Sunday, March 29, 2020

How To Tie A Quilt

Tied Quilts

Tied quilts are an old tried and true method of holding the 3-layers together to make a quilt. While I have quilts from both my grandmother and two of my great-grandmothers - my mom only 'tied' her quilts. What? My mom wanted to get quilt finished! The fastest way to get a quilt finished is to 'tie' the quilt.

My first few quilts were hand-quilted. My youngest daughter figured out pretty soon that to get her quilt done 'in her lifetime' was to have it tied. I hate to admit, but as a beginning quilter I did most things 'wrong'. Well, wrong as in my grandmother wouldn't have done it that way- LOL.

With Lindsey's blue and yellow spool quilt, I did all the cool piecing, added borders, but then to finish it up in a timely manner, I used Yellow Polyester Yarn to do the ties. Hey, it is now 30+ years later, and while the fabrics have faded a bit, but the quilt is totally intact and will last another 30 -70 years. What more could you ask?

You can tie together the layers of your quilt sandwich instead of quilting it. I confess, I’’m not a big fan of tying, but it does have its uses, and a certain old-fashioned charm that can make a quilt extra special.

Tying is not as durable at holding the layers together as quilting, so take extra care when washing the quilt not to stress and stretch it. Tying can also be hard on your hands, so take breaks if you are working on a large project.


Use a heavyweight thread, such as pearl cotton or embroidery floss, and a heavy needle such as a sharp-tip tapestry needle. If you do a lot of tying, there are some curved needles on the market that are well worth the investment. The curve makes it easy to take the stitch to the back and front in one move. As noted above, my first tied quilt I used cheapo yarn and it holds up well.

Check the batting specs to see how closely it needs to be secured, and plan on placing your knots at least that close together. Baste the layers together just as described for quilting. You can hand baste, but I always pin baste because I can do that faster. When tying a quilt, the knots can be made either on the front of the quilt or on the back——it’’s completely up to you. If you don’’t want them to show, knot from the back. If you want the ties to enhance the quilt, knot them on the front.

Start at the center of the quilt and take a small stitch, about ¼" long, through all the layers. (Some quilters will take two stitches, one on top of the other). Leave about a 2" tail. Pull the thread through and cut it, leaving another 2" tail.

TIP: If your ties are at least 4" apart, you don’’t have to cut the thread before you move on to the next tie. Just let the thread float over the quilt top to the next tie location. After all of the ties have been stitched, carefully cut the thread halfway between each tie, and then make your knots.

Make a square knot (right over left and under—; left over right and under) or a surgeon’’s knot. A surgeon’’s knot is just like a square knot except you make one more wrap at each step. Trim the tie ends if they seem too long.

A decorative option would be to insert a button in all or some of the ties. The button can be on the side of the quilt with the knot (my preference) or on the backside. The knots are made the same way whether you add buttons or not. I would not do this on baby or young child quilts, if possibility they might chew on the buttons.

Shadywood Quilts have been in business for over 20 years. We are happy to help you finish your quilt project. For more information about having a quilt professionally finished, just contact us and ask your questions.

What is Longarm Quilting

What is Longarm Machine Quilting?

Domestic vs. Longarm Machines

Domestic Sewing Machine – This is the sewing machine that you would use at home for regular sewing (& maybe embroidery). The head** is stationary, and you move the fabric when sewing or quilting.

Quilt being quilted on a longarm machine
Elephant quilt being quilted. Parts of a longarm quilting machine

Longarm Machine – An industrial type sewing machine where the ‘head’ moves instead of being stationary. The machine head** is moved from one side to the other while stitching (head moves, fabric stationary).

How does a Longarm Quilting Machine work?

A longarm machine consists of a sewing machine head, fabric rollers, a worktable and a heavy-duty frame (usually metal, but can be wood). The fabric sandwich is loaded in three steps (backing, batting then the top).
Roller Bars: Two bars hold the top and bottom edge of the quilt backing. An optional third bar holds the bottom edge of a quilt top

Longarm quilting
         Longarm quilting

The sewing HEAD** is generally an industrial type sewing machine. Doesn’t do any fancy stitches, doesn’t do reverse. It just SEWS. And it sews FAST! After the quilt sandwich is loaded, the quilter will ‘quilt’ the three layers together just like any other quilt. The difference is that it is done much more quickly than doing it on a domestic machine where you are moving the entire quilt sandwich.
    • Pantograph quilting – Start from one side of the quilt, and quilt (sew) a fixed pattern from one side to the other. The amount of quilting that gets done is based on the throat size* of the machine. Pantograph Patterns
    • Custom quilting – Specific quilting based on the piecing.  Such as quilting in or around blocks and borders.

