Sunday, February 26, 2017

New York Fabric Tee Shirt Quilt Back

Last week, I showed off the front of this tee shirt quilt for my daughter.
It was supposed to be her going-to-college quilt, but I finished it in December, just one semester late. The front has tees from her school years here in Southern California. When the top was finished, I didn't have any leftover tees for the back.

So the backing became a tribute to her present and immediate future in New York City, the location of her college. Creating the back was more of an exercise in shopping and stash-scouring than  art!

If you happen to love someone who has lived in New York City, and you want to make them a memory quilt, the good news is that there are plenty of fabrics that specifically depict The City - as opposed to virtually any other city. (There's a lot of Paris fabric out there, too, but I've never seen Milwaukee fabric or Phoenix fabric, or my hometown, Newton, Massachusetts fabric!)

While our family was touring colleges a year ago, I spent a blissful hour at The City Quilter, a legendary Manhattan quilt store. (The brick and mortar store is now closed, but they continue to sell their New York fabrics online.) That's where I bought the first five fabrics below. They call the first one "All the Buildings in New York," a slight exaggeration.
Running down the side of this fabric above is two-foot-long row of townhouses. At the City Quilter, they had turned it into a long, lean pillow. 
Adorable details: 
The buildings are about 3" high. 
I also bought a fat quarter of black-background NY subway map fabric....
...And  a FQ of the yellow cab fabric above. I had another yard of their white background subway fabric in my stash, that I'd bought from their website years before: 
It's highly simplified, so I hope my daughter doesn't try to use it to get somewhere. At the shop, I also bought a FQ of this "NYC Subway Tiles" fabric: 

And a FQ of my absolute favorite, this pigeon fabric:

Along with those, I searched my stash. My DD loves visiting coffee shops. These two black-and-white coffee fabrics below reeked of  New York caffeine:

My daughter's an enthusiastic thrift shopper, with great taste in vintage clothing, so I used this: 
I had a couple more New Yorkish fabrics, including this beautiful skyscraper fabric: 
And this grim "What was I thinking when I bought it a million years ago?" fabric: 
Can you detect the Statue of Liberty in the middle of this urban dystopia?
The last thing I did for this quilt was assign my daughter to go to her college store and buy the least expensive school tee shirt she could find, in any size. She brought it home for winter break, and I cut out the logo and stitched it on top of some red brick-themed fabric that I used in desperation when I'd run out of NYC fabrics. 
So how did she like her quilt? When she unwrapped it, and saw both sides, her first reaction was this: "It's the story of my life!" Mission accomplished! 

If you're interested in buying New York City fabrics from the City Quilter (no financial affiliation!) find their selection starting on two different pages, here and here. If you're not a stitcher, you can buy fun finished garments made from NY fabric, here.

To read part 1, about how to make a tee shirt quilt with tee shirt batting, find it here.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A Going-to-College Tee Shirt Quilt, with Tee Shirt Batting Tutorial

Finished in December: A tee-shirt quilt for my college freshman daughter. It's only one semester late!
One of my favorite shirts, because it so sums her up:
And below is the lovely going-to-college tee shirt quilt for my now-23-year-old college graduate son:
Yeah, I haven't made it yet, My son did a lot of sports. Sports bring a tower of tees. He's now in grad school, and probably doesn't realize that he's still waiting for that quilt, which, if I ever make it, may double as a termite tent.

On the other hand, my younger child, bless her heart, loathed sports, no matter how much I nagged lectured encouraged her. Not that I ever want to compare my children, but here's the bottom line: Fewer shirts gave her a huge advantage in the sibling tee shirt quilt race competition.

She loved art, performed alone in her room, or in art class, usually without a special shirt, though she did do a wonderful art camp...

 She was a Girl Scout...
...and performed in school plays.



She also had some great shirts that weren't extracurricular-related  - school spirit shirts, PE shirts, graduating class shirts.

Last summer, after she finished high school, I decided to embark on making her quilt, which I figured would be fast and easy, compared to the hypothetical quilt for her brother.

But in August and September, I was too morose about my empty nest, and abandoned the effort.

As the fall wore on, my sadness was replaced with wonder, then glee, at not having to drive her to school and rehearsals. More time opened up in my schedule! And by late November, I was happily hacking away at her shirts!

For the batting, I used a trick I developed during a previous upcycled clothing project, a memorial quilt for a young man who lost his life at the World Trade Center on 9/11. His wife had given a great many tee shirts, and they smelled wonderful - like him. I wanted to preserve that smell for her, as much as possible.

So for that memory quilt, I sewed together the unprinted rectangles cut from the backs of the tees. (If you have a serger, this process will be even easier and neater. (Update: Load the serger with wooly nylon to make sure the seams stretch, says my friend Deb. Thanks, Deb!)

I used tee pieces as the only batting in the quilt. I did NOT add interfacing of any kind to the rectangles used for batting.

Same thing for my daughter's quilts. I cut large rectangles and squares out of the tees I used, either the back or large areas under the logos.

