me) said that I shouldn't make a quilt out of t-shirts because the material is too stretchy.  I'm sure this was very wise advice, but I did it anyway.  I'm not sure what the consequences are of the material being stretchy, but I'm sure they are grave.  I even bought some interfacing to iron on the backs of the shirts because Google told me that this might help with the stretchy problem.  In the end, I didn't end up using it though because A)  several people on the Interweb said that they didn't need it;  B)  when I got home, I realized I didn't buy nearly enough and I didn't want to go back; and C)  I was afraid that the interfacing would make the t-shirts not so soft, which was kind of the whole idea.  So I just decided to wing it, and I figured if stretchiness became an issue, I could always get more interfacing.

I had twenty-five t-shirts to work with.  Some of them, though, only had pocket designs, so I couldn't use them for the quilt (but I saved the pocked designs to make a pillow!).  But since some of the shirts had designs on the front and the back, it actually worked out that I had exactly twenty-five squares.  Sweet!  I also cut out as many blank squares from the backs or fronts as I could, and I think I'm going to use those to make the back of the quilt.

So I laid them all out and started sewing the horizontal rows.

The nice thing about the t-shirt quilt is that it's way less formal that my other one.  I didn't even have to iron it!  Well, I started ironing it, like a good quilter, but it didn't really help at all because the shirts were so floppy.  Maybe that was the stretchy part.  But I just pinned all the seams before I sewed them and it wasn't really an issue.

When I started sewing the rows together, I definitely had to pin the seams.  I would never have been able to just line it up like I did my other one.  But again, it worked just fine, and now I have the front of my quilt finished! 

I thought about just tying the front and back together and not even having a batting in the center, but since I am supposed to be using this to practice, and since I think it will help it keep it's "blanket shape" a little better and not be quite so floppy, I think I will.  I'm just going to do a simple "Stitch in the Ditch" quilting though, which is just quilting along the seams.  (See how awesome I sounded throwing that quilting jargon around?)

I love this quilt though, because it has so many great memories in it.  I used t-shirts from high school band stuff, youth group, college, the school I worked at, and shirts people had given me.  It's so soft, too, which is the great thing about old t-shirts.

Oh, and I took the scraps from the shirts to my sister-in-law, Pamela, and she showed me how to make some other cool stuff from them.  Yay!

'Cause that's what I need right now: more projects to start.


  1. When you put the quilt together and are ready to quilt then sew over your seams of each shirt and this will help with the stretching.