T-Shirt Quilt Top Finished!

Oh, I have been talking about this quilt for a while and a big long half! Late last year my brother sent me some of his high school and college t-shirts with a request to make him a t-shirt quilt. So many things happened in my brain at that very moment that now I just need to list them:
My brother wants a quilt, from me! 
Bonding moment! 
T-shirt quilts – eeewww!
Does this make me cool to him?
I’ve never done this before.
He wants a queen size; this could take a while.
Something called interfacing?
Every challenge is an opportunity to shine!
His college colours were purple and forest green. Ugh.
Why didn’t he ask Grandma Sparkles?
There’s only twelve shirts here, that’s not enough!
Will he be okay if I get creative?
Don’t ask, don’t tell!
Birthday present!
Where do I even begin?
Comma fabric range had a good orange.
I don’t have that much experience with improv piecing.
It’s gonna be a big hot mess.
He’ll love it no matter what.
I hope.
As you can see, there were all sorts of emotional hysterics happening before I’d even started working on this quilt! In the end though, all of those emotions helped guide the project to what I think is a very successful quilt top. Yes, it’s busy, but that’s what I love most about it. There is so much to explore, you could have your own Lewis & Clark adventure in bed! (Just as long as I get to be Sacagawea, ow!) The quilt top is 90″ x 96″ and I’m sending it off to Gemma of Pretty Bobbins for some longarm lovin’. If you’re really interested in my process, you can read on for some small tidbits and inspiration about various sections of this quilt.
I used Sam Hunter’s book, Quilt Talk to paper piece his name into the quilt. I then used part of a shirt and some Botanics fabric to create a flag flying over head. It doesn’t get much more personalised than this!
Most of the t-shirt quilts I have seen use squares on the grid. I knew the best way to keep me from falling into that mould was to cut the shirts up into different shapes. Let the creativity flow!
My brother plays, coaches, and loves football. So I made this block (and tutorial) using tiger-striped fabric in a nod to our school mascot. Interesting side note: In high school, I earned a varsity letter in cheerleading for being the guy inside the tiger suit!
Living in Oklahoma, this is easy to forget.
This is like the science corner! Broken herringbones, atoms, positive and negative ions, dashes churning around! Comma fabric provided a great jumping off point for this quilt.
I made sure to include several wonky stars, Lord knows we are all a bit imperfect. Then there’s that sparkly dot, cotton-linen blend I picked up in Japan. I mean, I had to!
This is one of the t-shirts; I’m pretty sure I burned myself when applying the interfacing to this one!
Another football, and an autumn leaf to represent going back to school and starting up the season.
This is one of two tornado blocks I made for this quilt. This is a block of my own creation (tutorial pending) and I kind of think it needs to be a whole quilt. This could be a fun bee block!
Originally intended as friendship stars, but one of the Glitterati pointed out that it was like brothers holding on to each other in an embrace. I like that.
This is one of his college shirts; purple and forest green, yeah, errr, I know. The saving grace is that purple, green and orange are all in the secondary colour family, so they harmonise well together. 
I had to make an Oklahoma block! This one is simple, but so graphically effective for a quilt like this. (Tutorial pending). We ain’t known as the panhandle state for nothin’!
The eye of the tiger, you see? This was a moment where I wanted to use the scrap pieces from the footballs, and just kept trying until something made sense.
Sly reference to my photography background.
Here’s another tornado block. If you didn’t realise, Oklahoma is in the middle of what is called Tornado Alley. Tornadoes are part of living in Oklahoma, and despite the good and bad, they define part of your up-bringing.
My brother is also a hunter, so I’d be amiss not to include this Oh Deer! fabric. Bang!
This Terra Australis 2 selvage is from fabric donated for the Sewing For Sydney campaign, while also serving as a reference to my adopted homeland. These are both defining moments in my life that are captured so beautifully with a single scrap of fabric.
Converse Confessions, anyone? If you know me, you know my obsessions.
I turned this wonky star into a shooting star per the quote below. This design idea definitely needs some further exploration.
My favourite quote used in the quilt: “Be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars…In the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” – Max Ehrmann, poet. So true, and I hope he remembers this.
This log cabin block was the first filler block I made, and I just love that USA high school jacket in the centre. It contains a scrap of my favourite fabric from 2013, Little Kukla Meadow in Orange and a piece of Thesaurus fabric by Thomas Knauer. Oh, and you’ll see on the right, there’s also a tower of Architextures Ledger print for a bit of a math kick!
This is one of my favourite areas of the quilt. There’s so much movement around this block with all those flying geese circling, changing colours, and then disappearing altogether!
I used the last of my Constellations fabric in black, because I want my brother to reach for the stars.
This was, by far, the hardest part of the quilt to piece together. This is where like 27 partial seams converged together to test my skills as an improv piecer. Making that arrow happen almost killed me, but look who’s laughing now!
This is the other Oklahoma block I had to improv into place. I included the cross as a reference to Oklahoma being part of the “Heartland of America.”
Much like a delectable mountain, life will have rewarding challenges, and hopefully they’ll make my brother sparkle even brighter!
“Man Up.” How many times did I think this while making this quilt!?
Whew! Are you dazed and confused yet? I know I am! I hope you can use some of my experiences to find inspiration the next time (if it hasn’t happened yet, trust me, it will) someone important asks you to make them a t-shirt quilt. Grid or no grid, take a chance and give it some of your own flavour. I’ll show you some more photos once it is quilted and bound, but for now, I’m glad to kick this quilt out of the house. 

