T Shirt Quilt

tshirt quilt


There was no other title for this post. But this is seriously just the beginning. They, as well as related types of quilts (baby clothes, memorial), are becoming increasing popular. This being the case, there are also a growing number of people and companies that will make one for you, or provide you a kit. These quilts are most often not easy to assemble if they are done well. Whether you want to make one or HAVE ONE MADE FOR YOU, read and HEED…

1. KITS. I know it’s fun to do projects and learn new things. This is not something I would recommend for that adventure, unless you are really confident on your sewing machine. If you purchase a kit, be wary that the company sending it to you probably isn’t spending the high dollar for better quality material to send you. You often don’t have much in the way of choices for sashing, border or backing, they simply send you a packet after you pay and you do your best to follow the instructions included. They may not be sending you all the necessary materials to make a quality, lasting product.

The picture below features a Harley t-shirt quilt I made with each shirt block having a border, rather than using sashing. This works best for t-shirt quilts with similar colored shirts, or repeating themes (i.e. breast cancer walk shirts). But it’s a fun option you don’t have available with a kit.

2. LOW PRICE means you should be suspicious. And no, I don’t say that so people will come to me if I charge more than others. I say it because I have come to find that I generally get what I pay for. I mentioned above that all the necessary materials may not be included; I was referring to stabilizer. It’s a thin iron-on material that keeps the double jersey knit of a tshirt from stretching when you sew it. If that isn’t used, the quilt will quickly become misshapen. If you want it quilted, your quilter will cringe – these tops allow the shirts to shift around and beg for bubbles, folds and lumps in your quilt.

3. LOW PRICE (MORE) can also mean that your t-shirts will all be blocked together like big giant tiles. If the shirts are not very large, the decal or motif from the shirt will not cover much of that square. This could also indicate your quilt maker is only providing you the top, not a completed product. Batting (the center stuff) backing, the labor and materials for binding and quilting the product are all omitted from the price. Be sure you are aware of what the price really means.

4. “I HAVE 16 SHIRTS…”. Ok… I say this because many t-shirt quilt creators charge by the number of shirts. Do they really mean number of panels? Does that mean that no matter the size of the panel or final quilt, it’s about the number of shirts? While I don’t personally agree with this philosophy, it works for many people. Be aware that your t-shirt quilt maker may make assumptions, like that you want the front or back only from each shirt. The queen size quilt pictured here was constructed from 17 shirts (button down, t-shirts, sweatshirt) – I used the front and back panel from each and the sleeve from 2.


Bottom line = if you find the right quilt maker, you will be happy with the result. That person will help you to ask the right questions to ensure they know what you want out of the transaction. T-shirt quilts can be made out of any number of shirts, any size, even with traditional blocks tossed in here or there.

I will be posting instructions on t-shirt quilt assembly in the near future. If you have specific questions feel free to ask! Happy quilting!

How to make a quilt top

Sewing machine – check. Thread – check. Material – check. OK you’re ready!

Seriously that is all it takes. This example is for a random patchwork quilt. If you want to get complicated and paper piece to have precise 24 point stars, go for it. If you want to make a quilt from some pretty pre-cut squares, it is really easy. Really. Easy.

OK, back to easy. If you purchase a sampler pack of squares, or a charm pack, you will be given some number of squares that all match somehow, already cut to one size.

pre-cut pack of squares

To calculate the size of the quilt you will end up with from that bundle, measure one square (let’s say it’s 4.5 inches square), minus .5 inches for seam allowance (each seam requires .25 inch material for seam allowance). Ok so 4″ is your finished square size.

How many squares are there? Let’s say there are 50 squares. So you could make a quilt 7 squares across by 7 long, or 6 across by 8 long. Those options would bring you a 28″ square quilt (# squares times inches per finished square), or a 24″ x 32″ quilt. Might work if you know someone having a baby, but if you want it to cover your lap, you may want to buy 2 of those packs or more (in our example case here). You can always add a border at the end to stretch out your length.

Next step. Take two squares, put the right sides together and match them up so the edges are straight. Sew them together in as straight a line as you are able, with .25 inches seam allowance. There’s a little line on your hopper foot on the sewing machine where you can line that up. Again, keeping it easy. No need to backstitch, the seams will interlock as you go. Now before you go pulling your stitched squares out of the machine and cutting off the thread tail, STOP. Let it sit there, because you’re going to chain sew. Huh?

