Big girl’s blouse

I tackled the doonas found in the cupboard of shame and felt pretty pleased with myself. The next item I wanted to clear off my to-do list was the bag of leftover men’s shirt fabric – fabric pieces that were too small to use in the shirt quilt I made for my dad, but large enough to be useful.

I thought I would make a simple quilt top, a little in the style of Rita from Red Pepper Quilts: lots of squares and nothing fancy, letting the fabric be the star. Lately, I have had enough fancy-piecing showing off with Dear Jane!

Patchwork quilt made from men's shirts

The quilt top is one row short of being square.

When I started collecting my husband’s cast-off shirts, I planned to add a splash of solid red to the quilt I made from them, but I reconsidered when I decided it would go to Dad. He is not really a red kind of guy. Basic blue is more his style, so I made my first shirt quilt very blue and manly. This time, with no one to please but myself, I made a girly shirt quilt – one with flowers. I pulled out two floral fabrics with red and blue, a handful of red and white prints, and the leftovers of the backing fabric from my last shirt quilt. I added one text print with washing instructions (misspelled French, obviously a fabric from Japan!) for fun and as a nod to the washing instructions tags found in clothing.

The quilt is made up of 306 4½-inch squares. I cut as many squares as I could from the shirt fabric I had and then added some colourful squares from my quilting fabrics until the mix looked about right. I used the leftovers of the dozen shirts from my last shirt quilt and a good chunk of two shirts my husband had contributed to my collection since last year.

I still have one intact shirt, a few large pieces and a lot of useful fabric (a whisker too small to cut 4½-inch squares). As I was sewing up the last strips, my husband says, ‘Oh, I think I will have a few more shirts to throw out soon. A few are looking a little worn.’ More shirts?! I doubt I will ever run out of shirt fabric!

The top is simple, but I am rather fond of it. I now have to decide whether I am going to try to quilt it myself with straight lines or send it out to a friend with a long-arm machine. I want to practise quilting, but I also want to get on to other projects.

My fabric diet is a diet, not a famine, and one of my loopholes is that I am allowing myself to buy backing fabric when nothing in my stash will work. I had a look in two local quilt shops but did not find anything. Instead, I have ordered something online. I carefully avoided taking even a peek during the Thanksgiving sales because of my fabric diet, only to realise now – when the bargains are gone – that I have nothing to back this with. Silly me!

Patchwork quilt made from men's shirts

I cannot identify most of the fabrics, but I know one is a Tanya Whelan floral and another is a red Ta Dot.

I have not decided on a final name for this quilt, but as it is a shirt quilt, but a feminine one, and a feminine shirt is a blouse, I am drifting towards ‘Big Girl’s Blouse’. Does everyone know that phrase and its meaning or is it one of the many quirky British/Australian phrases I have grown up with? The quilt also makes me think of a picnic on a sunny day. It is a bit small for a bed quilt, at 68 x 72 inches, so maybe a picnic blanket might be its future role. Name ideas would be welcome!

But, here is the rub. I have now tackled two items found in the cupboard of shame; the doonas became cushion inserts. and the bag of men’s shirt fabric is on its way to becoming a quilt. However, I have gained two new projects: the cushion inserts need covers (I have chosen the appliqué design and fabric to match our new sofa), and the rest of the shirt fabric needs to be made into something. There is still a lot of useable fabric left. At the moment, I am toying with the idea of using it to make randomly pieced cushion covers, which I think might suit my stepdaughter’s house.

Aagh! I am never going to empty the cupboard of shame! I have taken two steps forward and two steps back!

35 thoughts on “Big girl’s blouse

  1. You’ve done a great job of using up the shirt fabric! Couldn’t you justify taking the rest of the shirts to the Op Shop! The Mister has already declared his need to rid himself of more! It could be a never ending closet of shame, at this rate! There will be some needy person who would love a second hand shirt, surely?

    • I am cutting them up as they are worn around the collars and cuffs and/or crusty and stained in the armpits from deodorant. I don’€™t think they are in a good enough state to donate, but there is good fabric!

  2. I agree with being unable to throw out ‘good’ material. I’m currently sneakily cutting up the Husband’s former work jeans and flannel shirts rather than allowing them into his garage rag bag. Much, much too good for that. They’ll become a picnic quilt, backed with oilcloth. I have quite a few regular but heavyish cotton shirts of his which are also going to get cut up for a shirt quilt. If you really want to get rid of the excess shirting and can’t face doing something with it yourself, bung it my way!
    I think Big Girl’s Blouse is uniquely British/Australian… I base this on some very strange looks I’ve received when using it outside that context!

  3. You might not empty the cupboard of shame but you have a goal and list of projects so that helps! 🙂 I think this quilt does look like a picnic quilt, it’s absolutely lovely. I like the idea of straight line quilting around the blocks, to match the simplicity of the design.

  4. The quilt top looks great and would make such a lovely picnic quilt. When I get down to scraps that are hard for me to re-purpose, I collect them up to donate to teacher friends who in turn use them in their classrooms for small craft projects during the year. It definitely helps save me some stress about throwing out perfectly “good” (but really too tiny to be useful to me) scraps.

    • I only know a handful of teachers, and I don’€™t think any of them are in the tiny-tots crafty department. I am usually pretty good with managing my scraps, but as a few of the shirts are not 100% cotton, I don’t like mixing them in with my proper quilting cotton scraps.

    • I hang on to tiny scraps too. Fortunately, my scrap collection gets regularly dipped into and stays rather small. However, I am hesitant to mix the shirt scraps in with the other quilting scraps because of different fibres and fabric weights.

  5. Very nice indeed Carla. The red has just finished it off nicely. Once again, a lovely calm quilt from you. It would be perfect for reading on under a tree in summer. Yes, we use that phrase here too – not in a nice way of course. I really admire anyone who gets anything crafty finished in December. Well done.

  6. Can the leftover shirt fabric be pieced for a backing? Perhaps they are too small….
    The first thing that popped into my head for a name was ‘faded memories’
    Have a lovely week

    • Dog bed?! Aha! That’s what I can use the weird scraps and trimmings of wadding for. I’ve been using them up slowly in place of hobby fill. It would have to be for a small dog, as I haven’t a huge collection.

  7. What about a special drawstring or carry bag made from the leftover shirt fabrics to store the picnic quilt in? Some of the shirt pockets might come in handy to hold your picnic goodies in … like a bottle opener? I like “Big Girl’s Blouse” … it makes me smile 🙂

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  11. I absolutely love this quilt! I was searching for a good idea for a big girl’s quilt in soft colours – something random and free. What a great idea using up the men’s shirts. They are the perfect colours to use – nice and soft colours and fabrics – and it looks good with the random red and dark squares. My mother would be so impressed with your thoughtful use of the left over shirts. Wish I could tell her…
    I plan to begin looking for old shirts today!

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