The shirt off his back

I have yet to follow one down the street with covetous intent, but you never know….

Have you ever seen a person wearing a garment whose fabric you would happily have in your stash? I must admit until recently I hadn’t, but since I have been gathering checked shirt fabrics for a future project I have found myself studying passing gentlemen, many of the most unprepossessing type, and wishing I could have the shirts off their backs, only for my stash you understand. It has become a running joke with my Dearest, as I find my eye captured and held by men of all ages, sizes and types each wearing loud checks of all colours and design. I have yet to follow one down the street with covetous intent, but you never know….

almost a fat quarter
almost a fat quarter

My passion for fabric outstrips my available fabric buying resources exponentially, so I am always on the lookout for ways of acquiring fabric for quilting with the least outlay of funds. Inspired by my love for recycling and by the plaid scrap quilts I have seen on Pinterest I began collecting checked shirts bought in charity shops. My local charity shop has been an almost weekly supplier of treasure, and each so far costing between £1 and £2.50.

shirt fronts another almost fat quarter
shirt fronts another almost fat quarter

I find that a man’s “small” shirt will render the largest piece from the back measuring 21” by 25” measuring under the armholes and from yoke to tail, which is equal to a fat quarter, the front a similar amount of fabric in two halves, and then the sleeves although an odd shape will render at least as much as a fat quarter between them or less if short sleeves, but if I calculate each shirt to represent half a yard of fabric I don’t think I will be disappointed.

short sleeves, still would render two 5" squares each
short sleeves, still would render two 5″ squares each



The smallest shirt I have bought for £1 (pictured) was age 11-12 and gave me a back measuring 18.5” by 22”, the biggest a 17.5” collar shirt from Boden which rendered a back measuring 31” by 30” but bizarrely was cut on the bias and looks like a table cloth, the sleeves were cut on the straight grain, so although large the shirt will similarly render only a half yard.
The inside of the Yoke is often cut on the bias which limits its use but two small squares could be cut from it for another scrap project, and the yoke will render squares or strings.

Yoke pieces one straight, one bias cut
Yoke pieces one straight, one bias cut

My rule in choosing which shirts to buy is that they must be 100% cotton, not seersucker, must be bright not muddy colours, and must be checked not striped. Mostly the shirts I buy are unworn or barely worn and that can be discerned by looking at the labels for wash fatigue and collar for signs of wear. So far I have made only two mistakes, poplin is too crackly, and does not iron well. To achieve a good mix of colour and pattern I will need perhaps 30 to 40 shirts, but that will give me 15-20 yards of fabric which should be enough for more than one quilt, one large and maybe a couple of lap quilts.

Some of my shirt collection
Some of my shirt collection

My observations on charity shop shirt buying so far are:-the louder the shirt the more likely that it will be unworn, perhaps it’s a case of loud shirts having a limited use, or that they generally fall into the unwanted gift, or “seemed like a good idea at the time” category, which languished at the back of the wardrobe for a couple of years and then got edited out to the charity shop. And…. children’s clothes, particularly summer wear in Britain, unless passed down from oldest to youngest, probably only has an 8 to 10 week window of wear, before its back to school uniform in September, so many summer shirts have hardly seen a washing machine more than half a dozen times before they are put away to have been outgrown by the following summer, so a future life in a quilt is a greener alternative to another 8 to 10 weeks life in a different boy’s wardrobe.

Been there, done that, got the tee shirt

Before I fell into bed, I pulled back the curtains, there was a rosy glow of dawn on the horizon, and before I slept I heard the dawn chorus begin over the gentle snores of my Dearest.

Where were you on the night of the 8th of June 2013 between 11.00 and 02.50? I was pounding the pavements with more than 900 women dressed in neon pink tee shirts and flashing bunny ears. Some even wore pink tutus and feather boas. Why? You might ask.
This strange phenomenon occurs annually but it was my first and perhaps only time. The St John’s Hospice Moonlight walk happens every year in June and involves volunteers from the local community raising money through sponsorship to walk either 14 or 25 kilometres through the city’s streets, country roads and coastal route to Morecambe and back. It’s a women only event and women sign up in groups or singly to take part. Consequently there is little competitive edge but much laughter, and good humoured banter along the way.
I arrived at 11pm to be met with a sea of flashing bunny ears on the heads of women of all ages each dressed in the same tee shirt, on the back of which was a space to write the name of a departed loved one in whose memory they were walking. One I caught sight of named a young man I had known who died heartbreakingly young; it was good to see he was still remembered fondly by a young woman who must have been a friend and contemporary of his.
We all lined up behind a ribbon, counted down 5…4…3…2…1 the ribbon was cut and off we went, in a hurry to get to the front and stay out in front so as not to be slowed down. Photographers waited at the gates to snap the sea of women disgorging from the hospice grounds, and people were standing there just to see us off and cheer us on.
The event was so well organised. The army were there, nice young men and women in fatigues waiting to marshal the traffic through the village of Slyne where the foot path is too narrow, volunteer marshals at the half way point to give out sweets and collect empty water bottles, temporary toilet facilities for the weak of bladder, and rescue vehicles for those who had bitten off more than they could chew. The most heartening thing was the amount of people who waited along the route just to cheer us on as we passed their house or street, one little boy was out in his dressing gown and slippers to wave his mother on as she passed.

Got the Tee shirt...and the medal
Got the Tee shirt…and the medal

It was a long 9 miles, and I was really pleased to reach the finish line, I accepted my medal, but didn’t stay for the pink fizz or the hog roast, I said a brief good night to my walking companion, and wended a weary way back to my car, it was 02.50 and my Dearest would be waiting up for me. As I drove back along part of the route groups of weary women mostly still smiling were headed towards the finish line I had just left. To the North the sky was already lightening, as I crossed the bridge over the River Lune I could see a wide expanse of silvery pre dawn sky, I was home by 03.00.
Before I fell into bed, I pulled back the curtains, there was a rosy glow of dawn on the horizon, and before I slept I heard the dawn chorus begin over the gentle snores of my Dearest. He said he was proud of me and for once I concur, sore and weary but I’m pleased I did it.

Gadget girl

I hardly stopped to put away the groceries, before running out to the back garden to try out my new toy.

I’ve never really been a gadget lover unless you include my sewing kit, but one thing I have always had a hankering for is a detail sander; a neat little hand held device which I could use to save time when preparing surfaces for paint. Probably because I love shabby chic and would like to customise found objects and charity shop finds.
Last week I bought some teak oil to treat my Garden furniture but didn’t get any further than storing it in the garage, I couldn’t face the work of sanding them all down by hand with a sanding block, and hadn’t the patience to try to persuade my Dearest to do it, he doesn’t DO manual labour!
Imagine then my delight at finding the very thing I needed in my local supermarket, at a very reasonable price. No contest; one of those was coming home with me. I hardly stopped to put away the groceries, before running out to the back garden to try out my new toy. A gadget which saves time and effort is always a blessing, especially if it means you enjoy the task, even better if you can get someone else to enjoy the task instead, I wonder if I could get the thirteen year old interested…..?

stripped down and ready in half an hour!
stripped down and ready in half an hour!

My old grotty moss stained teak garden chair was sanded down and given a coat of Teak oil in less than an hour, next task is the teak garden bench which lives on the terrace in the back garden, and then the bench from the front of the house. Note the foolish mistake, I didn’t put down newspaper before I began, so now I will need to clean the paving, Doh! Next time I’ll work on the lawn, it won’t do any permanent damage.

Teak oiled.....Good as new
Teak oiled…..Good as new