On the Magical Mystery Quilt, Part I

Quilts. The word itself usually calls to mind images of grandmas (as does most sewing-related activity). As I’ve learned to sew, and expanded my knowledge of textile arts, I’ve eschewed these old ideas that sewing and knitting are just for the elderly among us. They can be new, fresh, cool. But quilting? If the quilting section of the fabric store is any indication, you’d have a harder time arguing that quilting itself can be new, fresh or cool.

Quilting, as defined by the all-knowing Wikipedia, is the process of sewing two or more layers of fabric together to make a thicker padded material, usually to create a quilt or quilted garment. Traditionally, they’ve been used as bed coverings and blankets, but, as with all textiles, the possibilities are limitless.

Sounds cool right?

Sure looks cool. Quilted fragment c. 1900.

Yet I have not had the itch of curiosity to venture into quilting. Until now.

My boyfriend was clearing out his closet, and attempting to cull his ungodly t-shirt collection, when he had an idea. He thought, why not make a quilt out of these shirts? That way he wouldn’t have to say goodbye to them forever, but they wouldn’t take up all the closet space. Hmmm, I’m intrigued…

There’s a problem though. I don’t know how to quilt! I imagined that quilting is a specific skill with specific techniques that I am not familiar with at all. Have you seen quilts before? The precision, the clean lines! They’re a thing of beauty, with all those pinwheels and little geometric flowers and mathematical satisfaction. Math isn’t my strongest point.

But like I’ve ever let such a thing stop me! I thought, it might be simple, merely a bunch of squares, but I’ll give it a go. I’m pura chingona after all. How hard can it be to sew a bunch of squares together?

Actually kinda hard it turns out.

First, how big would they be? I had to do some kind of planning, I thought. In reality,  I didn’t do that much planning. I have a 12×12 canvas that I just placed on top of the t-shirt logos and traced with tailor’s chalk. Then I proceeded to cut the pieces out giving some random seam allowance that I later measured and cut down to 1/2″ (with the exception of a few unfortunate pieces that I forgot to allot seam allowance to, RIP).

Then I proceeded to pin them and sew them. I thought I’d do 3 rows of 4, and while wide enough for a decent size blanket, it’s nowhere near long enough. While I patiently await the arrival of more t-shirts (pull the band-aid babe, you don’t need most of them), I can reflect on this first part of the process.

I sense some crookedness in the force.

So as you can see, all of the corners don’t perfectly align, and the bottom row is crooked, which is bogus, because they matched up perfectly when I was pinning them! Oh well, I always give myself some margin for error when I make something for the first time. I guess the first step is kinda sorta complete? I know there’s some visual planning that goes into this quilting process, so I tried to place the squares in such a way as to keep the colors and tones pleasing to the eye. But you can only do so much when all of them are either grey, black or white haha. Overall feeling? Not too difficult!

Now I know the next step, once I’ve sewn all the squares together, is that some sort of batting must be used as a middle layer between the squares and whatever other kind of fabric I’ll use for the back. Fleece? Honestly, the boyfriend runs pretty hot, so a warm ass blanket doesn’t seem like a good idea. But since this is all jersey knit t-shirt fabric, I do think some batting would be a good idea, to keep it from rolling up into one giant t-shirt square. Thoughts? Recommendations? Does one have to do the fancy topstitch design after? Is that not to just hold everything in place basically?

With absolutely zero guidance in this department, I am well and truly winging it.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, and to see if I completely botch this thing or make it werk, as the classic saying goes.

Happy stitching!



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