Parts of the Machine

*Throat Size – The throat on a short-arm or domestic machine is usually 9 inches or less. Longarm machines will have anywhere from 16″ to 30″ of throat space.
**Head – The complete sewing machine without the frame or table is called the Head. The Head of the machine has two main parts:
      • Arm– The upper part of the head which may be curved or straight that contains the mechanism for driving the needle and handling the upper thread is called Arm.
      • Bed– The flat part of the head under which the lower thread mechanism, shuttle and feed dog are mounted. It forms the base of the machine.
Depending on the quilter and their setup, quilting operation may be done manually, or run by a computer, which can quilt designs automatically and with more precision.  At Shadywood Quilts/T-Shirt Quilts of Texas, we use an Intelliquilter computer to guide the head of our Gammill longarm.

What is the difference between quilting and sewing?

Quilting is the process of sewing the three layers of the quilt sandwich together.  The process of piecing the top and backing of the quilt is sewing.

What is the purpose of quilting?

The purpose of quilting is to both secure the three layers of the quilt sandwich so that it does not shift over time and to provides a decorative element to the finished project. Traditionally, quilting stitches are made with a neutral colored thread or in colors to match the fabric.

What are quilting stitches?

longarm machine quilting
longarm machine quilting pantograph.

Quilting is another form of sewing, where three layers of the quilt sandwich are stitched together. The batting (middle layer) determines how dense the quilting should be. Todays batting is usually a blend of cotton and polyester (80% cotton/20% polyester) which adds strength to the batting and isn’t necessary to quilt as densely as if using 100% cotton.

Can quilting be done on a domestic sewing machine?

Yes, free motion quilting can be done on a regular sewing machine. What is important to note is that you will need the ability to lower or disengage your feed dogs*. On most machines this is a lever or switch found of the side or back of your machine.
*Feed dog: It is a small device of a domestic machine where the teeth that carry the material backward as it is being stitched. It moves upward as the machine is operated, the material advances as each stitch is made.

What kind of thread do you use for machine quilting?

Signature OMNI Thread
High Quality Signature Brand OMNI Thread for machine quilting.

For most quilting on a domestic sewing machine, a 40-weight cotton thread is an excellent choice. Because the 40 weight cotton thread is heavier than the finer 50 weight cotton thread, quilting stitches will show up more easily on the quilt. 
Shadywood Quilts has been in business since 2001.  Let us help you finish your heirloom quilt!

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

You Did WHAT With my T-Shirts?

You Did WHAT With my T-Shirts?

10 Biggest Mistakes In Creating A T-Shirt Quilt 

T-Shirt quilts are a work of art. They are the scrapbook you can sleep under. You have a drawer full or a box of treasured tee shirts that you have been collecting over the years. Maybe they are school, sports or vacation shirts.

You've heard about t-shirt quilts but don't have any idea about how to get one made.
There are SO many t-shirt quilt/blanket makers out there. (More on difference between a quilt and a blanket) There are good t-shirt quilts and the not-so-good results.

Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by the non-professionals, and even some professionals.

Be sure to ask your quilt-maker lots of questions and ask to view examples of their work.

Workmanship - there are so many aspects to good workmanship.

  • - Do the seams run straight?
  • - Are there tucks in the seams?
  • - Are there holes or missed stitches in the seams?
  • - T-shirts all inserted in the same manner (up and down and not sideways)

Look closely at the photos, and you can tell if the quilt-maker takes care when creating your quilt.
T Shirts cut out in random sizes - T-shirts come in all shapes and sizes. Are the logos of the shirt centered, or just whacked off? Sometimes you will see a bit of the collar in the block. That is fine, and I'll bet the image is centered in the block.

Cheap Materials - Cheap quilts = Cheap materials. Just a fact. In order for a quiltmaker to offer cheap quilts, they have to skimp somewhere. Usually, this is in the materials used. Don't go for the solid colored fabrics, fleece, or other polyester fabrics. Ask if the quilt maker used 'quilt shop quality' fabrics.

Shirts are not stabilized

Some quilters skimp on this important part of your quilt. How old ARE those t-shirts? Is there wear and maybe a few little holes from years of use? A GOOD stabilizer will also add life and many more years of use to those most-loved t-shirts. Don't let your quilt-maker whack your beloved tshirts into tiny bits of fabric that have no relevance to the theme of the quilt. (read more about Order vs. Chaos).

Cheap Batting

Thicker and fluffier is not better! The really thick (high loft) battings are usually made of 100% Polyester. This equates to being HOT to sleep under as polyester does not 'breathe'. You want a quality batting that is at least 80% cotton. Some polyester is OK, as it helps the batting hold together. All cotton battings will not hold up to multiple launderings.

