Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on December 17th, 2015

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How to Choose Backing and Binding Colors for a T-shirt Quilt

The Construction of a T-shirt Quilt  |  Planning a T-shirt Quilt

Before you can choose the colors for the backing and binding material of your T-shirt quilt, you need to know what backing and binding materials are.

parts_of_the_quilt-2.jpgBacking Material

The backing material is the fabric that you see on the back of a quilt. Too Cool T-shirt Quilts uses solid color 100% cotton fabric. So you will need to choose a color for this fabric. You have over 250 choices. Note: We do not use white on the back of T-shirt quilts because it is difficult to keep clean while we work and it is see through.

Quilt Binding

The binding is the fabric that is sewn around the outside of a T-shirt quilt. You see about ½" of the binding from the top, side and back of a quilt. Bindings are used to cover the raw edges of the quilt top, batting and backing materials. We have over 400 solid-color and print bindings from which to choose.

Note: We do not use white for binding because it is difficult to keep clean while we are working with it and it will show all the dirt. White will quickly become grungy.

Here are 10 terms you might want to learn about T-shirt quilts. 

Choosing You Backing Color

Begin by first choosing your backing color because this is the largest piece of color on your entire quilt. There are several methods you can use to choose the color for the backing of your T-shirt quilt:

  1. Choose your favorite color.
    Advantage: It’s your favorite color and you know that you will love it.
    Disadvantage: This method may not always directly relate with the colors of your T-shirt. For example, your T-shirts are mostly blues, black, gray and white and your favorite color is green. Green might not be the best choice in this situation. A blue backing probably would work best.

  2. Quilting on the back of a T-shirt quiltChoose the colors from the color of your favorite T-shirt within the quilt.
    You can mark that shirt with a note on blue painter’s tape saying “ backing color”. We can match the backing fabric color as close as possible.
    Advantage: That color is already in the quilt top and you know that it will match.
    Disadvantage: This particular color does not have a perfect match in fabric.

  3. Choose your school colors for your backing colors.
    Advantage: If this is a school activity related quilt, the backing color will be in many of the T-shirts.
    Disadvantage: You might be sick and tired of your school colors.

  4. Choose a color that will work in the room in which you plan to use the quilt.
    You know that this quilt will look great in this room
    Disadvantage: If you move or remodel, then the quilt may no longer work with the new décor.

  5. You may also ask us to suggest backing colors.
    We will look at all your T-shirts to make our suggestions. We will give you a number of suggestions and then you can make the final decision.
    Advantage: We have been making T-shirt quilts since 1992 and have a practiced eye in choosing colors.
    Disadvantage: You might have a different perception of the color you ok. For example, if we say that a teal would look good and then when you see the backing in real life you say, “that’s not teal, it blue.” Although if we suggest a color that is not easily understood, we will say something like, “teal like the XYZ T-shirt.”

  6. On your order form, tell us to surprise you.
    We can do that!
    Advantage: We are experienced in choosing backing colors for T-shirt quilts. We do this everyday and you choose backing colors perhaps just a few times in your life.
    Disadvantage: You might be surprised more than you want.

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 quilts. 


Color Samples

fabric colors for a T-shirt quiltThere are not color choices on our website because of the potential for the color not to read accurate from computer to computer. For example, something that looks green on my computer monitor could end up looking blue on your monitor. I think that this would cause more heartache than it would help. So, you can either tell us the color you would like used or send us a swatch of the color you would like used. A swatch can be anything from a paint chip to a piece of material. Below is a list of some possibilities:

  • Cut a 1" x 1” piece of fabric from one of your T-shirts
  • Scribble on white paper with a color crayon or marker
  • Paint chip • Fabric swatch from some other project  
  • A wallpaper sample – circle or point to the specific color you would like
  • A photo or color swatch from a magazine with the specific color circled
  • A colored piece of paper like construction paper or a sticky note
  • Get creative; it makes it fun for us!


Choosing a Binding Color For Your T-shirt Quilt

back and binding of a T-shirt quiltMechanically, a binding covers the raw edges of your quilt. The aesthetics of the binding is two fold. First, it provides a thin frame around the entire quilt and second, it visually links the back of the quilt to the front. The binding can also provide us with cues as to what thread color to use to quilt your quilt.

Do note: we do not use white for binding color because of dirt. The binding is the part of a quilt that is handled most. The white binding will quickly become grungy and not attractive. We also have issues keeping white clean while we work.

Below are a number of ways to consider what binding color to choose for your T-shirt quilt.

  1. Use the same color for the binding that you use on the back of your quilt. 
    Advantage: It’s an easy decision and will look great. 
    Disadvantage: If the backing color is in many of the T-shirts on the face of the quilt, the backing color might be a shade off the color of the T-shirts and look off. This is because T-shirt material and cotton fabric do not reflect light the same. If this is the case, it might be better to choose either a contrasting color or a print.

  2. The back side of a T-shirt quiltIf you choose to use your school colors, the backing would be the primary school color and the binding could be the secondary color.
    For example, if your school colors were royal and yellow, the backing could be royal and the binding yellow. 
    Advantage: This would match the colors in your T-shirts and it would provide an obvious thread color choice. In the example above, the thread color would be yellow. 
    Disadvantage: If one of your school colors were white, we would not use that on the binding. Since we don’t use white for bindings, an alternative color would need to be chosen. Some options are light gray, cream or using the same fabric that is on the back of the quilt.

  3. Choose black for the binding. 
    Advantage: Black goes with most everything, so your choice would work. 
    Disadvantage: Black does not give us cues for what color thread to use for the quilting. We will typically choose either a gray thread or a pastel variation of the backing color for the quilting.

  4. Use the same color as the backing material, but in a print material. 
    Advantage: This can help the backing material match the front of the quilt better. A print can also up the customization of your quilt. Prints look great and also give us cues for what color thread to choose. 
    Disadvantage: We don’t have a library of prints to show you plus our print selection is always changing. So you may not like the print we use. In over 20 years of making T-shirt quilts, we have only had to replace 3 bindings that customers were unhappy with. And if you are unhappy with the binding, we will change it out for you no questions asked.

  5. Examples of backing and binding on T-shirt quiltsAsk us to surprise you.
    Advantage: We have years of experience in choosing binding colors and do a great job selecting bindings that enhance the look of the quilt top. 
    Disadvantage: You maybe more surprised than you wanted to be. But remember we will change out the binding for you if you are unhappy with it.

Although the binding on a quilt is small, when done right, a binding can enhance the look of your quilt. If you need help choosing your binding color, please let us know and we will be happy to help.

Having a great T-shirt quilt made takes research, planningand direction following.
But the effort is worth it when you have a great quilt made from your T-shirts.  
To learn more about having a T-shirt quilt made with your T-shirts, consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.


Back to: Planning Your T-shirt Quilt