Overlapped pieces by about a half inch. Remember, no need to interface.
 Pin together on the overlap.
 Do a wide zig-zag stitch, while pulling very slightly on the shirts, to build in a tiny bit of extra stretch.
 After stitching:
The reverse side is below. I just don't worry about that overlapped half inch, as long as its lying flat (iron if necessary.)
Next, here's the tee "batting" laid out on my basting (aka kitchen) table. The backing is underneath it, stretched taut on the table and held by clamps. The top of the quilt, you can see at the very end of the table, just about ready to be unrolled and laid on the top.
OK, now I hear you asking three questions:

#1. What about those little ruffles in the seams? Once the three layers are together, they vanish, as do the overlaps. Maybe someone with extreme fingertip sensitivity could feel the "batting" seams if the quilt were put on a very hard flat surface, but it would take a monumental effort.

#2. Won't the deep colors show through on the finished quilt? No, because there's fusible interfacing behind each tee shirt front. The back - I can't see them from that side, either.  Plus, if they did show through, who cares? Tee shirt quilts are never in the running for quilt show prizes!

#3: Does a tee shirt batting make the quilting less indented? Yes, a little less indented than the quilting on my usual batting choice, Warm'n'Natural cotton batting.  But you can still clearly see the indentations below. My theory: Two layers of tees + 1 layer of fusible interfacing behind the front tees + woven backing fabric = almost the same thickness as 2 layers of woven fabrics + thin commercial batting.

#4. Does a tee batting affect the weight of a quilt? Yes - it makes the quilt lighter than regular batting. The quilt is also not as cushy.

A tee batting also saves money, and helps the environment - you won't have to throw away as many tee leftovers. Whatever large rectangles don't make it into the quilt I use to make tee shirt yarn for crochet projects. Here's a small tee shirt bowl.
My sister-in-law spotted my growing ball of tee yarn and made slippers that double as floor cleaners!
Next installment: The reverse side pointed to my daughter's new life - a New York City college state of mind. Read it here.

PS Shared on Nina-Marie Sayre's Off the Wall Friday compendium of art quilts - find it here.




Sunday, February 12, 2017

Unzipped Cat Lips Card Holder Tutorial

After finishing last week's nasty cat quilt block, it occurred to me that I could easily turn it into a useful cardholder. So here's round two. 
Depending on the word you embroider, this project can be a political encouragement to speak out, or a fun present for a child. It can snugly hold a gift card, a credit card, or, more loosely, an Ace of Diamonds. 
Last week's variation was a 1-hour project. This a 1.5 hour project, depending how fast you make embellishment decisions  (30 seconds to 5 years in my case). You will need:
  • Two 2" squares for ears
  • One 4" square for the front as the head. I used blue (I was getting tired of pink)
  • One 4" square for the area behind and above the head. I used gold
  • One 4" square for pocket lining. I used light pink. It won't show on the finished project
  • One 4" square to serve as backing
  • One 4" square of quilt batting (optional)
  • Two buttons
  • A zipper
Fold each ear square in half horizontally, then fold the upper right and left corner inwards. 
Trim a quarter inch off the right and left corners of each ear.
Place the 4" square in your preferred head color - in this case, blue. Make sure the outer corner of each ear triangle is at least 3/8" from the edges of the head square.
Place the inside lining of the head on top of the head square. This square will not show in the finished piece.  Below, I choose pink. Place it over the head and ears, matching raw edges of the two large squares.

Pin that square smack on top of the head and ears.
Stitch all the way across, to hold the ears in position.
Flip open.
Gently pull each ear upward as far as possible, and press.
Seize the 4" square you want to serve as the background, above the cat's head.
The blue cat's head will lie on top of the gold piece, but it has to be shorter. So cut about 1" off the bottom of the cat's head piece (cutting through both layers.)
Place it on top of the background piece, matching the bottom corners and two sides.
Baste the ear pocket onto the background piece. 
Place the 4" backing square on top of a 4" square of quilt batting. 
Place the cat head piece, face down, on top of the backing piece, with the batting still on bottom.
You should be looking at your basting stitches. On the machine, stitch all the way around the square, using a SCANT quarter-inch - maybe a few threads shy. This will allow credit cards to fit snugly in the pocket. Leave a 2" or more turning gap on one side. Don't let the gap include a corner.
Trim the corners to within a few threads of your stitching.
Look in the opening and find the right hole: The one where your backing fabric (green in this case) faces the cat's head (blue).
Carefully turn the piece right side out through that hole, and use a chopstick or its ilk to push out the corners.
Play with embellishments for eyes and lips.
Embroider the word you might want to unzip. Keeping one hand inside the pocket, spell out the words with straight stitches. The word should be flush right for maximum readability after the zipper is added.
I chose a vintage coral-covered metal zipper, with a worn pull, for the lips. Cut the zipper to size, and stitch over the end to prevent the zipper pull from falling off.
Stitch the zipper onto the pocket, again keeping your fingers in the pocket to prevent the needle from penetrating the back.
It's so much fun to zip and unzip this cat's lips! Embellish as desired. I added large stitches to the top of the background and the top of the pocket.

Sew up the turning gap on the side. Now it can snugly hold a credit card, a gift card, or whatever! (Below, my public transit card is halfway in.)
If you like, you can add a cat tail that will make the piece easy to clip to something. 

I started out with fabric cut to 5.5" x 2". Fold in half, RST, the long way, and stitch as shown, leaving a turning gap along one side. 
Turn the right side out, then stitch all the way around.
Thread it through a key ring, D hook, or whatever.
Bring the ends together.
Stitch it too the back of your piece, being careful not to penetrate the front.
What cat themed pieces have you made lately?