My kids have helped me develop a new blanket tradition in our family. They loved their baby blankets, but eventually they grew out of them. But do we ever grow out of enjoying a cozy blanket? So now when they turn about 10 years old, they get a new “special” blanket.
They each have a box at the top of their closet that is marked “T-shirt quilt.” Whenever they outgrow a T-shirt that is a “scrapbook page” of their life–from their elementary school, a well-worn favorite, a family reunion, sports, cub scouts, a tie-dye they made themselves, etc.– it goes into the box. When it comes time to make the blanket, we go through the box and choose the 25 best. Sometimes the front and back make two, and sometimes four small graphics can be pieced together to make one big square.
1. Cut a square foot out of each shirt, keeping in mind that the final size will be smaller because the edge will be hidden in the seam. This will help you figure out how to best frame each graphic. You can combining 4 smaller squares to make a big square. By sewing the 25 squares into a 5×5 square, it will just fit a backing made of fleece, which comes in a 60″ width. You can also fudge if you have a graphic that is bigger by just putting it next to one that is smaller. This is easy as long as you keep one of the dimensions the same so your row ends up all one width. Some shirts will need the neck included in that square, and sometimes you may even want to include part of the back because you have a V-neck or just want to cut above the front neck. Just sew the front edge of the neck to the back (or a peice of the back) so that you don’t have an opening in the finished blanket.
2. We go to the fabric store together and pick out some material they would like for the backing. Lately fleece is all the rage and comes in many patterns, but make sure if you use it, you get the anti-pill kind. I also put a layer of batting in between. You need about a 60″ square of the backing and the batting.
3. Start by sewing the first row of 5 shirts together. Continue with the other rows until you have five rows. Then sew the rows together.
4. You need a nice large space on the carpet or floor to work on. Lay out your backing (right side up), put your quilt top on top of it (right side down), and then the batting on top of that. Get another adult to help you make sure it’s pulled tight, but not stretched, to all the sides and corners.
5. Pin the edge and sew around all the sides, leaving about a foot open to flip it right side out. Clip the corners before you flip, and sew the opening shut after flipping.
6. Lay the quilt, right side out, back on the floor and have your helper again help you tug from all sides to make sure all layers are smooth. Take safety pins and put at least a couple in every square. This takes a while, and is only necessary if you’re machine quilting, not using a quilting frame.
7. You can quilt or tie as you like, but I like to use clear plastic thread on top and sew 1/2″ (maybe just 1/4″, do what you think works best) out from every seam (that makes a stitched line on each side of each shirt seam), including an equal margin around the entire blanket. Here you can see that I also stitched around the blanket close to the edge, maybe 1/8″. This can hide the stitching you did for the hole you used to turn it inside out, but it’s optional. If any safety pins get in the way, go ahead and take them out.
8. After the grid is quilted, I like to machine quilt (you need a quilting foot for this) part of each graphic or perhaps make up my own on each shirt. This can take a bit of time but is the most fun, creative part of the project to me. You may want to use a washable fabric marker (the kind they sell in the fabric store just for this kind of thing) to draw what you want to quilt. That’s how I did this shirt below. It’s a picture of my son on the tag-along bike behind my husband–to remember when we took a trip to D.C. and rode our bikes up and down the mall visiting all the sights. GREAT idea, by the way.
Remove any remaining safety pins, wash, and wrap. My kids are always excited to get it, regardless of the fact that they know what it is. And I’m glad to see them wrap up in my blanket hug at an age when they aren’t so into getting hugs from Mom.
P.S. You can use another shirt or two to cover a throw pillow.