Monday, August 20, 2012

T-Shirt Quilt of Robin's years in Odyssey of the Mind

My son Robin has participated in Odyssey of the Mind (an international problem-solving competition) every year since he was in sixth grade.  This last year, his senior year of high school, he originally opted not to form a team due to the fact that he was not going to be able to attend World Finals (he and several of his teammates were all elected class officers, and the class officers speak at graduation, so he really felt he should be there to graduate with the class...and of course World Finals was the exact same time as graduation.)  At the last minute, however, he and Mason and Madi threw together a team and had a blast creating one last OM solution.

After graduation, I gathered up all the old OM t-shirts I could find (digging through teenage boy detritus, YUCK!) and started my first-ever effort at piecing a quilt.
Laying out the shirts on the guest bed

Here are a few things I learned during the process.

1.  It is a good idea (but does add to the cost) to iron on fusible interfacing to the shirts.  Use your Hobby Lobby 40% coupons to buy yards and yards of it.  When the instructions say "launder the shirts without fabric softener for better adhesion," go ahead and run a load of shirts through the washer.  It's one extra step that should make things much easier.

2.  Cut each shirt bigger than you think you will need at first, then completely cover the piece with interfacing.  This isn't the time to attempt frugality - it's better to cut off some of the square later than to try to deal with not enough interfacing on a piece or too small a piece or not enough room for seam allowances.  Some tutorials will tell you to cut all the shirts the same size.  I disagree.  This tutorial ( was super helpful and showed how to create 3 columns and then add a top row and a bottom row.  Her instructions helped me to figure out the best layout for this quilt, which included some smaller pieces and some larger pieces.

3.  The cats will want to help.  They really aren't much help.  In fact, (don't tell them I said this) they actually were sort of in the way most of the time.  In the photo above you can see Gus testing out the quilt backing while it was taped to the floor.

And here's Izzy getting ready to roll around in the batting.  Oh, look, Gus wants to play, too.  Sigh.

4.  Work from the center.  Once you have your backing taped right-side-down and your batting smoothed and cut to the correct size, you lay the top of the quilt on top and start pinning through all the layers with safety pins (from the center, smoothing and working out to the edges.)  Again, the cats wanted badly to help but just couldn't (something about their lack of opposable thumbs.)  In these pictures you can see several places where I added extra pieces of fabric to the piece of the shirts I cut too small.  All of the fabric on the front of the quilt was actually used by Robin's team at one time for costumes or sets.

The striped fabric in the lower right corner was from the Mother Time illusion - it's a crazy fabric that makes you dizzy to look at it!

The fabric on the back of the quilt was collected surreptitiously by me over the last two years, chosen to  represent the solutions Robin's team created each year.  For instance, one year (pictured below) they depicted a scientist who found a wormhole in an apple which acted as a portal to other universes, so there is a square of fabric with apples on it, and a square with sheep to remind us of the "ewe-niverse" (and the hundreds of hours the kids spent making "sheep rolls" of newspaper for Robin's sheep costume).

FOURTH PLACE at World Finals 2010!

Another piece of fabric has Easter Island heads on it; two years ago this team made walking, talking Olmec heads (almost life-sized and the coolest thing ever.)

Billy and Joel, the Olmec frat boys, walk to the competition area.

5.  Finally, no matter whether you are completely happy with the results or can point out lots of "mistakes" in the construction, a labor of love is always appreciated.

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