May 292018

Teaching T-shirt Quilt Class at NJMQG in June

I’m very excited to be teaching this class for the NJMQG on Saturday June 16, 2018! Click here to sign-up. I’d love to see you there!

  • Have you been asked to make someone a T-shirt quilt but held back?
  • Are you worried about sewing knits?
  • Think it’s going to take too long, cost too much, or not be rewarding to work on?
I will help you overcome those obstacles!

Making a T-shirt quilt is really different from any other kind, because the focus is on the person who wore the T-shirts, and not on the expertise, creativity, or inventiveness of the quilter! That’s the big reason I had resisted making one — no glory for me! — and it took making one for a stranger to turn my thinking around.

The first T-shirt quilt I made was for my brother-in-law Paul who was diagnosed with ALS just before Thanksgiving 2014. He was an avid amateur cyclist, participating multiple timesĀ  in the California Triple Crown, Terrible Two, the Santa Rosa Gran Fondo, as well as coaching and fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training. Making this quilt was, of course, a labor of love. But also time consuming, and a bit costly because all that polyester jersey absolutely had to be stabilized with fusible; it’s too stretchy and slippery not to. I added some improv wedges of solid Kona cottons to frame each jersey panel for stability as well as visual interest, and the end result satisfied my creative side while showcasing the accomplishments of the wearer, which is really the whole point. Since it was for someone I cared for, it was deeply rewarding for me on an emotional level too.

The next journey was quite different. I took a commission to make a simple un-quilted fleece-backed T-shirt quilt for someone I did not know. Without the emotional connection, would this project be drudgery? Fearing it would be, I wanted to keep the design and construction simple and quick. What surprised me was that as I handled the T-shirts — pressing them, cutting them apart, studying their graphics, arranging and rearranging the pieces — they told me a story about the person who wore them. What he studied in college; bands he followed and the concerts he went to; places he visited; organizations he belonged to. I got a sense of his values, the things that matter to him. It was fascinating to feel so connected to a person just from the content of the T-shirts he had collected and worn. I found the experience profoundly moving and so much more personal than I ever imagined.

So if, like I did, you’ve resisted making a T-shirt quilt, reconsider. Focus on the person, let their story emerge and you’ll find it opens your heart in delightfully unexpected ways.