Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The T-Shirt Quilt - Part 1

The first quilt I EVER made was a t-shirt quilt.  I don't have a picture of's at my mom's house somewhere and there's probably a cat sleeping on it.  All my old t-shirts and tanktops were cut into squares.  Unfortunately, I used a CD jewel case as a template to draw the squares.  They aren't a perfect square.  I also traced the template with a permanent marker.  That smell doesn't dissipate very quickly.  Plus jersey fabric is REALLY difficult to sew with.  I pressed all of the seams open.  I don't even want to try to remember how I did the binding - it was certainly a disaster.  My second quilt was a much larger t-shirt quilt, it covers my twin-size bed at my mom's.  Sophie sleeps on it.  I never finished it - it's sewn together but the binding never made it on.  And neither of them is quilted, I just tied them with yarn.  But whatever, it was a learning experience.  And I was SO proud to have made a quilt!  And I swore I'd never make another t-shirt quilt ever again.

Until last year when a good friend of mine from college talked me into making one for him.  He lost his brother to cancer and had a pile of his t-shirts that would be great in a quilt.  After doing some research online, I decided to take it on!  Not only do I have a lot more knowledge about quilting and sewing (13 years after the first t-shirt quilt disaster), there's so much info on the internet.  Fusible stabilizer!?  12-inch squares cut using a 12.5-inch perfectly square ruler!?  Chalk pencils!?  Wow this quilt should be cake.

A stack of t-shirt blocks.

When I got the shirts, the collars and sleeves had been cut off and they'd been washed.  All I had to do was iron on the stabilizer then use my big square ruler to cut out the blocks.  I was even provided with the layout of the t-shirts and color selections for the sashing, backing, and binding :)  Cutting was a little scary, mostly just on the hockey jersey.  It's pretty much completely not replaceable.  That was the one that HAD to be cut perfectly on the first try.  Unlucky for me, the number was sewn on a little wonky... but it turned out okay :)

All 25 stabilized and cut blocks laid out on the floor, all ready for sashing!
The sashing went on quickly and really brought it all together nicely!

Completed quilt top.
Now basting a quilt this big and heavy is a pain.  Lately I've been doing so many small projects and spray basting.  The pins had to come out for this!  I spent a few hours at the office with two big tables pushed together, smoothing and clamping and pinning...

Pin basting!  That spoon is handy - it opens/closes all the pins so I don't get hurt!
 The owner of this quilt lives in Philly and goes to at least a few Flyers games every year (although he's actually a Bruins fan), so appropriately, I spent Saturday afternoon watching the Penguins crush the Flyers and quilting this quilt :) 

Initially, I'd planned to just do an all-over meandering/stippling quilt pattern.  Well, I wasn't too sure about getting through that hockey jersey in the middle (the jersey itself is no big deal, but the numbers are pretty stiff/heavy) and the quilt was SO HEAVY I don't think the FMQ would've turned out too well.  Plus this needs to be more masculine than that.  So I opted to outline the sashing.  But then the quilting was spaced too far apart for the batting so I went corner to corner on each block and made a bunch of diamonds. 

Quilted and ready for binding!
I used an invisible thread on the top since there was so much light and dark and a matching green thread on the back.  I think I might go back and outline the "13" in the hockey jersey since I didn't quilt through it.

Three extra blocks were chopped up for the back.
Well it hasn't been cake, but it's coming together nicely.  It's been a work-in-progress since last spring, but I'm hoping to have it done by the end of February.  All that's left to do is put the binding on!

Linking up with WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

FMQ: Getting Into the Groove

So I "finished" my Groove quilt back in the fall.  But it wasn't really finished.  The binding was machined to the front but not sewn down to the back.  And it was just so... plain.  All solid colors (don't get me wrong, it was fun to play with all solids) but the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting just wasn't doing it for me.

It was like 70 degrees on Sunday - that's the only time a hammock is appropriate in January!

My biggest quilting "resolution" for this year is to work on my FMQ skills!  That's just what the Groove quilt needs - some texture!  Much like many of the other Groove quilts you'll see floating around, I decided to use a different free motion quilting pattern in each color area of the quilt.

Echo paisley in the yellow portions of my Groove quilt

So far the yellow is full of echo paisley (it's almost echo shell, it doesn't quite come back to the origin enough... but whatever, I like it anyway!) and the orange has the start of some pebbles (yeah, I once said I was done with pebbles, but these ones will be bigger and in a smaller area).

Pebble quilting in the orange areas - it looks like a Band Aid in this picture

 The only issue I'm still really having is getting the tension right on the back.  I slowed my hands down so I'm not getting insane loopies on the back, but the tension is still a little wacky.  I've just been cranking the dial up to like 6 and it seems to be helping.  Does anyone else find that that's okay?  I had to do that before and thought it was the crappy thread I had at the time - now I am doing that with Aurifil.

You can see that the tension is a little wonky, especially in the orange-on-cream area

I'll have to master three more patterns to be able to finish this quilt!  I'm thinking swirls, wood grain, and something else.  I don't really want to do anything angular, it seems like curves fit this curvy quilt!  Any suggestions for the final FMQ pattern on this one?

