Monday, August 29, 2016

How to Make a Patchwork T-Shirt Quilt (+ Cushion) - Part 2 of 2

Carrying on from last week's DIY where we prepped and joined our t-shirt patches to form the front face of the quilt, now it's time to sew our layers together and bind the edges. Yes, this is the tricky part, but you can do it!

You can back your quilt in any suitable fabric - just remember to make sure that it's been pre-shrunk before you join everything together.  I picked a grey flannel for my backing. It's super snuggly, works with our decor, and can handle exposure to black/white dog fur without immediately looking like a mess (very important around our house...sigh...). The downside is that I wanted a thickish quilt for the dogs to nest on, so by the time I combined the front, backing, and batting it was VERY tough to sew neatly without a walking foot (if you have one, use it - in hindsight, I wish I'd bought one before this project). The dogs don't mind a few wiggles and because of the patterned flannel someone (me!) would have to be looking for my faults to notice.  Tip: I pinned the first quilt for joining and it came out ok, but decided to use a combination of basting spray (adhesive) and pins for the second which worked much better while I wrangled my wiley layers through the machine!  I finished the quilt with a basic homemade binding in a matching grey. If you've never made binding before, it's relatively simple, but it does take some patience and time to cut, join, and iron everything. On the plus side, it's inexpensive and you can then bind in choose any size/fabric you wish. There are plenty of tutorials available online if you'd like to give it a try. Pre-fab binding in your preferred style is a-ok for this project as well.

  • Cut your backing and batting slightly larger than your t-shirt face layer in order to to ensure that you have plenty of converge as the layers flatten out together during quilting.  
  • Layer the backing, batting, and face together so that your fabrics are pattern/right side out.  Use basting spray if you wish (per the tip above) and pin securely.  Tip: You can use straight pins, but I opted for safety pins for a more secure hold and to spare me the inevitability of sticking myself a million times! 
  • Using a thread colour that compliments your t-shirts and blends with your backing (ideally), sew to quilt your layers together.  Per my previous post, if you have a walking foot, use it.  If you don't, be patient with yourself and work carefully.  To keep things secure but very simple, I quilted my project as follows:
    • I used the presser foot distance from the seam as an easy method of keeping things uniform and straight for all of the quilting. I did not do any decorative quilting.
    • I quilted a line down both sides of each t-shirt joint/seam using this method, working inside-to-outside where feasible.  Remove the pins as you progress. 
    • I sewed the outer edge just past where I planned to bind to hold things in place for trimming and binding.  Remove the remaining pins as you go.
Tip: It is VERY important that you work from inside/center out whenever possible to avoid bunching.  This can be awkward, but I found taking the time to carefully and neatly roll the side that has to go under the arm (see first image in the collage above) before each center-to-edge seam helps greatly.
  • Trim the outside edges if/as needed to be straight, square, and remove any uneven or excess fabric/batting.  Remember to leave a little extra for wrapping into your binding.
  • Starting from somewhere on the edge of your quilt but away from any of the corners (I like the lower right - never the first place my eye rests to notice the joining seam), leave a tail for joining the ends, then slowly bind your quilt.  Tip: The "best" sewing method will depend on the type of binding you decide to use (message if you need help or a suggested how-to link) and your personal preference. No matter which way you prefer to sew a binding, it is amazing what a  difference ironing (and a little starch + water) can make to help your binding sit and sew neatly.  Please don't skip the ironing during this process... no matter how tempting. Yes, that includes stopping and pressing your corners. It's worth the extra effort, I promise.
  • Wash and dry (hang dry on a strong rail works great) to clean up any bits of fluff and dirt that have accumulated during your cutting, layout, sewing, etc as well as remove any wash-out glue or starch you may have used depending on your preferences for basting/binding. Then enjoy!

As a slight twist on the quilt concept, after Tiger's mooching around my quilt-in-progress, I used some of the t-shirt remnants to make him a little mini patchwork cat cushion for his favourite nesting basket. The t-shirt cushion face was made using the same general steps as the quilt face, but with lighter interfacing for a soft squishy feel in the finished bed. The backing is a larger piece of  fabric, taken from the back of one of the shirts, so that the interfacing is covered to for stuffing/washing.  The patchwork face was sewn into an envelope-style cushion cover (full instructions here) using more t-shirt material for the back flaps. Using some scrap fabric from my stash, I also sewed a very basic casing to stuff with the fluffy batting and offcuts trimmed from the edges quilts for the (free!) insert.  

Check out our partner posts at Green in Real Life for ways to use up the offcuts from this project (or extra t-shirt scraps in general), and the linked instructions for making a dog toy from the bottom t-shirt hems at Dalmatian DIY.

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