Onesie Quilt

As moms, we get attached to a lot of the things our kids wear.  We’ve made great memories with them in these clothes, and they just look so darn cute in them!  Like most moms, my sister had a stack of onesies that she couldn’t part with, but my niece had long outgrown.  So for Christmas this year, I’m making her a onesie quilt!  Getting one on etsy is super expensive (at least $100 for a small one), but making one isn’t too hard at all!

Just like a standard T-shirt quilt, the first step is to cut your onesies up.  I found that a 7″ square is about the largest I could do, especially when there were 0-3m onesies in the mix.  Keep in mind that you’re going to lose 1/2″ from each side of the square, so if there are some seams in there, they likely won’t show on the finished product.  Once it’s put together, that leaves a 6″ square, which is big enough to see whatever design is on the shirt.  But unlike adult T-shirts, onesies are a lot more varied in their designs, so you have to get a little creative with how you make your blocks!

My niece also lives in Florida, so there were several onesies that were adorable spaghetti straps.  I could have just used the design on the shirt, but the straps are part of it’s appeal, so I didn’t want to just cut them off!  I cut my usual 7″ square, but left the straps long.  Then I measured how far down the arm holes went, and cut a piece of coordinating fabric a little larger.  I ironed that onto my fusible batting (carefully so I wouldn’t get the glue on my iron), then layered the onesie on top and ironed the bottom part on.  But the top of the onesie was still flapping in the breeze, so I cut a small piece of Wonder Web (Heat N Bond would work too) to “glue” the shirt onto the overlapping fabric.  Then I stitched around the neckline and straps of the shirt to complete the square, and trimmed the extra strap length.  This same method can be used for bibs!  (Check out this shirt on the finished quilt below – I love how the frilly straps went over the spaces between the squares!)

Spaghetti Straps

Left: 7″x7″ square, but straps left long. Second: Adding the back piece. Third: Shirt has been ironed on the bottom. Right: Adding Wonder Web to attach the top of the shirt.

Another popular onesie design has a faux skirt over the snapped bottom.  In this case, the onesie had a cute design near the bottom of the skirt hem.  So I cut the skirt to be about 6″ long instead of 7″ and used a piece of fabric from the onesie below the skirt to finish off the block.  You can see there is a flap again, but I stitched it in place along the hem of the skirt, so I didn’t need to glue it down.

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I used the underside of the onesie below the skirt to layer it and show off what the onesie used to look like

My niece had the cutest outfit for the 4th of July (Peach actually wore it the day Radar left) with a tiered skirt.  I wanted to show off one of the tiers, so I let the ruffles lay naturally when I cut, so it’s a little 3-dimensional.  It gives the square the girly feel of the dress without compromising quality or stability because it was layered in the original garment.

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It’s like a skirt still!

Often, the embroidered design on a onesie is right up near the collar; if you were to cut it to exclude the collar, most of the quilt block would be empty space.  Plus, you are cutting off those cute little bows that girls’ onesies often have!  So I used a similar method as I showed above with the spaghetti straps to incorporate a collar into the quilt block.  Measure the width and depth of the opening of the shirt (once your block is cut out) and cut a piece of coordinating fabric to fill the gap.  Iron it on the fusible batting, then layer the shirt on top and iron on.  There should not be so much overlap that Wonder Web is necessary, but you’ll definitely want to stitch along the collar line to keep it in place.

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Just a little fabric below the collar, but it shows off the pretty bow and keeps the design from being right at the top of the block

And don’t let zippers or snaps scare you – you can still have them in your quilt!  A zipper won’t come undone once it’s sewn into the quilt, but I would stitch down the sides of the snaps to keep them from coming open.

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Zippers are not a problem!

My sister didn’t give me hers, but it would be super cute to include a square with your child’s hospital blanket – I don’t know about you, but I can’t part with them, even though I don’t use them any more!  You could also add hats using the fabric layering method and Wonder Web – the sky is really the limit if you’re creative!  Another great idea to include in a onesie quilt is the cute animal faces they like to put on the little butts of onesies and pants these days – adorable!

To assemble the quilt, I used the same method as I detailed in the T-shirt quilt tutorial, so I’m not going to go into super detail about that and risk being redundant (if you don’t understand the method for putting it together, you can also check out my king size quilt, which uses the same method).  I didn’t actually quilt the individual squares this time, though – they’re only 6″ square finished, so the backing doesn’t really need to be held in place, and the designs on the onesies are so tiny and intricate I felt that quilting would detract from them rather than add.  I just layered the back square pieces with the front of the quilt blocks as I assembled the quilt.

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I think it turned out pretty well 🙂

One more super nifty thing about this method is that with a little work, it can be added to!  All you need to do is pull off the binding, and more squares can be added!  I bought too much of the panda fabric on purpose with this in mind, so as my niece continues to outgrow her adorable clothes, the quilt can grow with her!  It’s an easy Christmas gift that keeps on giving!

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King Size Quilt

I feel like I just climbed Everest.  No, I haven’t been to the Himalayas, but my journey could have used an oxygen boost!  I just finished my first king-size quilt.  If you’ve ever folded up one of these puppies, you know just how big they are.  But that didn’t stop me when I told Radar that I didn’t like any of the quilts out there, and they were too expensive, so I was going to make one myself.  Pre-deployment me was so naive!  But once I set my mind to it, there was no giving up!  You can’t just take things off your deployment bucket list without trying!

