Creating The T-Shirt Quilt
A Labor Of Love
I had a huge collection of T-Shirts that my husband got during the years he restored classic cars and showed them in car shows. He no longer wore them but did not want to get rid of them. First they took up closet space, then they were moved to a big plastic tub. I wanted to make a T-Shirt quilt for him but the thought of me cutting up his favorite shirts really didn't sound like a good idea for him. I started finding photos of other T-Shirt quilts online and got him on board.
I want to thank the owner of Valerie Custom Quilting
for her wonderful tutorial on her website to create a quilt with what she calls a drop shadow effect. That technique really helped bring this quilt to life.
The first step in creating a T-Shirt quilt is to pick out what shirts you want to use. One of the things we did was lay them on the floor trying to see how they might look together in a quilt.
|Laying Shirts Out To Figure Out A Layout|
It really helps to take a photo of your layout at this point. The next step is to remove the arms and sewn necks from the shirts and also the back. You may have a logo on the back to use in the quilt also. Before you cut the shirt to the size it will be in the quilt, you need to iron on a stabilizer to keep the fabric from stretching a lot while you are making your quilt. I use Pellon-SF101
and you iron it on the back of each of the T-Shirts in a size larger than you expect to trim your shirt to.
The tutorial calls out cutting the shirts to 12 inch squares but these shirts are large and has huge images. I used a special ruler, June Taylor T-Shirt Transformation Ruler
and used the largest size which was the outside dimension of 15 1/2 inches.
You can use any ruler set you you like but I love the clear acrylic to see my image and be able to center it the best I can when I cut.
Once I had all my t-shirts cut to size with the stabilizer on the back, I realized my quilt is going to be huge and pretty heavy. I decided to sew a stay stitch around the edge of each of my t-shirt squares (about 1/8") to keep the ironed on stabilizer from starting to pull away during the piecing process of this quilt. I am really glad I did this, because as I guessed as I got my rows together and all the tug and pull of the quilt top on my sewing machine, this step saved me a big headache.
I chose a fabric with Route 66 signs on it. Several car shows my husband went to were Route 66 events. I used a plain black for the shadows on the quilt. You could use a gray instead of black. I have an Accuquilt Go Fabric Cutter
and I used the 2 1/2" strip die for cutting the shadows and cornerstones on this quilt top. I used the 4 1/2" strip die for the border and again the 2 1/2" die to cut my binding strips.
|Here is one of my T-shirt squares with the shadow and corners sewn on|
Once all my t-shirt squares had the shadows and corners sewn, I pressed the seams and then laid them all out on the floor again. At this point my husband decided he wanted them rearranged again. Now the next step will be to add the strips of my Route 66 fabrics and create rows and then join the rows together.
|Reviewing and rearranging the T-Shirt squares|
|Now that the squares and strips are joined it is looking like a quilt top.|
At this point the quilt top is coming to life and you can see the shadow effect making it appear to have the T-Shirt squares floating above the Route 66 fabric. I just love the results.
|Quilt Top Complete|
I added the flame borders around the quilt top. My husband picked out these loud flames and it really does a fantastic job making this a hot looking design. There are flames on several of the shirts so it really ties together great.
Get Ready To Quilt
Time For A Quilt Sandwich
I used Warm And Natural Batting which is cotton and added to the weight of the quilt. A poly batting or bamboo makes the finished quilt not quite as heavy.
|Close up of quilting|
I decided to follow the outlines of the flames and the signs throughout the quilt top. I used a variegated orange King Tut thread on the flames and a gray Omni thread on the signs and t-shirts.
|A view of typical quilting I did on the shirts|
I didn't do dense quilting on the quilt. Since the shirts were large squares, I did need to do some in the shirts to meet the minimum requirement of quilting per the batting company's recommendation. I used a ball point needle which helped reducing thread breaks and shedding. I think I only broke my thread a couple times during quilting, which was fine for me. I had read many stories online on how hard it was to quilt a t-shirt quilt. I think dealing with the bulk and weight was a little hard, but not the actual quilt stitching.
|My free motion flame stitching|
As a beginning longarm quilter I don't have a lot of experience on free motion quilting yet but here is my attempt at quilting flames on the shadow strips and a few on the t-shirts.
|Off the frame and typical T-Shirt Quilting|
I draped my quilt over the side of the frame after I was done quilting so the shadows would show the quilting stitches better. It makes it look a little bent in the image but that is the result.
|A view of a few more of the T-Shirts|
Here you can see a few more of the shirts along with the quilting.
|Quilting is done, off the frame, now ready to bind|
Done with all the quilting and ready for the last step, the binding. I do machine stitched binding. I really don't like hand stitching.
|I found another Route 66 fabric to make my quilt backing.|
A small view of the quilt backing fabric. You can see the flame quilting with the orange King Tut thread but the gray Omni thread blends in and is just showing a bit of texture on this print.
The Finished Quilt
|Finished T-Shirt, bound, washed and draped on a queen size bed.|
I bound the quilt with the same fabric as the shadow strips and machined stitched my binding. I then washed the quilt and it softened up just beautifully.
I forgot to mention, I prewashed my fabric before cutting anything and used two Shout Color Catchers on each load. They worked great and I had no color bleed onto the white shirts. My final wash I put two more in just to be sure. I love those things!
|The bound corner with a glimpse of the quilt backing.|
I hope you enjoyed seeing my creative process, I enjoyed sharing it here with you.