Tommy has been having this issue where he manages to tear holes in the elbows of his work shirts. The first one or two, we joked about how the shirts must be old or his "big muscles" were tearing them up, but now the count is up to 19 shirts (!!!), and it's not an anomaly anymore. I've come up with a preventative solution, but that's another post.
Oh, and they all coordinate nicely because 99% of his wardrobe has blue stripes!
My love of recycling and quilting, and his apparent love of all things with blue stripes inspired me to make a quilt from all these recycled work shirts. I meant to have it done in time for his birthday in March 2011, buuuttt that didn't quite happen. As I finalize this post, I've been working on the quilt for over two years, and I finally have it done by his 2013 birthday.
I searched around online for neat ideas to do with old shirts, and hit gold with a series of posts on The Cut Cloth and Knitting in the Dark.
|Shirt Stripes Inspiration Quilt, from Knitting in the Dark|
I wanted to start with fabric that behaved as store-bought as possible, so before doing anything else I laundered the shirts. Then I cut them apart into two fronts, two sleeves, and one back, and cut off all the seams and buttons (remember how we used them on my wedding dress?). To make the fabric more manageable and keep it from stretching while working with it, I heavily starched all the pieces.
I chose to use three sizes of squares, meaning I would need three sizes of triangles to comprise the squares. I also made the executive decision that I would match up the stripes (warning - this is extremely time consuming!!!). I did some quick math and decided to make 10.5", 7", and 3.5" finished squares. I also calculated the ratio between the S/M/L blocks in my inspiration quilt (typical math nerd behavior), so I could be sure I was staying relatively on track while cutting everything out.
Cutting all the triangles took a VERY LONG TIME. I bought a triangle template which was quite helpful, but it was still very labor-intensive to line up the stripes and make all the cuts (In the quilting world they call this "fussy cutting"). I made sets of four matching triangles which would later become complete squares. Having matching triangles makes the stripes turn into concentric squares.
I cut all the triangles slightly larger than necessary, with the plan of trimming them down to size and squaring them up later in the process.
|cut four triangles so the stripes are identical on each|
|four identical triangles|
|sew right sides together, then press seams open|
|match up new triangles|
|match up both sets of stripes|
|sew together, then press flat. See how the stripes make concentric squares?|
This is also where I did some quality control. By this point, I'd realized the dozens of hours I put into the project, and wanted the end product to be as nice as possible. I threw out all the blocks that had stains, mismatched seams, worn places, or were otherwise of poor quality. It didn't like losing fabric and work, but I knew I'd be happier in the end.
My next step was laying out all the pieces in an aesthetically pleasing manner. As with all my projects, there was plenty of trial and error here, but I finally decided on a good arrangement. To keep it short, I threw all the blocks out randomly on my living room floor, then straightened them up so they all fit together. Then I photographed it to see all the colors and shades in a small area (the LCD screen on my camera), and rearranged blocks. I repeated this until I was happy with the size and shape of the quilt, and with the controlled randomness of the colors and block sizes.
Because the blocks were varying sizes arranged randomly, sewing the blocks together was more challenging than with a basic quilt where you first make rows then sew the rows together. To keep my sanity, I just worked one bit at a time, and kept laying my finished parts back down to see what should come next. I had to sew a lot of inside corners, and I ended up having to rip out a seam or twenty in the process to get everything to lay flat. Phew!
|inside seams like this scare quilters!!!|
I used a 40% off coupon at JoAnn's for the backing, which was a simple quilter's cotton. It took three panels across to make it large enough.
Then I sent it to Texas, to my Mom's friend Lawana Parks, owner of Lake Area Quilts in Jasper, TX, who does excellent quilting work. I didn't hear from her for a really long time, and was beginning to worry the quilt had gotten lost in the mail. Finally, she called. "Bonnie!!! I don't know how to quilt this... I don't even know how to start!" It turns out that quilting is inherently not manly, and this manly quilt I sent had completely stumped her! She sent me pages and pages of quilting options, and together we decided to go with a golfing theme.
|Golf Electric Quilt Pattern|
|if you look closely, you can see a golf club and a tee with a golf ball on top!|
|sew binding to front side of quilt with sewing machine|
I want to warn my readers that this quilt was far more challenging than I had anticipated. The last 5 quilts I've made were crib size. I'm not sure why this surprised me, but this much larger one took SO MUCH LONGER! It was also difficult to work with fussy cuts, triangles, and matched stripes, as well as recycled fabric. If you're going to attempt this project, please be ready to spend 100+ hours working on it.
Here's a few more detail shots!
Tommy loves the quilt and I'm thrilled with how it turned out!!! Snuggling up with it is the next best thing to snuggling up with him.
This project is one of the most interesting projects I've done, and I'm so happy about the quality! Thus, I'm submitting it to a Pinterest Challenge link-up and Sew-vivor!