75 Responses

  1. Fran says:

    Absolutely stunning! Love the tornados!

  2. Kirsten says:

    Fabulous quilt – I am sure your brother will love it! And the quote from "Desiderata" is just perfect!!

  3. Carol Q says:

    Certainly dazed but all the inspiration and thoughtfulness that 's gone into that quilt Mollie. Brilliant and lucky bro!

  4. It's awesome! And let's just say I'm not a fan of t-shirts quilts at all, but this has to be the best, and most thoughtful I've seen. Whopping pats on the back!

  5. So much thought has gone into this quilt, I remember the same thought process when doing my MiLs quilt, but she's in her 80's so it could be as crazy and epic as your quilt. Can't wait to see what Gemma does with it 🙂

  6. Heather J says:

    What a great story shared in a quilt. Just fantastic. Can't wait to see it quilted.

  7. Paula says:

    Beyond stunning. That's a real work of art. I love how much thought and meaning that has gone in to every part of the creating the quilt. I've never been a fan of t-shirt quilts before but I am a definite convert now. That's how they should be made!

  8. kate says:

    This is the Best T-shirt Quilt Ever. It's amazing! & made with so much love! It makes me want to tackle my husband's pile of funky academy shirts. Almost. 😉

  9. V Hair says:

    Just fab. I'm sure your brother will love it and be discovering little "in" jokes for years.

  10. charlotte says:

    Great job. I am very impressed.

  11. Melissa says:

    What a stunning quilt! He's going to be speechless when he gets it.

    I was also my high school mascot, good times

  12. Kacey says:

    Your tshirt quilt is awesome! I'm making one for the oldest nephew as he graduates high school this May, but I just went with a grid layout. This is much cooler…

  13. You did it…. Boy, did you EVER! Really fabulous quilt top. Can't wait to see how Gemma works her magic on this.

  14. Sheryl says:

    Amazeballs. I love how you injected fresh life into a t sorry quilt. The purples are shockingly good in there with the orange.

  15. Cathy L says:

    You are a genius! The thought that you put into this quilt is amazing. Your brother will realize what a lucky guy he is to have a brother that would take the time to make something so wonderful.

    I love the block with the poetry. Do you know what fabric that is?

  16. Beth says:

    Amazing! Love all the meaning behind it! This is a treasure for sure and not any tshirt quilt!

  17. Linda says:

    Just fabulous! From now on, all T-shirt quilts will be held up to your brother's quilt! I love all the thought you put into making this quilt…or should I say, love.

  18. Auntie Pami says:

    The love you put into this may have tested your design esthetic but you took it, ran with it and crossed the finish line with first place!

  19. That thing is fantastic! I am so glad to finally see the finished top. I've been waiting. He is blessed to have you for a brother and this will mean a lot to him I'm sure. I am so glad you were able to make it a nice looking quilt instead of one of those other tshirt quilts.

  20. Jayne says:

    For all the times I said 'yuck, a t-shirt quilt', or 'hell no, I'm not making one of those'…after seeing this one I am gently scolding myself for having such thoughts! Bravo for taking it on! Each and every piece has special meaning just as each shirt was special to your brother. Love the tornado!

