I’m stubborn. It’s in my genes. I’m also loud and opinionated. Which is a bad trio because I it allows me to have concrete feelings towards what I’m railing against. I cling to them even while the ship is going down. But every now and then, I have to admit that I was wrong. If you ask my husband, he’ll say this happens maybe three times a year and wouldn’t be wrong. Here’s #2 for 2012, I love the t-shirt quilt.
Here’s what I love about quilting. I love finding a pattern. One that I have to have. That motivates me to work on the project. I love shopping for fabric. Pulling bolts and mixing colors and prints. I love the process. I knew that I wouldn’t get to do that with a t-shirt quilt. The fabric had been “purchased” and sitting in a box for the past couple years. There wouldn’t really be a process because Mark wanted big simple squares. And sewing on knit freaks me out. I did not want to make a t-shirt quilt. I built up strong opinions and stuck my feet firmly in the No Camp.
But then this happened and I had to make it right. So I dug out that t-shirt box and started weeding out the keepers. Mark had a few rules: big squares and all old shirts. I choose a 12.5 inch template and started picking. I wanted the boys’ shirts in the quilt and I needed a motivation to work on it. I told Mark my rules: the boys’ shirts could be patchworked into 12.5 squares, a flannel back, and red white polka dot binding. We agreed and I got to work.
Each shirt was hacked into a larger than 12.5 square. This part was oddly difficult. Some of these shirts, we’ve saved for years. Memories are woven into them. The center square was my father’s t-shirt from around the time I was born. It was so sheer that it was completely inappropriate to wear. I wore it while I was pregnant with Coop, but layered it. It has patiently waited for the past seven years to be honored. Cutting the boys shirts was almost painful. So tiny. Full of food, breastmilk stains, and newborn smells still lingered. Don’t do this while drinking wine. Once the shirts were cut, I backed each t-shirt with Pellon Fusible Interfacing D906F. And then I cut to the template size. Mark and I found a pleasing arrangement and then I sewed. I backed it with a soft flannel and quilted about fives inches apart in a diagonal pattern. I “fought” Mark for the polka dot binding because I figured it was whimsical and classic enough for something like t-shirts. I think I’m right.
The quilt is like the birth of our family. Mark wore the Beastie Boys shirt during our first dates. Our favorite college bar’s shirt was stitched into the quilt. Mark got the shirt because he almost electrocuted himself on the pinball machine which was sitting in water. The “Whorehouse” shirt was discovered in a filthy flea market on route 71 after a bachelorette party. The Buddha shirt was a favorite during Coop’s pregnancy. Baby shirts purchased by our friends were and will always be cherished. There are shirts from our friends’ band and shirts designed by a friend. The Curious George and Star Wars shirts were worn on the boys’ first birthdays. The Star Wars shirt still wears the stains from Becks’ cake. “I Make Milk. What’s your Super Power” and “You Say Potato. I Say Fuck You” were favorite shirts that never quite fit. They have a home.
Our family loves this quilt. The boys use it on the couch while watching tv and they sprawl out on it in the yard. Yesterday, it was filled with grass clippings and the sprinkler christened it as an official family member. When I saw it on the grass with and the kids ran by it, I had to smile and acknowledge how wrong I was about making a t-shirt quilt. It’s packed full of memories and it’s waiting to make more. I told Mark while I was working on the last few blocks, “If you want it in the quilt, give it to me now. I’m not making another one of these. It’s a lot of work.” Yesterday, he was going through some old shirts and tossing them into Goodwill piles. He stopped with a few that he couldn’t giveaway. I said, “Put it in the next quilt pile.” Give me a few years and I’ll make another one. Because every house should own a few t-shirt quilts. If you have a t-shirt pile, dig it out and make a quilt. I used these tutorials and I’m happy to answer any questions. Just make one. Honor you past.