Thursday, 7 March 2013

getting shirty (work in progress)

At the back end of last year I had an idea for a quilt.  I was inspired by Morwhenna Woolcock’s lovely screen-printed bags made from recycled men’s shirts and by the memory of a quilt I had seen in a book many years ago.  So I put out a call to the men in my family for their cast off shirts and I also went hunting in charity shops.  Charity shop shirts are surprisingly expensive when all you’re planning to do with them is chop them up!  I asked a couple of times whether they had a stash of shirts that weren’t good enough to go out on the racks, but I always seemed to have turned up the day after the ragman had been!   It’s ironic that buying brand new fabric might have been less expensive, but the important point about this project is to re-use and at least my money was ending up with a charity.

Last week it seemed like time to make some progress, so I set about cutting up my pile of old shirts (“pre-loved” as the saying goes!).  It felt almost sacrilegious; men’s shirts – even the cheap and cheerful brands – are amazingly well-made and constructed to last.  I chopped off cuffs, collars, yokes, button bands and ended up with rectangles of cotton, polycotton and linen from backs, fronts and sleeves and a whole tangle of discarded pieces.  Surely there’s something I can still do with those!

A little bit of play with my harvested fabrics made me realise that the lovely blues and greys of my chosen shirts were a little bit pale and bland when viewed en masse, so I had another shopping session and came back with a couple of shirts that had red in the pattern. This was better, but still worryingly dull. I like borders on quilts, they provide a sort of frame for the patchwork within, but I had been hoping that this could be a really simple quilt just pieced together in large pieces, with maybe a bit of contrast colour in the binding. However, as I laid out the pieces and looked at them it came to me that one of the reasons that traditional quilts often have a contrasting inner border is that if a quilt is draped over a bed the binding is largely invisible.

Fortunately this was design on the hoof and I pieced together an inner square and Ruth’s fabric stash yielded some plain red fabric. It’s fantastic what a splash of contrasting colour can do to bring the whole thing together and give it a bit of excitement. I'll try to bring some decent photos to the blog when I've finished it. I've left some pockets in place (for little notes or treasures) and it's going to have quite a few buttons added as the quilt "ties".


  1. Yes! The red really brings it together - it looks great!
    I would enjoy a shirt-cuff bracelet if you're looking for things to do with the cast-offs!

  2. Love it! The red border definitely pulls it all together nicely. x

  3. Love it. I always aspire to using recycled fabrics, but the time taken to find enough to get going on a quilt puts me off. Will try harder!

  4. I'm in awe of anyone who can make a quilt. I mean, it involves sewing, sewing something big. Love the pop of red and the pockets.

  5. Missed this! I can't wait to see the finished thing!!