5 Types of T-shirt Quilts
There are many different styles of T-shirt quilts. Each style can result in a different look and feel. Each style also comes with it’s own issues. Here is a look at the types of T-shirt quilts.
Traditional Block Style With Sashing
What: This is the first type of T-shirt quilt made. All the blocks were cut the same size. Interfacing was applied to the back of the T-shirt block to make it stiff and easy to work with. The blocks are laid out in columns and rows divided by cotton fabric.
Look: This style of quilt is very simplistic because it is laid out in a checkered board pattern. You look at it and your brain easily recognizes the pattern and you go on. There is nothing there to grab you attention and keep you looking at the quilt.
Feel: Stiff! The iron-on backing that is applied to the backs of the T-shirts to stiffen them enough so they can be sewn to cotton fabric makes this style of quilt stiff and heavy.
Issues: This style does not take into consideration that T-shirt designs are different sizes. If a design is larger than the blocks size, the area outside the block gets cut off. If the design is a lot smaller than the block, there will be a lot of blank space around the design.
What: This style is the same traditional block style, but it omits the sashing – the fabric dividing the rows and columns. All the blocks are cut the same size and are sewn together in rows and columns.
Look: Again, this is a very simple style of T-shirt quilt. It’s easy to quickly look at and move on.
Feel: The feel of this quilt will depend on how it is made. If iron on backing is used, it will be stiff. It will be less stiff if this step is skipped.
Issues: Since this type of quilt is made with just one size block, T-shirts with large designs will have the designs cut off and small designs will have too much black area around them.
Unequal Rows or Columns
What: Quilters began to recognize that T-shirts have different size designs. To compensate for the size differences, a quilter would choose two or three width of blocks and cut the designs out with a width that fits and cut the blocks whatever length is needed. When the blocks are sewn together, they are sewn in columns of matching widths. So you would have a wide column, then a narrow column and then a wide column and so on. This style also could be made with same height rows.
Look: This will make for a more interesting quilt than a traditional block style, but the quilt is still made with columns or row. Your brain still can quickly pick up on the row or columns and thus it will not hold your interest for very long.
Feel: This will depend on the quilt maker’s decision to iron-on backing or not. If they choose to use iron-on backing to make their job easier, then the quilt will be stiff.
Issues: If the design on a T-shirt is still wider than their largest block width, the design will still be cut off.
What: All the designs on the T-shirts are cut out willy-nilly. The blocks are then glued to one piece of fabric or bed sheet. The blocks are then zigzagged down.
Look: This will make for an interesting quilt that will hold your attention and make you spend some time looking at the quilt.
Feel: This type of quilt will be heavier due to the added layer of the sheet or fabric. It also might be stiffer depending on what type of glue is used.
Issues: A possible issue is that part of a T-shirt design may be covered up with another design. If this type of quilt is made by an inexperienced sewer or with a machine with poor tension, the durability of the sewn down pieces of T-shirt material might become an issue.
The Too Cool Style AKA: Variable Style
What: This style of T-shirt quilt was created by Too Cool T-shirt Quilts in the early 1990’s. All the blocks are different sizes and the blocks are puzzled together so that there are neither column nor rows. Since Too Cool T-shirt Quilts is trademarked, other companies making this style of quilts must call them something else – most will use the term variable.
Look: Awesome! None of the designs are cut off or left hanging with too much blank T-shirt around them. The puzzle style also makes you work to figure out the pattern. But since the design is random, you end up spending time looking at and appreciating the quilt.
Feel: This style of T-shirt quilt should be made without iron-on backing – so it should be soft.
Issues: Because this type of quilt is difficult to make, an inexperienced quilter can make a mess of it! For example, the layout might be simplified into columns and rows because it is tough to puzzle all the blocks together. Another issue an inexperienced sewer may have is sewing the blocks together so they are fit together well. For example, a 4"block might be stretched to 5" or gathered to 3". Either way, it will look wrong.
If you are trying to judge a T-shirt quilt maker from a photograph, here is a article about how to judge a quilt from a photograph.
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.