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jKafer on the Net

June 15th, 2019 at 9:40 am

Grad Gift – one and done

So this crafty, stubborn, picky, creative type person committed to doing a T-Shirt quilt for a cousin’s graduation gift. He was in Wrestling all thru school and his mom saved all the shirts (now that’s a commitment) and she really wanted a T-Shirt quilt made.

We had talked about it a few times over the winter and I finally got the shirts on Easter.

Now, what to do with them????

I did about 20 searches on Pinterest, Google, Quilting boards – pretty much everywhere I could think of – the trouble with T-Shirt Quilts is that it’s pretty much up to you how you want to do them. The first thing really is to go thru the shirts that you have available. 

I had 12 shirts (fronts) and 1 back that we wanted to use, 1 jacket to use if needed or we could squeeze in somewhere, and 3 backs that had either a name or title on them and we wanted to use those also. Other than that I was given no direction on what to do with them.

These shirts covered approximately 10 years of wrestling so some of the shirt fronts were a bit smaller than others, but for the most part I was able to come up with a “size” to use as a base. That size changed a few times, but for the most part I was able to cut them all down to a uniform size – for the sides – the corners were a whole different situation.

So, I laid out what I had and I realized that I really didn’t have that much to work with. While yes, 12 shirt and some back pieces is something, it wouldn’t create much of a blanket – this is where the creative person started “creating”.

It took me awhile to come up with something but I did a bit of creating and came up with this: Since the T-Shirts are from Wrestling…I will make the center of the quilt the center of a wresting mat.  So I set out to design the middle. Now the way I like my patterns is to call out all the shapes by color and quantity – a true cutting CHART.

Once I had that part, I just needed to figure out how to place things around it – in an orderly fashion (cuz that’s just who I am). I took to illustrator and came up with a layout to help guide me – key word: guide me – cuz we all know how well a plan goes when you are in uncharted waters!

But now, to figure out what will go where. These shirts were in an array of colors:

  • Your typical White, blue – school colors
  • Grey is pretty common too
  • But then you throw in the burnt orange and lime green with a dash of RED – we’re talking a party now. There will be no color plan for this quilt, none.

So as I was looking at my “guide” and starting to cut up the pieces, I ran into 1 small problem: The Lime green shirt we were going to use both the back and front. The back had the names of the kids in the tournament so we wanted to preserve them. So I would have to be really careful where I planned for that piece to go.

I decided to do the center first, why:

  1. The center was done in cotton (quilting fabric) and I knew once I had that finished I should wash it so that any shrinkage would happen before I had it all put together.
  2. Once I had the center done I would know the true dimensions of the center and that would determine how to cut the shirts to put around it.

Creating the center was fairly easy:

Layout the pieces

In laying out the pieces, I had to keep in mind that each side is a mirror of the other.

  1. make all the HST’s needed
  2. layout top half – both sides – in mirror
  3. During the assembly I did do it double – top half, bottom half – but I did the assembly at the same time. More organized.
  4. Assemble corners first
  5. Assemble top middle section
  6. Assemble sides
  7. Assemble bottom middle (which is really the center of the medallion)
  8. Assemble both halves into the whole medallion.
  9. I then added 1 more strip of the grey around the outside – to help offset it a little bit (not pictured)

All in all it went together pretty easily – I think having it laid out like this, ready to go, made the whole difference.

Once that was together – I washed it and dried it in the dryer.  Wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to have a shrinkage problem later on. With that done, I had my final size and I knew what I needed to cut the shirts into.

When I was trying to measure out the shirts and use them in the best way I ran into a couple of problems:

  • Width wasn’t going to be a real problem – they could all pretty much be cut to the same width
  • Height was a bit of a different story – they varied.
  • Cutting Mishap – I had one shirt that the design on it (back) was very, very tall. There was no way that it was going to fit. so I had to make the decision to rotate it and put it sideways on the shirt. This is the shirt that has all the people that were in the tournament, 5 columns of names and the kids name as on the top so I couldn’t cut that off.
  • When it came to corners I ran into problems making the shirts fit within the layout that I had decided on.
  • I was also trying to keep in mind that I wanted a finished product that was as close to 60″ square as possible.
  • Turning all the shirts on their sides seemed a logical thing to do.
  • I put an extra little twist on the shirts by running them in a continuous line so that they appeared to be running around the outside of the medallion.

Once I had all the sides done and I was pretty satisfied how they were laid out, I had to figure out what to do with the corners:

  • I had 1 shirt front left to use
  • Jacket – vinyl back and name on the front lapel
  • 2 other shirt backs with his name
  • 1 other shirt back with a title

So, here is where the quilting techniques come it.  I had kept the back of all shirts for spacers/fillers if I needed it and I started “piecing” the corners together. When I was creating the blocks for the corner, I made sure to keep in mind that the blocks all marched around the “center mat” so I kept that in mind as I was piecing them together.

I had a lot of problems with sewing the T-Shirts together – my little sewing machine had a huge problem when it came to sewing the blocs together. It would jam, huge balls of thread jammed in the bobbin.  It took me twice as long as sewing those 12 shirts together as it should had. I did not use sizing or interfacing on the shirts, but I almost wish I would have.  I did however have to use iron-on fusing for the back of the jacket that I used in one of the corners. That material does not take sewing very well. Once I put the fusing on the back it would at least stay in place log enough to get the pieces put together and the block/corner put together.

Well, now all the pieces are together.  I had picked 3 yards of 104″ wide black marbled fabric for the back (this is the only thing I purchased for this project – everything else I had on hand).  So it was time to put the “sandwich” together.

Pinning went pretty good – considering. This just kept growing and growing – which was okay with me.

I pinned the sandwich together and called it quit for a couple of days. The next step would be the quilting process and I have only done a couple of other quilts – so I needed to get in the right headspace for that step.

So I did a simple, simple quilting job on this. Basically shadowed the edge of each T-Shirt space, put some running echoing lines in the center and then came back and did a simple shadowing around each T-Shirt Design. Sorry no pictures (I had lost a week of working on this and I didn’t have time to take pictures of those steps).

All in all, I feel this project was a success. There are flaws:

  • a couple of shirts – the design got a little bit nipped
  • the corner with the jacket back is a bit wonky
  • there are a couple of puckers in the backing during quilting

Final size is 60″ square. Above photo is before I cleaned up after quilting and putting the binding on.

But all in all, I think it turned out great and the family and more importantly the Sr were speechless when they opened it.  Final size is 60″ square. Above photo is before I cleaned up after quilting and putting the binding on.

Will I ever do another one?  NOT IT A MILLION YEARS!  I can officially check this type of project off my bucket list. In fact, I have 2 containers filled with shirts that I have from Benefit walks that I have participated in and I am going to donate them to the Good Will.






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