OK so you sewed a seam. Well, match up another two squares and give your machine pedal a tap to let it have a few ’empty’ stitches and then stick your next set of squares under the foot and sew them together!  You’ll just have a little thread connector between your square sets. As long as your number of squares across is an even number, you can continue to do this step until you run out of squares. When you are done, snip the threads between your square sets and get over to the ironing board.

Yes, you really do have to press the seams. Open, to one side or the other, doesn’t matter. Generally I do it towards the darker material, but just make the seams flat. Once you get through all of your square sets, it’s time to make some more seams!

.25" seam allowance, pressed to one side

Go back to your machine and sew! If you want to sew long rows of squares that match your final length, do it! If you want to sew square blocks of 4 squares and then sew them together, do that instead! Everyone has a method, and everyone has an opinion as to how it SHOULD be done. Do it how YOU want to do it, and you will find the method that works best for you.

Just know that you need to iron your seams flat prior to moving on, and if you have a seam that went wrong and is obviously crooked, pull out the stitches and resew it. You’ll be happy you did. Note in the photo below that the corners of the squares match up. May take you a little practice to get there, but ironing, and watching your seam allowances will most definitely help!

block of squares sewn together

This is really all it takes to make a quilt top. You can add a border of any size or not.

Preparing quilt backing for your longarm quilter

This step sounds super easy, and it is, but there are a few things you can do with your backing to ensure the quilt turns out spectacular! As with the quilt top preparation, consult your longarm quilter to ensure their specific requirements are met.

1. Just as with your quilt top, using 100% cotton will ensure your quilt doesn’t end up mis-shapen or torn after washing and use. Quilting cotton is best, but minky and fleece are also acceptable. Using a sheet or denim can result in issues.

2. Using wide backing will result in no seams for your back. If you use regular width material (generally 43″-44″ wide), you often need to sew two lengths together to create a backing wide and long enough for the quilt. DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO CREATE SEAMS IN ONLY ONE DIRECTION ALONG THE BACK. If you have them in both directions (perpendicular seams), the back can stretch and cause your quilt to become unsquare later on.

3. Ensure your backing material (and batting) are larger than the top. This is very important for your longarm quilter, and each quilter will have a different requirement for you. But I can tell you most of them will ask for allowance of at least 4″ on every side of the quilt. I’d be happy to explain why if anyone asks.

4. When you sew those two lengths together, ensure your seam allowance is large enough to cut through the selvage strip, or cut it off altogether. Not doing this will result in the backing stretching in an hourglass shape on the longarm machine, and again, your quilt can become mis-shaped after washing.

5. Pressing that seam will ensure it lays flat to one side or the other, or open. Click on the pictures below for greater detail.

6. If your backing has a top and a bottom, ensure you mark it appropriately for your quilter. If you want the seam on the back centered, ensure you let your longarm quilter know. Most quilters will not center the backing because quilts are generally folded in half and half again, so that seam line along the quilt could breakdown more quickly from more wear and tear than other areas of the quilt. Putting the backing seam there is asking for problems down the road.

Some quilters will seam the back for you, for a small fee.

Happy sewing my friends!

Preparing a quilt for longarm quilting

This is a question I field often, which as a quilter, I really appreciate. There are certain steps a quilt maker can take to ensure the quilt turns out beautifully, with minimal frustration on everyone’s part. You may feel like your longarm quilter performs magic, but the better the quilt top you provide, the better the result they can give back to you!

1. Iron your seams flat. PLEASE!! When seams are not ironed, they can turn the wrong way and cause an uneven surface on the top. The batting absorbes some of this, but if the material used is thick (like denim) or fleece/minky backing and no batting, unruly seams can be a challenge.

2. TRIM YOUR THREADS, especially if you have light and dark fabrics sewn together. I cannot tell you how many beautiful quilts I have quilted that have ‘varicose veins’  because the threads underneath were not trimmed, and show through the fabric. Once it’s been quilted, you have to live with that.

major puffy area


3. If you have PUFFINESS, resew the seams, tightening that in. This is an example of major puffiness:

The wrinkles when a quilt is laid flat are the first indication there is a problem. Fortunately I was able to flatten this area. It was a charity quilt, and these were practice stitches, but you can see that puffiness can be dealt with.

puffiness fixed

Play it safe! Don’t leave it to chance that your longarm quilter can fix your puffy areas.

