This year I gave away two quilts for Christmas. This one was pretty special for me and I had worked on it for a whole year - in secret! It is the first quilt I have every made for Steve. Of course, all the quilts I have made for us and used in the house have been for him and me, and we have slept under one (or sometimes to or three) of my quilts for fifteen years or more, but this is the first quilt I have made specifically for Steve.
Several years ago, I started keeping back some of our discarded T-shirts and rather than giving them to the Open Door, saving them for a T-shirt quilt. Steve doesn't wear T-shirts very often, but he often gets them from programs he goes to or places he works. He also had a bunch of old T-shirts in his drawers when I first came into his life, so one day we went through his drawer and managed to discard some really oldies but goodies with the promise that they would not be thrown out but put in a quilt. This all happened several years ago, and Steve forgot all about it. He is a busy man and the last thing he worries about is T-shirts that are not in his drawer!
So I had all these T-shirts in a basket and I had even saved some very special fabrics to go with them. But making a T-shirt quilt is a lot of work and not my favorite thing to do. For one thing, you have to cut up all the T-shirts and then iron the part you want to use onto fusible webbing so you can actually work with it. Otherwise the T-shirt fabric is much too stretchy and difficult to work with. And that is a very tedious and hot process, which I dreaded. Secondly, the images from the T-shirts which you end up selecting for the quilt are of various sizes, some are large like the entire front of the shirt, some just a little square from the front left pocket, and so forth. So putting the quilt together is a huge puzzle.
All this had me procrastinating for a long time until my dear friend, Michelle Hiskey, who has become somewhat of an expert T-shirt quilt maker after making one for each of her nieces and nephews as they graduate from high school and several others on commission for others also, agreed to help me on this one. She is SUCH a good friend and SUCH a great quilter.
We put most of the top together at a retreat at Kanuga in January, and I continued to work on it and the back at a retreat in Georgia.
It was a lot easier to do it all at retreat to keep it secret from Steve, though I am quite sure I could do a lot of it at home also. Most of the time he is not here! And even when he is, he does not pay very close attention to what I am working on. So as long as I had made sure he didn't notice one of his old T-shirts, I could have done it. The problem was that working on a quilt like this you really have to be able to lay it all out to get a sense of how it fits together and that would be hard to do surreptitiously! I did put the binding and label on at home, however.
Though it is here on my blog, this is really a group quilt. In addition to the invaluable help I got from Michelle in making the quilt, two other wonderful friends contributed to the quilt: The beautiful ikat fabrics in the borders of the top and on the back of the quilt were given to me by our friend Tina Ruyter many years ago. Tina imported the fabrics from Bali and gave me a whole bunch of them, mostly smaller pieces, years ago. I have used pieces of them here and there in quilts over the years, but had wanted to use them in this T-shirt quilt all along. Originally I thought they could be sashing, but realized that would be too confusing. They also are fairly lightweight, so it would have been hard to work with them right next to the heavy fusible backed T-shirts. I love the way they frame the quilt, however. I still have lots of them left and am trying to think up the next wonderful project to showcase them. Thanks Tina!
And many thanks, as always, to Regina Carter, for the wonderful machine quilting job without which there would be no quilt.