Monday, March 09, 2009

Secret Project: A blanket for Oldest Friend

A little over a year ago, Oldest Friend sent me a box of her old t-shirts that she'd collected from high school, her various trips post-high school, college, her trips post-college, shirts from wineries where she'd worked, 2 baseball caps, a pair of boxer shorts and a big-ass piece of soft maroon fabric. "I was hoping you could do something with these for me," she told me, and I told her that I'd get to it but make no promises as to when she could expect to see her t-shirts back or in what format she might get them.

The box sat in my closet for more than a year, during which time we planned the wedding and got married and I knitted lots of projects and I never thought much about the Big Project. Then, when we were doing our big cleaning a few weeks ago I climbed into my closet and spied the Box O Shirts on my upper closet shelf. "Self," I said to myself. "Oldest Friend has a milestone birthday coming up soon and wouldn't it be nice to get this box out of here?" So the decision was made, and I spent my day off (President's Day) cutting the interesting pieces out of the shirts and washing them along with the large maroon fabric. Once that was done, I sorted it all out on the bed to get an idea of how all the bits might fit together. Because they were all different shapes and sizes, I knew there was no way to make it be even or remotely geometric, and I knew that working with primarily t-shirt material would be difficult (that stuff bends and stretches, especially the cut edges). So I had to make a Plan of Action to carry out over the next couple of weeks to make sure it was finished in time for my trip to LA for Oldest Friend's birthday.

As you can see, rolled edges.

First, I needed to decide exactly how I'd configure the blanket (for I concluded it would be a blanket; it's not really a quilt since there's no batting plus my sewing machine isn't really set up for quilting). My first thought was to use the pieces to cover an old blanket and use the maroon fabric for the opposite side, but the only blanket I had to use didn't seem to want to cooperate and I thought it might be really difficult to sew together. Instead, I spread an old top sheet down on the living room floor and spread out each of the pieces into a similar configuration to what I'd done on the bed, did my best to iron the edges of each piece, and pinned them down.

Note the uneven border, which later gets fixed with other pieces of fabric.

Then, I had to baste. I hand-basted each piece onto the sheet, making sure that the spots where edges didn't quite meet up were given special attention so that either they were going to be covered later with something else, or I stretched fabric to make sure it would all look OK. I cut pieces of the boxer shorts and another (non-T) shirt and bits of 2 other fabric swaths she'd sent and fit them into where there were blank spaces in an otherwise mostly-square shape and basted those down as well.

Now came the hard part - tacking the t-shirt-covered sheet to the backing fabric, making a rolled edge, and sewing it down. Out came the pins, and Dan helped me hold down the layers while spread across our dining table and I rolled and pinned the edges. My sewing machine hadn't seen light since I made the bridesmaid dresses last year and I was nervous about working with so much material, but it seemed to work out OK (though there was a lot more bunching and stretching than I expected). I managed to break a needle while the machine was in the middle of a seam, which was frustrating, and finally Dan figured out how to remove the broken needle. We went out to find new sewing machine needles and I learned that I'm supposed to change the needle every time I do a new project, which was news to me since I'd been using the same one since I got the machine. Oops!

Pinned blanket border
The kitties helped by sleeping cutely on the remainder of the maroon fabric.

Needle successfully changed, I began machine "quilting" over the basting stitches, sewing all the layers of fabric (t-shirt scraps, sheet, maroon fabric) together. This was the most difficult part of the project because the layout was random rather than evenly geometric in any way and I had to change directions on the same seam a whole bunch of times and sometimes I had tons of material gathered up on my right side which made even seams difficult. I decided not to care that it didn't look perfect, and finally got it all done. After I finished that, I hand-sewed the pieces of baseball cap and one t-shirt bit that was too small/seams too narrow to machine stitch.

I had to hand-sew the baseball cap bits. This is why I do not sew for a living.

Back of the blanket; you can see the seams.

The last step was to remove all the basting stitches and to tuck in the seam ends that were all over both sides of the blanket. This was also tedious but I did it while home sick so it wasn't like I had anything better to do. And on Friday, I washed and dried the whole shebang and folded it into my suitcase, but I took a photo of the finished product first.

All finished!


tmjackson said...

Wow. Just, wow. I've tried to sew with t-shirt material, and... no, still, just wow.
Great job!

Anonymous said...

As the recipient of the blanket all I can say is that it amazing! It is fuzzy, warm and holds so many special memories for me and is even more special because it was put together by my Oldest Friend! Everyone else that has seen it also thinks it is amazing! Thank you! xoxo

Jess said...

That is AMAZING! I am SO impressed. I had no idea you were so crafty! I can sew, but only very simple quilts. If I ever need anything craftier sewed, I am totally hiring you!

Anonymous said...

That's awesome. I've seen T-shirt blankets before, but I had no idea they were so hard to make. You are not only crafty and talented but generous as all get-out.