4. Ensure your borders are not wavy. Much like the issue with puffiness, the borders being wavy means the amount of material in the border is more than the length of the quilt top inside the border. I have heard various methods to fix this, but those advisors themselves had border issues. So my advice to you: find a mehtod that works for you and stick to it. I do not measure my border length against the quilt length (many quilters will tell you to do this, and it is a good method). I simply lay my border on the table face up, place the quilt on top of it, right side down, and pin it, ensuring the sides of both are smooth and not stretched.

5. Ensure all of your seams are closed. A longarm quilter wants to do just that – quilt for you, not repair your quilt top before s/he starts. 

6. If you stitch around a pieced top (not necessary with a single piece border), 1/4 inch in from the edge, this will ensure no additional stretching occurs. We do appreciate this, although most quilts come to us without.

7. PLEASE PLEASE remove any embellishments (actually just wait to add them until AFTER the top is quilted). There is a good chance something will be missing when your quilt comes back, or your quilter may have to leave space around an area because the machine can only get in so close.

8. No need to baste or pin! Don’t put the time and effort into it unless your longarmer requires it. Many quilters free-float the quilt as we go, qhich means if you baste or pin it, we have to remove all the pins or stitches to get started.

9. MOST IMPORTANT!!! Consult your longarm quilter for specifics. Each longarm quilter has specifications they can work within. Most often they will tell you guidelines similar to these, but you never know.

Tomorrow I’ll post some notes on preparing the backing for your longarm quilter. Happy sewing my friends!!

Finding your Inspiration

It’s beautiful outside, the morning after a storm. The grass is still wet from the heavy rain, which the sun will surely dry out soon. There is a slight, cool breeze, spinning the pinwheels in my garden. My attention is lost somewhere out my window, wondering where the cardinal is that I hear chirping.

As beautiful as my morning has begun, this isn’t helping my motivation level. It’s time to get up and move onto my sewing projects. I have a number of projects at various stages, any of which I could try to finish. I think I’m going to try two tactics: listing out projects to work on (and any deadlines) and using nature to guide my efforts.

Often when I quilt, I look to nature and the quilt pattern and material to find what design would be best stitched on the cloth. Today I am using that tactic to figure out which project to work on. I will start with a cup of tea and a button repair. Then I will sew rows together and a border to finish a top. Finally, I will work on the Earth quilt. It takes a lot of creative energy and quite literally, wears me out mentally. So I’ll work my way up to it! Then I can quilt the Quilt of Valor project with a clear head. Then later I can sit on the back patio with a quilt history book and relax. 🙂

Happy Sewing my friends!

Last weekend’s run

OK so this is on a bit more of a personal note, but expect me to share more than just quilting. Last weekend my girls and I participated in a 5K to raise money for lung cancer research. I was so proud of them. It was a bit warm, but the event didn’t begin until 2pm, so the temperature was in the high 80’s, with the sun shining brightly.

With the heat creeping in on us, and the innate difficulty of doing a longer race than you have done before (for Amy it was, Kaela has already run a few), Amy and I made a motto to keep ourselves going. If you have ever watched the claymation Christmas movies, you’ll remember the song about putting one foot in front of the other. That’s it! 

The result is encouraging. It wasn’t a timed event, so by result I don’t mean how fast we ran (actually Amy and I walked most of it). I am excited that all three of us want to continue finding weekend runs to join!

Next weekend (4/16) we will be running through the Fort Worth zoo in a timed event. Or walking. But the point is that we will be up and moving, exercising as a family. It feels so good to help my girls find and grow healthy lifestyles, and be happy and good feeling as a result.

lung cancer fundraiser 5k

Storing your Quilt

You have probably visited homes of friends, relatives, or peeked in the door when your kid was trying to sell cookies to the neighborhood. I would be on at least one occasion you can remember seeing a quilt somewhere in someone’s home. It may have been hung on the wall as artwork, folded next to the couch or covering a bed.