I know I’m being a bit dramatic, but it really is a huge (pun intended) accomplishment.  When I designed the quilt (tutorial to follow), it didn’t occur to me that a quilt made of 12-inch squares that’s 9 wide by 8 long is made of SEVENTY. TWO. SQUARES.  Apparently I missed the multiplication day in engineering school.  It took me about 3 months to complete (with other projects interspersed), but I’m so proud of the results!

Before I even bought anything, I wanted to have an idea of what my quilt would look like.  I actually went through about 5 iterations, varying size, pattern, and order, before I came up with my design.  Here’s my professional drawing of my final design:

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Fancy, huh? I went for alternating solid green and blue with a striped square.

I also wanted to use the quilt as you go method, like I used in the T-shirt quilt before.  Because this is such a large project, getting it under the arm of my machine was not an option, and the cost of paying someone to long-arm quilt it was going to be over $200!

To make my design a reality, I needed the following supplies:

  • 1 yard each of 5 green fabrics
  • 1 yard each of 5 blue fabrics
  • 7 yards of fabric for half of the backing, the pieces between the front squares, and the binding (the white background fabric for mine – we’ll call this fabric A)
  • 5 yards of fabric for half of the backing and the pieces between the back squares (the navy background fabric for mine – we’ll call this fabric B)
  • 8 yards iron-on batting
  • Coordinating thread – at least 6 spools! (I used about 2 of green and 4 of blue)

Start out by washing your fabric!  I’d hate to do all this work just to have it go wonky on the first wash.  Then you’ll start cutting out your fabric – a lot of it!

  • 36 12″x12″ squares of each of your 2 backing fabrics (total of 72, half fabric A and half B)
  • 72 12″x12″ squares of batting – if you can’t make them all whole, it’s ok to piece 2 together when you attach to your backing
  • Cut your green and blue fabrics into 2.5″ strips, parallel to the selvedge (keeps it from stretching and looking weird)
  • For the front, cut the following from fabric A:
    • 64 3″x12″ pieces
    • 7 3″108″ pieces (sew them together if necessary)
    • Press each of these pieces in half hot dog style, right sides out, so they are 1.5″ wide
  • For the back, cut the following from fabric B
    • 64 2″x12″ pieces
    • 7 2″x108″ pieces (sew them together if necessary)
  • For the binding, cut 3″-wide strips of fabric A; sew them together until you have about 450″ of length (it’s too much, but it’s better to have excess than not enough!).  Also press this long piece in half, right sides out, so it’s 1.5″ wide.
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My green strips… I didn’t take a photo of all my cut fabric!

Now that your cutting hand is blistered, it’s time to iron the batting onto the backing.  Follow the instructions on the batting you purchased to attach the 72 pieces of batting to the 72 pieces of backing (wrong side of fabric to glue, obviously).

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That’s what 72 pieces of backing + batting looks like!

And finally, after all that prep work, we can start sewing!  For something as large as a king size quilt, I recommend using a sort of production line system – especially with the blue and green striped squares, since your quilting thread will alternate colors with the strips.  Each square followed the same basic pattern:

Line up a strip of fabric, good side up, along the diagonal of the square, 1/4″ past center (for seam allowance).  Lay a second strip of fabric right side down right on top of it, and stitch along the diagonal of the square.  Fold the fabric back to show the good side, and stitch 1″ from the seam.  If the strip was too long, trim it to line up with the edge of the square.

Square Collage 1

1. Square, batting side up. 2. Green strip, good side up, 1/4″ to the right of the diagonal of the square. 3. Second green strip, good side down, right on top of the first. 4. Opened up and stitched down; don’t forget to add that stitch 1″ from the seam on the left strip.

Repeat until the square is covered.

Square Collage 2

Left: Adding the third strip. Center: One side complete. Right: Whole square complete.

Then, trim the edges, and you’ve completed one square!

Square Collage 3

Front and back of your completed quilt block! The lines are simple, yet beautiful and functional.

Repeat another 71 times 😛  Pay attention to what fabric you have on the back; to get a checkerboard look on the back of my quilt, I used fabric A on the back of the solid colored blocks, and fabric B on the back of the striped blocks.

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72 completed quilt blocks – whew!

Now it’s time to put it all together.  I’ll start off by noting that in this quilt, the direction of the stripe matters, so make sure they’re all oriented the way you want as you assemble them!  You’ll get the blocks ready to put together by first putting aside the blocks that are on the right edge of the quilt (in my case, from the drawing above, that was 2 green, 2 blue, and 4 striped).  You’re going to attach strips to the front and back of the right side for each of the remaining blocks.  Layer the pieces as follows: 2″x12″ strip of fabric B (good side up), right side of quilt block (front side up), and folded 1.5″x12″ piece of fabric A, raw edges lined up with right side of quilt block.  Stitch in place with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Precision is your friend here!  That 1/2″ will be incredibly important later.  Repeat for all the blocks (except the ones put aside).

Right Side Assembly

Left: Front of block with strips attached. Center: Back of block with strips attached. Right: Side view of strips.

