DW’s Birthday Quilt – Many years, and three homes, in the making of…

This project has only been in the works for approximately 5 years.  It might be longer, but that is all I am willing to admit to.  By “in the works” I mean that I actually cut out the t-shirts, Freychecked the edges, order the how-to book and the templates for making the quilt.  Until now, they have just been languishing in the to-do pile.  This is the year that I want to get it moved to the Ta-DA pile!

The book and templates are from Too Cool T-Shirt Quilts.  An Oregon quilter located in Florence Oregon.  I liked the idea of her quilts because they can use up A LOT of t-shirts.  A LOT of t-shirts is what I had.


Back in March of this year, I travelled to visit my brother and his family (Thank you so very much Shorb Family!!).  I used the plane time to read over the instructions in the book.  In all the time that I had the book, I don’t think I ever actually read it before.  At least, not past the cutting of the t-shirt part.  I was still pretty hesitant, right up until I read the sentence that said something to the effect that the t-shirts stretch and it makes it pretty easy to make all the corners fit with each other.  That was my “ah-ha” moment.  this would be a forgiving sorta project. Just my style!

It had been so long since I had cut out the blocks, I needed to measure them and stack them by size.  Once stacked, each size needed to be counted.

Pixie “helping”.  She’s pretty sure this quilt is for her…isn’t everything?

From there, I figured out the amount of square inches worth of t-shirts that I had to work with.  I did some poking at the interwebs to determine what size of blanket I wanted to make, I chose 120×120.  I printed out some grid paper, got my mechanical pencil and my crayons and commenced plotting the quilt.

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The book suggests breaking the quilt un into quadrants.  This is a super fabulous idea!  It makes it much easier when making such a large quilt.  It is also easy to lay out the pieces on the living room floor, only one quadrant at a time.  I only have so much space in my tiny apartment!

quadrant #1
quadrant #2

I would have swore on a stack of bibles that I took a picture of quadrant #3, but I couldn’t find it on my phone.  I know I didn’t take a pic of #4… I was way too giddy at being so close to finishing the piecing part of the process.  As I pieced each section, I made an effort to mix up the light/dark blocks.  Because I pieced each section separately, it was going to be a surprise how the quilt looked when they were all joined together.

All four quadrants awaiting the joining

After finishing piecing all the individual quadrants of the quilt, I was peacefully asleep when I woke abruptly!  This is going to be a HUGE quilt.  It is NOT going to fit on my quilting frame!  Then I laid awake thinking about it.  I am going to have to quilt this in pieces and then join it together.  Oooooooorrr… tie it first and then quilt one block at a time.  Oooooooorrr… I don’t know.  Why don’t I think of these things sooner?

Catching up:

The T-shirt quilt that I have been working on (off and on) was too big for my quilt frame.  After I finally figured out how to make the machine quilting do it’s thing… I had to take the quilt back off the frame.  Then, I had to take out all the stitching because of the horribly loose bobbin threads that were all looping out in rats’ nests.  Because the quilt is so big, I decided to approach this project a little differently.  I decided to tie the “quilt sandwich” together before doing the actual quilting.  I have managed to finish all the ties and that is where I have stalled, so far.  So many things keep getting in the way of my project time

January 14, 2019 – after months of inactivity, I actually found time to work on this again. (it was supposed to be finished in time for his Sept.4th birthday of 2018) Over the weekend I was able to clock 3 hours and 25 minutes on it!  😀  It was way too big to put on my quilt frame, not that stopped me from trying.  For months it has just been rolled up waiting to be quilted.  I was really dreading having to quilt it on the regular machine… Guess what?!  It is going really well!  With the t-shirts for the top layer, flannel for the bottom layer and a thin cotton batting in the middle, it is easy to roll up fairly small and it is really easy to manipulate.  I am not rushing the process.  Just taking my time and enjoying it.  I have a feeling that before long I will be adding the binding to this quilt.

quilting without a quilting frame
The boss says that quilting time is over for the night.  It is Pixie appreciation time.
Finished all the stich-in-the-ditch machine quilting.  started on the fiddly hand quilting of each block.  Completed 3.5 by this picture.

May 24th, 2019:

I ditched the hand quilting and decided to go back to machine quilting.  I am “free motion” quilting around the designs on each block.  My proficiency had greatly improved as I have gone along in this process.


May 26th, 2019:

A few minutes ago, after hours of quilting blocks, I thought to myself “I MUST  be getting close to being done”.

Not really…

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A couple of more sewing sessions and I was having a hard time finding blocks that I hadn’t worked on.  I took the quilt off the machine, out of the sewing room and into the living room.  There was one area where the T-shirt block wasn’t the size that I thought it was and came up short.  I sacrificed one of my T-shirts for enough fabric to bridge the gap.  Back into the sewing room I went. Once I “bridged the gap” I trimmed off the extra t-shirt fabric and evened up the flannel quilt backing fabric in preparation of attaching the binding.

Pixie keeping me company in the sewing room as I bridged the gap and pieced the flannel binding

I had purchased a yard of grey flannel that matched the back of the quilt and prewashed it on the hottest setting.  Ironed out the wrinkles and tore 2 inch strips, which I again ironed.  I chose to seam the strips with a straight seam instead of a diagonal seam. (Big mistake, I was to figure out later.) Once all the strips were sewn together, I folded them in half lengthwise and ironed a fold in the whole thing.  Using my quilting machine, I proceeded to attach the binding to the quilt by placing the raw edges of the binding (still folded over, making double thickness) against the raw edges of the quilt, starting in the middle of the bottom edge.


Pixie is very helpful during this process of the making of “her” quilt

Once fully attached to the front of the quilt (I did look up the mitered corner technique on U-Tube, but forgot to note which one so I could give credit), Pixie and I headed back to the living room for the hand sewing portion of this evolution.

Before I could start the hand sewing I wanted to remove all the loose quilting threads. This took a couple of snatched evenings for a few weeks running of snipping off all those pesky threads on both the front and the back of the quilt

left me with this:

pile of loose threads trimmed from the quilt back only

The hand sewing part is relaxing and fun for me, something that I enjoy immensely. I folded the binding over to the back of the quilt, tucking the extra under. I made as tiny stitches as I was able to do, comfortably, all along the edge just below the stitching line of machine stitches from attaching the binding to the front of the quilt.

hand stitching the back of the quilt binding

This was a process that took me more than a couple of nights.  I even took it with me when I went to teach in Astoria, over the weekend.  What else would I do on an evening without any other obligations, while out of town? ;-D

Mostly I would sew for a bit in the evenings in the quiet time of sitting down after we had finishes all the other things that we needed to work on that day. A little here and a little there.  Each evening when I stopped sewing, I would pile up the quilt in such a way that the needle and thread would be on the top, ready to grab the next time I had a few minutes to work on it.

Pile of quilt awaiting further binding

So… after multiple evenings I put in my last stitches into the binding on August 20, 2019.  According to Rachel @ Grandma’s Attic Sewing Emporium, “a quilt is not finished without a label”. In fact this is so important that if you are part of her Monthly Quilt Club in store class and it is the month of your birthday, she gives out quilt labels.  Thankfully, I knew exactly where one was.  I hurried into my sewing room and got it. Here is a peek:

quilt label for DW’s quilt

This was applied to the quilt by ironing this product:


on the back of the label, folding over the edges and ironing the label onto the back of the quilt.  Then hand sewing all around the label.


Finally done!  😀

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