On the Internet you can find T-shirt quilts that range in price from $50 to over $1,000. If your grandmother makes your quilt, it might even be free. Why such a large price range? There are a number of factors that go into the cost of making a T-shirt quilt; taking that free grandmother-made T-shirt quilt out of the picture, here are a number of cost factors that go into the pricing of a T-shirt quilt.
There are four to five basic materials that go into all T-shirt quilts. There is a quality range for each type of material. The higher quality material cost more and will be reflected in the price of your quilt.
Fabric - Although T-shirt quilts are made in many different styles; fabric is generally used for the backing and binding of the quilts. Some quilts will also use fabric for sashing between the blocks. Fabric comes in many different qualities. Think of bed sheet thread counts; the lower the thread count, the cheaper the fabric. Fabrics can also be made from 100% polyester, 100% cotton and any combination of the two. 100% polyester fabric with a low thread count is inexpensive, whereas, 100% cotton with a high thread count is much more expensive. Know what your quilter is using in your quilt.
Batting - Batting is the material that is used in the middle of a quilt. Batting comes in a variety of grades – from thin 100% polyester, to high quality needle punched cotton batting. Polyester batting tears easily, bunches up and will not last a long time. Cotton battings are the best choice, and therefore cost a twice as much as polyester batting. Read more about batting here.
Thread - All quilts use thread for sewing the blocks together and quilting. There are cheap threads that won’t withstand time and use. There is also a monofilament plastic thread (think fishing line) that can be used for long arm quilting. This type of thread should be avoided because the thread breaks easily and/or will cut the fabric it is sewn into. Read more about thread here.
Interfacing/Iron on Backing - Some quilters iron on interfacing to the back of their T-shirts to make them easier to work with. This will increase the cost of the quilt. But this is also unnecessary because it is only used to make working with T-shirt material easier for the sewer.
Another cost that is calculated into the price of a quilt is labor. Minimum wage is about $8 an hour. Typically, minimum wage is reserved for entry level and unskilled workers. High quality T-shirt quilt makers are not unskilled. Usually, they should have over five years of quilt making experience – the more the better.
Skill - It takes skill to make a T-shirt quilt. If it didn’t take any skill or experience, you would be making it yourself. Highly skilled and talented quilters make the nicest T-shirt quilts. This means that their hourly rate will be much higher than minimum wage. If you want to only pay minimum wage to a quilter, expect an entry-level unskilled quilter to attempt making your quilt. If you value your T-shirts, an inexpensive T-shirt quilt should scare you!
Time - How long does it take to make a T-shirt quilt? This depends on a number of factors including quilt style, complexity and craftsmanship. An inexpensive quilt will take less time than a more expensive quilt. This means that the style will be simple, there will be no complexity anywhere in the process and the craftsmanship will be questionable.
The Value a Quilter Puts on His or Her Work – If a quilter under prices their work, they are telling you up front that they do not think that their time and skill are good enough to charge more. Think about what this tells you, if someone does not find value in his or her work, will you?
There are two basic styles of T-shirt quilts – those that are made in columns and rows and those that are made in with the “Too Cool T-shirt quilt” puzzle style. The number of steps and thus the amount of time it takes to make each style is vastly different.
Traditional - A traditional style T-shirt quilt is made from blocks in columns and/or rows and the blocks are all one size. This makes the project very easy, especially if you, the customer, arrange the blocks ahead of time. The quilter can move directly from cutting to sewing. Read more about traditional style T-shirt quilts here.
The “Too Cool” Style - If a T-shirt quilt is made from many different sizes and shapes of blocks, the cutting process is more time consuming. This is because a decision about what size block to use needs to be made for each side of each T-shirt. After the T-shirts are cut, then there is counting and math! After that, a map needs to be made of the quilt and that map needs to be colored. Only then does the sewing begin. And the sewing takes three times as long because of the puzzle of the quilt top. All these steps take time and patience, but the results are worth it!
These factors and other factors are indicators of the quality of a T-shirt quilt. They also greatly influence the price of the quilt. For example, someone with great skill and artistry using cheap material might make a good looking quilt, but the quilt still has been made with cheap material that will look cheap and not wear well. Conversely, a quilt made with high quality materials that is poorly made is still a poorly made quilt. You want a quilt that is made from high quality materials by a skill and artistic quilter.
Look carefully at the cost of a T-shirt quilt. Be sure to know what you are paying for. A quilt that is $100 is probably going to be a disappointment. And always remember, you get what you pay for!
To learn more about having a quilt made from your T-shirts, download our free T-shirt Quilt Buyer's Guide. It's a great place to learn about the different styles and quality of T-shirt quilt.