Now it’s time to start putting together the strips of blocks.  Take your very first (top left) block and the one to the right of it – this is where a good diagram comes in handy!  You’re going to attach the strip on the back of the left block to the left side of the right block (confused yet?).  Lay the right block back side up, and, keeping the left block front side up, lay the back strip so it lines up with the left side of the right quilt block.  Stitch in place with a precise 1/2″ seam allowance.  See the photos below for what I mean!  It sounds complicated but it’s really not.  Then lay the two blocks flat, and you’ll see on the front side you have a flap that will fold over to cover the raw edges.  Pull it over and sew right on the edge of the pressed fold, being sure to cover the seam.  This is where the 1/2″ seam allowances were important – for it to cover and fit properly, you needed to have the right seams allowances.  Otherwise the pieces will have a gap, or they’ll overlap and be bulky.  They should meet evenly.

2 Block Assembly

Left Top/Bottom: Front and back of 2 blocks attached. Center: How to line up the squares. Right: Attaching the front flap to cover the seam below.

Repeat with each successive block to the right, including the last column that was set aside before.  The do the same thing for each of the rows of the quilt.  At this point, I safety-pinned papers with the row numbers so I could keep them in order and save my sanity!

You’re going to then follow the same principle to attach the rows to one another, using the 108″ long 3″ (folded and pressed to 1.5″) and 2″ pieces.  And, honestly, this is where it starts to get tricky.  Once you’re about halfway through combining the rows, the quilt starts to get a little unwieldy – and heavy!  I actually moved furniture in my craft room to make it a little easier, and I would only attach one row at a time to give my muscles a break.  But take heart – you’re almost done!  Also, try to make the vertical connections line up, or your rows will look funny (think about the columns looking straight).

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This is where the 1/2″ seam allowance shows – the batting should meet perfectly, not gap or overlap.

The final step is binding the quilt.  Take the ridiculously long 3″ wide piece (folded to 1.5″ wide), and start pinning it to the back of the quilt, raw edges lined up with the edge of the quilt (start somewhere in the middle of a side, not at a corner).  Don’t pin it all the way around, just enough to get you started.  Then, start stitching about 4″ from the end of the binding (with our best friend, the 1/2″ seam allowance) to attach it to the quilt.  Stop sewing and backstitch 1/2″ from the edge when you get to a corner.  Then fold the binding at a 90 degree angle from the direction it was going, and fold it down to align the raw edge with the next side of the quilt.  Start sewing on the new side of the quilt 1/2″ from the edge (same 1/2″ seam allowance, and backstitch at the start).  Continue around until you’ve done all 4 sides, but stop at least 4″ from the start of the binding where you began.

Binding Corner

Making the mitered corner – 3 steps

Trim the extra binding so there’s an inch or two extra, and press the two binding ends back so they meet at the fold.  Then sew them together along that fold, trim the excess, and finish attaching the binding to the back of the quilt.

Binding Ends

Left: Final product for binding ends. Right Top: Leave the tails loose. Right Bottom: Press and stitch the ends, then trim.

Last step!  Just like you did on the front, pull the folded edge around the quilt and stitch it in place to hide the seam from attaching it to the back.  At the corner, tuck the excess in to get a mitered look.

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Finishing the binding on the front, and my dirty little secret for maintaining a precise 1/2″ seam allowance!

And voila!  You have completed a king sized quilt!!  It’s sort of a big project, but you’ll be so cozy under a quilt you made yourself – way more comfortable than anything you could buy at the store!

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It’s a thing of beauty! I folded the top down to show off the back pattern, too.

If you like our custom-made king size bed, Radar actually made an instructable for it!  It has a built-in light with two-way switches, hidden drawers for storage, and even power outlets for each person (because we get sick of fighting over power outlets in every house we move to).  It’s a pretty sweet bed, you should check it out (end shameless plug).

I hope this tutorial has given you the confidence to make your own king sized (or even queen or twin) quilt!  It’s a lot of work, but so nice to have a custom piece to keep you cozy at night!  Stay tuned for tutorials for matching  accessories for the bedroom from extra fabric I bought!

T-Shirt Quilt, Part 2

This is the second (and final) installment of my post on how to make your own easy t-shirt quilt.  In part 1, I did a tutorial on making each t-shirt’s block, including cutting the shirt, using fusible batting, and quilting the complete block, including the back.  Then I laid out my shirts to determine how they were going to be put together in the finished product.

I found the most brilliant way to turn my 25 blocks into a quilt here.  I can’t believe I never thought of this method!  It’s a way to quilt as you go for the blocks, then attach them with minimal effort compared to machine quilting an entire quilt without a long-arm quilting machine.  I went a little picture-crazy here, but it’s necessary to keep things straight and clear.

I recommend using a grid method to label the location for each block.  In my case, my columns were A, B, C, D, and E, and my rows were 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  I wrote each block’s location on a sticky note and safety pinned it to the block so that I wouldn’t get them mixed up in the next steps.  I also drew myself up a key, just in case I got confused about letters and numbers being rows or columns, or if any of the sticky notes tore off.  Better safe than sorry!

