Tee Shirt Memory Quilt

I am adding a new category to my blog called

D.I.M. (Do It Myself Because If I Don’t Do It Who Else Will?)

So today’s D.I.M project is a T-Shirt Quilt!  I have had a love affair with quilts since I was a kid, especially antique, hand-stitched beauties that have withstood the test of time. (I am a country-girl at heart, after all) Not having much time these days to spend the hours necessary to make an authentic hand-made quilt, I typically create T-shirt quilts and donate them for various Boston area charities through

 Threads of Hope.

Occasionally I am commissioned to make one as a gift, so I am featuring this quilt for a soon-to-be high school grad for demonstration purposes. The collection of t-shirts his mom handed over to me are sacred to him- various basketball & soccer teams, childhood memories of camping and community service- and one very special shirt with pics of his dog.  Each time I create a quilt, I do so with the recipient in mind, creating what I hope will be a cherished momento that will last a lifetime. In that spirit, I am sharing this information so that you, too, can make a quilt for someone you love!

T-Shirt Quilt Creations 101 is now in session.

Supplies you will need to create one quilt approx 52 x 70 inches: A layout of the quilt you are making with the shirts and cross-pieces laid out.

T-shirts -I typically work with a dozen, using each as a square, cut 14″ X 16″. They can be brand new, used, stained, painted, torn-it doesn’t matter, as you will be cutting them apart anyway. Make sure you wash them all before you start- don’t want your quilt smelling like a locker room!

Scissors, Rotary Cutter & Cutting Board, T-square.All the tools you need to get the shirts cut accurately-very important!

Pellon Fusible Interfacing. T-shirts have a lot of give & stretch, so they need to be stabilized to prevent them from warping while sewing. This stuff is the easiest and cheapest to work with. Only .99 per yard, and with a Joann’s coupon, only .50!

Batting- you can use cotton or poly. I prefer the poly because it holds its shape better and is not as heavy as the cotton fill. Again with a coupon, pretty inexpensive.

Fabric for cross pieces and backing. I typically use a sheet- a full-sized one will give you a single piece for the backing, then enough left over to make the columns and rows. I have an embroidery machine, so I use different fabrics for the cross-pieces, but you can use the same for all three. If you want to use different fabrics to add more color or design, these little Fat Quarters are great- each one gives you 5 cross-pieces!

It goes without saying that you need a sewing machine. Any kind, as long as it sews a straight line or if you want to get a bit fancy, zig-zag! Mine is an old Brother that I got at Target for $159.99 Nothing special, but it gets the job done.

OK, now that you have all the stuff, let’s get going! First you need to identify what part of the shirts you would like to use. Sometimes I just use the front panel, other times I take patches off the sleeves or back and applique them to the front for added interest.

Rough-cut the front panels to approx 16W X 18L . Once you have them rough-cut, fuse each piece with the interfacing on the reverse side. When using the iron, make sure you follow the directions for the interfacing! Also, if you are using game shirts or raised silk-screen shirts, do not place the iron directly onto the shirt or it will melt! Always use a top cloth of white cotton. Once you have fused the square, make the final cut to 14W x 16L inches. Using a half-inch seam allowance, your final squares will end up being 13W X 15L.

Now cut all of your side and cross pieces. Cross pieces will be 14W X 4L. (I always leave a little extra on each end, in case of mistakes : ). If you have 3 columns of shirt squares, you will need 4 long strips approximately 80 inches long for in between each one and a top and bottom piece approximately 60W by 4L. I cut mine 4 inches wide, but you could do less, or more, depending on how big you want the quilt to be.

Line up your shirts in the order you wish them to be on the quilt. This usually takes place on the floor, as I don’t have a table big enough for the full visual. Now begin assembling your quilt, starting with top cross-piece, then a shirt square, then another cross piece, then a square, and so on, building your columns 4 shirts down and your rows 3 across. As you add each piece, make sure you line it up with the one below so your columns are even and straight.

Once you have your three columns of squares and cross-pieces, stitch the columns of 4 inch wide fabric that will hold the entire top of the quilt together. Add the top and bottom pieces that create a “frame” around the squares. Keep checking to make sure that your corners all match up! You know that old carpenter’s saying “Measure twice, cut once?”, so important! I measure and re-measure as I go. Trim excess.

Now that your top is completed, you will attach it to the back, right sides together. Pin first, then stitch, then trim. Make sure you leave an adequate opening to turn the quilt right side out, at least one full shirt square in width.  Once it is trimmed, you are going to hand baste the batting to the quilt all the way around. Again, the easiest way I have found to do this is on the floor (not great for the back…)

Once the batting is basted on, trim the excess away.

Turn your quilt right side out. Press and pin the edges and corners.

I stitch each corner with a tiny machine zig-zag, to hold the quilt and batting in place through all three layers. Press closed the opening and stitch by hand, or with a decorative stitch (I used a blanket stitch here).  Press again, trim away any threads and you’re done!

A work of art that you can proudly present as a gift for that special someone. Now, I know this is somewhat confusing, and trust me, you won’t do this in a day. If you have any questions, or need assistance, please email me @ countrydesignhome@gmail.com.

Just remember, “a stitch in time saves nine” (right, I have no idea what that means either) Susan

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