August 28, 2020

Metropolis + A Repurposed Challenge

Back in January, the Greenville MQG announced the theme for its annual guild challenge..."Re-Purposed".  I had the idea of using men's chambray shirts and set out to shop thrift and second-hand stores for chambray.  Metropolis is the result.

The rules for the "Re-Purposed" challenge were as follows:

  • At least 50% re-purposed fabric such as clothing, vintage blocks, sweaters, woolens, etc...
  • May be a quilt, wearable items, totes, purses, pillows etc.
  • No size restriction but recommended 60' max.
  • Must be three layers and quilted - top/batting/backing.
  • Item should be of MODERN design.

Design Inspiration

Not only did I have the challenge of using recycled or repurposed fabric, I needed a design.  I had taken a photo of some buildings in downtown Los Angeles while on the freeway back in 2018 on the way to Quiltcon in Pasadena.  One day, I knew I wanted to use these buildings as inspiration.  After research, I found that the buildings are part of the Metropolis Condominiums which also inspired the name of my challenge quilt.  


In the hunt for chambray, I stopped in thrift shops and one particular second-hand shop if I happened to be passing by while out.  I always browsed the men's shirts first by starting in the XXL section and working my way down to small.  After all, the bigger the shirt, the more usable fabric the shirt contained.  I checked the tag for fabric content and left it behind if it contained polyester (unless it was a color I couldn't leave behind like the light peachy orange shirt).

At first, I purchased a few shirts not knowing what colors I really wanted or how much of any particular color I would need.  I washed and deconstructed the shirts and made a swatch ring from the cuffs of the shirts.  I carried the swatches with me while shopping for chambray shirts.  Blues were definitely more common but there were many shades of blue out there.  I ended up finding a particular striped shirt that led to the colors used in the quilt.  

Back to the design...

At first, I just used notebook paper and sketched until I had a rough idea of the direction I wanted to go and then switched to graph paper.  I knew that I wanted to add the darker strips for contrast beside the staggered lines and to create, sort of, shadows.  

I did not want the colored lines to have any seams, so I measured each shirt to determine the longest strip that could be cut from each and kept that measurement in mind while sketching.  

Graph Paper

The strips for the background and staggered lines were all cut the same width and to insert the smaller darker strips meant I had to do partial seaming in each section of staggered lines.

Partial Seams

I started piecing on the left side and worked towards the right.  You can see on the section where there were four staggered lines, that meant more partial seaming.  The piecing took much longer than anticipated but did go smoothly according to the drawing.  

The blue background strips were cut from two different shirts of the same brand.  One shirt was worn more than the other and created subtle differences in the background.  I was careful to distribute the lighter strips evenly across the quilt.

Layering and Quilting

I decided to add the logo as a little signature at the bottom right.  Below, the top has been pieced and I am layering the top, batting and backing.  I did edge stitch the quilt top all the way around because the chambray frayed something awful. 

I pin basted all the layers together.  I knew I would be stitching in the ditch on the colored strips so I avoided the seam lines while pinning.  

The fabrics for the quilt top and binding are 100% recycled fabrics from seven men's chambray shirts. 

I did purchase the backing fabric and keeping with the chambray theme, I chose a Peppered Cotton in Parrish Blue.

The binding was made from just two shirt sleeves of one shirt which were strategically pieced together and then the strips were cut on the bias.  

For the quilting, it's all straight lines executed using the walking foot.  I did bury many thread tails when I changed colors to keep the same vertical lines continuing throughout the quilt from top to bottom.

After two years of wanting use those buildings a inspiration,  I was so glad to finally design a piece using the photo.  I am pleased with the outcome of Metropolis and it even won first place in the challenge.  You can see the other challenge entries here.  

Quilt Stats
  • Finished size: 51" x 60" 
  • Pattern: original design using building from a photograph as inspiration
  • Fabrics: Chambray from men's repurposed dress shirts
  • Thread: Aurifil 50wt and 40wt   
  • Quilting design: straight lines using the walking foot
  • Batting: 100% Cotton Warm & White by the Warm Company
  • Completed: July 27, 2020

Linking up with:

Thank Goodness It's Finished Friday with Kathleen at Kathleen McMusing
Can I Get a Whoop Whoop with Sarah at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Needle and Thread Thursday with Kelly at My Quilt Infatuation
Brag about Your Beauties with Michelle at From Bolt to Beauty


  1. This is awesome! How clever to use the cuffs to carry around as your swatches!

  2. I love seeing your process on making this quilt--it's a wonderful and striking finish!

  3. Paige, I love, love, love this quilt and the way you made it. From inspiration picture to execution and the final product. Keep on quilting!

  4. What a clever way to use the shirts, and a great design, Paige. Congrats on winning first, too! Did you make anything with the leftover cuffs? Just curious.

  5. I love this quilt! Thank you for sharing all the details. I have a big collection of shirts, but they're all plaids or stripes. Back to the thrift shop, once I can leave the house. Dot in Wilmington

    1. Thanks so much! Fortunately, I started my search for fabric in early February so I had all the shirts I needed before things shut down. I look forward to thrifting again one day. I did find a plaid shirt or two that I hope to incorporate into future projects.

  6. A truly wonderful work of art and so unique. I'm impressed with your dedication to finding the right materials, deconstructing and creating this great quilt. Congratulations on the prize. Truly well earned.

  7. What a stunning way to use old shirts, and to have the swatches as you searched for more fabric. I had thought at the start the grey was all new, super straight lines show off your own wonderful design so well.

  8. What a fantastic quilt. And you have captured the photo of the buildings just right. I enjoyed reading the process. Congratulations on the first prize win!

  9. Fabulous finish, Paige. Congrats on winning 1st place in the Challenge! Thanks for including a link so that we could see the other quilts, too.

  10. Wow. You did a great job. Congrats on win. What an honor. You are an inspiration

  11. Thanks for sharing the process behind this quilt. It was interesting to see it expand from a photo to the finished product.

  12. I use men's shirts a lot for quilts, and this is gorgeous! What a story to tell from inspiration to completion. Thanks!

    1. I was certainly surprised at how much useful fabric you can get from the shirts. And, I hope to use this partial seam construction in a future quilt.

  13. Well done. And congrats on the win. It's a great design.

  14. This is a great interpretation of that photo. Now, the search for the fabric in the thrift store, it not what I imagined but I love that. Lovely finish.

  15. Golly. I am (as ever) terribly impressed with your ability to "see" a design. Then, to take that design to the next level and interpret it with used clothing... well, it's astounding! You have such a gift - to see what I would never be able to see. This is SO good, Paige. Once again, I know I'm seeing a ribbon-winner here. You've created a stunner, and I love it!

  16. Thanks for linking up to TGIFF!

  17. I can't begin to tell you how much I love reading posts like this from you! I know challenges have compelled me to design and make quilts I never would have thought to create, but you're the challenge queen in my book. It's fun to see the process through your eyes!