You may be wondering what has happened to Belle’s quilts. Well, it is taking time. I have to choose the right moments to work on them. They feel and smell of Belle. Making them is not an easy thing. But there has been some progress recently.

For the first quilt I chose twelve of Belle’s many stripey t-shirts. I cut them up and pieced them. The cutting was emotionally rather difficult. Once I had the pieces, though, the process became more abstracted and easier to do. I was making something, not cutting up her clothes, and the t-shirts were becoming another thing.

So the block design I chose is (rather loosely) based on those used in ‘bedspread 31’ in this book:


(There are some really lovely designs for all sorts of things in here and, because the diagrams are so clear, you do not need to read Japanese.)

Piecing the T-shirts was quite tricky at times, because of the different mix of fabrics. Some are made of pure, and rather heavy cotton jersey, others are lighter, and contain different percentages of viscose, lycra, and elastene. Not only did the pieces (being made of essentially of knit stockinette) want to curl up, each separate piece behaved differently under the sewing machine because they were made of different fibres. And the fact that I wanted my stripes to go in different directions — often against the grain of the fabric — complicated matters even further. Aigh!

Here are the pieced blocks laid out:

you can see how they like to curl. I tamed those babies with pins and sewing machine . . .

. . . and then put them all together:

Hurrah! I have now finished piecing the quilt top, and this is as far as I’ve got.

This quilt is supposed to have a seaside aesthetic — deck chairs and beach huts — and I’m pleased that it seems to suggest this (well it does to me in any case). Because of the unruly nature of the fabric (and perhaps, too, my own ineptitude) there is nothing neat about the piecing, but:
1) I really want the quilt to look like it is made, for its origins to be suggested, if not entirely visible
2) wobbly is a good look. Oh yes. A look I like.

Though cotton jersey — in various percentages and weights of cotton — is certainly not ideal quilting material, the resulting top is satisfyingly soft, and very fluid. I rather like it so far. But rather than face the horror of feeding acres of jersey through my machine again, I am going to quilt it all by hand. This might prove interesting as I’ve never attempted this before. I’m actually looking forward to it, though, which, given the emotional and difficult nature of the project, is a good thing.

Anyway, more from the t-shirt quilt soon. Have a nice weekend.

13 thoughts on “from twelve t-shirts

  1. Your quilt-in-progress is magnificent! As I’m not (yet) a sewer I’m not familiar with the problems various fabrics present so I found your post very interesting (and useful) reading for a would-be sewer. I absolutely love the way you have pieced the blocks together – varying block sizes, horizontal vs vertical stripes, complementary colours etc. – it’s brilliantly dynamic yet pleasingly coherent. I’m really looking forward to seeing the next stage…

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  2. I think the effect is wonderful – strangely very reminiscent of both New England and 50’s Northern post cards at the same time

    I find the use of paper templates always handy when hand sewing – Keep them in place until the whole quilt in completed A padded interlining also is helpful to retain the shape even if it is to be hung

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  3. good for you. this project of yours has inspired me to plan one for my grandmother’s wedding lingerie (fine lawn pantalets, etc., ca., 1910). i can see that cutting them will be very hard.

    i’m glad you persisted. this is a resurrection of sorts, as intended. and the thing itself looks very, very good.

    will you let it stay drapey and use a thin batting like gauze or muslin? or make the stretch work over a poufy batting?

    interested in your technical probs here, do keep us posted.

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  4. How lovely this is! This is exactly what making a quilt is (in my mind) really supposed to be. Not a collection of shiny new scraps bought just for the purpose, but true scraps, which have already been used once, and which are now being given a second purpose.
    There is a copy of the Alabama Stitch Book in a bookshop near my house, I was just leafing through it this morning. It’s lovely and I expect I shall succumb one day soon!

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  5. I think this is a very beautiful start to the Belle quilting process and I am very moved by your post and the way you are working with all the feelings, as well as the material of Belle’s clothes.
    I love the way deck chairs and seasides are invoked by what you did and I think your idea to hand-quilt will give you greater control over the fabric, and more contact with the emotions the t-shirts evoke… I look forward to seeing how this quilt progresses.

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  6. I have indeed been wondering about your progress with Belle’s quilt. What you have so far is wonderful. The quilt is not only beautiful, but it makes me really think about Belle and all those stripes she wore. Good work.

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  7. I think it is beautiful. The curliness seems to come through even in the completed top and it just asks to be wrapped around someone and snuggled up against a chill wind off the sea.

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  8. This is a very moving post. I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to cut the t-shirts, but now you are over that hurdle you are creating something that will go on being a memorial for a very special person, perhaps for generations. It will be beautiful, comforting and useful at the same time. I think we would all be glad to be remembered in such a way.

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  9. That is really lovely. It definitely reminds me of a rainy afternoon down the shore. I think the recipient of the quilt will be really moved.

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