Natstown Quilt

>> Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A few posts ago, I mentioned my little monster of a quilt. I made this t-shirt quilt for my brother. Although I promised to make it for him for his birthday in 2009, it took until 2010 to get it done. To be fair, I didn't receive the t-shirts from him until about 10 months ago, so I don't bear the total burden for the delay. But at about 75 inches x 75 inches, it was a monster to handle in its latter stages, in part because I was moving furniture around to find a space to lay it out and then baste it.

Why the Nats quilt? My brother works for the Nationals (but, no, he is not a baseball player). If you want to discuss concessions or retail, he's your guy (who will probably kill me for posting that publicly). And since my trips to DC never coincided with home games for me to attend, I didn't even see them play this year. Everyone else in the family saw Strasburg's debut but I was left to hear about it. Perhaps I'll get to see his re-debut after his long recovery from shoulder surgery.

Nevertheless, the quilt is comprised of t-shirts from the Nats' first season in the new Nationals Park. These were promo t-shirts and, depending on the shirt, I used either the front or the back in the quilt. T-shirt quilts contain both easy and difficult elements, and I'll offer some thoughts based on my first t-shirt quilting experience:

1. Lightweight interfacing is a must. It was the only way to keep the knit edges from rolling up and helped stabilize the stretchy fabric.

2. Some people use sashing with t-shirt quilts. I opted not to because I find that the mixture of knits and quilting cotton looks and feels strange (to me). I also couldn't figure out a color that would work well, though dark blue probably would have been fine.

3. The size of graphics on the t-shirt will determine, in part, the size of the quilt (unless you cut off part of the design, which could work quite well in some cases). There are people with more patience than I have who work out ways to use t-shirt emblems of many sizes. Three was all I could handle, and 2 of the block options shared the same width! With these shirts, the "president" graphics were the tallest and led to 16.5" blocks (also handily the size of one of my square rulers).

4. Interfacing and cutting takes a lot of time; piecing the blocks does not.

5. T-shirts are heavy and the quilt top is pretty hefty as a result.

The grey N*A*T*S*T*O*W*N shirt gave me the idea for the 5" row amidst big blocks. It also gave me a chance to use the curly Ws that were on the front of many shirts.

Like these guys. As this shows, I opted for straightforward quilting, about a 1/4" from each horizontal seam and 1/4" from the vertical seams of the big blocks. I alternated red and blue thread, using red below and to the right of each seam and blue above and to the left of each seam.

Most of the shirts were white, so I wanted to distribute the few grey and red shirts across the quilt. I played with the arrangement a couple times to work it out. Initially I used a 4x6 arrangement of blocks (in addition to the short row) but its length was so out of proportion to the width that I ripped out a row and made it 5x5.

Though you can't see it in any of the pictures, I backed the quilt with soft red flannel. My brother asked why I didn't "use any of the stuff that makes quilts puffy" (aka batting) and, truth be told, it was a very pragmatic decision. The t-shirts were heavy and I didn't have that much space to baste; as a result, I wanted as few layers as possible and opted for the flannel alone. It's still very warm.

And totally unrelated, Sukkot starts tonight. Chag Sameach to those celebrating the feast of booths. I helped my dad put together my parent's sukkah but alas lack one of my own. Nevertheless, it's a wonderful harvest holiday. Enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of fall!


~Michelle~ September 22, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

the quilting ends up giving the effect of sashing, at least in the photos... I have some tees already prepped & interfaced, just need to work them into the rotation to get pieced together - maybe I'll find you've inspired me :)

Stray Stitches (Linda G) September 23, 2010 at 11:01 AM  

I don't think any of could guess what team your brother likes ;)

Anonymous September 23, 2010 at 1:07 PM  

How neat! I bet it was a complete monster to work on, though it turned out fabulously!

sews1128 September 26, 2010 at 9:53 PM  

Gorgeous, colorful quilt. I hope J keeps this quilt forever, always thinking of you, his wonderful, creative, "big" aka older sister!

Abby and Stephanie September 27, 2010 at 6:27 AM  

Lucky brother. It really turned out terrific. I have 2 different stacks of t-shirts for quilts but have yet to take the plunge into the piles. Thanks for your tips.

Rebekah September 29, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

this turned out great! Thanks for sharing all of your tips. I've got a quilt like this languishing in my wip pile and will be following your advice when I get around to finishing it.

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