T-Shirt Quilts are definitely a different kind of quilting. A lot of quilters out there would rather not even touch them. I’m learning to find joy in the heirloom potential of a good quality, memory boosting, t-shirt quilt.
I have yet to produce two t-shirt quilts that are the same. So, what goes into deciding what a t-shirt quilt will look like? I usually lay out the shirts (before I begin cutting anything!) I want to know which “prints” are similar sizes. I’m looking to find which ones I can turn up and which ones need to be square. Keeping my eyes wide open for the spectacular “center piece ” that stands out and deserves to be showcased.
Once I’ve sorted and decided on sizing and a rough order, I begin with the widest row. I’m going to cut each shirt and stabilize it. There is a whole additional step to making a t-shirt quilt that many skip – stabilizing. In my mind, if this step is skipped it will affect the durability of what you will hold dear.
Once a shirt is stabilized properly I hang it on my design wall. The quilt will continue to build with each shirt that is added. I may decide to shift the rows around or create a block of quilts. My goal is to keep the rows similar in size and ultimately the same width. Sometimes keeping it all in order means being creative with cutting as well as placement. I might turn a narrow image up or use it to make a visual break.
Sashing is also very important. Sashing is the strips of fabric between the shirts. It holds everything together and I believe is what makes your quilt last a lifetime. It just keeps everything grounded. T-shirts are very flexible and vary in quality so stabilizing and using sashing reduce the “wonkiness” of your end product.
Once the sashing is all in place and the border is on the fun really begins! We now have one big quilt top. So, we will select a back. There are several options here, one is using an extra wide fabric (108″). This is the least expensive as well as much less timely. For this quilt I used a grey backing.
Sandwiching is the process of layering the back with batting (the fluffy stuff inside the quilt) and top. Next we mount it on the long-arm frame.
This machine (much like a regular sewing machine-only larger) has it’s own benefits. It’s throat space is much long than your traditional sewing machine which allows you to be able to reach much further into your project. The machine is mounted on a platform that is movable by bearings under that platform. The handles allow you to push and pull the machine over the quilt mounted on poles. Stitching on 18″ at a time, each pass is completed. The quilt is rolled up as a scroll and sewing left to right you begin again. Until finally, row by row, it is complete and it is ready to be unrolled! My favorite part is seeing how the quilted pattern gives it a finished look that is always dynamite!
The only steps left are to square that bad boy up and add the binding. Binding simply finishes the edges of the quilt, holding the whole thing together. What a joy it was (and always is) to see the face of the recipient of any project I make!
I know that this quilt will last a long time and the memories from those shirts will stay alive every time it is used!