Thursday, June 22, 2017

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Some people are so organized that they save all the T-shirts their children have worn over the years on the various sports teams or activities in which they engage. I (Teri) have a friend, Amy, who called me a couple of years ago and asked me if I could make a quilt with her son's collection of baseball shirts. I had made one T-shirt quilt, left, years ago for another teacher friend for her daughter, who was a gymnast. What I remembered the most about the experience was the MATH. Finding colors to match was relatively easy on that one, as most of the shirts had some similar colors, and even worked with the gymnastics border I had found. I understand that this quilt went to college with the recipient, and was used for years, even after college. (It always makes a quilter happy to hear that!)
For many years, Amy and I taught together, on the same team. In fact, we had a fifth grade team reunion this week. Ever since her boys were just little guys, they have always been involved in sports, and Amy—being the great mom that she is—went to many, many (maybe all) of their practices and games. And she saved those shirts from all those uniforms.

Isn't it amazing how fast the time passes?! Our little boys become men . . .

Amy, being a planner—and knowing me all too well— gave me the shirts well in advance of her son's graduation, so I had no pressure. Well, I don't know about you, but in my mind, that equates to "not on my plate yet," which soon becomes "out of mind." I had looked through the bag of shirts as soon as I got them for some ideas, and I wasn't quite sure how to make red, royal, navy, brown, black, and orange go together. I knew that somehow I could, but it would be my challenge. I considered a baseball-themed fabric, but I wasn't sure if that would appeal to a young man entering college. It took me a year and a half to "think" about this and come up with a solution. Finally, and none too soon, I opted for black and white, with a reddish-orange for accent. I decided to make the high school uniforms—orange and black—the center of the quilt, surrounding that with the blues, reds, etc.


My first step was to cut out the parts of the shirts I'd use and back them with a light-weight Pellon interfacing. I tried to get all the numbers and colors he'd had over the years to include them in the quilt. I removed the patches from the sleeves from when he played in the Cal Ripken/Babe Ruth League, so that I could appliqué them onto the quilt. One of the shirts had a cool sleeve design, so I cut the sleeves to create an interesting block with them. It's a bit difficult to be creative with just numbers! The real question was how to arrange those sleeve pieces in the middle. I rejected the three above; I wanted them to create one block, the middle one looked like Batman, and the one on the right looked like a mustache. It would be one of the choices below.


At one point, as I played with layout designs, I sent one of the photos above to Amy to get a feel from her about the direction I was going. She didn't answer for the longest time, and I was beginning to get worried that she hated it. But no; she was at a game. When she answered, she said she must have liked it, since she started to cry when she saw all those uniforms together. All those memories!

Now, the MATH. I knew each row would be a different height, and each block would vary in width. I had to arrange the blocks so that I could cut the blocks in the same row all the same height, and then measure the widths to determine what size sashing I'd need between the blocks in each row to make all the rows the same length. I was thankful for all the years I taught fractions to fourth and fifth graders! I wouldn't suggest that you try to decipher my mess, below; but suffice it to say that my math worked, and with one exception where I had to trim an eighth of an inch from each side of a row, I had equal rows to stitch together. Phew!

I sent a photo of my math work to Amy, who showed it to her math class:
proof that when you're an adult, you still might use that math you learn in elementary school!


I trimmed all the blocks to the correct, PRECISE size and created the final layout. I took the picture, above, to refer to as I stitched to make sure I didn't mix them up. When I finished stitching the rows together, I thought that the big orange circle in the center of the quilt—created by those sleeves—needed something. I realized that his last name was all over the quilt, but not his first, so I thought perhaps I should embroider his name in the center. But then, wouldn't be even better to embroider it in his mom's handwriting? I called and asked her to write what she wanted me to stitch in the quilt center and text it to me. I enlarged it to the correct size, printed it, marked it on tear-away stabilizer, and embroidered it using a chain stitch. 

Now it is ready for borders.

I chose this black and white wavy design, because it reminded me of baseballs.
(I've been told that I have a vivid imagination.)
Here, I was auditioning binding colors: black or orange. 

I pieced the back, because I'm a little crazy and like to make my work harder.
But it looks cool.

I got ready to start quilting it, which is my LEAST favorite part of any project, and just stopped and allowed my common sense to prevail. I went to our local quilt shop, Patches Quilting and Sewing, and asked them to quilt it on their longarm machine. I told them that I was planning to just outline the blocks, but maybe some baseballs sprinkled here and there might be nice. I think they did an awesome job! He really loved the quilted designs.

Quilted by Jackie Bingham, at Patches Quilting and Sewing, in Mount Airy, MD

Binding finished; ready for a label


I thought it would be fun to create a home plate for a label, with his name in a baseball, and his school motto included, which I obtained from the high school website. I first made the one on the left—can you tell I'm not much of a baseball fan? I knew it was a pentagon, but never thought any more about it, until my husband asked me if that was supposed to be home plate. I said of course, to which he replied that it was the wrong shape, and he drew it for me. I recognized my error as soon as I saw it, but I probably wouldn't have. Was I ever thankful he noticed that before I stitched it on the back of the quilt—using fly stitches in red, of course!

Label stitched with red fly stitches, ready for Amy to sign

Finally finished!
Amy comes to pick it up, with tissues in hand, in case the tears flow.

Signing the label:
"May these memories always keep you warm. Love, Mom and Dad"

Senior night

The best part is that his high school team won the state championships!!
So the baseball quilt has even more meaning and memories for him.
Here is the proud and happy family after the big game.

I got a text from Amy with this photo on his graduation day when they gave it to him:
He just kept saying, 'That's awesome,' over and over.

It took me about a year and a half to get excited about making this T-shirt quilt, but once I got started, I found myself picturing this cute little boy growing into manhood, playing baseball every year. I remembered the days each spring when his mom would come to school and talk of being at his games the night before. The stories of all his hard work, and his parents' support and encouragement for those many years, are stitched into this quilt, to remind him of all that he learned—about life and about himself—on the baseball field.

Congratulations, Jacob!


  1. What a wonderful quilt and story! I have made several and curse each as I made them, but loved the end result as much as the recipient did. Thanks for showing us how yours came together.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. They are definitely worth the thought that goes into them!

  2. You have created a beautiful quilt! I've found that my creativity sometimes takes awhile to "simmer" also. I think that it's super sweet that you stitched his name in his mom's handwriting! How thoughtful!! Very cool quilt! Have a wonderful day!!

    1. Thank you!! I usually spend more time thinking (I love the use of the word "simmer"!) about my designs than actually making them.

  3. It's so great to keep all this momeries in a quilt.
    I love this quilt, it's really nice.
    Congrats to you and your son.
    Kisses from France !