Last fall, one of my dearest friends from high school (shout-out to Connie!)Â asked if I’d help her with a special project- turning her daughter’s t-shirts into a memory quilt for her graduation. I thought it was a lovely idea to take all of her childhood memories and literally wrap her in a cocoon of love to send her off to college.
After looking at the shirts Connie had accumulated over the years, I realized that we could generally get 12 1/2″ inch squares from most of the shirts- which would make lovely 12″ finished blocks. I figured we’d have enough to make 3 columns of 12″ blocks, alternating 2 rows of 9 inch (finished) sashing strips. In these sashing strips we would place small logos, Girl Scout badges, etc, as appliques. (Did I mention that Connie had saved a LOT of t-shirts??)
I asked Connie to prep the t-shirts by rough-cutting them- making sure that the large-image shirts were at least 13 inches across. Then, she applied non-woven iron-on interfacing. This helps the knits from stretching crazy-outta-control during sewing.
Then we really squared things up to 12 1/2″ inches and got them ready to sew together into a column. We sewed first, and made up for any differences in the rows by adding a little strip of cotton at the top or bottom. Then we cut a strip of 9 1/2″ cotton the length of our columns. Using a zig-zag stitch, I appliqued all of the small- and odd-sized pieces.
We joined the 12″ columns to the 9″ sashing and then added 3″ borders to the top and bottom, and 9″ borders to the sides. The finished quilt was about 70 inches wide by 79 inches long. We haven’t had time to finish it yet, but the plan is to use a nice polar fleece to act as both the batting and the backing- it’ll make the quilt both snuggly and help it keep it’s drape. We’re going to bind it with pre-made binding.
So here are my best tips for YOU:
- Stabilize- use a non-woven, medium-weight iron-on interfacing on all knit fabrics.
- PIN! I usually don’t, but even with the stabilizing, the fabric “walks” a little. Pinning helps.
- The “column”Â design helps acomodate for different-sized blocks. And you can use sashing for a space for friends to autograph.
- Consider a walking foot. It might keep those knits from shifting.
- If you applique, use a 3-step or plain zig-zag stitch instead of a satin stitch. The zig-zag will stretch & move with the fabric better.
- Don’t feel pressured to be perfect- if the size is a little small for a twin, that’s OK. College students rarely make their beds, and you’d rather give them a great quilt to cuddle up with rather than a “perfect” quilt that only dresses a bed.
I love the way the top turned out, and I’m so honored I got a chance to be a part of it. And I’ve started saving my kid’s tee’s now, in preparation for my own quilting adventure!
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