Ask Jo: Shirts and Barn Quilts

Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to.  That’s when I feature them on the blog.  This is one of those days.

There has been a lot of talking in the comment section of people wanting the pattern for a quilt that was featured in a recent Community Quilt post.  You can read it all HERE.

This is the quilt.  Kathleen finished the quilt.  Isn’t it so cute??  Initially I thought it was a Lori Holt quilt but I was wrong.

A kind blog reader, Janice, hunted down the patterh.  You can find the pattern HERE.  It is offered as a PDF so you can download it instantly!!

Red Barns Quilt Pattern - PDF VERSION
So cute.  I thought it was appropriate to share here as so many of you asked.

Another blog reader, Nancy, let me know that the Midnight Magic 2 fabric that I used for the background of the Halloween quilt is in stock at Fat Quarter Shop.  This is the print and you can find it HERE.

Midnight Magic 2 Ghost Tiny Stars Yardage | SKU# 24106-11
Halloween Hoopla was published in the October 2021 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting.


This is the quilt…

You might remember that this is the quilt that many of you sent fabric to me so I could make it.  There has a been an issue getting the fabric for the background in and it’s finally here.

I’m sure other shops have it in now too.  It’s called Midnight Magic II Ghost Tiny Stars if you’re looking.

Thanks Nancy for letting us know.

The other topic that was asked of me is…Once I have my 100% recycled men’s shirts destructed, how do I use it as fabric??

I took some pictures as I was cutting out a quilt and hopefully I can do some explaining.  Typically one or both sides of the shirt front have a pocket.  I cut the pocket and the fabric under the pocket piece off and put them in the crumb quilt bin.


I use these crumb pieces to make quilts like this for my grandkids as baby quilts.

Here is Gannon’s

Here is Georgia’s.

Other pieces that have gone in my crumb bin include, fabric from the cuffs and collar and any pieces that I cut off in an effort to square up the piece I’m of the shirt I am cutting…

For example, a shirt sleeve has a triangular piece that needs to be cut off to square up the sleeve so those pieces go in the crumb box…I also put the small pieces that I cut off around the placet of the shirt cuff where the opening is.

If you aren’t a crumb quilter, those pieces can be squared up and cut into squares for a strips box.

Then I take my pattern and I figure out what I need.  For this quilt, you can see the pieces that I need.  Now…what is the best way to get them from the pieces of the shirt that I have?  It’s kind of like working a puzzle.

The back is always good for long pieces….The sleeves can be too but not always depending on the sleeve length.

If possible, it isn’t in the case of this shirt, I try to cut as much as I can from everything except the back.  I love the backs as they are similar to working with a fat quarter.  If I can use up the “odd” pieces first, I consider that a win.  As I said, that wasn’t possible with this shirt as I need 10″ long pieces and couldn’t get them anyway besides cutting the back.

I square up the edge of whatever piece I pick and then start cutting strips the width I need.  For the 1 1/2″ longer strips I cut from the back…

For the 2 1/2″ x 7″ pieces I cut them from the front of the shirt below the pocket.


I cut the strips into the lengths I need.

I often cut two quilts at once when I am working with shirts.  Here I am cutting squares for a different quilt.

The reason I do this is that I’ve found I don’t love pulling out shirt pieces and cutting them.  They are kind of awkward to work with as they aren’t pretty and squared up like a fat quarter.

It’s totally worth it as I love shirt quilts…but, I don’t love pulling them out and cutting out quilts.  It’s totally doable and I don’t hate it…just don’t love it.

In light of that, I make a big effort to cut the entire shirt piece up as I pull them out to work with them.  Here you can see I have them cut up and piled into strip widths.  There are 1 1/2, 2, 2 1/2, and 3 1/2 inch piles.  All of these will go into my strip boxes.

The next time I am cutting for a quilt, I will go to the strip bins first and use what is there before I cut into new shirts…or shirts that have already been deconstructed.

Here are my scrap bins.


This is the 1 1/2″ box.


