Project: How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt

You haven’t met Brown-Eyed Girl yet.

She’s got a busy life–she’s in school, working oodles of jobs, lives with Black Hair and Earth Momma, so half the time she’s wrangling kids and chores, too.

theeducatorsroom

theeducatorsroom

In her spare time she likes to participate in activities that typically lead to the receiving of a free t-shirt.

You know, golf tournaments, Half-Ironman triathlons, and other activities that I would never be able to do.

from zimbio

from zimbio

Last summer, Earth Momma and I told her we’d make her a t-shirt quilt. I dramatically told her it would be finished “before the frost” (I was channeling Eddard Stark from Game of Thrones).

from comicvine

from comicvine

Well folks, the first frost came and went, and then Christmas happened, then New Year’s, then…well, you get the picture. It’s April.

I knew we had to get this done, and fast.

from nergretty

from nergretty

It’s easy, really. All you need is a bunch of t-shirts, a space to lay out the squares, a sewing machine, and some thrift-store linens.

HOWEVER, you must first cull your t-shirt collection

Figure out which ones mean the most to you, and throw out the other 9,000.

from runonriot

from runonriot

Or put them in storage, continue to wear them….whatever.

So, Brown-Eyed Girl did just that. It was tough–she’s got a lot of t-shirt memories.

Now, cut your t-shirts into equally sized squares.

To assure that all of your t-shirt blocks are the same size, I recommend you do what Earth Momma did–use a ruler, a cutting board, and a rotary cutter.

cut out the area

cut out the area

If you want each block to be approximately 12 inches square, then cut the t-shirts 14-15 inches square. This gives you the seam allowance you’ll need for all 4 sides.

cut!

cut!

Once you’ve got the blocks all cut out, lay them out on the floor in the arrangement you want. Be mindful of the way you lay them out–if you’re going for that random look, it’s really not that random.

For example, if 3 red t-shirts end up side by side, it’ll be awfully noticeable  once the top is complete.

all laid out

all laid out

Now, determine your method of attack. If you just willy nilly which blocks to sew together, you’ll end up messing up the pattern.

Trust me.

I recommend that you start at the top left corner, and methodically work left to right, from top to bottom, sewing each block to the other.

blocks sewn together

blocks sewn together

Here’s what is totally necessary, but takes a while. You must iron every seam.

I’m not kidding. Crank up that iron, and use it.

from dreamstime

from dreamstime

After all the blocks are sewn to the one next to it, you should end up with rows of blocks sewn to each other.

rows

rows

Double check that they’re in the right order.

Now, ensure that the edges of each row are even. This may mean carefully cutting parts of each row so that each has a straight edge.

evening up

evening up

Once that’s accomplished, sew each row to each other.

rows together

rows together

Now you should have a complete quilt top!

Congratulations!

from hollyjcurtis

from hollyjcurtis

Now you need to make sure you have the correct filler and backing. I like to use (cleaned!) thrift store comforters and sheets.

Quilt batting can get EXPENSIVE. And it’s thin, so it’s not as warm as it could be.

Instead, toodle over to your local thrift store or charity shop, and pick out a comforter in the correct size (twin, double, queen, etc.). You won’t ever see the comforter in the completed it quilt, so it can be ugly.

from ebay

from ebay

You will also need a sheet in the same size (twin, etc.). You will see this, however, so make sure it’s something you like.

MATH SIDE NOTE: It takes 30 12 inch blocks (cut out at 15 inches) (in 5 rows of 6) to make a queen sized quilt.

Brown-Eyed Girl had a comforter that she had slept under for years. It was wearing out, but she wanted to keep it forever. So we used it as the inside of her quilt. She also found a pretty kick-ass plaid flannel sheet that made me think of camping for her backing.

You want to lay the sheet down on the floor, smoothing out any wrinkles.

Lay the comforter on top of that.

layering

layering

Because the 2 linens are the same size, you need to trim a few inches off of the comforter. See, you’re going to fold the edge of the sheet over to create the border.

To throw some more (easy) math in here: trim off as much of the comforter as you want of the border.

Example: if you want a 2-inch border, cut 2 inches off of each side of the comforter.

Once it’s all trimmed up, lay your quilt top on top of everything else. Try to center everything as much as possible.

layers complete

layers complete

You can see in the picture the way everything layered up on our quilt.

Now for the fun part–pinning.

Start at one corner of the quilt, and pin the side.

beginning the pinning

beginning the pinning

Because the sheet has a finished edge, you don’t need to turn the edge under. Makes it a lot easier!

I also recommend that you position your pins like the picture below:

pins

pins

Your sewing machine can “hop” over them that way.

I also recommend that you use pins with big heads. Easier to handle, easier to find.

Now, corners can be tricky.

Pretend you’re wrapping a present. Remember how you have to fold the ends into triangles? Do that here.

end result

end result

You may have to cut a little bit of the guts out, because if it gets too thick and lumpy, your sewing machine may not be able to handle it.

cutting guts

cutting guts

You may have to creatively pin in places if you want to retain the entire illustration.

creative pinning

creative pinning

This is acceptable.

Once it’s all pinned up, it’s time to sew!

all pinned up

all pinned up

Best advice here is: sew slowly, and have a friend help hold the heavy quilt up. It can pull on your machine and make the sewing part much harder than it should be if you don’t use a friend.

sewing

sewing

my friends

my friends

Sew first around the inside edge–where the sheet is closest to the t-shirts.

Then make another round, keeping to the outer edge this time. This will keep your edge in good shape, especially when washing.

Next step is to either machine or hand quilt the 3 layers together. Or, if your machine can’t handle the width of such a large quilt (like mine–I don’t have an extendable arm), or if you don’t have the extra gazillion hours needed to hand quilt, then this is where you take the Knot-Quilt Method.

Basically, you use a big upholstery needle, some sturdy macrame thread, and you tie a bunch of knots at each intersection.

ready to tie off

ready to tie off

knotted

knotted

You MUST do this–as boring and repetitious as it seems. Otherwise, nothing is holding your 3 layers together besides the side seams. Tragic things can happen in the wash if you don’t knot it up.

I’d recommend a knot every foot or so.

And you’re done!

finished

finished

It beautiful, isn’t it?

suck it, martha.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Projects

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

2 Comments on “Project: How to Make a T-Shirt Quilt”

  1. Earth Momma
    April 1, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    This was SO fun!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: