Friday, November 26, 2010

Not For Wimps... or "How I Spent My Thanksgiving"

Once upon a time I embarked upon a t-shirt quilting adventure. Through the process I have gained stamina, endurance, perseverance, patience... if I were to get a commemorative tattoo for the completion of this puppy, it would say "Quilting is not for wimps!"

Care to waltz with me through the journey? It began with thirteen Tennessee Titans t-shirts given to me by a cousin. Cute story here: my cousin went to try out for the Titans cheerleaders and ended up with this handsome stunt partner. They both made the team, fell in love and married! Hooray! These are memories from their cheering days.

Preliminary arrangement: twelve for the front, one for the back. I bought heather gray cotton flannel for the backing.

My plan was to take the whole project to my parents' and use the dining room table (made by my father! See--artistry is genetic!) to quilt it. I'd changed my plan on the top and used a couple of solid squares from the tee backs to fill it out to 16 blocks. But I still wanted to piece the back before heading to my parents'. No sweat, right? I'll do it Tuesday after work.

But... Tuesday morning did not go as planned. I ended up having several hours of "family bonding" with my dad courtesy of an ovarian cyst making its presence known. By noon I was at home scarfing basmati rice and soy sauce, and Dad was picking up meds to keep me loopy. Yrch. Not my fave. Needless to say it kept me from the sewing machine!

Not to be daunted, I awoke Wednesday late, refused meds, packed helter-skelter and headed down the highway (all of two exits--extensive road trip, I know!) At my parents, I took over the front of the house! First I pieced the back...

Then I lay out my batting--a donation of high-loft poly from a friend. It had to be pieced a bit, too...

And then the top! Curvy safety pins, ahoy!

Then for the step that I thought I remembered reading about somewhere: painter's tape grid.

Looking back, I think I would still take this step because (1) pencil lines on jersey knit, even when backed with fusible web, do not sound like fun and (2) moving a piece of tape along as I sewed on either side for 65 inches does not sound like fun either.

Next step: practice pad. Woo hoo. So thick and soft-looking! The 'rents were impressed.

Happy Thanksgiving! What a sight go greet the morning! THANKfully (ha ha, punny, right?) dinner was low-key veggie soup for four, and the dining table was not required.

Lines... More lines... 13 each direction. For a beginner, this was daunting. And sweet little Kenmore's foot pedal kept getting overly excited! We had to let her breathe a bit between lines of stitching.

But sometime on Black Friday morning, she was done!

Since I didn't get a photo of the backing before, here's a few.

My stitching wasn't perfect. I plan on hand-stitching bits like these.

And then there was the grid of tape. It was perforated where I'd run straight over. My fingernails got a work out. Mom and Dad helped, though. They were so excited to see it come together!

Ah... tape-free!

And then binding! I demonstrated the wonders of rotary cutters and self-healing mats to my mother as I cut navy blue flannel binding. And voila.

I'm not being too critical on myself for this attempt. It's by no means perfect. You can see how the binding ended up covering some of the screen prints. You can see how the stitches pulled some. Other imperfections I've already discussed.

Thoughts for the future: batting is not necessary. This was very thick and cumbersome, and I'm not sure it's worth it. (Tell that to the quilt's owners as they snuggle under it at a football game--I'm sure they'll disagree!) In general, despite the fusible web, the t-shirt material itself was harder to work with than a calico. I guess that's not surprising. Maybe my expectations were too high?

All in all a good experience! It may be awhile before I agree to do another of these, and I'm sure I'll make changes, but I'm thankful for the ability to grow my skills in something I enjoy AND spend time with my family in the process! Delivery is tomorrow. Mom is working on schemes to show it off without ruining the surprise for the intended recipient. That's family for ya. :-)

Happy Thanksgiving and welcome to the holiday season, ya'll!


Barb said...

Great job...I enjoyed going through the process with is all a learning experience and tell me one person that is going to go and comb over that quilt and try to find any discrepencies.....once it comes together it looks awesome!!!

Sara said...

That was a nice process---what kind of Kenmore do you have anyhow? I have a Kenmore Model 1937 Zigzag. Quilting is a little tricky with it, but I love the machine overall:)

Katie K. said...

Just got a chance to catch up on your blog. I love how the quilt turned out! What size squares did you cut the tshirts to? Maybe someday I'll get around to doing one myself... Love you!