Tuesday, September 18, 2012

T-shirt quilt

So I have this friend who was a grad student with me, and she was incredibly awesome when I was working on my thesis - going out to different campus libraries and copying articles that I needed but couldn't get electronically, then scanning them and emailing them to me.  She also provided lots of moral support through the whole process.  So when she asked if I'd be willing to make her a quilt using her large University of Illinois T-shirt collection, I was happy to agree.

The day after my thesis defense, we celebrated by laying out the T-shirt collection on the living room floor in her apartment.  It's been well over a year (April 2011), so I don't remember exactly, but I want to say that she started with 30-some T-shirts that she wanted to use.  As we continued to lay out the collection, she kept going back to her room and pulling out more T-shirts to add.  Once we realized that there were enough orange T-shirts to potentially form a large "I" in the middle of the quilt, we realized that we needed to have an odd number of both rows and columns.  She continued to bring out T-shirts until we eventually ended up with 49 - a 7x7 arrangement.  My best decision was to use my digital camera to make a record of how she wanted the shirts arranged.

That day, we went to JAF to buy interfacing (an essential ingredient from what I'd read online) and sashing fabric.  I can't remember exactly what kind of interfacing I chose, but it was a woven lightweight fusible - either the cheapest or second cheapest available.  I had solicited advice from sewing friends online, who said that woven vs. knit didn't matter - just to buy whichever was on sale.  This seemed  to work out well for me.  (Keep in mind that if you use knit interfacing, you need to put the direction of stretch perpendicular to the direction of stretch in the T-shirt - otherwise it won't be stabilized.)  The navy cotton for the sashing was Kona cotton, I believe.

I think I waited a few months before even starting to work on it.  Then I cut the fronts from backs on the T-shirts in preparation for applying interfacing, and then I abandoned it again.  This summer, I pulled it out again, prompted by the 1-year anniversary.  I fused interfacing onto the backs of all T-shirt fronts, then measured the smallest T-shirts to find the largest square I can cut from all the shirts.  I wanted to keep this relatively simple, since it's my first T-shirt quilt and there are a large number of shirts - this is why I wanted them all the same size.  I cut the shirt blocks all 13 inches by 13 inches.  (A few shirt designs would have been totally ruined at that size, so those were left intact to be used as appliques on plain blocks once the sashing was sewn in place.)  That was where I left it for another few months.

Once I decided it was time to get to work, I laid out the blocks according to my original pictures, and I took more pictures to send to my friend to be sure that she still liked the layout.  There was some back and forth to get it to her final approval, and then I was ready to go.  The sashing was cut the length of the fabric by 3 inches wide, in order to have a finished 2 inch width (I'm using 0.5 inch seam allowances).  I sewed horizontal sashing to the blocks and sewed the blocks into columns.  Then I sewed vertical sashing to the columns and sewed the columns together.  I appliqued the large designs onto the plain blocks before the quilt was completely assembled, to help make it easier to maneuver the quilt in the sewing machine.  Once all the blocks were together, I ran a quick line of stay-stitching around the entire top, 0.25 inches from the edge.  This was just to help keep anything from stretching during handling.

I knew that the quilt was enormous - 7 blocks wide by 7 blocks long, at 12 inches finished sides on each block, plus the sashing - but it wasn't until I put the quilt top over my queen-sized bed that I realized just how huge it was!  My poor bed looks barely larger than a twin under this quilt top!

So then I also laid it out on the hard floor (after sweeping!) for a better look.  I'm really so pleased with this quilt top.  I think it looks great, and as it turns out, my friend loves it!  (I was in town last weekend and showed it to her.  She was so surprised, as she'd had no idea I'd finally started working on it!)  I did talk her into adding borders - we'd not made a decision on that last year, instead deciding to wait and see what we thought after the top was put together.  But I think it needs borders for a more finished look, and the online sewing buddies from whom I solicited opinions agreed.  (They also felt it would help keep the T-shirt edges from potentially stretching out, despite the interfacing.)  There is just barely enough of the navy Kona cotton, I think, so I'm going to make the borders the same finished width as the sashing, and it's going to look great.  No decision has been made yet on the backing, but we'll go see what's available when she's here next month for a scavenger hunt/trivia challenge at the zoo. :)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Toy sacks!

I was going to title this "More toy sacks" but then I discovered that I apparently never blogged about the previous iterations I've made.  I blogged once two years ago about starting my first set, but I never apparently showed pictures of the final versions!  How remiss of me!  Anyway, I found a tutorial awhile ago for Peek-a-Boo Toy Sacks.  The idea is that you have a sack for storing toys, one that children can easily use, and it has a vinyl window so you can see what's inside without dumping out all the toys first.  Genius!

Anyway, I had made a few of these for the Things for storing their toys, and I'd even given one or two away.  That was about it, until I was hit last year by the realization that there were going to be a LOT of birthday parties in Thing 2's future.  So I had started brainstorming fun gifts that I could sew for Thing 2 to give.  I did a few Art on the Go kits, and I made a couple of superhero capes.  And then I suddenly remembered the Peek-a-Boo Toy Sacks.  It seemed like a good idea to give one with a few cars inside, so I made one from Matchbox fabric (in the stash for a long time) and had Thing 2 pick out 6 Hot Wheels cars (the birthday boy was turning 6).  Well, that was a hit with his mom!  She wrote an addendum to his thank-you note to specifically say how great the bag was and how cool it was that I'd made it.  And, you know, that's about all the encouragement I needed!  I think I had made up 4 or 5 in the spring - I gave one of each print to Thing 2 for his toys (which definitely need help!) and then used the others as gifts.  

