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Thursday, July 14, 2011

T-shirt Quilt, COMPLETE!

This is the finished T-shirt quilt!  I finished it the first weekend in October, I think but haven't had time to blog about it.  I am very pleased with it, and my client was thrilled as well.  That is always a plus ;)

 I used a little "real" quilting in the borders, and since it was for a girl, got a little girlie with the backing.  If you zoom in, you will see that I also used the pockets from some of the t-shirts just for fun.
This is my personal favorite!  I had so much fun deciding how to quilt each square, but this one was just obvious what to do.
From this far away shot, you can kind of tell that I was going for a graduation of color from light to dark starting in the top left corner and ending bottom right.  I just thought it was a little more interesting since there were so many white shirts and not too many with a lot of color.

I totally forgot to take pics of the quilting stage!  I prefer to do all my quilting by hand because I just love to do it.  If you watch my blog awhile, I will post pics of the quilting stage in the one I am working on now.  I should be quilting by the end of next week (if I am going to finish by Christmas like I have committed to do).  I will also be posting pics of machine quilting.  It can be done on a regular machine and it's a lot faster than hand quilting but it is not for the faint of heart. 

This is my documentation (such as it is) of my first T-shirt quilt.  I have made lots of quilts over the years, but none like this one.  There are a few extra steps when you are using jersey knit on a quilt. 

The first thing I did was cut up the t-shirts.  No, actually, I drew out my design first.  That's probably important.
THEN, I cut up the t-shirts.  I did not waste any part of the shirts, except maybe some small scraps.  Even those I have saved and will probably use later, for something.  The main design on the shirts will be the quilt blocks.  Any pocket design or smaller design will be used as the border just inside the quilt binding.  I plan to join them all together in one long strip and then cut them to size needed.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.  My mind just starts racing when I plan stuff like this.

After I cut up the shirts, I basted them to some cotton muslin for stability.  So you don't end up with a stretched out and oddly shaped quilt that you'll never be able to quilt a straight line on.  Trust me.

I didn't worry about how out of shape the "squares" seemed to get during basting, because...

after I finished basting all the "squares" to the muslin, I trimmed each one to identical size.  In this case, mine are not perfectly square, but all are exactly 16" wide by 15" high.  When quilting, this is the most important step if you want your quilt to be uniform, and you don't want to cuss and remove seams an infinite number of times trying to get all your corners matched up.  I'm just sayin'.  I've heard that some quilters cuss, and say things like "darn it"...when they aren't careful with their cutting.  My DW doesn't like it when I say "crap".  But I have always told him that sometimes there is just no other word that fits.  I would never use that word while quilting.  It is not a quilting word...even when the seams don't match.
quilt laid out after sewing "blocks" together
So, if you look at the diagram I drew of the intended quilt...this looks nothing like it.  I think that is one of my favorite things about creating stuff.  What you originally plan to do usually morphs into something completely different.  I love this quilt.  I can't wait to get into the quilting part. 
backing down 1st, wrong side up; batting next; quilt top face up
 I will leave the edges raw just like this while I quilt.  I start at the center of the quilt and move out, smoothing all layers as I go.  When all the quilting is done, I will trim extra batting away and use excess backing for the binding.  I'll show those steps as I get to them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Supper

Tonight we had one of our family's favorite meals...Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad.

There are two things that are critically important to this salad...
...the homemade croutons and the grilled chicken.  I will tell you how I do it.  Not that my way is the only way, it's just the way we like it ;) Tonight it was even better because everyone chipped in to help prepare it. 

The first thing I do is get the croutons started because they will take about 30 minutes to crisp up in the oven.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  I always start with 1/2 stick of butter, add 2 large cloves of fresh chopped or pressed (I always press) garlic into the bowl with butter and nuke till the butter is melted (about 30 seconds).  Then I add about 1/4 cup of olive oil to the garlic butter and whisk it together.  Using a pastry brush, brush the melted butter/olive oil onto both sides and edges of thick-sliced italian bread.  (I use Publix bakery Chicago Italian bread, almost a whole loaf.  I would use a whole loaf but I can't resist eating a slice or two while I'm buttering it.)  After it is buttered, I cut it into approx 1" squares, carefully so you don't squish the want it to spring back to shape.  A really sharp bread knife is good for this, but my bread knife is duller than dull.  My husband sharpens it for me frequently but it is past keeping a sharp edge.  Anyway, when you have about 2 slices left to butter, you will inevitably run out of garlic butter and you will have to, a) make some more or, b) eat the two slices quickly before anyone catches you.  I am not saying which one I did, but I am feeling a little overstuffed right now for having eaten salad for supper.  Put the bread squares on a baking stone and into the preheated oven.  In 30 minutes they will be crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.

For the chicken, I have a basic marinade I use that is really simple.
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil
a few sloshes of balsamic vinegar
juice from 1 lime
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 - 3 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
This is enough marinade for an entire bag of frozen chicken breasts.  Don't make this much if you are just grilling a couple breasts.  I marinate mine for at least a couple hours.  I guess I should have put this step first.

When I grill the breasts, I don't shake the oil off really well before I put it on the grill.  The dripping oil makes the grill catch on fire so you need to shut the lid really quickly and watch the smoke billow out the sides.  This is good because all that smoke is giving the chicken a really GREAT smoky flavor!  I learned this by accident one day and I've been doing it ever since ;)  Tonight DW did the grilling and they were amazing!  He does not naturally like a grill billowing smoke, it goes against his nature to leave it alone...but I convinced him.

By the time the chicken is grilled, the croutons will be ready and all that is left is assembly.  I like to line the dishes up on the counter assembly line style.  This is the order I like to use when I assemble the salads:
1.  Fresh romaine lettuce is best.  I have seen someone cut a garlic clove in half and rub fresh garlic on the bottom of the bowl first, but I always forget to do that.
2.  Cardini's Caesar Dressing is next.  This is the only brand I use, and I've tried almost all of them.  Again, just my preference.

3.  Chicken breasts go on next.  I like to slice them in strips first.

4.  Freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Eden loves to do this step in the food processor with the grater blade.

5.  Coarsely ground black pepper

6.  Warm croutons

Because SOMEONE in this family does not like salad much,

he made some pasta instead. 
Pasta with Alfredo sauce from a jar, lime juice, grilled chicken and coarse ground black pepper.  Waverly is the official pepper grinder/salad assembler for this meal.