By Mary Hindal
If you are like many, the graduation season tends to sneak up on us before we're ready. We find ourselves a week or two before the actual ceremony scrambling around to find the perfect gift for the graduate. In the end, we end up giving the typical, mundane gift of... money. This year, make a pact with yourself that you will use your skills and imagination and create a personalized gift for your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, or friend. And there's nothing better or more personalize for a person to receive than a handmade t-shirt quilt!
When it comes time to do a bit of cleaning, instead of tossing those old or worn t-shirts into the trash, consider giving them a second life. Save the tattered t's scrunched into a ball and tossed into the back of the closet or stuffed into the "to be worn nevermore" drawer. The fact that the teen just couldn't part with them even though they no longer fit or are threadbare means the t-shirts have more meaning than one might expect.
A t-shirt is often so much more than just an article of clothing. After all, most of them tell a story of what we have done, when we did it, and maybe even who was with us and shared the great experience. So what if there's a hole in the sleeve or the fabric is paper-thin. Take them off out of hiding and bring them to the forefront by making a t-shirt quilt filled with memories that they'll enjoy for many years to come! It is much easier than you think!
The first step is to take a look at the t-shirts and determine if they are the same size or color scheme or if they have a certain theme. This will help you determine the size of the quilt and will also help with coordination of the border design and color.
Most quilters automatically think that if you have fabric, it needs to be sewn into blocks and rows to form a quilt. However, times have changed and so have the styles. Consider using a fusible web to make a t-short logo or picture into an iron-on patch. Your patches need not be square. Perhaps the sport lover would enjoy a t-shirt quilt sporting a football-shaped patch, or for a cheerleader a bold colored megaphone fused on some fabric. Use the fancy appliqué stitches on your sewing machine to secure the edges. This is sure to make the t-shirt quilt unique for the graduate and keep the memories of these special events near and dear to them.
If you choose to simply cut your t-shirts into blocks, this works well, too. But be sure to take a look at the t-shirts to decide the best way to use them and lay them out before reaching for your scissors. The straight grid layout is the easiest using four rows of four t-shirt blocks. The size of your quilt will determine the size of your t-shirt squares or blocks.
Before beginning to sew, your t-shirts will need to be washed (without fabric softener). Next, cut off any cuffs and the neckband so that they lay flat. You can now begin to cut your squares. A template may be helpful and don't forget to add a seam allowance when cutting your blocks or squares. Most t-shirts tend to be quite stretchy, so you will want to iron on some non-woven fusible interfacing to stabilize them. Interfacing can be found at any fabric store. Sashing and borders is what will give your t-shirt quilt some personality and add to the fun. You may wish to consider using old flannel shirts or blue jean fabric to coordinate with the personality of the recipient. You could also add some embellishments to personalize it even more. If someone loves music, perhaps you could find some piano keyboard fabric for the borders. Fabrics that are the same weight work best. If you find that you have a thick fabric, then you need to try to match the interfacing weight accordingly on the t-shirts.
At this point your t-shirt squares are stabilized and cut, and you are ready to choose your design. Switch them around, stand back, take a look and decide if you think they may look better with sashing or without. Take your time and make the changes before you begin sewing them together. A walking foot seems to work well to sew the blocks into rows. Once sewn into rows, continue by sewing the rows together. Don't forget your sashing if you choose to arrange your quilt this way!
You're almost finished. Now decide what type of batting and backing you will use. Depending on who the quilt is intended for, you could use a puffy batting tied to fleece or flannel backing to make a warm and cozy t-shirt quilt. Quilts with cotton sashing and borders can be machine quilted.
You're finished! Make sure the quilt recipient knows that you made this special for them, so add a label in the corner to tell the story of their t-shirt quilt. May this extraordinary gift for them bring back memories and keep them secure during upcoming college days away from friends, family, and home! T-shirt quilts are memories stitched with love that will last for years!
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