May 27, 2008

A sort of tutorial for a tshirt quilt--EDITED

I should be sewing on that tshirt quilt left you see what I have to work with minus the first vertical row. I switched some blocks around after I took the picture though. Later I drew it all up in the computer-- and even that got revised. Actually I do have the 1st vertical row completed as of this writing and 60% of the 2nd row is done--does that count, LOL?

The woman who commissioned it is a Jacksonville State University (AL) graduate. I think she said she worked in the athletic department while in school so there are no sorority shirts but a lot of sports programs at JSU are represented. She wanted that black and white gingham but I didn't think I could use it for plain sashing with cornerstones and have it look even. I suggested this "Picture Frame" set and have used it before for other tops. It does look striking with all the red in the shirts and the white that will go between the blocks to sort of float them.

ED. NOTE: A lack of a clear design had held this up for longer than it should have. I guess you can consider this a sort of tutorial on how I approach this kind of design. Not that I am an expert or anything but this is the third one I have made. Links to the other two are HERE and HERE if you want to go look.

Other sites or books will tell you how to interface and all that so I'll assume you don't need more than the following: roughly cut out the part of the design larger than you need. Leave a margin of shirt at first--at least 3 inches or more around the design if you can. Many designs are on the back of the shirt now so you can basically cut that from the neck on down and whack off the sleeves and then trim a good bit off the bottom. Use fusible interfacing to the back of the shirts--about 10-13 yards of it as that stuff is only about 22 inches wide if that. Trim them down to a workable size with enough shirt to frame them but not have a lot of varying widths if you can avoid it. Makes for more math and too easy to mess up which strip goes where. You may have to do a little more judicious trimming again to make the uniform sized blocks. ***Uniform blocks are important!*** Ordinarily you don't want to have a lot of width variances in one row as that just makes the rows and ultimately the quilt, wider in the end. I also like to use the little designs (from the "pocket" area of the shirt ) to make a 4 patch if I can. This quilt as two of them to make 2- 12 inch blocks. Kind of a fun element.

Then how much sashing and fillers?? When I do these t-shirt quilts, think linearly. I like to go with a vertical measurement and work in rows as it is easier for assembly than something set in. I figure out what the longest row will measure by totalling up the length of the blocks at this point. In this case it was various sizes 80, 81 etc. I figured that the smallest the sashing between the blocks could go was 2 inch so that made my longest row 91 inches. Since all the rows have 5 blocks and I need 4 sashing strips between the block, I subtracted 80 from 91 for the difference in the two lengths and divided that resultant 11 inches by 4 to equal 2.75 inch width finished. My sashing strips finish at 2.75, 2.5 and 2 inch on this quilt. That set the length of the row. This gets all the blocks evenly spaced at the top and bottom of the quilt. Even better, you can go ahead and attach the left hand border to the row after you sew it. T-shirts quilts are heavy and trust me, it is easier to "pre-border" than lug the thing around to do it later. On your last row it would go on the right hand edge for the side border. Apply the top and bottom ones by standard methodology.

For the width of the each vertical rows I calculated the widest measurement of the blocks as I had them laid out. If it was an interior row, I added two inches to that for floating the block purposes . The 4th row will get an outside border over the whole length of the quilt so no worries on that one. SO to center the block I subtract the width of the block from the width I am shooting for ( in this case 20, 21, 22, 23 inches) and then divide that number by two for both vertical sides of the block adding in the seam allowance. I didn't color the blocks when I drew it up in EQ but this is sort of how it will look but with black and white gingham and much smaller shadowing.

What about the shadow thing, you might ask? I usually cut the frames 2 inches wide--apply it top, bottom and then side, side. No biggie there. You can strip piece that shadow stuff and sew whatever width you want the background color drop to be by the longest section you need the shadow fabric. Then subcut the whole deal into however wide you need it to be--2.5, 3?? Then sew it to the right side of the block first and then the bottom of the block.

One word on background---something tone on tone is probably best as you are going to be floating the blocks and want to hide the seams a bit. The quilting will help with that too. A loose stipple works well. These quilts are very heavy and I doubt anyone will actually want to sleep under it. It is more for a spread and of course to preserve those memories for the shirt owner.

I don't really know which is worse though in sewing this thing. The gingham is slippery and ravel-y fabric--ugh. I was constantly clipping strings on the back of the quilt and the front too for that matter. Second, the interfaced shirts don't want to slide on the machine sewing table all that well. (ed. note: 5/28 I tried something this morning that seems to be working. Works for free motioning too I am told. Put a garbage bag on the machine table under the piece I am sewing and then stitch as usual. It is moving more easily and I don't have to sew from the wrong side)

I will have this done by week's end. A change in the original plan for the backing will mean a delay in dealing with that part. She wanted solid black and not only did I not have enough on hand but I nixed that in favor of a print with white background and black swirly stuff all over it. My reasoning was that you would not want to see little black dots from the thread in back to be all over the white background in the front. I hope to run it up to the longarmer some time next week. When I go, a couple of the Belles wanted to ride along so we can go to a new quilt shop along the way though my stop is a few miles north of our destination---close enough!

