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T-Shirt Memory Quilts

(Betty's Quilt- that's Betty on the left)

I received a contact from a woman who's husband had passed a few years ago.  Her name is Betty.  She said she had wanted to give her children quilts made from her husband's t-shirts.  She also mentioned that her son had been in a Christian Rock band and had many tshirts he wanted a special quilt out of as well.  She said she had 3 children, and she wanted one for herself.  She stated she had a budget for these and asked that even though she could see my blog & work; would I be interested in doing such a 'ordinary' project as this.  We discussed terms and I met up with her to get the shirts; sign the contract & get the deposit.  (for those who might be wondering; I ask for a 25% deposit.)

(This is my favorite overall quilt. )

Originally I was going to make the blocks 12" (finished) that would have made the finished quilt size 51" x 63"(including the 3" border).  But as these things go (and after the contract had been signed and deposit received) the shirt designs were much larger and it was clear they wouldn't look good cropped to a 12" square.  The needed to be 17" squares.  Then after the 3" border was added they quilts would be 70" x 70".   It may not seem like much but overall it's a big difference.  Given that this was such a large project I absorbed the difference out of my cost. 

Our agreement was for the quilts to have no sashing; no machine quilting (other than box stitched) and only the border.  She provided the shirts (that's 16 shirts per quilt) and each family had a trash bag of shirts they chose.  Since the orig. design was for 20 shirts each I had quite a few alternates which worked out quite well. 

(I loved the shark tshirt too!)

I have done this type of quilt before and it's rather labor intensive.  The shirt designs must be first cut from the tshirts. For this I recommend a loooong movie and some good shears!  Then they must be ironed; from the wrong side as many of the designs in tshirts are notoriously meltable when in direct contact with your iron.  Next; they are laid out on the rotary cutting matt; sized to 17" and cut again.  The next step is to iron on the fusible interfacing to each square; then they need to be recut to the 17".  (during the ironing and fusing process the material can move prior to stablization)  After that is all done; it's time to arrange the designs in as pleasing a design that is possible.  In some of these it was rather easy given the subject material.  (i.e. some rows were all of a State; or all had the same color scheme; or similar iconic images)  The hardest part of this is having enough floor space to lay out the blocks.  70" x 70" is pretty danged big!

(I found it charming that he had a shirt he wore while performing that said 'I love Darcy' That gal there is Darcy his wife.)

Once that's all arranged; it's time to sew the blocks into rows then into the finished tops.  Then I added the 3" border all round & cut the backs & batting.  (all that had to be done on my living room floor) .  I did the pillowcase method as doing additional binding on each one (my preference) was outside the budget. 

The backing fabric is all Egyptian cotton solids.  Normally I wouldn't dream of solids but I really like the clean look of the back.   This gives the receipients the opportunity of folding it that way to leave it out on a couch or something without being bombarded by all the design or colors on the one side. Turned out, that was a good idea.  I did my labels on Jacquard Silk transfer sheets. They turned out very nicely once I had backed the silk with fusible interfacing as well.

The rock band shirts.  These were really cool shirts from this band (Plankeye).  Apparently they were together quite a few years and went on the road doing tours.  Each year they had new shirts and new themes.  Many shirts just had small (7"logos) on the back of the shirt or some were long sleeved and had a row of stars down them.  I loved hearing the stories behind the pictures.  Some were of someone's dog they had put sunglasses on.  The graphic of the kid in the converse was such a unique perspective shot.  It was drawn by one of the band members I believe and they used that graphic a lot.  Since it seemed wasteful to me to just toss the smaller graphics once I had taken the main design; I kept them separate for 'just in case'.  Once I put the main design together of the 16 shirts; there was no convenient place for smaller motifs and I still had shirts left over.  I had an idea to make a smaller quilt for his children out of the remnants and when I delivered the initial 4 quilts to Betty I asked her about it and showed her what I had in mind.  She was thrilled at that idea so I took those pieces home & whipped up that final (smaller) quilt for her grandchildren.
(This was fun to put together for the kids- I'm sad you can't see the Godzilla monster behind the wee boy.  It was HIS favorite!)

From start to finish all 5 quilts were done in about two weeks.  Imagine how happy I was to learn that Betty had taken photos of all the quilts on Christmas morning!  Since all the photos I had taken of them were lost; with her permission; they are presented here.  Thank you Betty!!


  1. these quilts are wonderful, what a great story. They picked the right person to fulfill a wish. Congratulations.

  2. Those quilts are wonderful Stacy! What a special way to preserve memories!

  3. The T-Shirt quilts came out great. I am glad that your client is so pleased. You should add a tab for commission and what you are willing to make for future customers.


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