So this year for Christmas I was happy to make my first t-shirt quilt! It was for – follow me here- my boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend’s dad. Caitlyn was having it made for her dad as a Christmas gift and it was made of all the souvenir t-shirts of places they had gone together. Hugely sentimental and such a great idea! I willingly took the challenge but was slightly nervous since it was the first t-shirt quilt I had ever attempted. Because of the time crunch on this quilt, I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have, but did want to share the challenges I faced and the knowledge I gained to help any of you who are attempting your first t-shirt quilt. So, apologies for being wordy.
I did my pinterest research, bought what I thought was enough interfacing (it wasn’t) and sketched it out. The biggest challenge of this quilt was that some t-shirts were your standard adult square t-shirts and then a few were fitted women’s style t-shirts. So the sizes of the shirt fronts were varied. My initial plan of an even grid was not going to work. I also wanted it to be big enough for a throw to snuggle under on the couch.
The layout allowed me to create a little bit of visual interest in the design while also keeping balance between the different shirt sizes. The sashing allowed me to fill out the quilt a little bit, making it a little bigger for snuggle quality.
My first step was to measure and cut the front/back out of each t-shirt. My initial cuts were as wide as possible to allow leeway when I finally cut the shirts down to size. The were all cut to the same length, so each row would be the same height, but there were two different sizes to widths, mostly depending on the shirt size and front design.
Next I cut closer to size and ironed each shirt to fusible interfacing for stability. The interfacing I used worked great for the standard t-shirts, but there were a few softer t-shirts with a little more stretch to them that probably would have benefitted from a stronger interfacing, and of course this became evident later during the quilting process, but I’ll get to that. Once the interfacing was ironed, I trimmed to the final size each shirt needed to be.
Next, I started sewing row by row, adding the vertical sashing and then adding the horizontal sashing once the row was complete. This was first quilt I’ve added sashing between blocks to, but being familiar with piecing, I figured it wasn’t much different.
Once my quilt top was finished, I made my sandwich and started quilting. I decided with my pending deadline a simple 45 degree diagonal stitch at 2 inches apart would be my choice, with a few horizontal stitches in the ditches of the sashing. This was where I really started to notice that a stronger interfacing would have been better on those soft tees. As I was quilting with my walking foot, the softer tees were still wanting to stretch from the edges. This was causing the fabric to somewhat bubble in between the quilting stitches and at times fold under the stitches, creating ripples. I really hate that I didn’t take pictures of this, but at the time I was so frustrated with the problem, I wasn’t thinking about documenting it to share with you all. I also don’t know how many quilting stitches I ripped out. But it was a lot. A lot.
But after the quilting was done, it was off to the binding. This also gave me a challenge as my machine did not want to stitch in the left needle position! I’ve had some trouble with my Babylock Espire and have taken it to a couple of different shops to have it diagnosed, but on binding day, it wanted to fight me the whole way. Every few stitches in the left needle position, it would throw up an error, readjust the needle to the middle position, make one stitch and then return to the left. Making the cutest little zig zag that I didn’t want.
So in a compromise, I adjusted to a middle needle position, since that’s where it wanted to be anyway, and finished the binding. The struggle with this position is that the binding kept wanting to slide over and slip into my presser foot. Hello wonky stitching. Patience and a slow stitch speed got me over the finish line though.
(I have since diagnosed that this error is being caused by my needle plate being screwed down too tight. A slight loosening seems to keep the errors at bay. I’m proud that I’m learning more about my machine, but annoyed it took me this long)
Through all the frustrating challenges, I finished Caitlyn’s quilt just in time for Christmas! I was happy with how the final product turned out and I definitely learned a lot about technique and my machine. Hopefully I’ll be able to make a few memory t-shirt quilts in the future with all my new knowledge and experience.
Have a good weekend folks!