So once you’ve figured out where everything is going and labeled appropriately, it’s time to start sewing again!  Well, in a minute… first you need to cut some more fabric.  For each vertical seam between pieces, you’ll need a strip that’s 1 inch longer than the height of the blocks and 2 inches wide and a strip the same length and 3 inches wide.  For each of my internal 11″ blocks, I cut a 12″x2″ piece and a 12″x3″ piece.  I had 16 vertical connections inside the quilt (4 rows and 4 columns), so I cut 16 of each.  Then press the 3″ blocks in half so they’re 1.5″ wide.

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All my vertical connection pieces

Starting with your top left block (A1 in my case), pin a 12″x2″ piece along the right side on the back, and a folded 12″x3″ piece with the raw edges also on the right.  Be sure to remove the pins from the back before you sew, or it can mess up your machine.

Assembly 1

1: Block A1. 2: Pin the 12″x2″ piece on the back of the right (when t-shirt-side-up) side. 3: Flip it over. 4: Pin the folded 12″x3″ piece with the raw edges on the right side.

Sew the 3 pieces (12×2, quilt block, folded 12×3) together using a 1/2″ seam allowance.  The seam allowance must be as exact as possible, as I will demonstrate in a little bit!  Repeat this process on the right side of all blocks EXCEPT the last column (hence, I only needed 16 for a 25 block quilt).

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I’ve found a production line method is easiest: rather than pulling off and clipping the threads after each square, I pin them all at once, then just stitch on nothing for an inch or two before feeding in the next square. When I’m done, I just clip the threads between the blocks.

Once you’ve completed this, it’s time to start putting the blocks together into rows.  Place your first block, A1, right side up and line up the 12″x2″ piece with the left side back of the block to its right, in my case B1 (2nd column, 1st row).  Be sure to line up the blocks, not the strips between them!  Stitch along the edge with a 1/2″ seam allowance (again, precision is necessary).  I recommend doing this for all of the first and second columns at once: adjoin the A piece’s 2″ strip to the left side of the back of the B piece with pins, then sew all of them at once.  When you look at the back side, you’ll see that there’s now a strip of fabric (that was your 2″ strip) sewn neatly between the backs of the two blocks.

Assembly 2

Left: A1 upside-down, and B1 with the left side at the top. Center: A1’s 2″ strip pinned to the back side of B1’s left side. Right: The back side once the seam has been sewn.

Once you’ve sewn the back(s), it’s time to attach the front flap(s).  Flip the block over to look at the front, and you’ll see the 3″ piece that’s folded is flapping in the breeze.  Fold it down onto the right quilt block and stitch along the edge, making sure to cover any seam that may show from the back.

Assembly 3

Left: Pin it up. Right: Sew right along the edge to secure.

It’s starting to look like a completed quilt already, isn’t it?  If you look from the top or the bottom, you’ll see why you needed to stick to the 1/2″ seam allowance:

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I didn’t follow my own rules – I went with a scant 1/2″, so there’s a small gap between the blocks. Learn from my mistakes!

Repeat a bunch of times until you have each row all stitched together.  Be careful with that last column, make sure your blocks are right side up (it’s a little trickier without the strips already attached to identify the right side).  Trim the excess length from the strips between the blocks so it’s all even and pretty.

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The rows are completed (see, I told you I’d get that last block in there!)

Now it’s time to follow the same process for attaching the rows.  Cut 2″ strips of fabric the length of each row (plus a little, for wiggle room) and 3″ strips of the same length (ironing them in half just like before).  Mine ended up being about 56″ long!  Pin the 2″ strip to the bottom of the back side of the top row, then flip it over and pin the folded 3″ strip with the raw sides aligned with the bottom also.  As before, stitch in place with a 1/2″ seam allowance.  Repeat for all rows except the bottom one (just like you left out the last column above).

Rows 1

Left: Pin the 2″ strip along the bottom of the back of all rows but the last one. Right: Flip over and pin the raw edges of the folded 3″ strip also along the bottom.

Just like when you created the rows, you’ll connect them by first sewing a 1/2″ seam with the first row right side up, attaching the 2″ strip to the top of the 2nd row.  Then flip over and pin down the flap from the 3″ strip, covering any seams from the back.

Rows 2

Left: Back of 2nd row, front of 1st row, lined up and pinned. Center: Be sure to align the columns between each block. Right: Fold the flap down on the front and stitch down on the edge.

Now it’s REALLY starting to look like a quilt – all you have left is the binding!  To make the binding (which does not need to be done on the bias), cut strips of fabric 4″ wide.  You need to make one long strip, long enough to go around the entire quilt – measure it, you don’t want to find out you’re short while you’re sewing it on!  To connect pieces of fabric to make the binding, lay the pieces at a 90 degree angle and sew from corner to corner along the diagonal (PAY ATTENTION TO WHICH SIDE IS “GOOD” AND WHICH IS “BAD” – I had to redo about 6 of these because I wasn’t paying attention!).  You want all your seams on the same side of the strip so that they’re all hidden when you’re done.  Then trim the excess off, leaving about 1/4 inch, press to one side, and turn over to admire your work.

Binding 1

Left: Sew along the diagonal with the two adjacent pieces at a 90 degree angle. Center: Iron the seam to one side. Right: Pretty binding ready to be folded in half.

Once you’ve got about 12 miles of your binding (that’s an approximate number, but what it will feel like), fold in half and iron so you have a 2″ strip with a fold on one side and 2 lined up raw edges on the other.

