5 Golden Rules of Quilting

March 28, 2017

Rules Were NOT Made To Be Broken!

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the Rules of Quilting That WERE Made To Be Broken.  I received several emails commenting on those rules, and telling me about their encounters with the “Quilt Police”.  There is a difference between developing good sewing habits, and just not knowing what to do.  Here are some of the ‘basics’ that I have always taught beginning quilters.

1. Always Test Your 1/4″ Seam Allowance 

Pretty much everything in quilting requires a ¼” seam. If you learned to sew making clothing, you are familiar with a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Let me say now, forget that. If your seam allowance is an 1/8″ off with large pieces of fabric making up your block, 1/8″ might not seem like a lot. BUT, if there are many seams that make up your block, an 1/8″ times 4 or 6 turns into a 1/2″ or 3/4″ difference. Your alternate blocks won’t line up.

Here are a few methods to achieve an accurate and consistent  1/4″ seam allowance

  • ¼” foot for your sewing machine –
  • With computerized sewing machines, find the perfect 1/4 inch by clicking the needle to the desired

But,  two methods are very easy and practical. First, get a 1/4″ seam allowance foot.
This foot extends exactly ¼” beyond the needle on each side so you can simply line up the edge of the foot with the edge of your fabric and sew. Quarter inch feet are available from most sewing machine supply stores, and many fabric stores.
Second, mark a solid line on a piece of typing paper with your ruler.
**Scant 1/4″

2. The Iron Is Your Friend

Each seam you make should be pressed to one side – usually towards the darker fabric although this is not always practical. Any time you will be sewing together items that already have seams in them, be doubly sure that you’ve pressed the seams before sewing again.

3. Check your work

Do this frequently until you start to feel more confident in yourself. It won’t take long to develop this talent. It is just about as hard as it was to learn to stay in your own lane while driving. Just remember to check! Especially when you are a beginning quilter, you’ll need to verify that you’re sewing 1/4” seams. Just slip whatever you’ve sewn under the ruler and check it out.

4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

Depending on the amount of fabric (or t-shirts) that you have, it is always important to take correct measurements. If you are looking a pattern, double check that what is listed actually makes sense. When I was an early (aka inexperienced) quilter, I made a costly mistake in cutting some expensive fabric according to pattern directions. Guess what. It wasted a LOT of fabric, and I ended up not having enough fabric to complete the pattern as instructed.

5. Use the BEST Quality Materials That You Can

“Cheap is as Cheap Does”, kinda my take on using fabrics. Sure, you can buy ‘cheap’ fabric at Wally World or at Jo-Ann’s. Just dont do it! My very first quilt that I made (Aunt Sukies Quilt) made back in the late 70’s was made from .77 yard fabric from Zayre’s (in upstate New York- don’t know if they are still around….) Anyway, because I wanted a scrappy looking quilt, I bought a half yard of a whole bunch of fabrics at a very cheap price. Not knowing anything about fabric content (100% cotton versus poly-cotton blends) and started ‘my stash’. OK, so I have given away that I have been quilting for 40 years (OMG) That first quilt has been laundered a gazillion times. Some fabrics are faded, and others are disentegrating – the polyesters have held their color!!!

For an heirloom quilt that you would like your family to enjoy for generations, use the best quality fabrics that you can afford. The assembly of the blocks willl work better, and the quilt will last longer.

Oops, The Dog Ate My T-Shirt Quilt!

Can You Fix My Quilt?

Things happen.  Puppies are teething, and maybe they used your favorite tshirt quilt to chew on.  What we can do?

The quilt on the right was christened by our own Shiner  (a blue heeler) about 12 years ago.  He teethed in several places, but I already fixed the worst holes..  These that are left, just make me go awwwww.

 So, what happens when you have a quilt that is damaged?  Can we fix it?  Well, yes, pretty much anything can be fixed.  However, it might cost a bit.

The Repairs

Most companies  will say NO!!! we won’t fix that.  What we do is take the quilting stitches out (much easier when the quilting isn’t that ‘scribble’ quilting.…) ; replace the offending block (you might have to provide a new t-shirt) . We then reload the quilt on the quilting machine and quilt the new area.  This all takes time, and is not our most favorite task.  While we do not want to be in the business of repairing quilts, we will repair a t-shirt quilt that we made, and for a reasonable price.

In these two photos, the dog didn’t eat it, but when the quilt was laundered the old blanket they used in two of the blocks disintegrated!  You can see inside the quilt, the stitching and needle holes from where we removed the quilting.  It is an easier job if the repairs are done on one of the side of the quilt, but in this case the blocks were on both sides of the quilt

After replacing the blanket squares, we added the new tees, then quilted it.    You couldn’t that tell we had done any repairs after we were finished.

Note: If the repair needs to be made in one of the borders or sashing, hopefully we will still have the fabrics in stock, buy can’t be guaranteed. Also, the number of times the quilt has been laundered may have caused fading in the fabrics, if not laundered properly. 

Hopefully, the love for your t-shirt quilt will be limited to snuggling and curling up in a chair!

T-Shirt Quilts of Texas is a full service professional business that can help you complete your quilt at most any stage. We also ‘fix’ quilts made by non-professionals. If you get started, and don’t feel you are going to be able to complete your quilt. Take pictures of your quilt in process, email it to us, and we can let you know if we can help you get it finished.

Back to Quilt Care

Can a T-Shirt Quilt Made From the Same Color Shirts Look Good?

Same Color TShirts

You have a collection of tees, maybe from running (mostly white) , Harley Davidson shirts (mostly black) or concert shirts (again, mostly black).  Can we make these quilts look great?

We say YES!  We do this by adding a sashing border around each tshirt .   We add a contrasting color fabric around each shirt so that the monochrom colored shirts don’t ‘mush’ together like in those chaos/random quilts.  

White  tees made into a colorful quilt.
White tees made into a colorful quilt.

Recently, a customer emailed us with concerns that all of her t-shirts were  all the same color (Harley-Davidson black tees).  She was concerned that the quilt would be ‘too dark’, and what could we do to ‘perk’ them up a bit.

We advised her that adding sashings add a bit of contrast/color around each shirt so that the quilt would not be a big blob of ‘black’ (or white) and un-appealing. Sashings actually add an essential element that ties the colors of the tshirts together, and makes the quilt a complete piece of art.  Whether it  is a bright color for those all white running shirts, for a gray neutral for the mostly Harley or Concert shirts.  The sashings give the eye a place to rest, and not get lost in a mass of one color.

Quilt made from Wichita State (Kansas) Wheat Shocker tshirts
Quilt made from Wichita State (Kansas) Wheat Shocker tshirts
Quilt made from all White TShirts

Again, the quilt on the left consists of all white tees.  By adding the green sashings, the green accent border (and cornerstones)  ‘perk’ up the quilt and adds interest to the final quilt.  What do you think?

Whatever collection the of tees that you have.  You can lay them out the way you would like, or let us take care of that for you.   Normally, most collections of tshirts are not all one color.  But, if they are, trust us to add design elements such as sashings and accent borders to give you a complete and pleasing quilt.

T-Shirt Quilts of Texas is a professional company making custom quilts from YOUR t-shirts for over 15 years. Let us know what your collection consists of and we will be happy to create an heirloom for you.