Everyone has seen something and thought, “I could do that.”
I saw a t-shirt quilt. My friend Janell must have also seen a t-shirt quilt.
They were not the same quilt.
My efforts have not taken me as far as my friend. I’m at the stage where I’ve stopped and looked around and I’m having second thoughts, but will probably plow through and be happy with whatever the outcome because I tried, dammit. The t-shirts aren’t going to sew themselves.
Below Janell details her experience with putting together a variation of a t-shirt quilt and then answers a few additional questions I had for her.
I like to start with a goal in mind. I’ve found that really helps focus the project and can answer a lot of question on how things should work. For this quilt, I wanted something large enough for the whole family to cuddle under. To determine this size, I took a tape measure, a finished lap quilt, and my son to the back couch. I tucked him in with the blanket at one end and I went to the other side. I measured out how much larger I wanted the full-size blanket to be, added those numbers to the size of that quilt, rounded a bit to get some even numbers and came up with a goal of 90″ by 60″. I then measured all of the T-shirts for what I think of as “minimum usable area”. This is about 1/2″ beyond the screen printing, so I know there is more shirt I can use to make the blocks larger, but at a minimum, that’s what I’ll need to use. I then did some quick numbers to see what that size looked like and I was surprised to see that my T-shirts could all fit on one side with room to spare. I decided on 6″ borders and 5 columns of T-shirt blocks.
I tinkered with some layouts. I didn’t want to go too crazy on this, but I didn’t want all the blue ones together either. I do like things more symmetrical and set anyway (I guess I don’t do scrappy well), so there are some opposites in the quilt. For example, the Chorus Line front and back make up the two upper corners. The Summer Marching band shirts come next on top, and their backs are placed in the same, opposite locations, third down on the outer columns. I was basically done with the layout and starting to cut shirts when I found out Annie Get Your Gun had a back, full of signatures from the whole pit band. After tinkering with more layouts, I ended up cutting that shirt front in half, sewing the back with signatures in the middle, and narrowing all of the horizontal borders in that column.
The topper fabrics are all cotton. I was going to go flannel all the way to keep things cuddly, but after talking with a clerk at Blue Bar Quilts, she convinced me that flannel would make the quilt too heavy overall and I thought cotton on the front would be easier to work with and have a better selection and then I could still get flannel on the back. There are 3 cotton fabrics used to border all of the T-shirts. I used Quilters Dream Cotton batting, but I ordered the Deluxe to get more loft and weight. The quilt is quite heavy, but I love it!
Q: How long have you been sewing?
A: I sewed a bit as a child with my Mom, then tried again late in college. I started again about 12 years ago.
Q: Why this Project? Why now?
A: I’ve been wanting to do this project for about 8 years. As soon as I heard about T-shirt Quilts and learned that was a thing, I realized I had a collection from my years in band and I’ve been wanting to do it ever since. I always let other projects jump in the way. It’s taken this long to put my foot down and decide this is happening now!
Q: Would you do it again?
A: I would definitely do it again! I was surprised how quickly this flew together. Only about a month from start to finish. The only real wrinkle I ran into was finding the Annie Get Your Gun shirt had a back, deciding I did want to include it, and needing to re-work the design a bit after I thought it was done.
Q: Anything you would do differently?
A: I learned while Quilting this that I can’t stand using an all-over thread color. I knew I wanted “Annie” and “Yankees” to have matching threads, they were too bold and any neutral would stand out terribly. So I did them first. Then I put on my light gray, started in the middle and went to town. After completing the middle column, I decided I hated that pale gray on the white squares and green border fabric. I couldn’t change the green areas, I would need to go forward on the whole quilt with it, but I did change directions and start matching thread for all the t-shirts in the other columns.