To bind your quilt, pin your binding on the back side of the quilt with the raw edges lined up with the outer edge of the quilt.  At this point, I recommend switching to a walking foot. If you’ve never used one, the purpose of this tool is to help your machine push the fabric forward from both the bottom AND the top.  It’s helpful when you have many layers of fabric going through (like a t-shirt, batting, quilt backing, and 2 layers of binding, for instance).  It’s not absolutely necessary, but it will make your life much easier.

Walking Foot

This contraption is a walking foot. The plastic pieces right by the presser foot act as dog feeds on the top of your fabric, helping it to feed through the machine. Consult your manual for proper installation – it can be a bit tricky!

Start stitching a few inches from the end of the binding, using a 1/2″ seam allowance.  When you approach a corner, stop stitching 1/2″ from the end of the quilt (I used chalk because it’s not going to show anyway).  If you’re not using a walking foot, backstitch a few times.  If you are using a walking foot, you’ll find out quickly that you can’t backstitch – that’s ok, just stop where you are.  Clip the threads and fold the binding fabric up so that the 45 degree angle goes through the corner of the quilt.  Then fold it down so the fold matches the top of the quilt, and pin in place.  Pick up stitching again 1/2″ from the top of the quilt (maintaining a 1/2″ seam allowance).  Repeat at each corner.

Binding 2

Top: Start about where my pin is, a few inches from the end of the binding. Center: At the corner, stop 1/2″ from the edge of the quilt. Left: Fold binding up to match the corner of the quilt. Right: Fold binding down to match the top of the quilt, then begin stitching 1/2″ from the top.

When you approach your starting point, stop a few inches from where the binding begins (about 6 inches from where your first stitches started).  Trim excess binding off so there’s about 1″ overlap, and fold each edge of the binding back so the folds meet.  Pin in place, and iron binding.  Then, pull the binding away from the quilt and attach the two ends along the creases you just made.  Replace binding onto quilt back, pin in place, and sew the last bit in place, overlapping the stitches already there.

Binding 3

Left: Pin the binding ends and iron so folds touch. Center: Stitch along the creases. Right: Pin down binding and finish attaching to quilt back.

Finally, we are at the last step!  Fold the binding piece around to the front side of the quilt and pin in place.  Work the corners to create a mitered finish.  Stitch along the edge of the binding to secure.  Your stitches will show on the back side, so be sure to use a coordinating thread.

Binding 4

Left: Pin the binding to the front. Center: Wiggle the fabric to get a mitered corner. Right: Back side of corner.

You probably noticed that I used black thread to first attach the binding to the back of the quilt; I recommend buying 2 spools of thread for this project!  I BARELY had enough to finish the binding… there was a lot of appealing to the gods of sewing to help me have enough thread to finish!

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Too close for comfort!

But I finished it!  And I think it looks great if I do say so myself!

Completed Quilt

My dad held it up for me… don’t you just love the designs on the back?? Such a unique way to show off your favorite shirts!

T-Shirt Quilt, Part 1

Normally I just sew whatever strikes me, usually for the kids (as you’ve probably noticed).  But a friend approached me a few weeks ago to ask if she could commission a T-shirt quilt.  Normally, I’m not into sewing for pay (although Radar wishes I were!), but I’ve been wanting to tackle a T-shirt quilt and this was just the excuse to do it!  The problem is, I HATE rolling up and trying to stuff a quilt into the small space under the arm of my machine to quilt it.  Because of this, you may have noticed I tend to use various quilt-as-you-go methods (like here and here).  But so far, I haven’t figured out how to put the blocks together and not make it into a rag quilt or look like kindergartener sewed it.  Finally, though, all my Pinteresting and web browsing paid off, and I found a method!  So, I’m going to do a tutorial for a T-shirt quilt that does not require advanced quilting techniques to sew, in 2 parts: part 1 will be about making the blocks, and part 2 will be about putting it together.

To start off, choose your shirts!  The number you need will depend on the size of each block and the size you want your finished quilt to be.  My friend will be mailing hers to her husband who is deployed with Radar, so we didn’t want to go too big – we ended up with 25 11″x11″ blocks to make a square quilt that will be about 55″x55″ when we’re all said and done.  I would recommend 11″ or 12″ blocks for adult shirts (you’ll get most of the design printed on each shirt, but it will still work for size small shirts).  If you’re using smaller shirts, like onesies or kid’s shirts, you’ll need to make your blocks smaller.  Also, be aware that you’ll lose about 1/2″ on each edge of each block when you put it together.  Cut out each of your shirts with a clear ruler and rotary cutter, trying to keep the fabric from stretching.  I find it’s easiest to cut up the sides and across the shoulders of the shirt first.  It gives me maximum placement room but gets rid of the bulk and lumps of the back.

