Adding Creativity to Your T-Shirt Quilt – Part II

December 11, 2011 in Projects

In Part 1, we discussed making a  basic t-shirt quilt with no sashing between t-shirts, no batting, a microfleece (or other fabric) backing, and no binding. In Part 2, we are discussing other options and creative touches.

Items to discuss in Part II of Making a T-Shirt Quilt:

1. Making Creative Squares

2. Mixing applique in

3. Printing a picture on fabric and using that as a square

4. What to do if you cut a square a half inch to short

5. Adding sashing

6. Binding a Quilt (and adding batting if desired)

1. Making Creative Squares 

Creating a collage square!

The T-Shirt Quilt that I made is a collage of t-shirts from when I went to summer camp as a child, to high school youth group, to marriage (the Batman shirt represents my husband, he LOVES superheroes, in fact, check out the superhero quilt in this article that I made him way down at the very end), to pregnancy, and of course, I wanted to include some of the outfits my daughter grew out of, which leads me to the first how-to! Of course, none of her onesies could be an entire square, so, I took some onesies, a blanket (one that was pretty well stained, so, I cut around that), and a cute little wash cloth to create one square (I guess I’ll have to make another quilt or add squares somehow whenever we have more kids : D). Anyways, I like math, but, I like quick also, so, instead of figuring out the math to create this square, I just cut the onesies open like the t-shirts in part I and interfaced all of them (also, I interfaced the wash cloth and a portion of the blanket). Then, I cut even squares/rectangles with as much fabric as I could get out of those onesies and then cut substancial squares/rectangles from the blanket and wash cloth (I needed a little more to fill the square, so, I cut 2 from each) (shown below).

Then, I arranged them how they would be most appealing to the eye (you can even turn some of the graphics different ways to create a different look) also making sure that I could get the intended length and width of my square after sewing according to the sizes of my quilt squares. I just made my pieces big and cut down where appropriate. (If you’re a quilter, you may have a pattern you could use).

Sew your squares together to create rows (I used ¼” seam allowances). The widths of each row do not have to be even.

I had to get creative with these rows, sewing 2 rectangles together first and then, creating a row out of them (with the blue and white polka dot fabric).

Crop your rows down so that they have straight edges.

Next, sew your rows together and then crop your square down to the correct size and you have a totally unique square!

I like to press all of my seams open before I sew my rows together to eliminate some bulk. Rows sewn together before cropped down.

Here is the front of my square after cutting my edges even.

Here is the backside with all of my seams pressed open.

Creating a different type of collage

For this square, I just started with a small center square and added on 2-3” strips (for you quilters out there, you might just have a pattern you could use). These fabrics are all different fabrics from my Fashion Schooldays, so, I cut a bunch of 2-3” strips from these fabrics (no length because I cut them down as I sewed). I started with my first square and then added a strip that was the same length (or I sewed it to it and then cropped it down). And then, I sewed a new strip to the new longest side, cropped it down, and continued until I had a square big enough (or cropped down) to be the same size as the others to go in the quilt!

Sewing Shirts Together

If you have too many shirts and need to consolidate or you have a shirt that has a front and back, you could sew together like the one below (or you could sew 2 completely different shirts together if the graphics are small enough to get 2 (or even more like the first example) in one square). For the blue one to the right, I just cut 2 large pieces, sewed them together so that there wasn’t too much blue in the middle and cropped my square down to size.

Here is another where we took a couple shirts and spliced them together!

2. Mixing Applique in

Do you have any shirts that have a small qraphic on the front and a large graphic on the back (or vice versa)? If you have an embroidery machine (or know someone who does), you can add a unique touch with appliqué (or you can applique with your sewing machine using the link to a nifty tutorial)! You can applique the small graphic to the other side of the shirt (actually it’s shown above as well on the blue shirt where the rectangle is and also below of course with the how-to)! This how-to is for embroidery machine applique. First, measure your small graphic and pick out a spot where you will applique it and make sure there is enough space without moving into the seam allowance.

Choose a spot for applique and place in embroidery hoop.

Check out the designs on your machine, you may be able to create your own applique if you don’t have one that you bought or don’t want to buy one (you can also purchase one). Choose the shapes button! I am using a Baby Lock Esante here! Start in your Edit screen. Select the shape in a straight stitch for step one on your embroidery machine and set it. Then, go back into shapes and select the same basic straight stitch of that same shape and set it too. So, you should have 2 of the same shapes as a straight stitch of that shape.

