Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A One-of-a-kind Graduation Gift

Whew!  I was finally able to scratch something off of my 'to-do' list last night!!

At the beginning of May, a sewing client for whom I had previously made two t-shirt blankets called me to ask if I could make another.  Her oldest daughter is graduating from high school tomorrow, and she had been saving t-shirts from her daughter's teams, trips and favorite places for a while. She wanted them turned into a t-shirt blanket that can be used as a dorm bedspread next fall at Penn State.
Piles of t-shirts, waiting to be made into a blanket1
I've made a number of t-shirt blankets over the years, and I have it down to a science.  A smaller throw of 24 shirts (4 across and 6 down) takes me about 10 hours of work.  Of course, more shirts = more time.  Ellen had a pile of over 30 shirts, and she asked me to put a fleece border around the edges.  As we dug through the pile of tees, she pointed out those that were most important, and a few that I could utilize both the front and the back.

Some t-shirt quilt makers put fabric sashing between each block.  I prefer to sew 'shirt to shirt', cutting the blocks 12 1/2" square.  The blanket goes together quickly and makes for easier quilting.  I use polar fleece, sweatshirt fleece or soft 'minkee' fleece on the back, so I don't add batting between the layers.  This allows the quilting to be a bit more spread out than if I used batting.  I use Wrights double-fold fleece binding on the edges.
Pre-packaged binding makes finishing the blanket a breeze!
Of all of the tools in my sewing room, the one that really makes a difference on this project is my digital steam press.  The ironing surface is 9" by 22", and let's me fuse interfacing to the back of each t-shirt (to stablize it) in just two quick presses. What would take hours with a traditional iron takes just 50-60 minutes with the steam press.

My digital ironing press cost a little less than $100 on-line, but saves me hours of time!
So, after trimming, fusing and cutting down each block to 12 1/2", I lay them out into rows and sew them together.  Then I layer the backing fabric with the quilt top, and pin it all over with large safety pins. I use fabric marking pencils or chalk to draw my quilting lines.  Usually, I quilt an "X" through the center of each shirt.  Once the quilting is finished, I stitch around the edges of the quilt top, trim away the excess backing fabric, and apply the binding.

Ta-da!  Here's the finished product!

A one-of-a-kind graduation gift!
As I was preparing the invoice for Ellen, I did a little on-line research into what others charge for a custom made t-shirt quilt.  They range from $230 to $415 for a 24-shirt quilt.  For that size, I charge $200 for labor, plus the cost of materials, which can run up to $75.  Larger 35-shirt quilts run from $329 to $600.  My research gave me some great ideas on how price my work according to the number of shirts involved, as I realized it does take more time to prep and handle those additional 11 tees.
So, one thing has been scratched off my list...hoping to get two or three more finished by the weekend!

Happy sewing!


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