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How I Made The T-Shirt Quilt

For those of you that might have missed my last post, I made my first quilt! This post will be about the process of making the quilt.

When my sister-in-law dropped off all the t-shirts I felt completely overwhelmed. Luckily, my good friend Nicholas Ball is a master quilter so I frantically texted him with all sorts of questions like "How do I start?" and "What is basting?". He patiently answered all my questions and advised me that once I figured out the pattern I wanted to make, to then begin with stabilizing the t-shirts using a fusible interfacing. This is an important step in t-shirt quilt making - It makes sewing the t-shirts together easier because it holds the shape of the fabric rather than letting it stretch out like t-shirts tend to do.

Graph paper comes in handy in quilt planning

I was also fortunate that my Mom was coming to town just in time to help me plan the quilt (I cannot thank you enough for all your help, Mom!). We decided to go with a grid design that had strips of fabric between each square of t-shirt. We went off to the fabric store and picked up all the supplies we thought we would need which included the batting, backing fabric, fabric for the strips between the squares, thread, a rotary cutter and a 12.5 inch square omnigrid ruler (I already had a self-healing mat but if you don't have one you'll need one of those too). The ruler was especially handy because I could just center it over the part of the t-shirt I wanted to feature in the quilt, and use the rotary cutter to just cut around the edges.

When we got home from the fabric store, my Mom and I made a little factory line starting with me cutting the squares and passing them along to her to iron on the interfacing. We didn't get any photos of this process, but it was very efficient especially because Mom brought the iron from their hotel since I only have a small, travel-sized iron. I think I'll need to buy a grown-up iron for the next quilt I make.

There were also little patches on sleeves and things that we decided to incorporate into larger squares (pictured above). For the smaller patches, we roughly cut them out, ironed on the interfacing and then I serged along the edges before sewing them to the larger square.

The next step was to cut out all the lengths of the strips of fabric to go in-between the squares of t-shirts. The rotary cutter and square ruler made this step a breeze too and I can't imagine how much longer it would've taken me if I had tried to do this with normal scissors instead.

Curious Millie trying to figure out if she can help

By this time, my Mom had gone home so I was left to finish everything else by myself. My kitty, Millie tried to help a couple times, but it just wasn't the same. I started the assembly of the quilt top by sewing each horizontal row together by sewing a t-shirt, a 10.5 inch long strip of fabric to match the length of the t-shirt square, another t-shirt and so on. There were 7 rows so this took a bit of time. Once all the rows were sewn, I attached each row to the next with another strip of the fabric between the two. This is where I learned about taking the 10-minute breaks I talked about in the last post because I frustratingly sewed a couple rows on upside-down and had to painstakingly pick out all of the thread and start over. Once I had sewn all the rows together, I added the long strips on the 4 sides of the top and it was done!

Pin basting in my pyjamas

My friend Nicholas told me that the easiest way to baste would be to spray baste the layers together. While I was making the quilt, "winter round three" came through Boulder and it had been snowing/raining for a whole month straight, so I couldn't spray the quilt together outside, and our place was too small to do it inside so I had to do the old-fashioned pin basting way. It ended up working just fine, if you don't count all the pin pricks I got from using straight pins, ouch!

Painter's tape guide lines

I decided to use clear thread for quilting the top side, which I liked the result of but it was pretty tough to work with. The tension was hard to get right and it kept getting caught on the spool and breaking half-way through the line I was trying to sew. I eventually got the hang of it, but ended up sewing reeeeeally slowly just to make sure it wouldn't break or do anything weird as I was quilting. Oh, and I used black thread in the bobbin to match the black backing fabric. Nick again came to the rescue by suggesting that I quilt a big cross-hatch pattern on the top, using painter's tape as a guide for where I should sew. I seriously don't know how I could have ever made this quilt without all the amazing advice Nick gave me throughout the process! As you can see above, I just taped along where I wanted to sew, and followed that line to make sure it was nice and straight and even. Once I finished the cross-ways lines of quilting, I sewed straight lines between each row vertically and horizontally.


The square ruler and rotary cutter came in handy once again when I trimmed everything up to get ready to bind it all together, as you can see pictured above. By this point I was buzzing with excitement that I was almost done!

Once I finished making the binding, I decided to machine sew it on instead of doing it by hand, because I was down to the wire to finish the quilt up. I think it turned out pretty good, and I got some good practice in binding-making.

This isn't the best photo, but here is the completed quilt! It turned out bigger than I had imagined, but I think it should keep my nephew warm through all those frigid Florida winter nights. :)

One last huge thank-you to my Mom and Nicholas Ball for all their help and guidance. And a big shout-out to Mr. Domestique for all his patience and help around the house through this process!

Do you have any questions about the quilt that I forgot to include in the post, or have you ever made a t-shirt quilt and have advice to share? Let me know in the comments!


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