t-shirt quilt

Ok, confession, I've been planning this project for at least 10 years.  Sad, I know.  First I had to save all my t-shirts from college (and some pre-college) and then buy a sewing machine.  Somewhere in there I married a wonderful guy and then had to explain why I couldn't just toss out all these old shirts taking up room in the garage/under bed/in closet.  We had a beautiful baby girl and all planning of crafts when out the window.  I've finally gotten my work/life/craft balance back and I am determined to check this decade old project off the list!

I started with a vague idea that I would sew all the shirts/sweatshirts together into a quilt.  I was naive  and didn't really think much past that.  Then with the invention of Pinterest I hit the jackpot with the perfect t-shirt quilt idea (for me, others may find something that better suites their tastes) over at Cinnaberry Suite.  I loved that it's more casual than a finished quilt/blanket.

We moved 4 times within 14 months and I just didn't feel I could really start a big project in any of the rentals.  Now that we are moved into our dream home and life is settling into a routine I jumped in feet first.  (Having shingles and going stir crazy at home was a nice motivator too).

My first step was to unpack all the shirts and lay them out (semi-folded) on the floor in our spare room. It helped me visualize how big it would be and how large the squares should be cut.  I also got some great advice from one of my friends on Facebook.  Her quilt used 12" squares.  So I worked off of that and cut out 13" squares, 1/2" seam allowance would give me 12" squares.  I tried using a cardboard square to make the cutting easier but it just made it more complicated.  I used my rotary blade and straight edge.  The cutting mat lines were used for lining them up square.

As you can see in the photo I had some smaller/fitted shirts with small graphics on them.  I decided to make only half squares with those.  All told I had a 6' wide by 7' tall quilt.

Cinaberry Suite's tut goes into detail but the basics are...  cut front AND back of shirt so you end up with two squares for each shirt, cut out a flannel square to go between the two shirt squares.  Make a BUNCH of shirt-flannel-shirt sandwiches.  Sew big X's on each one then sew the squares together (back sides together so the seam is on the top).

Estate sales have become a regular Saturday morning ritual for us lately.  We don't always buy something but you never know.  I'll post some of our finds later on.  For this post I found a large fitted king sheet (UGLY print that I hated) that only cost $1.50!  Half price on items under $35 on the last day is the best deal ever!  I couldn't buy the fabric needed for this quilt for even close to that price at the fabric store.  After a few mistakes I still had enough for all the t-shirt squares.  I did not use any between the sweatshirts.  The reason for the flannel is it provides some stability to the stretchy cotton t-shirts.

I ran into a few hiccups in the process.  One, some of shirts had really sticky graphics on them.  It seems to be something related to how thick the "ink" is.  This caused the top where the graphic is to stick to the presser foot.  Not pretty and at least a few seams had to be ripped out.  Two, running out of bobbin thread half way through a seam or X.  And last, little LC kept waking up from naps in the middle of everything.  I wasn't really bothered by her waking up just worried about all the sharp objects she could grab.

Finally I got all the squares together into one large quilt.

Now how to finish this bad boy?  Cinaberry Suite suggested just leaving it unfinished so you could continue adding squares.  Great if you still have a growing kid but I'm pretty much done with college life at this point and have a plenty big quilt.  The next option was to add binding.  I Googled a bit but didn't find a simple solution.  I've always folded the backing over the front for binding all my previous quilts.  Then I remembered Prudent Baby (now Pretty Prudent) had a tutorial a while back on a simple quilt binding.  And it was beyond simple.  Easy and straight forward directions.  Great pictures too!  I found some adorable purple/teal cotton fabric with little owls on it at our local quilt shop, Quiltwork Patches, for the binding.  I love the choice!

Woodlands Owls Juniper Purple

made by Hoffman Fabrics

designed by Hoffman Designer Cotton Print Fabric

collection: Woodlands

(image from restash.com)

Tip, cut all the edges with the rotary blade and straight edge before attaching the binding.  It'll give you a much cleaner edge to work with.

Then the last bit was to cut all the exposed seams, just like a rag quilt.  I took the advice on the tutorial and splurged on the spring-action scissors.  Our store carries Fiskars.  So easy!

After a quick wash and dry, the quilt is finished!  I love it.  My husband is a little concerned it's going on the bed.  That is not my plan.  It strictly a picnic, camping, laying around the house type of quilt.  It only cost $10.50 if you consider all the shirts had already been purchased and I used left over thread from a previous project.  The biggest cost was the binding, it was from the fat quarter bin so I had to buy more than I needed.  I probably could have used scraps for the binding but I really wanted some owls on it.  And I don't count equipment in the cost of a project.  I'll be able to use the scissors on many more projects.

I hope this inspires you to pull out that box of shirts and start cutting!