Saturday, September 01, 2012

T-Shirt Quilts

I quilted a tee-shirt quilt this week for a client.  I have done a few of these since I began longarming, and the quality of the shirt preparations seems to vary a bit from quilter to quilter.  I thought I'd show this one and talk about how best to prepare your quilt so as not to stress out your longarmer (and to get the best quilting possible!).

Let me start by saying that this particular quilt was perfectly prepared.  I had no issues whatsoever.  Typically, the mere mention of "tee-shirt quilt" sends me halfway to the hills though.  This quilt has 15 different shirts.  The person that brought the quilt to me adopted the project from a friend of her's.  She's not to blame for these shirts not really being cut squarely on each imprinting design.  She went so far as to tell me that the initial person (who the quilt is eventually going back to) had purchased silk/poly gingham for the sashing.  Oh, dear...  She clearly told her how inappropriate that was, and selected another 100% cotton fabric instead.
The first thing to remember with tee-shirts is that they are knit, and do stretch significantly.  In order to neatly quilt then, the stretch needs to be eliminated.  I suggest cutting out the front of the shirt to create a large, flat area, with several inches around the motif desired to capture.  You can create a quilt with shirt blocks that are all the same size, as I show here, or vary sizes and fit them together with the sashings.  The choice is your's.  What you don't want to do is cut too close to the printing, as was done here.

Next, you will need a lightweight fusible interfacing.  It doesn't need to be fantastic, and shouldn't be overly thick.  The shirts are already considerably thicker than the woven quilting fabrics, and the goal for any quilt should be to have all fabrics of uniform thickness.  This enables the quilting tension to be maintained uniformly across the entire quilt.  Apply the interfacing over the shirt (on the backside), and then cut out the piece to the desired size.  It is fine for the interfacing to go into the seam allowance.
You need to sash all the knit blocks with a woven fabric, preferably 100% cotton.   Do not select anything heavier than a normal quilter's cotton, mid-weight.  A viole or Liberty weight would be inappropriate.  Likewise, so would a denim!   This creates an edge around the knits so that they cannot stretch.  I think that a relatively tight 1/4" seam is adequate.  Press the seam towards the woven fabric for the flattest quilt.  In terms of fabric color choices - obviously anything is possible.  My preference is to use a simpler fabric for the sashing because usually the collection of tee-shirts is in all colors, and just appears busy with a print.  You could do whatever you like though.
 Here's one of my favorite shirts...Leave it to her mom to stick that shirt on her quilt :-)  Once the shirts are stabilized, you can do whatever you would normally do with a quilt in terms of borders.  The backing fabric can be whatever, but it would be my preference not to use a flannel, as that would make for a heavy quilt.  I generally quilt these quilts with regular 80/20 batting.  Any weight other than something excessively thick would be fine.  They can be custom quilted, edge-to-edge quilted as I have done here (I used the Plush panto because it picked up a swirling tornado-like motif that is in the dark sashing), or if you want easy, it could be stippled.  I generally try to minimize the stitching on the shirts because the needle does leave small punch holes in the imprinting on the shirts, and I wouldn't want to need to rip out stitches there.  Less stitching done, less chance for needing to remove.
So there you have it...Isn't the backing fabric fun?  and it shows off the quilting pattern too.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Thanks so much for the overview/tips on t-shirt quilts! All the de-cluttering sites seem to recommend them as an alternative to throwing out t-shirts. I'd wish the sites would also include links to helpful tips and tutorials for them!