Now he's been invited to the first birthday party of the new school year, and when I asked the mom what the birthday boy liked, she said race cars and anything NASCAR.  Which reminded me that I had some NASCAR fabric in the stash once upon a time....I couldn't remember if it was a lot or down to scraps, but I went hunting and found probably two yards in there.  So I promptly cut out four bags - I used leftover red cotton to line two and muslin to line the other two.  The red bags got red for casing and ties, but I used black cotton scraps for the muslin bags.  One for this weekend's party, one for Thing 2, and two for stash!  I think I'll be getting some more broadcloth to make some more up soon....

Friday, September 7, 2012

Something for ME!

I admit, I usually go to grocery stores that offer free plastic bags, which I then use as trash can liners (all of our trash cans except the big one in the kitchen can take the grocery bags), dog poop bags, and occasionally lightweight packing material (I'd rather use something free than pay for packing peanuts, which really I'm not that fond of, anyway).  And if we build up an excess, then we take them back for recycling the next time we go to the grocery store.

But I sort of have an uneasy truce with plastic grocery bags, and I've started going to Aldi at least every other week, and Aldi doesn't offer free bags.  Now, I can usually snag a box or two from when they unpack their items, and I often keep a stash of bags in the trunk to reuse for that very purpose.  But I've seen all these cloth reusable bags across blogs, and I really wanted to have some for myself.  Especially after I made the wine labels bags for my friend's birthday.

So I was digging through the stash for other reasons, when I ran across this great pear print.  It's got to be five or more years old, and I don't even know why I bought it in the first place.  But it reminded me that I had decided to turn it into cloth grocery sacks.  After I made my friend's bags, I had decided that broadcloth would be a better lining than another cotton print - still sturdy, but definitely lighter weight.  And I had bought some "vineyard" cotton broadcloth when JAF had it half off a few months ago.  Sewing ADD kicked in, and I just had to sew these now!

If I remember right, each bag takes about 2/3 yard each of main and lining fabrics.  So I was able to get two bags out of the pear print.  I also managed to screw up my cutting more than once, which necessitated a seam down the middle of one of the outer pieces, one bag being more narrow than the other, and center seams in the lining of both bags.  Oops!  Guess I should stop cutting when it gets late....But the final products look great!

And this shows the lining fabric a bit.  It doesn't exactly match by any stretch, but I think it looks pretty good together.  I'm happy with them.  And I can't wait for the next time I go to Aldi!  (Or Shop-n-Save, which offers free plastic bags but is all self-bagged, making it easy to use your own if you'd like....)  And I think I'm going to make some wine labels bags for myself, but use broadcloth for the lining....

PSA: Don't forget to run your cloth bags through the wash on a regular basis - you don't want any nasty bacteria growing in there!  I plan to throw these in the wash with my cleaning rags, which get washed and rinsed on warm and dried on warm or hot.  (Otherwise, I'm a wash cool, tumble dry low kind of girl....)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Some birthday sewing....

So my friend's older son had a birthday in July.  This is the kid for whom I made monster PJs last summer.  I had asked her a month or so below his birthday about those PJs and how they fit.  She said then that they still fit great, and that her boys (the other is 17 months younger) fight over the jammies that I make.  Well, that sounds like a winner!  So I dug some vintage car flannel out of my remnant stash - I think I had a little over half a yard.  It was pretty much just enough for these size S shorts, with some scraps for embellishing the shirt.  The black flannel was a Black Friday purchase last year - with no particular intent, just figuring that I can always use black flannel, right?  Especially for $1.49/yard.  Anyway, I used Pam Erny's clean finish for facings on the neckband, then stitched it in place so that it would be flipped right side to the outside of the neck.  I like doing that on these flannel PJs, so that it actually looks like part of a set.  And I added a pocket from the car flannel as well.  He just turned 7, and Thing 1 is 9 and wearing the size M, so I'm hoping that the S will continue to fit my friend's son for awhile longer.  

And if I get a gift in the mail before the next calendar month is over, it's all good, right? ;)  This arrived August 31st, so I'm still good.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Another baby gift!

So my cousin was expecting her second baby, and I thought the diaper clutch would be a great gift for her.  I had already cut it out when I made the first one.  At that point, though, I was out of PUL, so I had to wait to order some, since my local stores no longer carry anything but the Babyville PUL. :(  Anyway, once the PUL arrived, I was already into other projects, and this one kind of stalled until the day my cousin posted that she was having contractions.  Oops!  Time to finish!

As you can see, this one looks pretty much the same as the last one!  (Except that I put the handle a little too high - I couldn't access the directions when I was putting it together, so I figure I actually did pretty well.)  Here it is closed.

And here it is partly open.  I know it's dark, but maybe you can see that there are two rows of snaps on the body, so that she'll be able to adjust it slightly based on how stuffed the pocket is.  We'll see how that works out, anyway.

I used up the rest of the butterfly print making two smallish wet bags to match.  These were both intended to be between 9x12 and 12x12, but the final dimensions were based on the scraps I had to work with.  Both close with zippers, and I added snapping handles in case she wants to hang them off a doorknob/stroller handle/whatever.

At the advice of several people in an online sewing group, I also made a pillowcase-sized wet bag for use at home.  This is a very bright Garfield print that has been hiding out in my stash for years.  I was glad to find something useful for at least part of it to do!  This is big enough to be useful for a family trip to the swimming pool, too!

She wrote back yesterday after receiving the package and sounded pretty excited about it, so hopefully she ends up liking all of this after using it a bit.