How a quilt is best stored is entirely dependent on how long you want it to last. On that note, I will say that most of my quilts are half-folded in a heap by the couch. They get constant use in my house, and I love to show them off to anyone who enters. I am happy to report that the first quilt I made (about 12 years ago) is still in great condition, happily residing within that heap.

my quilt heap

VALUABLE? If you own quilts of value (especially those family heirlooms), you may want to take more care with them. I would highly recommend you have any quilts appraised that you believe to be of value. If you feel the value of the quilt warrants, you may want to contact a textile preservation or conservation specialist at the nearest museum. They can help with specific instructions that may pertain to your quilt, if there are special needs. Some material and threads used prior to 1930 are not colorfast, and you don’t want the color bleeding, or acid from previous incorrect storage to continue to eat away at your material.

SPECIAL, BUT ONLY TO YOU. If you feel they are precious to you, but not in need of special attention, cover the quilt in a cotton sheet so when you fold it, there is an additional layer of protection within. The quilts then may be stored in a quilt cabinet (many for sale on the internet and quilting catalogs) or a sealed chest or drawer. Unfinished wood can leach acid and damage your quilts color and fabric integrity, and plastic bags or tubs can keep moisture trapped and result in mildew. Once monthly (no less frequent than every three months) open the quilts and give them a rustle to air out. If you have a place, lay them out away from pets and sunlight to air for the day. When you refold the quilt to store it away, fold it in different places than before to prevent creating permanent creases in the quilt.

SMELLY QUILT! Some older quilts smell funny – you know the smell I’m talking about. Lay your quilt out flat on a clean surface. Find a screen (you can use a clean one that is usually over the window, or go buy a piece at the local hardware store). Using the hose attachment on the vacuum at it’s lowest setting (if it has settings), suck through the screen, moving the screen around the quilt until you have treated the entire quilt. If there is applique or embellishment, you may want to vacuum from the backside. The point of the screen is to protect you from sucking anything into the vacuum and damaging the quilt. I highly recommend NOT washing your quilt without consulting a professional first. Not even spot washing – it’s just a really bad idea (I’d be happy to explain if you ask me to).

I JUST WANT TO LOVE IT AND USE IT! Ok so use it. But when you aren’t using it, put it somewhere out of the sun. Light deteriorates fabric, so you may not want to use one as a curtain unless you don’t mind some fade. Again, fold it differently every so often and wash it per maker’s instructions as needed. For those in cold climates, storing one in your car may work for you, trunk is best for the same reason stated above.

Love and enjoy your quilts as you see fit. They will love you back as long as you take good care of them!

Handling your Quilt

Hi there! Glad you’ve joined me to learn a little bit about quilting, as well as my other interests as I feel like posting them. I thought I would provide some basic information about handling quilts in this introductory post.

1. Whether you are in the process of finishing a quilt, or you have an antique in your possession, be sure to wash your hands frequently. When handling antique or aging quilts, you may want to wear cotton gloves – even nail polish can transfer onto quilt material from the slightest brush, and terribly hard to remove (if it can be removed at all). Remove any sharp jewelry and pull back long hair before handling textiles.

2. Do not smoke, eat or drink around textiles. Seriously, it’s just too easy to get something on the quilt or material that you may regret.

3. For sketching or marking quilts, there are a variety of methods. NEVER use pen. If you choose to use a water or air-soluble marker, test the material first in an obscure spot to ensure the color dissipates. You can use pencil if you mark the backside of the material or an area that will be covered by applique or something else. Chalk is another great tool to mark where you will be quilting or stitching.

4. Much like a painting, a quilt can be disfigured if it is not properly stored. If it is hung improperly it can retain hook marks (like a sweatshirt gets on the hood if you hang it over a hook that way). Do not place any objects such as tools, light fixtures, books and other personal items on quilts or quilt storage units. A spill or smudge or tear means costly repair.

5. Keep quilts on clean, dry surfaces. Do not place textiles directly on, in or next to cardboard, unsealed wood or non-rag (acidic) paper.

6. Check with the quiltmaker and quilter on laundering requirements. Any quilt that can be machine washed needs to be washed in cold water only. Any antique quilt or quilt with wool batting should not be machine dried.

If you have any questions or comments I would love to hear them!

To learn more about storing or laundering please visit http://www.charmingprintsquilting.com/helpful-links.php