T-Shirt Quilts

T-Shirt Quilts

Claire has lots of T-shirts from her high school years. They are all quite meaningful. But then most of the shirts were not super comfortable to wear, some are also getting smaller. In order to preserve the memory, I had been thinking about making quilt(s) and hopefully she can keep them forever. My biggest obstacle is the lack of ability to sew with a sewing machine (I am going to learn, practice and master it!), and thankfully my mom is pretty good at it.

I would say it’s a fun project, however, it was challenging, and frustrating at times. In order to start the project, I did a lot of research, watching YouTube, reading upon people’s blogs. The next step is to order the items that I don’t already have (I had a Kenmore sewing machine from 20 years ago). I bought interfacing, roller cutter, cutting board and batting. The interfacing is iron on material to make t-shirt easier to work with. Though some professional quilters claim it’s not necessary to use interfacing, I decided it’s a must for me as I am after all a first time quilter. The interfacing I chose was Pellon Fusible Sheer-Weight Interfacing, it’s very light. I am not sure if it’s my iron issue or the interfacing issue, it took me a long time to make them stick to the back of the T-shirt. Batting is the middle layer of the quilt which offers insulation, and support of the quilt. I chose Pellon Nature’s Touch Natural Cotton Batting. I have some high thread count flat sheet at home which I never used, and they came handy as the backing of the quilt.

Since this is going to be a themed quilt, I gathered all the T-shirts that are math related, then sorted them out by events. The sorting may not be necessary. I think next time I may sort them by color if I am to make another quilt.

I then cut out the design from each shirt, leaving enough margin so I can try to fit them together later. I know I want a puzzle styled quilt rather than traditional block T-shirt quilt, leaving big margin definitely helped to maneuver during actual placement.
I then measured potential size which would eliminate much of the blank area of each square and went to PowerPoint to make arrangements.

After moving blocks around, I figured out a basic layout. I eventually had to make some changes because I decided to make 2 quilts instead of 1. But this really helped me to form a rectangle which would eventually become the quilt at the beginning of the post.

After I pretty much decided on the size of each block, I trimmed them and applied interfacing. This was very time consuming. The iron had to sit on the interfacing for at least 10 seconds for it to stick. 10 seconds only covered a very small area on the block.

Every block now had interfacing on and was cut to desired size plus seam space all around. I then lay them on the ground according to the chart, and kept on moving blocks around till the color is balanced (at least to my eyes). Also to make the sewer’s life easier, I tried to avoid having 4 pieces meeting at the same corner (I ended up have 2 points like that).

The must have tools for cutting are: roller cutter, self healing cutting board and a sturdy long ruler.

Now the sewing starts. As I said earlier, even though I own a sewing machine for over 20 years, I never learnt to use it. Luckily, I have my mom with me this year. She’s piecing them together based on my final layout.

While she’s doing the hard work of sewing, I did further more research online. I found to make a quilt look more complete and elegant, I need a border, and to finish a quilt properly I need binding. Binding is a very thin (probably 1/4 inch) edge all around the quilt to hide the raw edges and gives the quilt a neat finish. Border is additional fabric around the original design. It can be any width, and it can be solid or pieced-together.

I also found that I need a special presser foot called Open Toe Free Motion Quilt Presser for the sewing machine to make free motion stitches. Order is placed. The FMQ presser came in 2 days, but my sewing machine wouldn’t pick up the bobbin thread with the presser in place. What a headache! It’s too frustrating to figure out why it failed, I ended up buying another sewing machine, a Brother Computerized Sewing and Quilting machine! I think I may finally learn to sew LOL!

Both quilt tops are sewed up. Next step is to fit them on to the backing and batting. Since I don’t have a huge table to work with, I did everything on the floor. The batting I bought was queen size. Miraculously it fits both quilts perfectly.

After adding on a 3.5 inch pieced-together border, the backing and batting were cut according to the quilt to. Use pins or loose stitches to secure 3 layers together for the ease of sewing. Then sew along the joining seams. According to my mom, this wasn’t at all easy, as each layer stretches differently. Bravo to my mom to have them done nicely.

All the binding is applied.

What’s left to do is free motion quilting in each block to secure the layers further and make it a quilt top. At the moment, I am not completely comfortable doing it yet. My mom, who had sewed for 50 years was so used to traditional sewing, free motion is posing a great challenge. I am going to practice more before make swirls into each block.

05.29.19 – One night, I attempted free motion quilting on one of the border block and it turned out pretty nice. Honestly, if I look closely, there are many “issues”, but hey, it’s not for stitch by stitch examination. The overall look was quite impressive. I wanted to have some variations in the quilting, so I did more research. Lori Kennedy’s quilting is such great inspiration. My plan now is to doodle design with pencil and paper, then practice on other quilting material (which might become my next QAYG, Quilt As You Go, project). Once I have a hang of the design, I will quilt it on to the border block. Stay tuned.

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