Bad Quilt – Done!

My customer came and picked up her quilt yesterday. I think she was impressed with it but not overwhelmed by the quilting. She did say it turned out better than she thought it would. I think she was relieved that the quilt was done. Her daughter, who the quilt was for, came also and she liked the quilt!

I have had some emails about wanting to know how I worked on the quilt step by step. So, here is what I did –

I realized that nothing was straight on the quilt and, with no backing on the t-shirts, there would be a TON of stretching of the fabrics, so putting the quilt on my machine (Gammill Classic Plus) in my usual way would not work.

I took the quilt, backing and batting, to my daughter’s house and laid the whole quilt out flat on her front room floor and pin basted the quilt togehter. Fortunately, the backing fabric was relatively straight along the top and bottom edges.

Before I pin basted the quilt, I took some photos – this is the wrong side of the quilt top. (click on the photo for a larger view) Note the seam allowances and the hems on the t-shirts!


My daughter (who is six months pregnant) helped me position the quilt top on the batting and backing, but I got on my hands and knees and pinned basted the pieces together. (Thank you modern medical science and my orthopedic surgeon for hip replacements.)

Here is a photo of the quilt after pin basting.


When I put the quilt on my machine, I pinned the top and bottom of the backing fabric to the appropriate rollers and then rolled the quilt onto the backing roller.

The quilt top was so heavy and so stretchy that I couldn’t even float the quilt top.

When the quilt was on the machine and rolled up on the backing roller, it was so thick that the safety pins kept getting caught in my vertical channel lock. I had to put painters tape over the channel lock to keep it from catching on the pins. After I did a couple of  “roll ups” the pins didn’t catch anymore.

I was able to stitch a horizontal channel lock line across the top of the quilt, dragging my thread across the thick seams. When I did the stitching, I had to start and stop in each block and I changed thread to match the fabric. I did a medium to larger stipple – that was about all I could do in the space available.

I worked my way to the bottom of the quilt and did another horizontal channel lock line at the bottom. I had at least a straight line at the top and bottom of the quilt.

I took the quilt off the machine, turned it (I did NOT trim it yet) and then re-pinned it to the machine. I then did a horizontal channel lock line at the (new) top and (new) bottom. These channel lock lines gave me a pretty accurate trimming line on all four sizes.

Now I had to work on the binding. At this point the quilt was starting to look almost good! (I have photos on the previous post.) For the binding, I decided to make a 2 inch binding, which would act like a border for the quilt. I used a marbled black fabric and applied the binding with my home sewing machine.  Once the binding was on, the quilt was finished!

Here is a photo of the finished quilt.


The quilt was so big and heavy I couldn’t put it on my clothesline, I had to lay it on the ground!

To reward myself I got a Grande Mocha Frappachino at Starbucks and quilted an American Hero Quilt!

With all the challenges this quilt presented, I am glad that I did it. I know that this quilt will be loved and used for a long time.

Thank you for everyone who sent their stories of their worst quilts, I enjoyed reading them and knowing that I was not alone.

If you are a new quilter, just starting out on your professional machine quilting journey, this is not normal, but it does happen from time to time. There are lessons to be learned and I will write about them in the next few  posts.

About Cindy Roth
Mother of 3, Grandmother of 10 and quilting forever!

16 Responses to Bad Quilt – Done!

  1. Cindy, Way to go! And especially thanks for the blow-by-blow description of your quilting process. It was very helpful.

  2. Marlette Louisin says:

    Double kudos to you, Cindy!! When you said you kneeled on the floor to pin it the first thing I thought of were your hips. Yay for science, technology and medicine!

    A CA quilter made a 2 sided T-shirt quilt as a gift for my younger brother as he was dying from colon cancer at age 48. The shirts were sent to her by members of his online KTM motorcycle group. I have never been able to find her to thank her for the beautiful and meaningful gift. She had also photo transferred a couple of pictures of him with his bike and with his wife at Yosemite. Each photo block had a machine embroidered Bible verse on it as well.
    He was a devout Christian so that would mean a lot to him.
    The quilt was delivered in person by 2 bikers from Canada. He lived in N. KY! We hung it on a large coat rack at the funeral home 5 days later. He died the morning after it was delivered.

    Some T-shirt quilts are beautiful and full of love, even for someone you only know through the internet. This one surely was!

    Thanks Cindy for all your encouragement and for letting me share my story. Perhhaos someone will read it and know who this wonderful quilter is.
    Marty NE OH

  3. Linda Spence says:

    My hat’s off to you, Cindy! I know I would not have been sane after doing one like this. I AM curious as to why you felt the need to match thread colors to each block. Seems to me that a neutral, tan, or grey would have worked throughout and would have eliminated a lot of bother.

    • Cindy Roth says:

      I really didn’t want to change threads as much as I did, but, when I started working on the quilt, the contrast (beige thread on black fabric, grey thread on white, etc.) was too much. I do love working with contrasting threads, but, for this quilt, I felt contrasting thread would be too much. What I did do is this – whatever color of thread I had on the machine, I quilted as many blocks with it that I could within my work space. Since I had pin basted the quilt, I could move it back and forth a bit to get to more blocks or parts of blocks that were under the rollers.

  4. Cheryl says:

    You were brave to take this on. Without stabilizer it is a challenge. My t-shirt quilt story is one that was two sided- two full t-shirt quilts with stabilizer on both sides. I was afraid that it would throw the timing off it was so thick- but after slow careful meandering it worked.

  5. Teresa Boi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the process you took. I was wondering why you decided to change the thread color with each shirt?

  6. You are a miracle worker!

  7. Honey De Armond says:

    Hi Cindy,

    You did a wonderful job on the “bad quilt”; I am not sure I would have been brave enough to take on that job. I also make t-shirt quilts and I would like to know if I can use your photo on my website to show how not to sew a t-shirt quilt.

    Thank you again for all your posts. They really give great information and I read and appreciate every single one.

    Happy Quilting,

    Honey De Armond

  8. Honey says:

    Great job! I think a shot of tequila would be in order after finishing. You saved that quilt, and I’m certain the owner will cherish it for many years.

  9. Wonderful job. Lessons learned, too. With the wavy seams looks like the Gees Bend quilts. And, most importantly, it will be loved, “My MOM made it for me!”

  10. Sherry says:

    It really turned out nice. She will really enjoy that forever.

  11. judithb59 says:

    I hope I never have to deal with one like this! I couldn’t do as good.

  12. Patricia Nieman says:

    Thanks for telling us how you accomplished the whole process. Hopefully I won’t ever need to deal with one like this, but I will remember how you handled it.

  13. Kay says:

    Thanks for sharing the process. I can see how complicated it was. Looking forward to what you learned in this process.

  14. Dot Younginer says:

    You did well!

  15. Monica Huffman says:

    AMAZING! Good job!

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