Sunday, September 18, 2011

T-Shirt Quilt: Before the cut

Today I got a chance to work on the t-shirt quilt that I'm making for a friend and I picked up where I left off.  (Which was cutting out all the blocks from each t-shirt found here.)  To move forward, I began to cut out the strips that would create a border around each t-shirt block.

Before I could cut out the size strips that I needed, I had to figure out a few important things about the fabric.  Things like, which is the right and wrong side?  How can you tell when the fabric is a solid color?  What is a selvageWhat is the difference between a crosswise and lengthwise grain?

Hopefully this post today will shed some light on these important questions.

To begin with, I had to iron out any wrinkles in the pre-washed fabric.  Ironing is the most crucial step to any sewing process.  It makes all the difference between put-together, for a clean and professional look, to thrown-together, for a sloppy and lacking look.

Next, I needed to figure out the right and wrong side of the fabric.  And since the fabric happened to be a solid color, determining proved difficult.  Always with printed fabric, it's easy to see a "right" or brighter side and a "wrong" or dull, flat looking side.  And with some solid colored fabric, you can determine a "brighter" looking side and a "duller" looking side.  In this case, it was still to hard to tell the difference.

Another way to tell the difference between the right and wrong side of the fabric, is to locate the selvage and find the little factory made pinholes.  One side of the fabric will be smooth, without any notice of the pinholes.  The other side will prominently show the pinholes running alongside the selvage.  This side is your right side.

And how can you tell where exactly the selvage is?  Or what it even is?  The selvage is simply the self-finished edges of the fabric.  (Or, the edge of the fabric that wasn't cut from the bolt.)

Once I determined the right side of the fabric and the selvage.  I placed the fabric on a flat surface with the right side up.  Next, I folded the fabric in half, selvage to selvage.

When folding the fabric in half, you might find that the cut edges do not meet up, even though the selvage will.  In this case, (which is always the case), you'll need to straighten the cut edge before measuring and cutting your strips.

Begin by placing a self-healing mat underneath your fabric.  (My mat happens to be 18"x24", made by Fiskars, found here.)  Place a clear ruler on top of your fabric, matching a straight line directly on the fold of the fabric.

Without disturbing your clear ruler, place another straight edge/ruler against the outer edge.

Move away the clear ruler, hold down your straight edge and using a rotary cutter, carefully cut away the outer strip of uneven fabric.

Here you can see the outer strip that I cut away and the other side of that strip.  See how uneven the edge was?

Once you have your straight edge, you're ready to measure and cut out the appropriate size strips you'll need in order to create your border around each t-shirt block.

Strips cut perpendicular to the selvage are your crosswise strips and any strips cut parallel to the selvage are your lengthwise strips.  Crosswise strips stretch more so than the lengthwise strips and are therefore not as stable.  Choosing a cut is based on the preference of the quilter and type of fabric that she's working with.

In my case, I need long strips between each row of t-shirt blocks, so I will be cutting my strips on the lengthwise grain for less distortion.

I hope some of this quilting jargon has cleared some mysteries in the process and quilting in general.  Once I get all the strips cut out, I'll be piecing and sewing (favorite part!).  More on that next weekend!

UPDATE:  Check out the full progress of this quilt!

Before this post:
New month, new project

After this post:

T-Shirt Quilt:  Part III
T-Shirt Quilt:  Part IV and updates
T-Shirt Quilt:  Part V
Quilting and Binding:  Part VI
Beginning, Ending, Starting, Losing

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