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Portland, OR


Handmade quilts and home accessories by fiber artist Linda Nussbaum. See samples of past projects as well as pieces available for sale and inspirations for custom orders. To see what is currently available for sale, please visit my Etsy Shop.

Making the Cut

Surrounded by Scraps

Making the Cut

Linda Nussbaum

I had said that I would share a little insight into how I approached making quilt blocks from the shirts and ties my aunt sent me last week. I still have a long way to go, but here's a peek at the beginning:

Starting with stacks of shirts and ties, just like this... 


I decided to start small and work from sleeves to begin with.


Using my shears I snipped through the hem near the inside seam (on the long sleeved button-up shirts I simply used my rotary cutter and sliced off the cuffs entirely) and then ripped up to the armhole seam. You can see how nice and on grain that is below.


From the natural stop at the armhole seam snip on the perpendicular and slowly rip again. The tear should carry you across the sleeve leaving you with a rectangle attached just by the original inside seam where you began (and will need to snip through with shears), and the curved part of the sleeve still attached to the rest of the shirt.


Luckily for me the short sleeves allowed just enough fabric to get the 5" squares after trimming off the finished hem with my rotary tools. I pressed out the piece of fabric I now had to work with, and treated it like any other fabric yardage, cutting into the base units I would need for my blocks. 


Now, on these short sleeved shirts I only got a few blocks to begin with, but I still have the whole breadth of the body of the shirt to work from as I need to make more blocks! And that one is a little easier to suss out cutting, dontcha think? 

Once I had a few of these cut down into 5" and 2.5" squares I realized that I didn't need to cut the smaller squares separately for what I was doing. Once I cut the 5" squares to the desired shape I would have the corner pieces to work with. 


So the next step was to start cutting the ties. But before I could do that I needed to disassemble them, which is a much more time-consuming process than one might think. I spent quite a bit of time with a seam ripper at the stitches closing the backs of the ties (and have only done about half a dozen so far) and then removing the stabilizing inserts. But once I had a few done I got started on cutting those little guys too. 


Mixing up the little corner units I started in on stitching them down to the bits from the ties which will ultimately make up the accent strips in the blocks. I centered 2 triangles on the silky smooth rectangles, stitched down 1/4" from the edges and pressed. Then I squared up and sliced evenly down the center of the rectangles, leaving me with 2 corner units. 


Now the trick for me is to step away from the sewing machine for a bit. Now that I have at least worked out the process and dimensions confidently I can go ahead and really make a dent in the piles of fabric (still all sewn into things called shirts!) and get a good chunk of squares cut. The more options I have, the better the mixing and matching will be when I am ready to sew the units into blocks. 

Oh, and a little side note... have any of you all tried quilting with ties before? I was not prepared for the challenges that working with slick nylon or polyester or silk ALL CUT ON THE BIAS would bring. Any tips or anecdotal experiences? Please share!