Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Quilting your family history

I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing 4th of July weekend. Of the many things I did this weekend, the one I enjoyed the most was finishing my t-shirt quilt. I started this quilt last summer, and other projects (a quilt for my dog, Millie, and digital scrapbooking) seemed to take precedence.

Why a t-shirt quilt? I started “collecting” t-shirts starting when I was in grade school. Every event I attended, every trip I took, and every school I attended resulted in a t-shirt. Soon there was no room in my dresser or closet, and the t-shirts I could stuff into the dresser never got worn. The t-shirts contained a lot of memories, so I didn’t want to throw them out and I didn’t want to give them away. I read a couple of articles online about creating a t-shirt quilt, and I thought it was the perfect idea. What started as a small project turned into a love for crafting and quilting.

How I made my quilt:

From my stack of about 20 t-shirts, I chose 12.

Requirements for the twelve shirts were:
1) ability to fit the image onto a 12X12” block
2) not too worn
3) didn’t clash completely with my color scheme.

For my background colors, I chose the colors of my family room, burgundy and dark blue. I found the backing at Crate and Barrel Outlet store for $10.

The first half of my t-shirt quilt was sewn by hand….I had never used, nonetheless owned, a sewing machine. Finally, I gave in, read some reviews online, and bought a Brother sewing machine at Wal-Mart for under $90. Using some online video tutorials, I taught myself to use the sewing machine, and finished the quilt. After cutting, piecing, sewing, binding, and quilting here’s the end result:

What does quilting have to do with genealogy?

I never intended for my t-shirt quilt to be a genealogy project. The end result changed my mind. (Hoping my quilt will be passed down to my future children) Each of the twelve “t-shirts”/blocks tells a pretty good story about my background, interests, and hobbies.

The 12 blocks include:
1) Niagara Falls
2) Central High School Softball Jersey
3) Disney World’s Splash Mountain
4) Disney’s Mickey Mouse playing baseball
5) Butler University Marching Band
6) Central Middle School
7) Butler University
8) South Dakota Badlands
9) Central Middle School Volleyball
10) Bowl for Kids' Sake
11) Chicago Bulls Championship Shirt (I’m still wearing my Chicago White Sox and Chicago Blackhawks championship tees….couldn’t cut those)
12) Grade School Softball Jersey

My descendants could use the following adjectives to describe me just by looking at this quilt:

1) Traveler: visiting Niagara Falls, Disney World, and the Badlands in South Dakota
2) Sports Enthusiast: softball, baseball, volleyball, basketball
3) Musical: Played the Saxophone, member of the Butler University Marching Band
4) Student: Central Middle School, Central High School, and Butler University
5) Athletic: Played softball from grade school through high school
6) Volunteer: Bowl for Kids’ Sake
7) Chicagoan: Chicago Bulls
8) Creative
9) Quilter
10) Dog lover (all the remnants of dog hair on the quilt from when Millie tried to help me by sitting on the quilt…)

While these adjectives don’t describe me completely, these words describe me a lot better than my census, birth, or marriage record.
Have some old t-shirts? Give this project a try! If nothing else, it’ll give you a warm blanket to put over your legs while doing genealogy research on those cold nights.


  1. What a wonderful idea. Thanks for sharing this unusual quilt and the how too's.