A king size tshirt quilt for Chris

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I’m still working my way though final posts about quilts I’ve made over the past couple years. This quilt I finished last year. It is still talked about!

Chris Lema contacted me about my t-shirt quilts and asked a hard question. He only had 14 shirts. Could he get a king size? The shirts were XL to XXL and all from the same WordPress hosting company.

Could I even get a king size quilt top from only 14 shirts? I did some quick calculations, gulped, and said “Sure!”


Such a tiny box on arrival, compared to some.

This would be one of the first t-shirt quilts where I used some of the plain leftover pieces from the backs and sides and sleeves to help make up the fabric needed to bring the quilt up to size. Since I made this quilt, I’ve done this on almost every one.

As I went through the shirts, I made sure to cut the largest pieces possible from each one – including blank blocks. There were not a whole lot of scraps left.

Then it came time to arrange the blocks like a puzzle for the final layout. In quilting, we are often told for blocks you don’t like or ones you wish to de-emphasize, put them around the edges.  In this case, I clustered the printed shirts in the middle for best display and made sure the blank blocks were along the edges. The plan was to treat the blank blocks as a single area of negative space and fill it with the same quilting.


Once I had that sorted, in my head and on the floor,  I checked in with Chris about design options. He said the scariest thing I think I might have ever heard.

“Do what you like, I trust you.”

Big gulp. o.O For anyone who has clients of any kind, this can be simultaneously the best and worst thing ever. Yay! We get full control and free reign!  And then… what if they don’t like it? What if this is not what they imagined?

After I talked myself down off the ledge, I realized he would not have entrusted me to make him a quilt if he didn’t 100% love my work. So with that in mind, I strove to make it as excellent as I knew how. Knowing Chris though my regular day job, he strives for excellence in all things and has high standards. Not 100% perfection, but excellence.


With that in mind, as I worked on the quilt top I thought about the quilt back. The shirt were all from WPEngine, which has a distinctive blue as their main branding color. The first problem was the printing process on the shirts were all different so the blues are all slightly different.  Then I had an idea – I would get the official color right from their website!

Sometimes being a computer nerd is pretty handy.

Then I used a site to convert hex color codes to the matching fabric from various brands. Voila!  I ordered ten yards of Kona cotton in Breakers, because it is indeed the best out there. (sorry, could not find the site again 🙁  )


When the top was all sewn together, I had to move furniture to lay it out.


And the basting went on forEVER! This was only the second King size quilt I had made.





Finally, we get to the fun part – the quilting! Again, for each shirt I picked a design to complement the shirt itself. This often requires more thinking and staring than actual quilt time.



Sometimes if I get stuck, I’ll do graffiti quilting – little bit of everything in there.


I did choose to use matching blue thread for the quilting, so it would match the back but highlight the stitching on the front. All the shirts were black, grey or white. The blue was a unifier.


When I got to the larger blocks, all I did was draw with chalk the spine of the feathers so they swooped and swirled around the outside of the quilt, framing the inner blocks. The bumpy bits are all freehand.


Near the middle top, I had a spot that dipped down a bit, so I filled it with this medallion. Fun fact: to place this section in my machine for stitching, I had to quilt it upside down and sideways.


Here’s another feather swooping around the corner.


The back view really highlights all the various stitching.


In the end, I had maybe barely half a yard of blue fabric left, half a spool out of four spools of thread, and the box of pins were all the ones used for basting.

I used the same fabric for binding the quilt edges, as a nice frame. I even added a sleeve at the top so they had the option to hang  the quilt on a rod if they chose to display it.

On a sunny day, right after washing and drying and careful inspection for any hanging threads or missed spots, I hung it on my clothesline for some final shots to send to Chris before mailing.




So big!


Chris LOVES his quilt so much! I still see it mentioned on twitter, so I figured I’d finally do the long awaited write up.

As my own worst critic, I’m still pretty happy with how this quilt turned out.

Time spent:
– box arrived in February
– fabric ordered in February
– cut & pieced in March
– quilted in April / May over weekends. I did not count all the hours but there was a good 16 hrs of just quilting.
– shipped and received in mid to late May
– smiles: forever

Machine issues

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So, somewhat of an unexpected hiatus on the sewing and quilting front, and the blogging thereof.

A couple weeks ago,  I started quilting on a long-waiting quilt top and suddenly it stopped forming stitches, like the bobbin was empty. Except it wasn’t.

Which meant, horror of sewing horrors, the timing was off. In short, something expensive. WELL, the hubby and I are go-getters, so we took a large chunk of the day to watch some videos and strip down the machine.

Yes, it was scary. But then we got it working! A stitch would form when we manually turned the wheel. I got it all back together & the hubby went off to do errands. I turned it on, it was fine. I went to sew and… nothing.

Then I couldn’t get the cover back off completely until the hubby came back. Turns out we forgot to reconnect the motor. And THEN it worked again. So many facepalms.

We are getting ready to move into our new (old & renovated) house so not a lot of sewing has been done. Packing and lugging boxes and cleaning, yes, but not much quilting.

I finally got back to the quilt giving me issues, and it seemed like I continued to have them, even though stitches were forming fine. Hubby suggested I go slower than usual, so that was a bit of an adjustment, and it felt like the quilt was hard to maneuver – even though it was only lap size.  I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

At any rate – I did finish the quilt in question, though near the end I thought to myself, “I’ll just put it back to full speed and floor it like I usually do.”

And it happened again. This time it  only took an hour to fix – having done it before – and at 3/4 speed I finished the rest that day.

I’ve since worked on another quilt needing quilting, and so far it’s been fine. I’m not sure I want to test it on high speed again though. I’ve also been extra careful about oiling it regularly (it has a light) and cleaning it way more often and not sewing over pins. So  I don’t know if it’s me pulling something when quilting, or something is slipping when it runs at full speed. It’s a really good, really expensive machine that doesn’t have these issue, so… I dunno.