Deconstructing a dress shirt

20170420_142337I had a comment yesterday about making a quilt out of men’s shirts so I thought I’d just make a post about it.  In my case, I’m trying to maximize the number of squares I can cut out of each shirt since I have a finite number of shirts available.  There are other blogs that show the quickest way to take them apart, which isn’t what my goal is.

The next several pictures demonstrate how I cut the back out, but this is the same way I cut out the rest of the shirt also.

20170420_142410To begin with, I lay the shirt out flat, with the back up since that’s the largest single piece of fabric.  I then snip at the bottom, near what is the left seam for me – just to the right of the seam.  I’m not typically a big “ripper” but in this case, I found out it helped.  I then rip it until it reached the seam where the sleeve is set in, and stop there.  Then I repeat that process on the right side but this time I clip just to the left of the seam.  Doing it that way avoids cutting through the heaviest seams in the shirt – and trust me, the ones I’m working on are pretty bulky.

20170420_142452At this point, I hold the shirt in one hand and then cut as close to the sleeve seam on each side, again so that the seam itself is not included when I’m done.  And finally, I cut straight across the bottom of the back of the yoke.

When I’m done, I have a piece that’s not quite rectangular but it’s as close as I’ll get.  This particular shirt is 17″ x 25″ in the smallest portion of the back.  Since I’m cutting 2″ unfinished squares, that’s 106 squares before I even use the the portion where the sleeves meet the yoke.

20170420_142609I follow that same method for the sleeves which means when I’m done there will be only the seam left.  I cut away the cuff and I can usually get 2 or 3 squares out of one side (the other has interfacing in it). Then on the front, I cut just to the inside of the seam that holds either the buttons on one side or the buttonholes on the other.  The yoke itself is a bonus because there are 2 pieces in each that I’ve worked with so far and no interfacing.   I throw away the collar, cuffs, bulky seams, and anything related to the buttons or buttonholes (I’ve kept the buttons themselves though).

20170420_142247I only counted squares on one shirt but I came up with roughly 175 on a long-sleeved shirt.  Your mileage will vary depending on the size of the shirt, style, etc.  For a king sized quilt using 2″ unfinished squares I need 756 of the primary color, 1296 of the secondary color, and 1006 of the tertiary color.   Put another way, I need at least 4-5 shirts for my orange, 7-8 shirts of the blue/black, and at least 6 shirts of the purple. I had one yellow shirt in the bunch, so I’m substituting a yellow square for the middle of X.  As it turns out, I didn’t have enough purple shirts so I’m pulling in some squares from matching fabric so that it’s not as obvious.

20170420_112253These are huge blocks – each one is 16 1/2″ finished, or 7 x 1.5″ blocks.  I was starting to get confused on the layout of each block.  I could’ve just mapped this out in EQ7 but I had a piece of paper handy so I mapped out each side so I could write in my own notes.

Since I chain stitch these, it doesn’t take much of a distraction to get one of the 49 squares per block A turned around.  Keeping this next to me as I progress through each block has (so far) eliminated pulling any blocks apart due to a mistake.

20170420_121443I have a similar layout for block B.  This one is easier to piece together because there are only 12 small squares, 4 rectangles and 1 larger block in the middle.

I’m trying to make sure I spread out the fabrics so I’ve used this as a reference to make sure that I use at least one of each fabric in the case of the blue/black squares in particular.  I probably won’t get much done on this for the next couple of days but at least I finally feel like I’m making headway.

Oh, one last note about using the shirts – I found it only took a couple of minutes to take the pocket off so I do that before cutting up the front and then I can get some more out of the pocket as well.  Cutting them into smaller squares helps the variation in colors and print pattern mesh a little better.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. I like the recycling!

  2. Kathy said my comment almost exactly!!

  3. sandradny says:

    Wow. This is going to be spectacular and so meaningful. I think I need to start saving some of my roommate’s dress shirts. Would be a fun projects for the grand babies right now!

  4. admcmasters says:

    The Irish Chain quilt pattern is a favorite of mine and the way you are placing the colors in yours is lovely. I haven’t tried making anything from shirts but I have some shirts to use to make something someday. Perhaps I’ll do a chain too. Good job!

  5. Thank you for this post. Now that I can figure out how many blocks I can get out of a shirt, I can start working on a design. I always learn something from your blog…Thanks again!

  6. Great post. I have a quilt that I made a long time ago from old worn out clothes that I didn’t want to part with. I still look at it now and then and remember that favourite shirt or skirt or dress….

  7. kathyreeves says:

    This is going to be such a wonderful gift for the widow. The emotional solace from this will be so nice for her!

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