Thursday, September 22, 2016

5 Essential (and surprising) tools for making a T-shirt Quilt

I have been making t-shirt quilts since 1998.  That's when I started making my first one for my daughter for her high school graduation gift.  I thought I'd give myself a year to make it since I had never made a quilt before.  I think she finally received her quilt in 2000 since I was so intimidated by the whole process it took me that long.

Here's a picture of it now.  It's held up pretty well over the years. 

I've made well over 50 quilts since then and I can make them in less than a week.  (For me that's pretty good).  I've learned a lot about making them since that first quilt and I wanted to share what I think are the 5 essential tools for making t-shirt quilts. You might be surprised.

1.  My first tool I can't do without is bubble wrap.  

This is my piece of bubble wrap.  I cut it to 14" x 14" and I use it to make the first cut of my t-shirts.  The bubble wrap allows me to see the design and make my cut centered on the part of the shirt that I want to include in my quilt.  I know there are  probably 14" plastic quilting templates but this is a very cheap alternative, especially if you are making just one quilt.  (I do use a template when I'm making the final cut.)

2.  My second tool I use is a black sharpie. 

I used to use the Mark-B-Gone type of pen, the kind that the ink will disappear when wet.  I switched to a sharpie after going through so many of those disappearing ink pens.  I realized that the sharpie marks would only be on the part of the t-shirt that I wasn't going to use. The disappearing ink pen always seemed to dry out or run out of ink.  Plus I could see the sharpie line so much better than the disappearing ink pen line.

3. My third essential tool I use are gloves. 

I thought this was my idea for a long time.  I needed something to help me "push" and smooth the quilt through the machine as I was quilting the top.  I grabbed my dishwashing gloves to give me a better grip on the fabrics.  They worked so well.  The only drawback was that my hands would get too warm after a while.  I was happy to learn there are actually quilters gloves.  If you are just making one quilt and you don't want to invest in real quilting gloves, dishwashing gloves work great.

4.  My fourth essential tool for t-shirt quilts and any quilt for that matter is a walking foot.

When I first started making t-shirt quilts I had never heard of a walking foot.  An experienced quilter told me it would make a big difference in the quilting.  A walking foot helps to guide all 3 layers of fabric through the machine without them shifting.  You don't get that bump in the fabrics, everything is smooth and even.

5.  My fifth essential tool for making t-shirt quilts is parchment paper

When you make a t-shirt quilt you have to do a lot of ironing but t-shirt logos are not iron friendly.  If you iron over a shiny logo you will melt it and you get an unremovable, ugly streak on your shirt.  I use a piece of parchment paper about 14" x 14" and lay it over the entire shirt square.  I can iron any shirt logo without it melting -no streaks whatsoever. You can use that square of parchment paper over and over and over.

So there you have my 5 essential tools for making a T-shirt quilt.  I make everyone of mine using these tools.  Can you make a t-shirt quilt without these?  Sure but for me these all have simplified the whole process.

Here are some of my favorite t-shirt quilts I've made:

If you'd like your own t-shirt quilt but don't want to try it on your own, we can get started here:

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What I made on my 2016 Summer Vacation

My job in the summer is to make as many quilts and things as I can.  That means finish my custom order list and make bonus quilty items for my etsy shop.  Here's what I made this summer from June 1st - August 14th.

Alice in Wonderland Quilt


Timber and Leaf Table Runner

Vintage Hanky Rag Quilt

Wee Wander quilt and pillow

Baby Clothes quilt

Butterflies Rag Quilt

Game of Thrones Quilt

3 Sisters 2014 Favorites

Black and White Sylvia Rag Quilt

Baby Clothes Quilt

Star Wars Burpies

Timber & Leaf table runner to match curtains above

Needle Wallet

Needle Wallet

T-shirt quilt

Queen size Red Bandana Rag Quilt #1

Butterfly Quilt #2

Queensize Red Bandana Rag Quilt #2
Grand daughter birthday dress pinafore
Nautical Table runner

Ballet Roses Rag Quilt

Book Pillow

I will start doing school related stuff on Monday.  I am working on a twin size Bandana Quilt with pillows this weekend and one more T-shirt quilt.  What did you make this summer?

Update:  I finished the t-shirt quilt

and some super hero capes made from the backs of T-shirts from previous t-shirt quilts:

And the Bandana twin size quilt set:

Phew!!!  I start back to school tomorrow!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Two Lessons about Handerchief Rag Quilts

A while back I got an order for Two Hanky Rag Quilts.  The customer would be sending me her vintage hankies to make two quilts for her nieces.  I didn't give it a second thought until I saw her hankies.  UH OH!  Almost all of them were either all white or mostly white with a small bit of embroidery on a corner.

It was easy to divide the hankies into 2 groups since they were so similar.  My dilemma was making these hankies stand out.  I know that white hankies on the normal white background makes for a boring quilt.  I also know that backing white hankies with any color changes the color of the hanky and I like to keep the true colors.  So here's what I did.

I cut a piece of white muslin a little bit smaller than the hanky and centered it beneath the hanky.  This would keep the hanky color white no matter what colors came next.

For the first quilt I used a printed fabric featuring rosebuds.  I layered the hanky with the muslin centered on top of the rosebud squares.  I saw that you still could see the fabric print underneath the hanky.

I knew all the squares were going to be 16".   What I had to do was make a frame with the muslin and the rosebud fabric so that only the white muslin was directly under the hanky and strips of the rosebud fabric were sewn around the the muslin.

 Then I placed that square onto two layers of very light pink flannel squares securing all the layers with the traditional X.

In the end I thought the white-ish hankies were still not highlighted in the best way since the rosebud fabric was also light white.  (Luckily the customer loved how the first quilt turned out.)

The second quilt I did the same way except this time I put a pink flannel under the hanky with the muslin beneath and I used the rosebud fabric on the back.

This was what I was looking for!  This really highlighted the hankies and no pattern showed through.

One problem solved however, for this quilt I had another entirely different dilemma. The majority of the hankies were the same size around 13 - 14" so they fit nicely onto the 16" squares.  There were two very large hankies that were larger than 16".  I thought I would have to make all the squares 18" to accommodate those 2 hankies or cut the two hankies.  Both options I did not want to do.

I ended up folding two of the edges of the large hankies in such a way that it still kept the design intact and then sewing the fold in place.  You can kind of see what I did here.

Here is the final result for the 2nd quilt:


 So two hanky rag quilts done.  Two lessons about white hanky rag quilts learned.