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Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker

3 Design Features You Want in Your T-shirt Quilt

June 21st, 2021

By Andrea Funk

Great T-shirt Quilts Have These Three Design Elements:

  • No Rows or Columns
  • Colors are balanced throughout the quilt.
  • Graphics that lead your eyes back onto the quilt.

There are so many people making T-shirt Quilts, how do you find the right one to transform your T-shirts into an incredible quilt? One measure is how well the quilt is designed and laid out.

If you are not an artist, you might not know the difference between a well-designed T-shirt quilt and one that is poorly designed.  Here are three design elements to look for when judging the design of a T-shirt quilt:

1. No Rows or Columns

A T-shirt quilt needs to be interesting to keep you engaged and looking at it. If the quilt is boring, it’s only worth is just to keep you warm.

When the T-shirt blocks are lined up in rows and/or columns, the quilt is uninteresting. You pick up on the predictable pattern and your brain says, “I know that pattern, what’s next?” 

Compare pr to tc

The quilt on the right is laid out using a puzzled method. There are no rows and no columns. Your brain does not know the pattern and has to spend more time to figure it out. This means that you will stay engaged with the quilt longer. The longer you look at the quilt, the more blocks you stumble across. And this means more stories. Read about puzzle style T-shirt quilts here. 

The quilt on the left, is laid out in rows and columns. This is a traditional style layout. There is not much to keep your attention. There are a number of issues with traditional style quilts beyond design considerations. Read about traditional style T-shirt quilts here.

2. Colors Balanced Throughout the Quilt

3 neon balanceUnless all the T-shirts in the quilt are the same color, the different blocks of color need to be balanced throughout the quilt. This takes a good eye and experience. One way to check for this balance is to squint at a photo of the quilt. An unbalanced quilt will have blobs of color.

In the photo above of the two quilts, the quilt on the right is balanced and the one on the left is unbalanced. There is a blob of dark running down the right side of that quilt. 

That said, some groupings of T-shirts are more successfully balanced than others.  Look at a number of quilts by one maker to determine the overall success of their ability to balance colors.

The quilt here is an example of a well balanced quilt. 


Planning a T-shirt quilt?
Here are step-by-step directions for ordering your Too Cool T-shirt quilt.

How to Order a T-shirt Quilt


3. Graphics Positioned to Lead Your Eyes 

Tracking off 4th of julyThe movement or action of the graphic on your T-shirts should be placed directionally.

This means that designs where the subject is looking left or the action is moving to the left need to be on the right side of the quilt and vice versa for those looking right. This is because your eyes tend to follow the action of the design. An image can influence where your eyes look.

The key is to keep your eyes tracking onto the quilt and not off.  You want your quilt so that the action or movement on the blocks direct your eyes onto the quilt. It’s subtle, but it’s important.

Although the quilt here is very nice, it is an example of the direction of the action on the blocks leading your eyes off the quilt. The yellow arrows show the direction of the movement of a number of T-shirts. Each of those shirts should have been placed on the other side of the quilt. 

Every T-shirt needs to be studied to see what direction the image directs the eye and place accordingly. Even letters and numbers direct your eyes.

There’s more to T-shirt quilt design than you might imagine. 

What do you want your quilt to look like?

Here are some steps you can take to help you figure out what you want your quilt to look like.

  1. Search google image for a T-shirt quilt - resultsStart general. Begin looking at the different styles of T-shirt quilts. Here's is an explanation of 6 different styles of T-shirt quilts.

  2. Look at photos on the internet. Do a Google image search for T-shirt Quilts, Traditional style T-shirt quilts, variable style T-shirts quilts, puzzle style T-shirt quilts, Too Cool Style T-shirt quilts and the like.

  3. After you have looked at a lot of styles, choose a style you like.
  4. Then look within that style for individual quilts that you like. Again, look at photographs on the internet.

  5. When you see a quilt that you love, click on it and visit that website. Visit a number of websites.

  6. On these sites, look at the quilter’s work in its totality. Is all that quilters work great? Or was the quilt you like the only shining star of the bunch? Look at the quilters body of work for balance and block placement.  Here's a link to photos of our T-shirt quilts. 

How a Quilt Looks is Just Your First Step

The next step will be to figure out if the quilter you are looking at makes quality work. It’s like food, if it looks great but tastes like crap, it’s not good. You want a good looking quilt that tastes great. The taste in quilting is the quality of the materials used in the making of a quilt. 

Learn more about how to judge a quilt by a photograph here. 


Want to learn more about T-shirt quilts? Visit our Learning Center.
We have over 200 articles about all aspects of T-shirt quilts.

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Andrea Funk

Andrea Funk is the inventor of T-shirt quilts made with multiple blocks sizes. The modern method of making T-shirt quilts. In 1992 she founded Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Her life has been immersed in T-shirt quilts ever since.