the making of a t-shirt quilt

A friend of mine recently abandoned her full-time gig (as a lawyer) for her part-time gig (volleyball coach/teacher/mentor).  Now the Division I athlete, 3 time coach of the year, and amazing person in general, is completing a teaching fellowship program with Teach For America in the deep south of good ol’ Jackson, Mississippi.  Inspired by her dedication, I wanted to do something special for her.  We’d talked in the past of sewing and t-shirt quilts. This was the perfect opportunity. I  offered to make a t-shirt quilt of all her Ashland HS volleyball t-shirts.  She graciously agreed (I would be destroying about 15 t-shirts with the weak promise of a quilt, afterall).

T-shirts and fabric

Finding a complementary fabric was easy because I just had to go with a volleyball theme.  Next I sorted through the t-shirts to get a general idea of what was what.  There wasn’t much planning, just kind of diving in.  Next, I cut the shirts into rectangles (removing and casting aside the collars and sleeves).

I also chose to iron-on medium weight inter-facing to keep the t-shirt fabric in place.  I think I bought about 10 or 15 yards of this stuff — lucky for me it was on sale for $0.50 a yard for a while!

It seemed that many of the t-shirts designs were about 10 inches in length so I cut accordingly, alterating or expanding dimensions as necessary.  I also try to keep similar designs to similar shapes.  When that was all done, I laid them out and just played around till I got something I liked.  Once again, the handy computer labels were used to label each square (“1A, 1B, etc.)  When it was all said and done, I had decided on 6 rows.

The tricky task was cutting strips to fit between the squares so that all the rows would be of equal length.  Again, there was no plan and I scribbled my measurements on any scrap of paper I could find for that night.

my scribbles...

Each row took approximately an hour or so, and that’s about all I could devote on week nights.  Too many times I goofed on the 1/4 in addition for the seams, but I had the comfort of knowing fabric could give and I could lop off a side or two here or there to accommodate.

Here’s the quilt, ready to be, um, quilted.  It’s not the most pleasant task for a mid-July day with temperatures in excess of 100, but I have a July 21st deadline, so there’s no energy to waste complaining!

2 thoughts on “the making of a t-shirt quilt

  1. You use stablizer under the shirt panels? Of course–it seems so obvious now, but it had never ocurred to me (and I always thought, how on earth would you quilt t-shirt fabric with quilting fabric, and how would the quilt hold up with old shirts anyway)? Very interesting.

    I’m still going to commission you to make one for Mike, revelations aside. I’m having a standoff with his old t-shirts and can’t trust myself to be neutral around them with sharp objects in hand.

  2. Love the quilt! Have never made a quilt in my life and do not own sowing machine, but would LOVE to make a quilt for my little boy from all his babygrows/ rugby shirts.

    Any tips or advice? Am a bit of a needle-nono although I did make him a vilt bunting 🙂


    Olga (Amsterdam)

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