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“As I was pulling out Colby’s shirts, I had so many fond memories,” Anita Sprung said. “Someday I want to visit him and see the quilt in his guest room. It’s a keepsake with function.”
The cost of memories
Sprung requested a queen-sized quilt that will cost $700. Kobliska’s most popular creation is the twin-long size, which uses about two dozen shirts and fits a standard college dorm bed. They sell for between $350 and $500. The most elaborate quilt Kobliska has created was king-sized, incorporated 120 T-shirts and cost the customer $1,000.
“When the moms see the finished project for the first time, they cry. They see their child’s whole life in that quilt,” Kobliska said. “No one ever cried when I turned in a data design.”
T-shirt quilts have been around for years, but they garnered a bit of pop-culture intrigue when one appeared in the third “Twilight” movie in 2010. While they’re trendy now, they have much in common with quilts of the past, said Kathleen Campbell of the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota.
“These quilts are the natural descendant of 19th-century quilts. The pioneers created something useful and meaningful out of scraps and leftovers,” Campbell said. “Historically, a quilt tells a story, and they’ve always been created as a labor of love, so they are as much about the giver as the recipient.”
Ryan Strand called his T-shirt quilt, presented this past Christmas, the best gift his parents ever gave him.
“I loved college, and those T-shirts were there for all of it,” said Strand, now a graduate student at Northwestern University in Illinois. “Without the quilt, they become workout shirts until someday when they get donated or sold in a garage sale. They represent such good times, so that seemed a shame.”
Kevyn Burger is a Minneapolis-based broadcaster, podcaster and freelance writer.