Tshirt and denim quilt

I have always loved the idea of making a quilt out of old tshirts, partly because it sounds like a fun challenge and partly because I have a really hard time letting my beloved tshirts go even after I can clearly no longer wear them. :) I also love repurposing jeans into something else, so a few years back I decided I would save my old tshirts and jeans and combine them to make a quilt. Well... I have 4 garbage bags full of old tshirts and jeans in our storage shed. And no quilt...yet. Someday.

BUT last Christmas for our family gift exchange/rotation, I had the pleasure of creating a quilt for my oldest sister, Sarah, out of the 20 or so Harley Davidson tshirts she's collected in her travels. At first I was skeptical thinking that the quilt would be just a bunch of black and orange, but Sarah had collected tshirts in all different colors, and the quilt turned out great! I love it so much I wanted to keep it for myself. That's the spirit of Christmas, right? ;)

Want to make a tshirt quilt of your own? Here's how I did it:

As I had no idea where to start, I turned first to my best friend, Debra, who had made a tshirt quilt the summer before, and to the trusty internet. Along with Debra's instructions, I found these three sites helpful as I planned:
However, being me, I couldn't just make a plain old square-block quilt with sashing. That would have been far too easy and not satisfied my need to complicate things unnecessarily. Thanks to the internet, I found Too Cool Quilt T-shirts, Inc, whose quilts inspired my [insane] decision to cut the tshirt squares to fit the image on the shirt, not to a standard size. I used my dad's [antique and slightly off-square] drafting L square and cut the squares about 1" away from the image on the shirt.

Once I had the tshirt squares cut, I cut muslin (prewashed and ironed) to fit the size of each square to add stability to the knit of the tshirts. **Next time, I will use iron-on interfacing instead (reasons provided later).
For the backing, after much deliberation, I decided to use sweatshirt fleece and just top-stitch the shirts to the backing instead of using batting and then actually quilting or tying the quilt. That choice was inspired by stitch'T, another company that makes tshirt quilts professionally. 

Then, I set out to sketch the quilt:
I kid you not. This is my actual sketch. Once, I was a rocket scientist who was going to be an architect. Drafting like this fulfills my dreams. :)
I plotted out the quilt so that it was just a matter of sewing together a bunch of different rectangles, but so that I could sew straight, full seams for the whole thing. (That might not make sense, but my first draft was completely impossible for me to sew and stay sane due to seams that never met at any corners.) 

Since my squares were not a uniform size at all, I used scraps from the tshirts and pieces of denim from old jeans to fill in the gaps (my sister's idea), just a few inches here and there. This really helped unify the whole quilt and is one of the reasons that I love it so much!

One of my favorite touches: a tag from one of the repurposed shirts. I didn't like how these corners looked coming together, so I covered it up. :)
Start sewing (and biting nails nervously...) I sewed the tshirts (and muslin stabilizer) together using 3/8" seams and a stretch stitch that looks like this: _ _^_ _. I wanted to make sure that there was a little bit of stretch, but, in retrospect, the muslin (or, in the future, interfacing) pretty much overrode the need for stretch. **Next time, I'll just use a straight stitch, which will also make the top-stitching along the seams much easier.

I sewed together 6 smaller sections, and then sewed those together to be the whole quilt. (That's what the numbers are for in the crazy sketch above.)

Celebrate being done with the front of the quilt. And then get back to work.

I am by no means a professional or even experienced quilter, so I decided to use do a self-binding with the sweatshirt fleece, meaning that I just folded the backing around to the front of the quilt. I followed this tutorial here and this tutorial here. I left 4 inches of fleece around the edges so that there would be a larger border showing on the front of the quilt.

Topstitch! It was at this point that I started ripping my hair out and wishing that I had used interfacing instead of muslin. Due to the stretchiness, I ended up with a few gathers/puckers here and there, which could have been avoided, or at least minimized, if the square stabilizer were adhered to the square instead of just sewn together:
Mostly not noticeable...right?
And then present it to the intended receiver, 9 weeks past Christmas. Thanks to a nasty bout of the flu, she also now swears that the quilt has healing powers, so I guess I'm forgiven for the lateness. :)

So...that's it. That's how I made a tshirt quilt that I love and almost made myself insane.

Added 5/21: Joining here!


michelle@somedaycrafts said...

This is great! even Harley can be made into an adorable quilt. I am featuring this at somedaycrafts.blogspot.com. Grab my "featured" button.

Jill said...

Wow that turned out great! Thanks for joining the party :)

Sian said...

That is amazing! You are so brave. I've looked at these quilts but I doubt that I'll ever actually attempt to make one. You did a great job.

Carolyn said...

This is a really cool idea!

I have become a follower so I can see more of what you are doing.

Carolyn @ A Cuppy Cake Life

Polly @ Pieces by Polly said...

We have a bunch of T-shirts that need this treatment. They're too centimental to throw away or too nerdy to donate. I'll have to try this.

Misty @Creative Itch said...

What a cool quilt!! Thanks for linking @Creative Itch's "Sew Cute Tuesday"!

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