It is just a joy to me to have these bins.  When I’m ready to make a quilt all I have to do is go to the strip bin and start cutting.  It’s a chore to start these bins but once they are established, they are a joy!!

If I am able to save the backs as an uncut piece I fold them up and store them in these three drawer units.

Working with shirts can be challenging but a system is in place to use them, it isn’t hard at all.  I encourage anyone who is a quilter to have a good system for scrap use in place…or you can be like some quilters and just pass the sraps on to someone who will use them.

I hope that answers some of the questions…if you have more ask in the comment section and will answer them there.

17 thoughts on “Ask Jo: Shirts and Barn Quilts

    1. Roxanne

      Hi Mary, Jo said it was Halloween Hoopla, her design published in the October 2021 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. Such a great quilt!

      Reply
  1. Carla

    I do have a comment/ question. Around here the stores don’t have the great deals that you get. Do you think paying $5.99 for a shirt to use as fabric is more, less, or about the same as buying yardage? It’s hard for me to visualize how much fabric is in a shirt for some reason. Sorry if that is an impossibly dumb question.

    Reply
    1. Stearns Carol

      $5.99 is way too much unless its a very large shirt. Think yardage you get. Try the Salvation Army if you have one. Ours sells two shirts for $5. Or ask for a sale. Even our Goodwill here is $4 or less. We have a Waterfront mission thrift who has a .99 day for certain tag colors. That would be a great buy. You could always buy one shirt and see what you get out of it. At our Lutheran church, a member brought in 6 XXXXXL shirts and we were able to cut enough squares to make 3 quilt tops 60 by 80 alternating with solids. Used nearly all of it.

      Reply
    2. Jo Post author

      I would guess that you could get 3/4 to 1 yard of fabric from a shirt depending on the size. Shirts here are cheap. I can get them for $2 any old day. A few years ago there was a thrift store that has since gone out of business. They would have a bag sale. Everything I could fit in the bag was $1 to $3 depending on the day. I would gather all of the shirts that were 100% cotton and would go to the register. Often I’d have 20 shirts and my bill was $2. I got many of my shirts during that time. Nowadays that bag sale is $10 for 10 shirts. Still a good deal but nothing like the previous one. I used to gather them and then sell them here on the blog but the postage is so high now, I don’t know that it’s worth it.

      Reply
  2. Brenda King

    Jo! Just wanted to let you know I purchased a French Bread pan, like you suggested, and on an evening when we were having Lasagne for supper, I decided to try your recipe for French Bread. WOW! You weren’t kidding! Your recipe was easy, and very forgiving! I was surprised to find that my live yeast was 6 yrs. past use by date! Had no idea it had been so long since I’d baked bread! Went ahead any way, since we needed bread for supper. The yeast proofed enough that I thought the bread might be a little flat, but edible. I was so surprised that it came out with a crunchy crust, and soft, yeasty tasting and smelling interior! It was SO GOOD! My husband was impressed, and so was I ! Can’t wait to try it again! Thank you so much for sharing your yummy recipe! I love your blog, pray for your complete healing, and for all your wonderful family. I was an RN for 30 yrs, so relate to your girls, and have great grand children I adore. So, we have much in common besides quilting! Take good care! Love and all best wishes! Brenda King, Bend, Or.

    Reply
    1. Jo Post author

      Awesome!! That bread is really a family favorite!! I started making it now with “everything bagel” seasoning and that’s even better.

      Reply
  3. Gloria from CC

    Good morning Jo – the only thing I’ll add to your wonderful description of how to use men’s shirts in quilts is after deconstructing the shirt I spray starch the pieces before cutting. Typically the shirts are limp from wear and washing. The starched pieces are crisp and the result is a more accurate cut. Glad to know the Halloween fabric is in. Thanks for all the information today.

    Reply
  4. Paula Y James

    Great information. Thanks so much. Someone mentioned the Salvation Army. Our stores have 1/2 off everything on Wednesdays. Be sure and ask if yours has a sale day. Other thrift stores do that too.

    Reply

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