Thing One is a T-shirt guy: regardless of the weather, he can be seen wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt. Over the years we’ve collected dozens of T-shirts from vacations, school events, and other occasions. The shirts he’s outgrown were taking up a good amount of storage space, but I couldn’t bear to get rid of them — it was a storage bin filled with memories — and then The Gimlet suggested, “Why not make a T-shirt quilt?”
I’ve watched my mother make countless baby quilts over the years (not telling how many years, but the first one was for Uncle B, so do the math) but I’ve been sewing machine-phobic ever since that disastrous quarter in junior high Home Economics, so I wasn’t sure I could make a quilt on my own. Nevertheless, the local fabric store had a booklet by Better Homes & Gardens about T-shirt and other memory quilts, and I had bought a not-too-intimidating little Kenmore sewing machine to keep my linens, Hardanger fabric, and other evenweaves from unraveling while I stitched, so it was time to give quilting a try.
After cutting off the sleeves and neck, and separating the front and back of the T-shirt, attach fusible interfacing to keep the T-shirt fabric from stretching. The booklet suggests using fusible tricot interfacing, with the stretch of the interfacing placed opposite from the T-shirt’s natural stretch. Once the shirts were fused, I cut them into various sized squares depending on the size of the design.
Then it was time to play with quilt top designs and fabric choices! Nanaimo followed the process with great interest from the beginning, whether stalking the rotary cutter or leaping into the bag of scraps, and laying out the rows of squares on the bed was an open invitation for him to roll around and act silly. I chose two batiks in aquamarine and brown (looks like burled wood) to provide a neutral (but not boring) backdrop to the variety of colors and designs of the T-shirts, and a cozy blue flannel back that would complement the batiks.
The rest of the process was straightforward: sew squares, then strips, together to create the quilt top; tie it, and finish up by binding it. It was an easy enough project for this complete quilt and sewing novice to make, and somebody who really knows how to quilt could achieve more impressive results with a more complicated pattern of blocks (perhaps in different sizes and shapes) and a quilted, rather than tied, top. One small note of warning: the fusible interfacing adds an additional tougher layer of fabric to sew through, and I found tying the quilt to be more difficult than the baby quilts have been. It’s not bad for a first attempt; I can see the mistakes I made but I think the quilt is structurally sound and Thing One loves his new quilt. Not only is it great to be able to re-use these old shirts, it’s also a a fun way to remember the elementary school science fairs and school carnivals, and family vacations/Gimlet business trips around the country. There are still several T-shirt blocks left over; not quite enough for a second full quilt but perhaps they’ll make up a smaller lap quilt some day, or I can add more shirts as Thing One continues to outgrow his old favorites.
A T-shirt quilt may be a project for the moms of younger children to look forward to making (you’ll be here before you know it, trust me) and it’s not a bad idea for recycling our own old shirts from Back In The Day which are just too cool to throw out.