Saturday, September 12, 2015

It's Good to Have Young Friends: Thoughts on Improv Quilts and Over Dyeing

We have two darling young neighbors in Houston. Guess what they wanted? Yes, t-shirt quilts. All the shirts are interfaced and cut using a ruler. They belong to someone else so I'm trying to be careful. But I plan to piece them improvisationally using only my stash.

In the past, I cut or sewed the shirts to a uniform size, sashed them, and created a grid. This time each was cut to the size of the printed design, then arranged randomly. I'm  estimating the space between two shirts, cutting strips of fabric about three-fourths that width, then sewing them to a t-shirt. The widths range from two to four inches. Some will be cut down further to fit together but I want room to maneuver since there's no pattern.

Baseball t-shirt in progress.
Each shirt will be sashed a different width.

One neighbor plays baseball. The other favors black. I've pulled every bit of fabric that meets either of those requirements and there is plenty to make the quilts.

Original layout for the future black and white t-shirt quilt.

It occurs to me this is roughly similar to Kaja's simple shape - I'm using a square like she did. (Of course, the t-shirts are a coloring book compared to her sophisticated masterpiece.) Mine are large; the printed designs are the centerpiece. Hers are much smaller; she created her squares from two smaller pieces. You could use large scale prints or novelty fabrics to create squares.

You could also improvise using old workshop samples and leftover blocks. (Dip your toe into the water before you jump in.) Lay them out, sash around them, and trim to fit pairs together. Don't worry if the fabrics of your blocks don't match. Years ago a speaker at our guild did something similar. I can't recall her or her name, just the memory of this quilt. She used all her old class samples and orphan blocks. Nothing matched until she over dyed with a tan. Voila! It all blended together; everything was suddenly "reproduction."

Chawne who blogs at Cauchy Complete has been over dyeing her quilts with indigo. It's a much more modern look. The link points to one post but she has made several this way. Be sure to look around her blog.

If neither of those colors suit, what about cheddar yellow? [Americans use annatto seeds to color cheese a bright orange. I always thought it was another crazy-yankee idea but this National Public Radio article places blame for the practice back on the British. Could it be true?]

Now I'm really on a roll. Take a look at Lynn's Scrap Vortex. She incorporated orphan blocks with her scraps to make a very creative improv quilt. No overdyeing needed here.

Kaja and I have gotten several messages from people planning to join us. If you are still on the sidelines, jump right in. We all have different styles; when you share, there will be even more methods.

"Do what you can, where you are, with what you have." 
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th U.S. President

Enjoy the day, Ann


LA Paylor said...

Hi Ann. How nice of you to make one of these tshirt quilts. They are soooooo heavy. Cool, meaningful, much in demand but heavy to work on. I like the more random placement. LeeAnna

Janie said...

Thanks for all the great links, and for sharing this new project, I'm excited to see what you do with it!

Kaja said...

I've want to try one of these for ages (I think it's about the sentimental value they can carry) but no one has been prepared to trust me with their t-shirts! I like how you are tackling this one, love the idea of over-dying, it's so full of possibliities.

Ann said...

I'm delighted you're enjoying the project and the links. My mind moves in odd jumps at times.

Ann said...

I believe sentiment is the biggest attraction to t-shirt quilts. The recipients are always overjoyed out of proportion to the artistry of the quilt. It's important to remember how much quilting can convey love, storytelling and memory.
And, yes, over-dyeing seems intriguing. I've always liked the color indigo so was especially interested to read how Chawne created hers. I didn't know about the multiple dips.

Lara B. said...

I've seen t-shirt quilts done in a few different ways, but the ones I like best have an improv layout like yours Ann.
Over-dyeing.. wow. That is so interesting. It must take nerves of steel to repeatedly dip a finished quilt in indigo. I'd look like a smurf by the time it was done, LOL. I like the idea of piecing together orphan blocks! Thanks for sharing the links.

Ann said...

I agree with you, Lara. Anyone who can dye a finished quilt has nerves of steel. (Superwoman?) I wonder how you get all the dye out of the batting. But the results are always looks wonderful. Piecing orphan blocks is more my comfort level.

Ann said...

I know what you mean, LeeAnna, and only make them for friends. But they always mean so much to the recipient. I prefer some of my "real" quilts; they have meaning to me. I need to remember that meaning and feeling are in the heart of the user.