  21. Leanne says:

    It's fantastic! Your brother is a lucky guy.

  22. Best T-shirt quilt I've ever seen–you have an amazing talent for this work/play of quilting.

  23. What a fabulous quilt! I love all the thought and care you poured into this.

  24. Deb says:

    It's a beautiful quilt and I'm sure your brother will love it! My son has been collecting T-shirts from various Planet Hollywoods for a number of years and wants me to make him a T-shirt quilt, sometime in the future!

  25. Lynda says:

    A wonderful work of art straight from the heart –

  26. Lisa Lisa says:

    This is so special and so amazing!

  27. Laura Links says:

    You've set a whole new standard for t-shirt quilts! Oh my…

  28. I really dislike the grid t-shirt quilts and t-shirt quilts in general. The one you made doesn't look like a t-shirt quilt! You put so much thought into it, which helps make it fantastic. I absolutely love it!

  29. This is amazing! Seriously, you have blown my mind with your outside-of-the-box creativity regarding the dreaded t-shirt quilt. If I ever get roped into making one I'm going to take a page from your playbook (a little football reference for your brother) and make it Molli-style!

  30. Laikabear says:

    Wow. Just wow. You could have said, "Ew, a T-shirt quilt, not my thing." But you turned the whole genre on its head. I love the story that all the blocks tell. What a thoughtful gift. He is going to LOVE it. 🙂

  31. Laikabear says:

    Wow. Just wow. You could have said, "Ew, a T-shirt quilt, not my thing." But you turned the whole genre on its head. I love the story that all the blocks tell. What a thoughtful gift. He is going to LOVE it. 🙂

  32. Julie says:

    What a great story behind all the blocks. This is a fabulous quilt. I am sure your brother will love it.

  33. Frau Hiltrud says:

    Oh my gosh, Molly! That thing is amazing! I love it and I bet your brother will love it, too! You did good, Molly!

  34. Sew Jacky O says:

    Oh my golly wow!! A great work of love, inspiration and art. Great stuff Molli. X

  35. Jessica says:

    This is just the bees knees! Amazing! You've definitely re-inspired me to make t-shirt quilts. 🙂

  36. Susie says:

    This is so fabulous. I loved reading all about it too. The fabric choices are wonderful and I hope your brother loves it. Cause I do.

  37. Mollie, aside from all the creative ability that went into this absolutely, positively, most awsomist quilt I've ever seen, there are mountains of LOVE, SWEAT, PRIDE and TEARS sewn into this one of a kind, never to be seen again, gift of a lifetime, for your brother Cory. I would be willing to bet that he shows it off to everyone who enters his house and says with pride, "My big brother made this for me". Looking forward to seeing the finished quilt job. lv2bquilting2@comcast.net

  38. Oh, my stars, Mollie! This is just fabulous. I love how personal it is. The thought that went into all the blocks is shows. Your brother is bound to adore this quilt. Well done!

  39. I love all those improv blocks! It's raised the bar Molli.

  40. I loved reading the story behind all the decisons of making each block – I never realised so much meaning could be put into each piece – wonderful and I'm sure he will like it – well done on all your hard work and thoughtfulness 🙂

  41. MareMare says:

    Seriously, best t-shirt quilt I've seen! I'm currently also distressed about making an orange and black quilt as I requested some Oregon State University fabric for a charity quilt project (I meant to ask for University of Oregon, which is the tiniest bit better with green and yellow).

  42. The O's says:

    I bet there are parts of this quilt you cant actually remember 'making', like driving a familiar route, you arrive at your destination and can't recall going past that buliding on the corner that has the yellow facade… What an amazing artwork, a gallery piece, a treasured and special bond with your brother. I love the journey and significance of each and every scrap of fabric. Mr Sparkles deserves a medal (or a holiday) to have lived with you through the creative phase of this beauty!!! I wonder if you will get requests? I wonder if you'll take any of them seriously lol! LOve your work my friend xx

  43. Shannon says:

    Holy hot damn! You blew it out of the water on this one! Coolest t-shirt quilt I have ever seen!

  44. Jeneta says:

    Wow – this quilt is absolutely brilliant! You must make sure that your brother reads this post (after the quilt is gifted!). I love all the meaning and significance behind each block and design choice. This one is going straight to the Pinterest board (I don't have a pool room!).

