Monday, September 10, 2012

T-shirt quilt hat-trick

Saving your kids' precious tees for SOMEDAY?

Looks easy right? Just cut up a bunch of shirts and sew them together. Probably won't cost much either as it's just old shirts, right? Heck, let's make it a neighborhood project: one for Katie and Samantha who were going off to college and another for Lizzy, just because. First I got some advise from a quilting friend. Seems simple enough.
First of all, decide what shirts you want to use. 
Get a lot of helpers and assign tasks. Cut open shoulder and side seams.
But wait. Don't we need some supplies? First up: fusible interfacing. How much to buy? 20 inches per/shirt used. Someone do the math. Send someone to the store and make sure you have a Joann coupon. Where is the coupon? Turns out Joann has a student discount going on this week. Show your student ID and save.
Assign someone to cut fusible interfacing into rough 20 inch pieces. Assign another person to iron them to the back side of the shirts. We used 99 cent/yard fusible and it was crappy. Had to iron everything twice and it still didn't really stick well. Place the interfacing as close to the top edge as possible because most shirt designs are near the neckline.

You will need to stop and make 100s of decisions along the way. How big to make the squares? How do we cut them out and make them square? IKEA to the rescue! I had an IKEA plastic placemat that was a 14 inch square. Lay placemat on a cardboard box lid (or any piece of cardboard), trace with sharpee and cut out with an exacto blade on cutting mat to make a template.
Lay box lid on shirt and position as you like. Now put placemat back on top of shirt and remove lid. Cut out with rotary cutter into nice square, being careful not to cut into the placemat as it is not very thick.  
Or you could draw around placemat with fine sharpee and use a thicker quilting straight edge ruler . We used both methods depending on skill level of the cutter.
 Now on the next decision. How will they go together? Will there be fabric between the squares or not? What color will go well with the shirts? How much will we need? You will need a handy notebook as you are always doing math. We decided an ocean-y color would work for Katie and purple for Lizzy's. Sammy rebelled with NO filler. Time to break for a couple of days while fabric was purchased and washed and pressed. I don't have any photos of cutting the strips but we basically folded up the fabric to cut out many layers at once. Rotary blade can easily cut through a zillion layers at a time.  How wide to cut? We decided on 4 inch strips. 
First we sewed fabric strips to the tops of pieces, ironed and trimmed off the excess with a rotary cutter.
See how nicely turquoise looks with Katie's blocks? 
We went to Pinterest to help with the color decisions.

By the time we got to Lizzy's we got more efficient, sewing each row into a long strip and then cutting apart into blocks. It was great to have a helper hand the blocks to me as I serged them together.

Vertical strips were added next.  The girls helped with the sewing at first, but as the sections got bigger and more cumbersome to maneuver, I became sole sewer. My team went back to their jobs and lives and I was left with this furry helper. Things were moving along nicely until my Serger thread started to break over and over and over #$! Cover your ears kitty.
Sammy's was fun to put together as it had no fabric in between.
Another week went by a more decisions had to be made. How much batting? What about backing? How many yards? Get out the notebook and do more math. Who has more Joann coupons? And don't forget to wash the backing and iron it. And buy enough as we found it SHRINKS!
It was nice that the batting comes in really big sheets. Katie needed two bags are her quilt was GI-NORMOUS. She chose flannel for the backing. It is not so nice that the flannel is NOT big enough so that had to be pieced. Get out the notebook again and figure out efficient piecing so we don't have to go back to the store and buy and wash more fabric. She had exactly enough. Lizzy chose flannel too, but the store did not have enough blue and we pieced in some lime green.
Early on I had suggested using sheets for the backing to eliminate piecing. When I searched the linen closet I found Sammy's old full sized duvet. IKEA to the rescue again! It complimented all of her tie-dyed shirts and the orange looked great with her school colors.

But are we done YET? No there are still more decisions to be made. What color yarn? How much? Where do you position the ties on the quilt? In the middle of squares? Another week passed as we all went back to Joann to get supplies. And don't forget the quilting safely pins. They are used to hold the layers together while you tie it.
I don't have any photos of tieing the yarn knots. But even THAT envolved more decisions. What needle to use? We learned thick needles are hard to pull through and with a thin needle the eye was too tiny to get the yarn through. UGH #@! We found a thicker needle could be pulled through the layers with a pliers. Cut a really long piece of yarn and thread. Pull through layers with a pliers until you almost reach end of yarn. Tie double knot. Trim. Repeat. And what about the edges? No photos of that either. Hopefully the bottom layer is 1-1/2 inches wider that top. Trim batting to edge of quilted top. Fold over bottom edge, fold again, pin and sew around entire quilt. Get a friend to help maneuver as it is bulky. There. That was easy. And didn't cost much either. Ha!

Update April 29, 2013:
Looks like I left out how do bind the edges. If you have the staying power to actually read this entire post, you have what it takes to do this project. 

Sorry, I don't remember how wide I cut the strips. 
Trim stuffing on quilt so you have a neat edge.
Sew binding pieces into a very long strip. 
Pin to the edge.
Clear off the table and bunch up the bulk. Sew.
You will have to google how to do the corners.
 Iron. Fold and tuck under. Repin.
I sewed a purple zig zag in the ditch to hold it in place. 
No, my edge treatment wouldn't win any ribbons at the state fair.
But at least I could call it finished!