It Started with a Turtle

When I received Samantha’s shirts for a t-shirt quilt, her mother Tammy asked me to make a large turtle in the middle of the quilt. She included a picture of a gorgeous turtle as a template, explaining that Samantha loved turtles. What soon became evident looking at her t-shirts was that Samantha not only loved turtles but also water, swimming, and in fact anything to do with the sea or being in the water.

Detail of seascape t-shirt quilt

Detail of Samantha’s Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

I did make the turtle, but the turtle soon became part of a seascape rather the sole inhabitant.

Asking Permission

After making the turtle, I tackled the issue of exactly what to do with the turtle. Tammy had included some earlier blocks that she had made from some of Samantha’s earlier t-shirts. They were darker than her newer t-shirts, which were lively and colorful. All of a sudden I saw them as an ocean bed, with sea inhabitants floating or swimming all around them. I asked Tammy if I could play around with the logos and do something different. She was a sport and told me to go ahead.

Bottom half of seascape t-shirt quilt

Bottom half of Samantha’s Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

Something Different

First off, I procured a background that resembled “the sea”. Then I took every one of the t-shirts and figured out how to make each one a “sea inhabitant”. Some of the creatures I invented, like the turtle, were self-evident whereas others were more generic.

Jellyfish and unknown fish appearing in Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

Jellyfish and unknown fish details in Samantha’s Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

Construction Tips

I’ve always loved applique, but the initial challenge was how to design the scene, how to make the images appear to flow with the current, exactly how to attach each creature in place, and how to make it permanent. It wasn’t a drawing, after all.

  • I have a huge design wall which made the first two phases fun and easy. But before I did anything, I stabilized each logo with Easy Knit and attached glue to the back.
  • I played around with each creature, pinning it in place against the fabric ‘sea wall’ when I was happy with the result.
  • Then I ironed each item in place carefully, using a ironing sheet to protect the pieces.
  • Finally I appliqued the entire brood of sea creatures for permanance.

Completion of Quilt

Using a wave pattern, I quilted the patchwork on my long-arm machine. I bound it and attached a label on the back, an inspiring dedication written by Tammy.

Label for Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

Label for Samantha’s Seascape T-Shirt Quilt

The best news of all was that Samantha loved her quilt.