  45. kiwikid says:

    This is just amazing!! Well done your brother will be so proud and happy…love how everything has a special meaning. Youo have done a sensational job!! Can't wait to see the finished quilt!

  46. OMG!!! This is the best tshirt quilt I have ever seen!!! I love, love, love your creativity in making these blocks that tell a story while displaying your brother's shirts! This is nothing short of amazing!!! I didn't know you were from OK! I'm in Texas so I totally get the nod to tornadoes, etc!! I sure wish I had your quilty brain! Since I can't I'll settle for any tutorials you make of this!!!! xox

  47. You are one great brother!! This is an awesome t shirt quilt. I can only imagine the time and energy to create this masterpiece. I have made 5 t shirt quilts so far for nieces and nephews. I think I need to step up my game!

  48. Kath says:

    Wow! This quilt is pretty cool without the narrative, it just blows me away after reading the significance, thought and love sewed into each and every piece!! You are, my dear, without compare.

  49. Di says:

    Wow! I have to admit T-shirt quilts have always left me a tad "Meh", but not this baby!! I love how intricate it is, with fascinating and quirky little nooks and crannies for Cody to explore. He's going to be blown away by all the meaning you've invested in it, and the inspirational 'big brother' wisdom. Well done, you, for stepping up to the challenge and transforming those pretty ordinary colours (IMHO) into a bright, funky quilt that will be a pleasure for him to have as part of his decor. Love it!!!! But then, I wouldn't have expected anything less than this from you, Molli 🙂

  50. Oh my! I just knew that if you took on a t-shirt that it was going to be extraordinary! Love this so much! I love the thoughtfulness in the blocks and the colors. I can't imagine the fun of laying all this out!! Bravo.

  51. I never liked t-shirt quilts, UNTIL NOW. And maybe it still isn't true, because I LOVE this quilt. So much thought, love and expertise went into it! You rock!!!!

  52. Maria says:

    WOW! you did a fabulous job .."…

  53. Anne says:

    Okay, I'm gonna grant you. I don't really "get" t-shirt quilts and this is not a palette I'd that into, but you did a bad ass job with both. Thanks for breathing life into the t-shirt quilt genre. 🙂 Although my favorite parts are really all the personal touches.

  54. magistra says:

    There are already 53 comments saying wow, amazing, and stunning, but I have to add mine, too. Wow! Stunning! Amazing! This quilt is art. How you managed to make such an appealing and interesting quilt out of t-shirts and the colors you were given, I just don't know. It's from a place of creativity, artistry and deep love combined that I haven't been to yet. I am from the Texas and Oklahoma tornado ally and I love your tornado blocks. So appropriate. Maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to meet you at a quilting "do" and we can discuss our mutual background, but in the meantime I'll just say that the love you are showing to your brother is two hundred times more touching to me because of it and I hope he has the grace and understanding to reciprocate. I guess that's why this quilt is so amazing, because you are 🙂

  55. Jenny says:

    Aside from anything else you could say about it, I've never seen a t-shirt quilt given so much thought. I enjoyed reading about all the little significant bits.

  56. Lori H says:

    Wow, you really did an awesome job! Very well thought out! Creative.

  57. GO STARS! says:

    I love how each section of the quilt, each block, each fabric all have their story. Your brother needs to have this all written down and stored with the quilt. He is very special to receive this special quilt. What a wonderful quilt!!

  58. emiline says:

    I absolutely love this quilt!!! I've been anxiously waiting for you to unveil this masterpiece, and you did not disappoint! Can I send you my t-shirts now?! 🙂

  59. Dawn says:

    Holy guacamole! Who is this man deserving of such a fantabulous creation? Aaaaaaand it squares up! WOW

  60. Kathy says:

    Wow!! You really put your heart into the making of this quilt, that is certainly clear. I would love to hear about your brother's reaction once he receives this quilt-ography!!

  61. Laurelle says:

    This is definitely a masterpiece ! Love all the different blocks and the colou placement. It's amazing. I made one shirt quilt early in my quilting journey so didn't have the skills for filler blocks. My shirts were all different sizes so the quilt blocks were joined in an improv fashion . Standard size squares are boring. I love this quilt so much. It's just perfect and you Brother is going to be blown away! 🙂 you make me want to make another, more exciting shirt quilt!