Linking up to WIP Wednesday at Freshly Pieced!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

City of Bridges

Several of us from the Pittsburgh Modern Quilt Guild have been busy working away on our Madrona Road Challenge projects!  We decided that our challenge would be a theme based on the story that accompanies the fabric line - we settled on roads and bridges.  I've always had ideas for bridge quilts floating around in my head and I sat down with a friend of mine and came up with a pretty fun design!

I had a dimensioned drawing of my original idea but as I was putting the top together, I made some last minute changes and improvised some portions of the quilt.  It was pretty liberating!  I've never really done any improve piecing outside of a meeting workshop setting.

We had some beautiful weather this weekend, so it was a great opportunity to get a few pictures!

City of Bridges - font

City of Bridges - Back

City of Bridges - FMQ closeup

City of Bridges - finished quilt!

The finished dimensions are about 40.5" by 46.5" - it's a little crooked though...oh well!  The first finish of 2013 turned out pretty well :)  I'm off to work on a t-shirt quilt for a friend and keep on working on my FMQ skills with my Groove quilt!

Friday, January 4, 2013


I was working about an hour or so away yesterday and decided to take the long way home to stop at a LQS that I hadn't been to yet. They had a nice variety of fabrics. In the interest of supporting a local business (and adding to the stash!) I picked up a charm pack of Serenade. Then I found $6 one yard cuts, buy 3 get one free. Who can pass that up!? Especially the circuit board print! And when I get home today there should be a massive box of Bella solids waiting for me :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Getting Back on Track

I woke up today thinking it was Monday and dreading going back to work.  After two long weekends and a 3-day week of only half-assing it, I don't think I could handle a full week of work.  Oh wait, it's WEDNESDAY!  Everything is instantly a little shinier.  Oh and did I mention I saw a brief glimpse of the sun as I got to my parking space?  Score.

That means I need to write up a WIP Wednesday post since I've been neglecting the blog for so long.  

So for the past couple of months, I was just working on cranking out Christmas gifts and working on my Swoon quilt.  Now Christmas has passed and I've got my Swoon blocks all finished.  They still need to be sashed.  I'm debating whether I want to just put them into storage and finish up some older, more spring-like WIPs or just get the top done and wait to baste/quilt it when I'm feeling more Chirstmassy.  On top of that, I used my Flurry scraps to make a zig-zag baby quilt (with those bonus HSTs you cut off while making the Swoon blocks) and started an EPP project with diamonds and hexagons and jewels. Although staring at Flurry prints is getting old (it's been a few months now and Christmas is over...but I do LOVE the prints, it's just time for a change!)

EPP Flowers/Stars... however you want to look at it :)
The EPP project is great because I can work on it whenever.  Tomorrow I am in the field for work - I have a feeling I will be spending a lot of time "watching" from my heated car (it's only going to be 15 degrees!) and it's nice to feel like you're accomplishing something while avoiding being cold!  It occupied most of my down time when I went home for Christmas.  

Sophie Fangs is less than thrilled that I'm sewing and not petting her.
The only thing I'm regretting is using white thread - it shows through a little bit, especially on the darker colors.  But whatever, it's hand made and that makes it obvious :)  Perhaps when this is finished some day, I will try hand-quilting it.  We'll see.  I'm also playing with layout ideas in my head.  The fabric scraps are only going to go so far.  I might try floating the flowers in more white rather than connecting the points.

The white stitches show through on the seams... oh well, too late now!
 My biggest project for the past week has been the Madrona Road Challenge.  A few of us from the Pittsburgh MQG are participating.  Our theme is "roads and bridges" based on reading the cute little story that accompanies the Madrona Road collection.  A friend of mine (who just happens to design bridges for a living) helped me come up with an awesome sketch which I turned into a pattern.  Then it was off to AutoCAD to draw it all up neatly and dimension everything out.  And then I figured out how to tile patterns in Photoshop (what a proud moment for me!) - that way if you just scan the fabric, you can tile it and see what it's going to look like.  The scale wasn't quilt right though.

FMQ on City of Bridges
FMQing some echo paisley on my City of Bridges Quilt!
So on Saturday, I got together with a fellow challenge participant and we brainstormed and planned out our quilts (it's always nice to have feedback from someone to help smooth out the sections that are bothering you!).  The top was finished basically in an evening and then I got ambitious and sewed batting scraps together, cut and ironed some backing fabric, and found an almost-empty spray basting can at like 10 pm and got it all basted.  Then I couldn't stop and quilted about 1/4 of it before finally deciding it was time to go to bed.  New Years Eve day I got about 3/4 of the way through the quilting.  Anyhow, I will give you a little sneak peak but I'm going to wait until later to reveal the full quilt!  Plus it still needs to be finished up! 

So that's my first WIP Wednesday post for 2013!  I'm linking up to Freshly Pieced as usual - take a look and get some inspiration for your 2013 WIPs!!