1. Quilt Top 2. Batting 3. Backing Material 4. Binding 5. The Quilting
Are you considering having a T-shirt quilt made from your T-shirts? If so, it helps to understand a few basics about a quilt. With just a little knowledge, you will be better able to talk with a potential quilt maker about your T-shirt quilt.
Any quilt is made up of 5 main parts: the quilt top, the batting, the backing fabric, a binding and the quilting.
1. Quilt Top
The quilt top is the face of the quilt. It’s what you see when the quilt is faced right side up. Although a quilt top can be one piece of fabric, they are typically made from a number of pieces of fabric that are sewn together in a pattern.
On a T-shirt quilt, the quilt top is made up of T-shirt blocks that are sewn together to create the quilt top. The quilt top is the first step in the quilt making process.
Batting is the “stuffing” that is in the middle of a quilt. Typically for a quilt, this is a thin “low loft” batting that is about ¼" thick. Batting is thin so the quilt can be quilted. In the photo here, this batting is on the right.
If the batting is “high loft” or very thick, the thickness of the batting prevents the quilt from being quilted to the same degree as a quilt with low loft batting. Thus, the quilting is spread further apart. When a quilt is made with thick batting it is typically called a comforter. This is the batting on the left side of the photo here.
3. Backing Material
The backing material is the fabric that goes on the back of your quilt. There is a lot you need to know about the backing material.
Type of Material
T-shirt quilts can be backed with any number of materials. Typically you will see cotton, polyester, denim, duck cloth, fleece, flannel or Minky.
What's best? I have used all of the listed types of materials. We prefer to use a high quality 100% cotton fabric. We think this has a great look, feel and is durable.
There is a wide range of material quality. There is inexpensive 100% polyester fabric that will look and feel awful. And there is 100% high quality cotton material. This will feel great and wear well. The quality of fabric used in your quilt will be reflected in the cost of the quilt. Read more about the prices of T-shirt quilts here.
Solid vs. Print
If a quilt makers chooses a solid or print fabric depends upon who is making the quilt and the effect for which they are aiming.
For example, if a quilter wants to hide the quilting, a fabric with a printed pattern will be chosen. This is because the print will camouflage all the stitching.
On the other hand, if a quilter wants to highlight their quilting work, a solid color fabric will be chosen. Here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts we use a solid color backing material with a contrasting thread color so you can see the stitching. We want to show off our quilting because it is so much fun. In the photo here, the black backing is a Too Cool T-shirt quilt. You can see all the fun quilting there.
The binding is the material that goes around the outside of the quilt. About ¼" of the binding is seen from the top, the side and the back. The binding is used to hide the raw edges of the quilt top, batting and backing materials. In the photo here, the white batting is seen. This is where the binding is sewn onto a quilt.
If a quilt does not have a binding, it is most likely a blanket.
Bindings can be made from the exact same material as the backing material or they can be made from fabrics that contrast or are a printed material. This is a great place to tie the look of the quilt top with the backing material.
5. The Quilting
The 5th component of a quilt is the quilting. The three layers (top, batting and backing) must be fixed together to make the quilt. If the layers are not connected or connected sparingly, the middle layer of batting will bunch up and be very lumpy after a quilt is washed.
In the quilting world, the jargon used to describe the connecting of these three layers is called quilting. There are different types of quilting that will leave a different effect on the quilt. Read here for more about quilting styles.
Hopefully this primer on T-shirt quilts will give you a basic knowledge of quilting so you can hold your own in a conversation with a quilter. Here are a few other articles that may help you find the right quilt maker for your quilt.
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.