Quilts for friends: Part I

This week I finished a quilt. So far I have managed to finish three quilts in 2012 but I’ve only blogged about one. I am quite pleased about all the quilting I’ve done and I hope to keep this momentum going to finish some more projects. Earlier this year I blogged about my recycled flannel shirt quilt. The first quilt I’m going to show you I finished earlier this spring. Back in March a very close friend  and I got together to make T-shirt quilts. We holed up for a long weekend, cutting out the fabric and assembling the blocks for our respective quilts together with lots of laughs and tea. I finished the top, the quilting and the binding on hers; mine is still in progress since unsurprisingly I made it rather more complicated. This little quilting retreat was loads of fun, I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate our completion of our M.S. degrees than with nerdy recycled crafting. Time for photos!

T-shirt quilt blocks in progress

Above you can see some of the completed blocks. Since the T-shirts my friend had to work with were of irregular sizes we decided to use strips of cotton to help them fit together. I  like the effect of this. It adds more personality to the quilt, giving it more dimension then just a hodge podge of T-shirts and it allowed me to use all the fabric I’d been hoarding to make her a quilt in her quilt. Yay! The cotton gives the T-shirt fabric more stability as well and obviously it allowed us some piecing flexibility for the top. To make the blocks we cut out the T-shirts, fused Pellon interfacing to the back of the desired T-shirt design, and then sewed 2.5 inch thick strips of cotton quilting fabric to the sides. It came together pretty quickly.

Pieced binding. This is my new favorite quilting technique.

To make the binding my friend sewed all the 2.5 inch scraps together into one long strip. I trimmed this strip down, used gobs of starch, and ironed it to form double fold binding.

All of the pieces of a quilt.

Above you can see the pile of things necessary for the quilt. The top, the backing fabric (a cotton sheet), the binding, and a giant bag of safety pins. For batting we used low loft poly-fiberfil packaged batting. It worked well.

My friend’s quilt all done!

To finish the quilt I used an allover quilting pattern using silvery grey quilting thread. This was my first time doing allover quilting or stippling and I found it incredibly liberating. It took a lot of upper arm strength to maneuver a queen size quilt around on a home sewing machine, I used a darning foot on a Husquvarna Rose sewing machine, but it was fun making the swooping patterns appear on the fabric. Since we used a lot of starch making the blocks and I starched every seam the top stuck to the batting really well and I actually didn’t have much of a problem with rumpling or tucking on either the top or the back. I like how the pattern of the quilting looks kind of like coral or tree rings or the path of a honeybee buzzing irregularly around a garden patch. There is something hypnotic, meditative really, looking at the lines of quilting.

Closeup of the quilting

I like the texture stippling gives the quilt and since it is such a tightly quilted piece the batting won’t shift and it is super easy to machine wash and dry.

Closeup of the pieced binding. So cute!

I really like how the pieced binding turned out. It looks like more tiny quilt blocks to me. Since I made it double fold and super starched it was also very easy to sew on in one go rather than machine sewing on the front then hand stitching on the back. This way adding the binding was just one fun step.

A sneak peek of my T-shirt quilt

Above is the top I pieced of my T-shirts for my quilt. It looks pretty straightforward, right? If anything the pieces are of more uniform size than the blocks in my friend’s quilt. Yet I managed to make it complicated. The thing I underestimated was quantity. I hadn’t realized just how many T-shirts I had to cut up into this quilt and I wanted to use them all. So naturally I decided to make my T-shirt quilt double-sided.

The other side of my T-shirt quilt

I have to finish piecing the side pictured above. I have to sew the columns of blocks together and sew together one more column worth of blocks before the sides are ready to pin together and quilt. I plan to use the same allover quilting technique that I used for my friend’s quilt since frankly I don’t think any other technique would look as good or be as effective at holding the quilt together. But since I will have to maneuver around designs on two sides, some of which will be hard on the needle, quilting this will be more challenging and I will probably have to add ties in some areas to make sure it holds together. I’m excited to finish it though and I hope to be able to post finished pictures of it here before the year is out. I’m really happy that I share not only fabrics in my quilt with my friend but that we share memories of making it together and that I can touch a strip of cotton knowing she cut it out just for me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures, dear readers. If you have any questions about the techniques I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments section. Stay tuned for Part II: 15 jars of fun!

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5 thoughts on “Quilts for friends: Part I

  1. Happiest recollection of this enterprise: Hearing laughter from where you were quilting!! –That and being able to steal the occasional hug from each of you…Happy memories. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 Trollymomfrog

  2. I think part of my brain just exploded in the awesomeness of this. You should be more careful of my brain!
    I doubt that I have the patience for quilting, but I admire it immensely, and these quilts are so wonderful-looking. A friend of mine recently quilted a prayer-rug for me with one of my old t-shirts as the centerpiece. I will have to photograph it and post it on my blog for you to see.
    But yeah… I admire your quilting ability and your creations more than I can express.

    • I hope your brain will coalesce back to its usual wonderful state in time for Part II. 😉 Patience is important but it is not onerous if you can decouple patience from perfectionism to just enjoy the meditative process of creation. I won’t lie though, with every quilt there comes a point where I just start going “Arrrrrgh! I’m so sick of this thing!” Then I take a breath, walk over to the tea pot, have some tea as I ponder whomever the quilt is for, smile, and then get back to work. If it really has stopped being fun I call it a day, put the quilt away, do something else, and come back to it refreshed at a later time. I always say there’s no point if it really isn’t fun anymore. I don’t want to put bad vibes into a quilt so if taking a couple days, weeks, or even months to finish something right and have fun with it is what’s necessary then so be it, I get to keep my hobby fun and I get to gift dear people with something filled with love and prayer as much as polyfiberfil. It’s like magic, transmuting something like plain fabric from a bolt or a shirt into a brand-new quilt that is unique, warm, and perfect for all manner of dreams. The Arrrrgh! point is worth facing to make magic for great people. 🙂

      Do please post a picture of your prayer rug! That sounds lovely, it would be great to see it and I could use more ideas of things to do with old T-shirts. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jubilare. Your high praise means more to me than I can express and I look forward to reading your blog every time. 🙂

  3. “Then I take a breath, walk over to the tea pot, have some tea as I ponder whomever the quilt is for, smile, and then get back to work.”

    That sounds like a wonderful coping method. The tea makes it as perfect as human action can be. 🙂

    I will try to remember to photograph my rug soon. I am glad you enjoy my blog! 🙂

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