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I folded in the edges to really show where it was cut – up the sides and just below the shoulder seams

Now let’s discuss the batting for the quilt.  As you were cutting your shirts, you probably noticed the knit fabric stretched all over the place.  That property makes a shirt comfy, but more difficult to sew.  So, rather than using regular batting, I recommend using the iron-on thicker batting, like Pellon Fusible Thermolam, to stabilize the shirts.  But the directions on the batting say to lay the batting glue side up, place your fabric right side up on top, and iron on the right side of the fabric.  Unfortunately, screen-printed T-shirts don’t take well to direct ironing!  They will stick to your iron, peel off the shirt, and make a general mess.  So, after some playing around, I recommend the following method:

  • Cut your batting to the same size as your shirt square.
  • Lay batting glue side up on your ironing board.
  • Place shirt square right side up, lined up with batting.
  • Set your iron to the cotton setting.
  • CAREFULLY press (down, no side-to-side motion) any parts of the shirt that DO NOT have screen printing.
  • Lay a damp presscloth (I recommend a light tea towel or other lighter cotton towel) over the screen printed parts and press until towel goes dry.
  • Your shirts will be damp when you’re finished, and the bond isn’t perfect, but you won’t melt the shirts and it will hold long enough for you to quilt it!
  • If your screen printing is really old and doesn’t have that plastic-y feel to it any more, you can be less careful with the iron – it won’t stick.

Now you need to cut out the backing for each square.  I cut them to be the same size as my finished blocks, but I suggest you cut them a little larger; you’ll see in pictures later, if I didn’t make my squares perfectly, I had some pulling and the backing was a little too small.  It’s easier to trim later than to wish it was bigger!

Now you finally have all your layers together, so it’s time to start quilting!  Lay your backing good side out on the back side of the batting and flip over.  Use safety pins (quilter’s safety pins are even better, if you have them) to pin up your block.  Try to avoid pinning through the screen printing, as the holes will stay forever.  Also, keep in mind that you need to get your machine through, so don’t put the pins too close to where you plan to sew.  There is pretty much no such thing as too many safety pins!  If you don’t use enough, your backing will move around and you’ll have to take your stitches out – trust me, I have experience with this!  Then use the design on your shirt to guide you as you quilt around.  You can get as intricate as you want, although I prefer to keep it simple.  And whatever design you follow on the front will show up on the back of your block – pretty nifty, huh?  I used matching thread for the front of the shirt, and maroon to match the back, but contrasting thread would give a nice effect, too.

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See how many pins I used on this one? And I was super careful not to poke through the printing. I also put an unused pin in the corner so you can really see the bend in the quilter’s pins.

You’ll just repeat this process as many times as you need until all your shirts are turned into perfect, quilted blocks!

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It’s so satisfying to look at your stack of finished blocks!

The really fun part now is laying them all out and deciding how to arrange the blocks!  Below, you can see all the fronts, and I also got a shot of all the backs with their unique quilted patterns.  I tried to mix up colors on the front, and intricacy of patterns on the back.

Blocks Front Back

I know there is one missing, but don’t worry, it’ll be there on the finished product! I was just waiting on one more shirt from my friend.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I’ll show you an easy way to put all your blocks together into your finished quilt!

Christmas (Ornaments) in July

This week we are heading to Arizona to celebrate Christmas in July with my grandparents!  As I mentioned earlier, my grandmother has cancer and hasn’t been doing well, so we want to make sure we get to see her and celebrate, you know, just in case.  My mom, sister, brother-in-law, and niece will be meeting me, Monster, and Peach out in Phoenix.  Of course, the Christmas gifts will be mostly about the kids, but I wanted to give my grandparents a little something, too.  I saw these adorable hand-made ornaments, and fell for them!  They use the same quilt-as-you-go method as I used in the triangle bag, and took less than an hour to put together.  I had some Christmas fabric that was given to me which was perfect!

Supplies:

  • Scraps of fabric, cut in 1.5″ strips (your choice if it has a Christmas theme or not)
  • 12″x12″ backside fabric
  • 12″x12″ batting (fusible optional)
  • Coordinating ribbon
  • Coordinating thread

Line up your 12″x12″ fabric on your batting, right side facing out, and flip it over to start quilting on the batting side.  I started by copying the method in the link above – I cut my 1.5″ strips into 3″ portions and did a strip across the batting in one direction, followed by the rest of the strips in the other direction.  But for my long strips, I didn’t have enough of some of them – mostly the red – so I started piecing them together to add more variety.  You can see my finished “quilt block” below.  Once your quilting is done, print out the Ornament Templates and cut out the shapes; pin them to the block and sew around them.  Then repeat – you should have room on your block to fit each shape twice.  Be sure to leave enough space for cutting between shapes, though!  Then use your handy-dandy pinking shears to trim about 1/4″ outside of the stitching and sew on a loop of ribbon for hanging.

Christmas in July

Left: My quilt block, using quilt-as-you-go plus some pieced together strips. Center: Sew along the template to get each shape. Right: Completed ornaments!

Even if you’re not celebrating Christmas in July, you can work on making some of these ahead of the holidays!  I will definitely be sending a few to Radar in a care package as Christmas approaches.  Merry Christmas!

Quilted Triangle Bag

As soon as I saw this bag on Pinterest, I knew I had to make it.  Her tutorial is amazing, so I’m not going to try to top it (although I’ll post my own version with pics, just so you can see how mine was put together).  I am, however, going to include another tutorial for a variation on the quilt-as-you-go method, which I first introduced here!  This little bag is perfect for a casual evening out, when you just need some cash, a phone, a couple cards, and some lip gloss.  It’s easy to hook around your wrist, and its unique shape makes it special.  I’ve made one for myself already, but the one in this tutorial is for my niece, who will be turning 12 at the end of next month.  What could be better for a tween girl??