  62. lalaluu says:

    Howdy, I was a Tiger mascot in high school, too (orange and black, too, and I hated the orange)! It was in Alabama, also known for tornadoes! How fun is nostalgia?!? I am making a t-shirt quilt for a work friend whose son is graduating from college this year. Since I'm in Texas now, of course I have to deal with *maroon*! The only maroon fabric I've found has been in the Moda Grunge line, which is actually really great for a guy's quilt!, but I'm adding in some grays and blacks to fill out the quilt top. I took a class here in Katy, Texas, from Martha DeLeonardis, of t-shirt quilting fame, so I was pretty confident going in…and then I showed her the top when it got to 60×60 inches. She loved it! BUT wanted it to be a bit longer, so now I need to add another row of shirts. Quilting for someone else is a bit different than just quilting for yourself. Kinda nerve-wracking to take those beloved jerseys and tees and CUT THEM UP! Yikes! Fortunately, I have a great support group of fellow quilters here. So, you know my journey, and now I'll get back to yours – I *LOVE* your creativity, and the pops of blue. You've really kept it from looking Halloween-y, and I know your brother will enjoy finding all those different quilt blocks and admiring them for years to come! Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to seeing it quilted. Maybe I'll get some more inspiration for my project!

  63. Samantha says:

    I love the creativity in this T-shirt quilt. I always defer when friends ask me to make one for them- because I can't bring myself to make a dull one, but the energy it takes to pull off what you did may be beyond me. I have a bunch of my own Ts all sewn up and ready to go- I cut them all to different sizes, on angles, to make it more interesting. time to put that sucker together…

  64. Kitty says:

    Molli!!!! I laughed, I cried, I swooned!! {Laugh: "you could have your own Lewis & Clark adventure in bed! (Just as long as I get to be Sacagawea, ow!)"; Cried: That quote does it to me every time: "Be gentle with yourself." oh, such wise and difficult words!; Swooned: science corner!! LOVE}. What an amazing creation, so jam packed full of meaning. I'm sure your brother will be THRILLED with this quilt and cherish it always. Brotherly love, one stitch at a time. I've never attempted a t-shirt quilt and really have no desire to, but this is inspiring. Now I might have a place to begin if I ever get the request from someone special enough to warrant a yes :). I also can't WAIT to see what Gemma does with it!

  65. Miggsie says:

    This is beyond amazing!! I had no idea a t-shirt quilt could be so awesome!! Your brother is a very lucky guy – this is such a treasure!!

  66. Simply the BEST t-shirt quilt I have ever seen!!! Everything just works so well. Lucky, lucky brother!!!

  67. Hands diwn, best T-shirt quilt I've ever seen. I love this and I've never even seen one I even liked! Kudos to you, man. This piece blows the whole t-shirt quilt thing wide open!

  68. Hilary says:

    It looks amazing! I have 2 stacks of shirts in my closet just waiting to become t-shirt quilts, and this is the first one that I have seen that makes me want to finally make mine! I love all of the filler blocks you used.

  69. Nicole says:

    All the stars for you Molli! That's a well done, well planned, thoughtfully made quilt. Who needs patterns!? We all have these quilts inside us; building all the blocks that mean something personal. Gah. Can't synthesize words now. Cheers.

  70. This has got to be the nicest t-shirt quilt I've ever seen… and I've made a couple myself. I like how you made those bold team colours play well together and that you incorporated such a variety of pieced blocks.

  71. Hands down the best, the coolest and the most imaginative tshirt quilt I've ever seen. Your brother is one lucky guy, so much meaning and so much work went into this. I just can't wait to see how Gemma quilts this!!

  72. By far the best looking t-shirt quilt I have ever seen! I'm blown away (and maybe even willing to tackle another t-shirt quilt now)!!

  73. memmens says:

    Simply brilliant (and not really simple at all!), thanks for sharing the detail, can't wait to hear what your brother thinks.

  74. Love your tshirt quilt! I just finished a tshirt quilt top for my nephew who is graduating high shool this year. I would have loved to do some of my own blocks, but my sister (his mother) wants it "plain". Whatever that means… Mine is an XL twin. I'll be quilting it next week. Wish me luck!

  75. Lisa D. says:

    Wow, what an incredible quilt. I am in awe of your mad improv skills!

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