We spent a quiet Memorial Day as I knew we would. I got my walking in, sewed and chatted with the FABS who were in and out during the day. I changed my mind about supper plans when it hit 82 in the house and no a/c on. We had cloud cover but it was still a bit sticky. UGH!

Here was the view of Skyler yesterday afternoon. What you don't see is DJ stretched out in his recliner right next to him. Below you see my two guys earlier in the week watching TV. Nice of Skyler to let DJ have a seat on "HIS" loveseat, huh? Today, his favored spot is by the front door hiding behind the plant stand---Pippi liked that spot too actually.

DJ wanted me to call to set up a time to get those front claws dealt with. We have been back and forth on this for the last few weeks. I am a little ambivalent about this but the vet said they do it with a laser now which sounds more humane than incisions. Skyler is not scratching the furniture though an occasional claw does get dug in if he is chasing a toy. He knows what his scratching box is for and wore out the cardboard in a month's time. The replacement one is not looking too hot either. lately he has discovered that digging a claw into the rug and then dragging his body on the carpeting is great fun. DJ is mainly concerned about his snagging up the carpet though I didn't think he was hurting anything. I have gotten my feet attacked under the sheets a couple of times, once drawing blood. DJ is on blood thinners and we cannot have that.

We either had to wait till we return from our short trip to IL next month or do it tomorrow. Yikes, tomorrow it is then. Poor kitty baby with a mean kitty mama--or kitty daddy. He will have to stay over night for two nights, I was told. I assume antibiotics for a few days after---oh, he loves that! NOT.

What has distracted me from sewing this afternoon other than posting this "check in" note is two boxes of quilty stuff from my pal Pam. She had six quilt tops that she knows I will re-size stuffed in a small flat rate box. The other larger box had some challenge fabric she and Norma are planning for we FABS to do something with--"rules" not stated yet but cool purples. It even sorta goes with a piece that Cher sent recently! The old challenge fabric she sent that I need for binding was in there along with a Charm pack--we are doing a tote with those. A pile of homespuns and plaids too---I know two quilts that those can be used in along with some my mom sent back with me last year. A row quilt UFO and a few other items I am probably forgetting as I write this. What fun! Judging from my history, it is amazing how much better I do at completing someone else's work but not my own, LOL.

Well, just talking about sewing is NOT getting any of it done. All too soon it will be time to start supper so best get cracking at at least get that 2nd row done before then. Hope you all had a good and safe weekend.


  1. Linda, thanks for the "sort of" tutorial on tee-shirt quilts. My daughter has given me a big bag of shirts and has asked for one, but I've been reluctant to even get started on it. Your ideas about the sashing strips and and picture frame set sound really good.

  2. I think the 'picture frames' for the t-shirt quilt is a really cool idea. I also have a stack of t-shirts waiting in the 'someday quilt pile'. DJ will be happier once Skylar is de-clawed and you are just being a responsible Mommy to take care of him. Purple package from Pam...can hardly wait for mine to arrive. and Norma with no purple! :)

  3. Declawing is a tough decision, one we arrived at only with a lot of trepidation and guilt. It has worked very well for us. We had indoor cats with claws before and sooner or later they all discovered the joys of furniture-shredding and drape-climbing. We decided from the start we had to be proactive about it. I'm not sure my cat really "gets it" that she had front claws at one time but doesn't now. She still flexes her feet and pseudo-scratches at stuff. (Heaven knows what the ottoman in the den would look like if she was still armed.) You're not bad kitty parents. Just pamper him when he comes home and he'll be fine.

  4. Poor Skyler! It sounds like the lazer method of claw removal will be better than the traditional though. It sounds like work and fun came in that box from Pam. What do you think of the challenge fabric? I wonder what Pam is up to? LOL

  5. I love your t-shirt tutorial! I have save t-shirts for years with the idea of making a quilt, but was kind of intimidated because of all that stretchy fabric. Thank you for your great ideas and info. I love your kittie! I know Skyler will heal quickly...

  6. I did not know that fabric in my box was challenge fabric-I was going to use it as tote fabric! of course then Pam told me what it really was for.
    LOL...good luck in working on the tee shirt quilt-and poor Skyler...but, in the long run..probably good for your house.

  7. Thanks for the tutorial! I have saved it to my favorites. LOVE the black picture frames, it really sets off the colors. I made t-shirt quilts for my 2 girls many years ago, did a do-over after I figured out I should have used interfacing. Now the grandkids are saving up shirts for quilts, so any advice and ideas are greatly appreciated!

  8. thank you for doing your sorta tutorial! this is exactly what I was thinking of for my nephews graduation quilt this spring!!!

  9. Linda, since you left out the part about the interfacing... a question - what kind/weight of interfacing do you use? Since there is only one Wal-Mart left in a nearby town that still carries fabric on the bolt, I am thinking I need to make a trip and stock up. Thanks!


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