Supplies:

  • 2 6.5″ squares of quilt batting
  • scraps of fabric in desired colors
  • 2 6.5″ squares of lining fabric (can be the same or different)
  • 7″ or longer zipper
  • 2 2″x4″ pieces of fabric
  • 1 4″x15″ strip of fabric
  • coordinating thread

Note: seam allowances are 1/4″ unless otherwise specified

So the basis of this bag is 2 6.5″ square quilt blocks.  How can 2 blocks become a 3-dimensional bag?  That’s a little magic I’ll share with you later.  To start off, cut 2 6.5″ square pieces of batting.  You want something that’s low loft (i.e. not too fluffy), because it’s going to be the base for your quilt blocks and you’ll be running it right next to your feed dog.  On a side note, I used this project to use up some scraps: they weren’t big enough, so I used 2 thin pieces of iron-on interfacing, one on each side, to attach 2 pieces of batting butted up against each other.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in the picture below.

A little background on the choices I made before I really get into it… first of all, I used 1.5″ strips for my quilt blocks.  It was big enough to see patterns in my fabric, but small enough to get enough strips in.  I also opted to go asymmetrical with my pieces, which was really hard for my OCD to handle but made the bag more whimsical in the end.  There is no right or wrong way to place or size your pieces – whatever works for you is perfect!

To use this quilt-as-you-go method, start off with your piece of batting.  Place your starting fabric in the middle, right side up.  I used a 2″x2″ accent piece, but you can use a strip or really anything you want.  Place your first strip right side down and sew along where the two overlap (it’s ok if you go further, extra stitching will be hidden in the end).  Then, fold your new addition to face upwards, and secure with a topstitch 1/8″ from the seam you just sewed.  I recommend adding a second line of stitching, maybe 1/2″ or so outward, just to secure it.  This will also give your block a more quilted look.  Then do the same with the next piece: place right side down, sew where it overlaps the pieces already on the batting, fold back, and secure.  Continue this process until your whole square of batting is covered with fabric (if you do it like I did, working in a circle seemed to make it easiest).  Then just flip it over, admire all the stitching you’ve done, and trim off the excess fabric from the edges.  And there you have it, a pretty quilt block, ready to be made into a triangle bag!

Quilt Method Collage

Top left: Right sides together, stitch where they overlap. Top right: Flip the yellow right side up and topstitch to secure. Bottom left: My block in progress. Bottom right: Completed and trimmed quilt block.

Something to note about this quilt-as-you-go method, you only end up with a block front and batting.  If you flip it over and look at it, it’s not pretty with all that stitching, so you won’t want to attach the back side at the same time.  But it does make for a pretty, easy, and stable quilt block!

So once you’ve made 2 quilt blocks, it’s time to get sewing on your bag.  Assemble all your supplies…

IMG_2580and turn on your iron!  Fold the 4″x15″ strip in half “hot dog style” and iron it; open it up and fold and iron each of the sides in to the fold, then re-fold in half and iron again, making a 1″x15″ 4-ply strip.  Then, for each of the 2″x4″ pieces, iron in half to make a 2″x2″ square, then open them up again and press 1/4″ in on each of the 2″ sides.  You’re done with the iron now, so remember to turn it off!  Now you’re going to prep your zipper and strap.  Sandwich the open end of the zipper in one of the 2″x4″ pieces, pin, and sew 1/8″ from the edge (make sure those metal pieces are not in your seam – they’ll break your needle).  Then zip the zipper closed and cut it 5.5″ from that seam, and repeat on the other end.  Last, you just need to trim the zipper end pieces to the same width as the zipper to remove bulk from the final product.  To complete the strap, stitch about 1/8″ from the edge along the two long sides; this is a great time to use some of those fancy stitches on your machine – you can see I used the hearts stitch for my bag.  That was a lot of words, so here are some pictures to make it more clear:

Strap Zipper Collage

Top: How to iron the strap fabric. 2nd: How to iron the zipper end pieces. 3rd: How to attach the zipper end pieces. Bottom: Completed zipper and strap.

How that all the prepwork is done, it’s time to start to assemble the main part of the bag.  First, you’re going to attach your zipper.  Lay one of your quilt squares right side up.  Center the zipper piece right side down lined up at the top of the quilt square.  Then place one of your lining pieces right side down, lined up with the quilt square.  Use your zipper foot to sew along the top where all 3 overlap.  It may help to sew a little and move the zipper pull (with the needle down, you can raise the presser foot if necessary).  Then fold the top and the lining back from the zipper, and topstitch them to hold.  Repeat with the other quilt square and lining piece on the other side of the zipper.  Switch back to your standard presser foot.  Then pin the two lining pieces right sides together and sew on the opposite edge of the zipper, leaving a 2.5-3″ gap in the center and backstitching at the end.  Pin the two quilt blocks right side together and sew the whole edge on the opposite edge of the zipper.

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Line these three pieces up on the top edge (quilt block, zipper, lining piece)

Put Together Collage

The first two photos are what the bag looks like once you’ve done the zipper assembly. The bottom photo shows the next step, sewing the lining pieces and the quilt blocks together (don’t forget the opening in the lining!)