Then, go back into shapes again and this time choose a satin stitch of the same shape!

Then, set it and make all three shapes the same size. Here, all three shapes are the same size (larger than my small t-shirt graphic that I am applique-ing on). I have a straight stitch heart and then, another straight stitch heart and then, the satin stitch heart. You can see this on my screen to the right of the picture below.

First straight stitch heart shown below…

Placed small t-shirt graphic and 2nd straight stitch heart sewn (shown below)

Remove from machine and cut close to the edge of your shape, trying your best not to clip your stitch (if you do clip it a hair, no worries, more than likely the satin stitch will cover it up!) Then, put it back in the machine for the final satin stitch over your shape.

Finished product!

3. Printing a picture on fabric and making that a square!

I’ve never actually tried this, but, I think it is a nifty idea! Well, I have tried iron on transfers like 10 years ago and they weren’t very good quality then, I have no idea how they are now. But, believe it or not, you can print on fabric!! Here is the tutorial! There is also a fabric product that you can print on (of which a friend tried out and said worked great)!

4. What to do if you cut a square a half inch too short

So, if you cut a square more than a half inch too short, you may have to add fabric to the square to make it the desired size so that everything lines up in the end. However, if you cut your square a measly half inch too short in the width, here is a how-to fix this problem (length is below). This particular square still has a 1/4″ seam allowance on the right and left, on the 2 squares right next to your short square, draw a 1/4″ line along the edge that will be sewn to the short square, then, line the short square up with the drawn line and sew a half inch seam (if you are using 1/2″ seams according to part I of this series) using the correctly cut square. This will fix your problem! :D If the length is your problem (for a half inch too short), when sewing your squares to create rows, make sure to sew the short square centered to where it is short a 1/4″ on top and bottom, then, you’ll use the same concept when sewing your rows together.

5. Adding Sashing

This tutorial is really good on adding sashing! Sashing adds a nice touch if your t-shirts don’t have a variety of colors among them, if you need to make your quilt bigger, and/or  your t-shirt blocks are small and you would like to make your blocks bigger (as shown below)! Here is a quilt that one of my students’ grandmother made for her (she made a t-shirt quilt for each of her grandchildren)! It is so cute!!

6. Binding a Quilt (and adding batting if desired)

So, here’s the deal, there are a couple of ways to bat and back a quilt. In Part I, we just used microfleece with no binding, you can use microfleece (no batting) and add binding; you can also use just plain fleece or some other soft, warm fabric (preferrably something without too much stretch); you can also back it with a plain woven cotton and add batting in the middle. A good batting to use is a Warm and Natural which is thinner and may be easier to get through a sewing machine, but, there are many types and there are all kinds of differences in batting!

The short video here offers how to cut batting in accordance to your quilt top. I, however, like to be on the safe side and cut an inch extra around the entire quilt, rather than a half inch, which is chosen in the video.

This video shows how to layer and pin the backing, batting, and quilt top (however, read on for more tips). I actually, have a book that shows to tape the backing down (after smoothing, not stretching, the backing out) at the corners and a couple times in between to your surface before layering the batting on with masking tape (to keep it from moving and creating any puckers after sewing; I have done this and like it). Then, layer your batting on, and finally, center your quilt top on the batting. Then, pin as show in the video…I also like to use safety pins, less poking while machine quilting!! Then, you’ll follow step 11 in Part I to quilt your rows and columns. After you have quilted, you’ll trim down your batting and backing to be a 1/4″ bigger than your quilt top so that we can bind this quilt!

This video shows you how to bind a quilt but also read on!!! I like this video a lot! However, I would recommend cutting your strips at 3 inches…a 1/4″ finished binding is pretty tiny for a t-shirt quilt (you’ll follow the steps as they say just cut your strips wider)! Also, this video shows to hand stitch the binding to the backing at the end (you may do this if you have lots of time and patience), I, however, wrap the binding around to the back and pin really well, working with one side and one corner at a time and machine stitch on top (top stitching will show) close enough to the inside edge of my binding to where it looks good but out wide enough to ensure that the back side catches (it’s always a bummer to have to go back and patch up spots so pin well and make sure the binding is wrapped around somewhat snug as well)! That’s it, you’re done!

Here is the Superhero (and other shirts) t-shirt quilt that I made my husband. His family, my family, and I went in together to buy shirts to put in this quilt for his birthday (I knew he wouldn’t be up to giving his old, beat up shirts away)! This quilt is backed, batted, and bound and it’s queen size…it was pretty difficult to get through the machine!

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