Hello Everyone! I’ve decided to try something new for this post. I just finished making a fleece blanket for Darling Daughter to take with her when she leaves (this weekend! eep!) for her freshman year of college. The tee shirts from her high school plays have special meaning to her, but she wasn’t really interested in wearing them any more. She asked me to help her turn them into a tee shirt quilt. The problem is, I’m not a quilter, and given my obsessive tendencies high standards I knew I was going to end up really, really REALLY frustrated if I tried to turn myself into one a week before I had to have the project done. So this turned out to be more of a tee shirt blanket. Since my online research didn’t turn up anything quite like this, I thought I would share my process with you. So here goes — my first tutorial!

STEP 1: FIGURE OUT HOW BIG THE BLANKET IS GOING TO BE. I started out thinking I would cut each tee shirt image to the same size and space them evenly. So let’s see (mutter mutter) . . .

origin_418180402hPhoto credit: Clay Shonkwiler. https://www.flickr.com/photos/shonk/418180402//418180402/

. . . six shirts . . . front and back of each . . . the image on this one is 8″ x 12″, so multiply that by 12 . . . okay . . . but wait, this one is 9″ x 14″, so it’s going to have to be bigger. . . I guess we have to figure out which image is the biggest and cut them all that size . . . (wow — Grease had a HUGE cast and crew!) . . . okay, so 18″ x 14″, multiply that by 12, plus 2″ in between the blocks . . . hmmm . . . plus the borders . . .Aaaaaand it looks like this blanket is going to be big enough to cover a small SUV.

Ummmmm . . . maybe another approach is warranted.

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What I ended up doing was cutting out each image according to its own size. Each one was different. Then I played around with arrangements until I had something pleasing.

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I measured the whole assemblage, adding another 12″ or so for the borders, to get a general idea of how much fleece I would need. I ended up using 2 yards.

STEP 2: STABILIZE THE IMAGES WITH FUSIBLE INTERFACING. This will stabilize the tee shirt knit so it doesn’t get all pulled out of shape while you work on it. You don’t need anything fancy here — just the cheap Pellon stuff. Now, I don’t use fusibles very often, but when I do, I have found that regardless of whether I cut the fusible and the fabric separately or at the same time, they never seem to come out quite the same. Something always shifts and the two pieces almost-but-not-exactly line up. So here is how I’ve learned to do it instead:

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Cut the interfacing a little bit larger than the image (that’s my printed ironing board cover showing through the interfacing at the top of the photo — next time I’ll cover it with something solid so the picture isn’t so confusing!)

Now “baste” the interfacing to the fabric by pressing a hot iron in the center of the fabric and  working your way out toward the edges. Pick up (don’t slide) the iron each time you move it. Don’t go the whole way to the edges. Just get pretty close. Oh, and be sure to use a pressing cloth — the iron can melt the tee shirt image if you put it directly on it. Now cut off the excess interfacing right along the edges of the fabric:

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See? Now they line up perfectly! Finish fusing the interfacing:

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Check for bubbles on the back side where it didn’t fuse properly:

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No worries — just iron it again from the back (using your pressing cloth of course — that stuff will make an unholy mess on your iron if you don’t!)

STEP 3: FINISH THE EDGES OF THE IMAGES. You’re going to turn the edges under by about 1/4″ and stitch them in place. But first, cut a little wedge off each corner. (This will make a miter on the back when you turn the edges under) :

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Don’t cut off too much — it should look about like this:

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Don’t bother trying to press the edges under. Just turn them with your fingers as you go:

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When you come to a corner, lower the needle into the fabric, raise the presser foot:

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And turn the piece so you can do the next side:

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Manipulating the fabric at the corners can be pretty fiddly. I use a chopstick to help get everything lined up and hold it in place while I put in the first few stitches:

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STEP 4: PLACE THE IMAGES ON THE FLEECE. Lay everything out flat (You’ll probably have to do it on the floor unless your blanket is really small or your sewing table is really big).

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Get everything exactly where you want it, then turn each image partway back and temporarily hold it in place with spray adhesive:

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Don’t use too much — just a light mist in the middle of the piece should be fine. All you are doing is keeping the image from moving until you can stitch it. Now hand baste each piece:

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Yeah, I know — you probably hate hand-basting, but believe me, pins are NOT going to stay in place when you get this thing on the sewing machine and start manipulating it. (Ask me how I know!) Go ahead and use your fastest, ugliest, longest running stitches. It won’t take as long as you think it will.

You know the next step, right?

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Yep. Put it on the machine and stitch it. I usually lengthen my stitches a little bit when I work with fleece.

STEP 5: FINISH THE EDGES. There are a number of ways to finish the edges of a fleece blanket. I’m always overdoing things, so instead of just turning the edges under or cutting a simple fringe, I naturally chose to do a so-called “braided” edge (which is really more of a chain-stitched edge). Here’s how I did it:

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Cut off the selvages. Mark a piece of masking tape at 3/4″ intervals and stick it on the fleece 2″ from the edge. The masking tape doesn’t have the run the whole length of the blanket. I used a piece that was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8″ long. Cut fringes up to the marks on the tape. (I didn’t photograph this part, but I have faith that you can figure it out!) When you get to your last mark, just move the tape over and keep going. When you’ve moved it so many times that all the sticky is gone from the back of the tape, make another one.

When you have fringed all around the blanket, cut a little slit near the end of each piece:

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So it looks like this:

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Bend a paper clip into a little loop. Stick the loop through the slit in a piece of fringe (it doesn’t matter where on the blanket you start):

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Now grab the end of the next piece of fringe with the loop:

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And pull it back through the slit in the first piece of fringe:

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Now stick the loop through the slit in the piece you have just pulled through, and grab the end of the next piece. Then do the same thing to the next piece. Keep doing this — you are chain-stitching the pieces of fringe together:

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Go the whole way around the blanket. When you get to the corners you can cut off a few of the fringes to keep it from getting bulky. When you get back to where you started, cut the last fringe open and stick it through the first one:

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Then hand-stitch it closed again.


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Now Darling Daughter can take all her theatre friends to college with her!

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(But TJ would really prefer that she not go away at all!)