Now the assembly directions start to get a little hairy – not hard to do, but tough to describe, so make sure you check out the pictures for each step!

OPEN THE ZIPPER, and flatten your bag by opening both the quilt blocks and the lining pieces you just sewed, with the zipper in the center and the pull on the end you’re about to sew.  Pin and sew along the whole edge.

3D Assembly Collage

Top photo: What I mean by flattening with the zipper in the middle (note it’s the side where the zipper pull is when it’s open). Left bottom: Quilt block side. Right bottom: Lining side. (You can see the zipper end sticking out in both of these pictures)

Now, flip it around to the only open end left.  Pin your strap about 1.5″ from the zipper, looped inside the quilt block side.  Then pinch the zipper end towards the quilt block side, pin it, and pin the lining right sides together and the quilt blocks right sides together (don’t forget to take out the pin that held your strap temporarily).  Lastly, sew along the whole length you just pinned.

Final Assembly Collage

Top: Temporarily pin the strap in place. Middle: Pinch the zipper end towards the quilt block side. Bottom: pin the lining, pinched zipper, and quilt blocks (including strap) and sew with 1 seam.

We’re in the home stretch!  Turn your bag right side out (you’re welcome for telling you to open the zipper!) and pull the lining out.  Topstitch or handstitch the opening in the lining closed, and tuck it back in.  You may need to poke and prod the corners a little to get the bag looking right, but you’re done!

Final Product Collage

Your unique bag is done!

I know that looked complicated, but it’s really not bad.  And the results are so adorable, it’s worth the work!!

Quilt As You Go Method

My last quilt post was a traditional quilt – piecing together fabric for the front, adding a backing, and quilting (stitch in the ditch method) to attach the two.

Another method of quilting is called quilt as you go.  As the name suggests, rather than making a front and quilting the back on, you’re going to make the quilt as a whole – front, back, and quilting, all in one step.

Before we start, I’ll begin with some warnings about quilt as you go:

  1. The seams you sew are going to be much bulkier than a traditional quilt; instead of the maximum thickness being two layers of front, one of back fabric, and one of the middle batting layer (at the seams of the front side), it’s two times the back plus two times the front plus two times the middle layer (if there is one).  It saves time, but at the expense of bulk.  (That being said, I try to use this method without a batting layer, so it cuts down on the lumps)
  2. It can only be used for strips – not blocks.  You can, however, make your blocks, sew them into strips, then quilt as you go to complete the project.
  3. You’ll need to think about the order your placing your fabric layers before you sew to avoid undoing and redoing.  Again, it’s a little more work from the outset, but saves sewing time in the end.

OK, now that my disclaimers are done, let me show you how easy this is!

I’m doing a “cheater quilt” for an example here – I had some fleece given to me that was already cut, but not big enough for a blanket, so I decided to just add a couple of strips on the top and bottom to make it into a blanket about 30″x40″.  Not a lot of work, but it comes out cute (and I’ll be making a few of these to donate to Project Night Night, as in my last quilt post).

I started by placing my two fleece pieces wrong sides together (right sides facing out)… I know fleece doesn’t really have a right or wrong side, but this can be applied to any fabric, so I’m being specific here.  Then you’re going to place your adjacent fabric to the front right side down, lined up along the edge you want to attach to (you may also want to pay attention to the right side up/upside down direction, depending on your quilt).  Then fold it down (or flip it over if it’s just a small piece), and do the same with your back side – place your new piece of fabric right side down on the back.  I know that’s a lot of words, so here’s a picture to demonstrate what I’m talking about:

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Fleece is labeled since it’s not clear which is the right and which is the wrong side; I lined all the layers up at the top and stitched them together

Then, just sew along the edge.  You can see here what I mean by bulk – there are lots of layers in that seam!  Now, open up the quilt so all the good sides are showing.  You’re done the first seam!  Because of how I’m making my blanket, I’m just doing the same thing over again on the other side of the fleece, but if you want to continue from the pieces you just sewed on, just repeat the first process!  Put your new piece for the front good sides together along the edge you want it attached, flip over and do the same on the back, sew up the edge, and open it up again.

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Opened up after sewing

If you’re adding batting, it needs to go either on the very top or very bottom of all your fabric layers (cut in the same size strips as the front and back pieces).  Either way works, just make sure you do it the same for each strip you add, or your quilt seams will look different.

The first project I tried this method with was a life-size checkers set I made for my nieces – the squares were 3″, so the whole board was about 3 feet square.  I made strips by alternating black and white squares, then used the quilt as you go method to attach the strips, batting in the middle, and canvas for the back.  I used the serger on this, too, which cut down on the bulk by trimming off excess in the seams.

CheckerboardI really love quilt as you go when I’m trying to get a simple quilt done pretty quickly.  It’s definitely a time saver, and all your seams match up perfectly at the end.  If I had tried stitch in the ditch quilting on my checkerboard, it wouldn’t have turned out quite as pretty because the thread would have shown on either the black or the white squares.  This method eliminated that issue.  It also saves you from having to pin the front and the back, and you never need to worry about puckering or folds when you’re quilting.

Give quilt as you go a try, you’ll be glad you did!

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Final product, with a simple fleece binding! The bottom half was the same.