Been there, Done That, Got the T-shirt… How I turned them into a quilt

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Working at camp. Bungy jumping. University. Canada. New Zealand. My Sister’s University.  Learning to surf in Australia. Gifts from family and friends. As I remember my dear dad always saying, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt!” I quickly came to the conclusion I had too many t-shirts.15 t-shirts in total. Some of them up to 8 years old. They were worn out, faded, stinky in the armpits and taking up precious space in my far too over-crowded t-shirt drawer. I couldn’t bear to think of their fate when the time comes to hit the road again. I didn’t even wear these blimin’ things, but I couldn’t just get rid of these memories. Oh the dilemma!

It wasn’t the t-shirt itself that I loved, it was the stories that went with all of them. Each t-shirt was its own page in my life – so why not put these together into a ‘BOOK’!? Then the stories would all be kept in one convenient location. But if would be even more useful if that book were cozy and warm to keep you warm on those chilly winter nights or round a campfire. A quilt!

I’m BRILLIANT I tell you. Sometimes.

Insert my momma’s arts and crafts gene here. Wait, I learned in high school that skipped me completely.

Confession:  I hadn’t actually ever touched a sewing machine before. Sure, I’d watched my ever-so-talented mother just whip up alterations for my bridesmaid dress and I’d spent heaps of time with my equally talented grandmother as she quilted with her friends, when I was a kid.

In my mind, those two experiences alone must give me 2 clues to rub together, right?

I consulted ye old google for some concrete ‘how to’ tips, and low and behold, sadly it wasn’t very helpful. Not for what I was looking for anyways.

(Sidenote: This mission occurred in April – prior to Pinterest inspiring my creativity)

First time I think Ihad ironed
in the 3YEARS I lived in NZ!

Here’s what I needed:

-old t-shirts or material
-batting if you like (I wanted to make it nice and cozy)
-stick pins

-a sewing machine
My ‘how to guide’ that I didn’t find on Google:

-I measured out squares on my tshirts, trying to include the main writing/memories in that square.
-I wanted my squares to be 30×30 cm and a bit extra for frayed seams, so I made 36×36 cm squares and marked them with vivid.
-I ironed each t-shirt and then cut it out.
-I cut out my batting 30x30cm, so that I’d know how big the squares would be.
-I cut and used the front and back of each t-shirt.
-I used stick pins to pin the front of the tshirt to the batting and then matched up the back as well.
I made a practice piece, as I had never ever used a sewing machine before and wanted to work out the kinks before the real deal. It wasn’t pretty.
Feeling pretty chuffed! I did it!

Problems I encountered as an amature:
- I bought WAY too much batting.
-the needle came unthreaded and I didn’t notice or know how to put it back in (when all else fails, consult the instruction manual)
-the needle was stuck down and the peddle wouldn’t bring it back up. (Sidenote, there is a knob on the side that moves – duh?)

Whoops, those should be attached.
Thread in the needle usually helps this process.
Bobbin – the bane of my existance in this project.
Building my quilt in blocks
Problem – I was addicted and wanted to finish
BUT it was too nice of a day to sit inside.
This ways my solution!
I left my amateur mark :S
C’est Fini! Ths is my finished product, my cumulation of memories.
 Upon completion, I’ve since decided that having it only 3 shirts wide, is not wide enough.

The beauty of this little creation is that I can continually add on to it as I gather more memorable but useless t-shirts (and other material items if i so see fit). It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s mine, I’m proud of it and cherish it all the same.

What creative things do you do with all your old souvenirs or old memories??

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Erik Smith September 17, 2012, 6:16 pm

    What a great idea! I’ve never done anything that creative- I have tons of small souvenirs in boxes in my basement- I pull them out every once in a while to look at them. My wife asks why I need to keep all of this stuff and I tell her it’s so they have plenty of stuff for my museum when they open it :-)

    Seriously, though, someday I hope to find the perfect display case then I can display all of them.

  • CanucKiwiKate September 18, 2012, 4:13 am

    Thanks, Erik! I’ve been quite inconsistent in buying the same thing from every place – but Thom and I have started collecting a piece of artwork from different countries – looks quite cool around the house!

    A museum is a great idea!

  • Neil Barnes October 25, 2012, 11:01 am

    Genius! I was going to throw mine out, now I have a plan for them.

    • Clarkek March 9, 2013, 8:39 pm

      Yes! This is awesome Neil, I can’t wait to see how yours turns out – you must post a photo when it’s finished (please)!

      Good luck on your mission

  • Jo March 9, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Hey Kate, just this very day I have sorted through my t -shirts from way back in 1997 and like you I never wear, but unable to discard the memories… so I put them in a neat little bag at the top of the robe thinking one day I’ll write a post about them all.

    Nec Minute – VIOILA I found your post and all because Caz Makepeace liked your post about selling your ‘useless crap’! Isn’t it funny how we find each other? To me you will be the t – shirt quilt girl!

    • Clarkek March 9, 2013, 8:37 pm

      Hi Jo!
      This is amazing, I love stories like this! The world is such a small place, so funny how things work out like that!
      PS LOVE the nec minute!

      Can’t wait to see your finished product – I’ve just found a bunch more that I need to add on to mine, after my big clean out.

      Good Luck!


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