Rally Towel Quilt
12.9.2015

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My son Andrew is in his second year at Oregon State University studying engineering. In the fall of his freshman year, he attended a football game where they passed out orange and black rally towels. After the game, he saw lots of towels left behind and thought, “My mom could make me a quilt out of these!” He gathered up about 35 towels–mostly orange with a few black ones. Around Christmas, he presented them to me saying he would like a quilt, but it would be fine if I didn’t get it finished until school started next year. Okay, I had a few months–I could do this.

I really wasn’t sure how to make a rally towel quilt. I guessed it would be sort of like a t-shirt quilt, but using poor quality, loosely woven terry cloth with rubbery lettering. To stabilize the towels, I ironed some fusible stabilizer on the back of each towel using a Clover Iron Safe to protect my iron and the synthetic stabilizer.

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I squared up each towel to a consistent size that would work for the misshapen towels.

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Once I knew what size the blocks would be, I drafted a design for the orange and black towels – which can be seen in the lower right corner below. I found some cuddly OSU fleece for the backing. Since it was getting closer to Halloween, I was able to find a great black fabric with orange dots for the sashing. I sewed a strip of sashing between the blocks to form a row of five towels.

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Pressing the rows of terry cloth/stabilizer blocks and cotton fabric sashing was little tricky; pressing toward the sashing worked best.

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Here are the five rows ready to be sewn together.

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The story gets a little fuzzy here. Andrew is pretty sure I had the quilt completed before he went to school but hadn’t put on the binding. I vaguely remember the top was done but not quilted. Anyway, it sat around for many weeks without binding. When he came home for Thanksgiving this past weekend, he said he would appreciate it if he could take it back with him. His house gets cold and all his roommates have blankets for the couch–except him. Ouch!

He then observed that it took me less than two hours to put the binding on!

This was possible because I used the flange method of applying binding completely by machine. I love this technique and have blogged about it before here and here.

I cut the dotted binding strips 1-3/4″ and the flange strips 2″. This made a wide binding sewn with a seam allowance close to 3/8″ but folded forward almost 1/2″. When the two strips are sewn together and pressed in half lengthwise, there is a 1/8″ flange. The binding is sewn on the back by machine first, then folded to front and sewn by machine along the edge where the flange meets the binding. A edge foot (#10 Bernina) helped a lot. Since there was no batting, I didn’t even bother with a walking foot. It was fast and easy – and the flange adds an attractive design element.

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A note about the quilting. My friend Nancy did a lovely stippling design on the quilt with her Juki and short-arm frame. Unfortunately, it was very frustrating. She had quilted with fleece and Minky as backing before without problems, but always using batting. I asked her to not use batting since the fleece was so thick and adding batting can make a quilt heavy. With the synthetic nature of the stabilizer and backing, and without batting, the layers tended to slip around. Perhaps a thin batting would have made it easier. A huge apology and thanks goes to Nancy!

This a strange view of the quilt. We are remodeling to add a bedroom in an open space over the kitchen table. Andrew is dropping the quilt down between joists in the ceiling that do not have plywood down yet. You can see sawdust on the lower edge of the quilt.

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Andrew is very happy with the quilt, likes the cozy fleece on the back, and is eager to use it at school. To his credit, this all took place with good-natured kidding on his part. After all, the last two quilts I made for him took 3 to 4 years to finally complete. He has learned deadlines definitely help me get quilts finished! It seems I am more process than product-oriented. I tend to get excited about a starting a new design or project before completing others ones.

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To my credit, while he was at school, I did also finish a queen-size quilt for his bed at home–the one I started in 2012! It is coming back from the quilter this week, so look for a blog post about it soon.


13 comments

  1. Heidi - December 9, 2015

    That is very cool, and I LOVE the story!

    Reply
    • Ann - December 9, 2015

      Thanks Heidi! I sent my son a link to this blog posting this morning. He is still getting used to the idea his mother is an internet presence. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Randi S - December 9, 2015

    What a great quilt to have at school! Seeing something about Oregon always gets my attention. {I’m a Duck!}

    Reply
    • Ann - December 9, 2015

      Thanks Randi! It is an unusual quilt – a cozy one. I hope people get that OSU are the Beavers or they will wonder about all the DAMs. 🙂

      Reply
  3. JoAnne T. - December 9, 2015

    What a great idea, maybe I could do something like this with all those golf towels my husband has been “collecting”. I sure hope you washed those “poor quality” towels before you started. Best of luck to your son! I think they grow up faster than we can make them quilts!

    Reply
    • Ann - December 9, 2015

      Thanks JoAnne! I actually I was afraid to wash the towels thinking they may fall apart. They were only waved in the air at the game and left on the bleachers. They were not used as personal towels so I hope they aren’t too dirty. I told my son, if he had to wash it, to do so on gentle cycle/cold or warm water and line dry it (not in the dryer). Any little thing catches on the terry cloth loops and pulls, so I doubt it will look hold up well over time but it is kind of unusual and fun. Golf towels would work too – and probably be of better quality.

      Reply
  4. Donna G - December 9, 2015

    Ann, a great quilt for a deserving son.

    Reply
    • Ann - December 9, 2015

      Thanks Donna! He is a deserving son!

      Reply
  5. Constance Welch - December 22, 2015

    What a clever idea! I’ll bet he turns out to be a tip-top engineer, with creative, smart ideas like that. Ann, too, you did a pretty good job of “engineering” the quilt! He must have inherited the talent from you.

    Reply
    • Ann - December 29, 2015

      Thanks Constance! It was clever of him to envision a quilt from the towels and I was glad to make it for him.

      Reply
  6. Connie Jo - January 9, 2016

    I was told to put the stabilizer grain and the towel grain opposite each other. Do you think it really matters? And if so, how do I tell the grain on the towel?

    Reply
    • Ann - January 11, 2016

      Interesting questions Connie Jo! I didn’t pay attention to the straight of grain for either the towel or stabilizer. I guess the best way to tell the straight of grain would be to pull on the length and width – whichever has the least give or stretch would be the stronger, straighter grain. I have never heard of opposing the straight of grains with fabric and stabilizer but it make sense that the stronger stabilizer grain would be on the weaker fabric grain…but I am not sure that it would be important. Also, some stabilizers are non-woven. Thanks for bringing up the points.

      Reply
  7. Meta Pasley - June 10, 2016

    Creative commentary ! I Appreciate the facts – Does someone know where I could get ahold of a fillable a form copy to fill out ?

    Reply

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