Last year my friend’s mom died after a short battle with cancer. The family spent several weekends taking care of everything: getting the house ready for sale, and cleaning out closets, all while mourning and coping. After one of these weekends my friend brought me her mom’s t-shirts that they collected and asked if I would make two t-shirt quilts as keepsakes for her and her sister. Though I had never made a t-shirt quilt before (I’m a traditional quilter) I thought this was the perfect reason to give it a shot.
I started with a little internet research into the world of t-shirt quilts (trust me: there’s a lot of t-shirt quilts out there) because sewing with knits is its own beast. Simpler in a lot of ways, knits aren’t easy to stabilize, which is crucial in quilting. To address this, lots of t-shirt quilters talked about interfacing the t-shirts with fusible interfacing. I thought that sounded like the stiffest quilt ever, but I tried it (using a full bolt of featherweight fusible) and it turned out beautifully. Not too stiff, and it made a perfect quilt fabric.
At a garage sale I happened to find a 12.5″ square quilting ruler (which makes a perfect pre-sewn 12″ block) and it saved HOURS of time for me. Where has this ruler been all my life?
In the past I’ve dreaded the final quilting stage of binding the quilt. For me, it used to require an insane amount of seam ripping and I swore more German curse words in that process than in any other. It just stressed me out. But over time, I’m finding that I like the binding step. I’ve learned a few things and now it works. For binding, I first whack the three layers right where I want the quilt edge, then pin (with straight pins) these layers together. Then I lay the bias tape, lined up with the quilt edge and start sewing. (I’ve finally learned that I shouldn’t pin the bias tape to the quilt. They feed through the mashine too unevenly to pin together.) I like to use Extra Wide Single Fold Bias Tape because it makes a slightly narrower binding, and I just like that look.
For me, a mitered corner is “sloppy” unless it’s perfect. (Maybe this is why the binding stage stresses me out? No.) There are probably some great tutorials on the internet, but I started making consistently good mitered corners when I figured out where to stop my first stitching line, and how to fold over the bias tape that perfect 45 degree angle.
I really enjoyed this project, though I didn’t know what to expect going in. Using my friend’s mom’s t-shirts made this quilt more personally significant than any other quilt I’ve made before. With all my quiltmaking, I find that spend a lot of the time praying for the recipient. That was so cool this time. And because these quilts were quick to make (large blocks, and tied quilting), my “Finished Quilt” Count* went up. Yay!
* This is not to be confused with my “Quilts Started” Count. Two very different things.