Seam intersections not matching

When four corners meet. it should be perfect. Many times when there is no stabilizer, the t-shirts are stretched and don't match up. Intersections should be flat and not forming 'volcanoes' (quilters technical term for those lumpy intersections). Read more about quilty technical terms.

Poor design layout

Whether traditionally pieced or random/chaos pieced. If the layout is not pleasing, you won't be happy with the quilt. You won;t understand 'why' you don't like it, you just know that it does not 'look right'. A professional quilter will have experience and an eye for layout. This only comes with experience. More about Traditional quilts vs. Random Quilts.

No sashing or Cornerstones

Sashings and cornerstones are an important part of creating a flat and even quilt. The sashing adds stability to the t-shirts, and the cornerstones, while adding a nice design element helps make sure the rows and columns all line up in a straight lines.

Not Quilted

What is holding the layers of your quilt together? Tying? - not a good option as it is usually too far apart to hold the quilt layers together for the long haul. You want to be able to cuddle, drag around and launder this quilt for YEARS to come. Professional quilting adds a pleasing all-over design to the quilt that does not take away from the t-shirts, but adds that finishing touch that makes you know you have a quality quilt.

Not finished properly

Binding is the term for that outer fabric covering the raw edges of the quilt. This is just as important as the other elements of YOUR quality memory t-shirt quilt. Some quilts/blankets just roll the backing up and over the outer edge to cover the raw edges. The really cheap blankets just do what is called the 'pillowcase' method as they literally just sew around the outside edges and call it good.

You can still have a quilt made with high quality materials, but if the maker is not skilled, you will still have a disappointing quilt. Please do your research, and find out how many quilts your potential quilt-maker has actually made. Make sure you the t-shirt quilt you get is one you will be proud of.
To learn more about having a quilt made from your tee shirts, download our free T-Shirt Quilt Buyer's Guide. Learn about what to look for when you are ordering a t-shirt quilt.

Back to Resource Page

T-Shirt Quilts of Texas is a full service professional business that can help you complete your quilt at most any stage. We also 'fix' quilts made by non-professionals. If you get started, and don't feel you are going to be able to complete your quilt. Take pictures of your quilt in process, email it to us, and we can let you know if we can help you get it finished.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Is a Professional Making YOUR T-Shirt Quilt?

Is a Professional Making YOUR T-Shirt Quilt? 

Not All T-Shirt Quilt Makers are Created The Same 

WHAT? Some companies (or crafters) actually send their quilt projects off-site while their customers think that their special tees will stay at the place they mailed them. In many cases, the quilt-maker is sub-contracting some or part of the quilt process. Maybe they are piecing the quilt top, then sending it to someone else to quilt it. This happens because this place is NOT a professional business.

A professional t-shirt quilt maker is making your quilt start to finish. They have the equipment. They have the materials. They have the employees. They are not farming out any work to someone else. This happens for several reasons; see my post on Who Is Making Your T-Shirt Quilt. Look for a company that will complete your quilt 'in house' and reduce the risk of sending your treasured tees to someone else.

How does this affect your quilt?

Find out if your quilt-maker is actually making your entire quilt. There are several things to consider.

You send your tees to the quilt-maker. You should expect that they stay 'on-site' and not sent to another location. (This is different than a company having employees who work on your quilt.)

Using sub-contractors involve additional time and cost for the person making your quilt/blanket. A professional business will give you a price up front and there should be no surprises in the final cost.

A specific turn-around date. Industry norm is 4 to 6 weeks. Anything longer than that, should give you concern that the quilt maker is in over their head. (Ours is 4-6 weeks even during peak seasons - we just work the extra hours to get everything done)

Will a sub-contractor take the same care that a professional will give to your tshirts?

Does your quilt maker have business insurance?

What Questions You Should be Ask Your T-Shirt Quilt Company?

  • Once my shirts arrive, do you ever send them off-site? Where is this off site (i.e. a neighbor or mailing it off somewhere).
  • What is their quilting experience? How many years in business?
  • Do they have business insurance to cover your project?
  • Do you use subcontractors or full time employees? 
  • Should You Risk Sending Your T-Shirts to a Quilt-Maker That Uses Sub-Contractors (or friends)? 

Ask yourself why your quilt project is being sent off site… Is it because they don't have the skills or equipment to complete your job professionally? Are your shirts being sent to a buddy to work on? Are they professionals? Are they doing this as a hobby?

At Shadywood Quilts we make all of our quilts in house. We have experienced employees that will work on your quilt and give you a quilt that you will treasure for a lifetime.