Call me an old soul, but one of my newest hobbies is quilting. I haven’t yet made a traditional quilt (because I’ve been rather short of time). But, in the past year and a half, I’ve gotten close to mastering my t-shirt quilting skills.
I was first drawn to t-shirt quilts in high school because one of my school’s elective classes was a quilting class and students made their own t-shirts quilt for their final project. Although I never took this class, I vividly remember seeing the t-shirts quilts displayed in the library during the last few weeks of school. Since then, I’ve been drawn to the idea of t-shirt quilts, primarily because I have boxes and boxes of old softball, basketball and volleyball jerseys and team shirts. I can’t bear to part with them, but most of them have seen better days.
Then about three years ago, my sisters and I tasked my mom with the job of making a family t-shirt quilt. You see, she used to sew quite a bit, and we thought it would be a good way to make my parents’ empty nest a little less empty. So one night the five us collectively picked out 25 shirts that would represent our family. With the shirts picked out, my mom started the quilt but for one reason or another, got distracted and the project sat in tote for a few months.
In that time, I was attending one of my friend’s bridal showers, at which her grandma gave her a handmade apron that I became immediately and vocally jealous of. Thinking nothing of this vocalization, the next time I saw this friend, she said she had a gift for me from her grandma. Her grandma had given me a handmade apron and oven hot pads. I was pumped—I finally had a legitimate apron! (Yes, yes, I do know how odd that sounds.) Anyway, from this, I learned that this grandma was an expert sewer.
Not having a sewing-expert grandma of my own, I asked if she would be willing to patch a few jeans for me. Not only was she willing, but when I went to pick up the patched jeans, I found out she knew how to do t-shirt quilts AND she would be willing to teach me.
The next time I was home, I slyly took my mom’s sewing machine and grabbed the forgotten t-shirt quilt tote because I was determined to finish this family t-shirt quilt. After spending many quality hours (filled with great conversation) with my friend’s grandma, I had finished my family’s t-shirt quilt in time for Christmas.
Knowing my mom had abandoned the family t-shirt quilt, I wasn’t sure if she would be excited about the quilt. But on Christmas morning, the finished quilt brought tears to my mom’s eyes. She hadn’t even noticed that I had taken her sewing machine! Given the epic battles my mom and I had during my teenage years, I think my gesture helped heal some of our old wounds. With a finished family t-shirt quilt that signifies our close-knit family, I hope the quilt actually does make my parent’s empty nest a little less empty. I do know, however, my mom keeps the Gebhart family quilt on display in the family room, and is eager to show all her houseguests.
The second t-shirt quilt I did was for my little sister. Comprised of t-shirts from her swimming days, the quilt is two-sided. In fact, most of the shirts along the edge are shirts that had savable front and backs, and they are positioned in the quilt so you can flip the quilt edge over and see the reverse side of the shirt. (Pretty cool if you ask me….) In addition to making this quilt double sided, I also tried something new: I added small designs to the corners. Unfortunately, this proved harder than I imagined (probably because I didn’t have my friend’s grandma’s help on it). So, the corners turned out a little rougher than I anticipated. Despite the corner roughness, my little sister likes it, and that’s all that matters.
The third and most recent t-shirt quilt I made was for my co-worker/friend’s husband. I had shown her my first quilt, because I was like a proud mom showing everyone that would look, and she wanted to do one for her husband and all his shirts. So, in the couple of weeks between the end of my graduate project and his surprise 30th birthday party, I quilted away. Again, I tried something a little different with this one: this time, I added borders between the t-shirts. Adding these borders added a significant amount of sewing to the project, but I really like the way it turned out. My friend and her husband also liked loved the way it turned out. And, as I told them, because I made it for them, they can never forget their dear friend Andrea. 🙂
My mom says I should start my own t-shirt quilting side business because they make for great graduation gifts. However, I don’t think this is the business for me. T-shirt quilts are time consuming and take a lot of work. Plus, the purpose of a t-shirt quilt is to capture memories. If I can’t relate to the shirts that make up the quilt, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the project as much. That said, though, I have decided to offer my t-shirt quilting skills to my friends and family. So, if you know me, and are looking to have a t-shirt quilt made, let me know because I might be able to help you out! However, I will mention, the next t-shirt quilt I make will be for me. Now that I have plenty of practice, I’m ready to turn my old shirts into quilt.