5 Types of T-shirt Quilt Makers – Who is right for you?
- Have Questions?
Not all T-shirt quilt makers fall into the world of T-shirt quilts the same way. But they are all making T-shirt quilts and T-shirt blankets. Which type of quilt maker should you find to make your quilt?
Here is an explanation of each type of T-shirt quilt maker. This explanation includes how they came into the T-shirt quilt world and what you could expect if you ask them to make a T-shirt quilt for you.
- The Reluctant T-shirt Quilt Maker
- The DYI T-shirt Quilt Maker
- The Hobbyist T-shirt Quilt Makers
- The Professional T-shirt Quilt Makers
- The Industrial T-shirt Quilt or Blanket Makers
The Reluctant T-shirt Quilt Maker
The reluctant T-shirt quilt maker comes from the world of traditional quilting. She, and most are women, may have been quilting a few years or for as long as she can remember. She loves making quilts. She has a fabric stash that’s overflowing. She probably is in at least one quilting group such as a quilt guild.
Her friends and family know that she is a quilt maker. That’s why she has been asked to make a T-shirt quilt.
Agreeing to make a T-shirt quilt for a family member or friend will result in a learning curve for the quilt maker. She may or may not know how to make a T-shirt quilt. She will have to figure out this project. She will have to decide what style of quilt to make. She will have to purchase the materials she needs. She will have to take her time to create the process and the quilt.
Agreeing to make your quilt will cost her time and money.
Hiring a Reluctant T-shirt Quilt Maker
Should you ask someone you know who is a quilt maker to make your T-shirt quilt? If the quilt maker is your mom or grandmother, yeah, that’s ok.
If not, you need to approach this ask carefully. Put yourself into her shoes. Would you be willing to put $150 and 40 or more hours into a project for this person? If not, you should not ask. Read more about if you should ask someone to make your quilt here.
If a reluctant quilt maker does agree to make your T-shirt quilt, you need to pay her. She might not be comfortable asking to be compensated. Consider what you would want your hourly rate to be. And have her figure out the cost of materials. And pay her! Expecting to get a T-shirt quilt for free is just bad manners.
What can you expect having a reluctant quilt maker make your T-shirt quilt?
She might not know how to make a quilt in the style you are hoping to have made. Expecting her to make the quilt exactly how you want is generally unreasonable. You might get the quilt that she knows how to make or she thinks is easiest to make.
You won’t know the cost up front. The quilt maker might not know what to charge.
You might expect that if she is a quilt maker that she will make a quality quilt. And you might be surprised! Some quilt makers are not very good at making quilts. And others might not have the skills or experience to make a T-shirt quilt. They are very different from what they know how to make.
This could be a crapshoot. Some quilt makers can afford to purchase quality materials. Others can’t or won’t spend their own money to buy the good stuff. Rather, they will purchase the least expense materials they can find. Read more about material quality here.
Turn Around Time
I have heard stories of 5 years later and still no quilt. Basically, a reluctant quilt maker is doing you a favor. She probably has many other things going on in her life. She might not have time to dedicate to making your T-shirt quilt. You might want to talk about turn around time before you hand over your T-shirts.
As the name implies, a reluctant T-shirt quilt maker is not in the business of making T-shirt quilts. She is not set up to make T-shirt quilts. What you get back will be anyone’s guess.
2. The DYI T-shirt Quilt Maker
This is someone who looks at a T-shirt quilt and says, “What’s so difficult about that?” This might be you. And that’s ok! Not everyone who makes a T-shirt quilt began as a traditional quilt maker. Some look at the project and feel they could make it themselves.
Here’s my warning:
I have seen so many T-shirt quilts that were started and never completed. I have finished a lot of projects that were a mess. Know what you are getting into before you begin!
Here’s my advice:
Choose a pattern or directions that are complete. Your directions should take you through all the steps of the project. There are a lot of bad directions on the Internet that will get you into trouble. Choose a method that has a skilled professional T-shirt quilt maker behind it.
Watch out for someone who wrote down their directions as they made their first quilt. These are not directions you want to follow. And for the love of all things holy, do not make a T-shirt Quilt by gluing it together.
Here’s a link to the Too Cool T-shirt Quilt directions. This book was initially published in 2005. It has stood the test of time!
Hiring a DYI Quilt Maker
By nature, a DYI quilt maker is confident and self-assured. If you see her first quilt and are considering asking her to make a quilt for you, here’s what you need to know.
Where can you find a DYI Quilt Maker?
You can find a DYI quilt maker through your social connections. You may also find them on Etsy, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook. Just ask around!
Many DYI quilt makers don’t have the sewing or quilting background to make a complex style of quilt. It doesn’t mean that they can’t. But chances are that they are making a more simple style of t-shirt quilt.
Make sure you know what style quilt you want. Then see if they have made one like that. If they haven’t yet, but think they can… be a little wary. Unless you are ok with your T-shirts being used to learn on. Read more about different styles of T-shirt quilts here.
She may or may not know what to charge you up front. Take this into account.
Most likely, she will undercharge you for your quilt. This is not a good thing! She will want to make a little money or at least break even. To do this, she most likely will purchase the least expensive materials. This is even more likely if she doesn’t have a quilting background. She just might not know what’s good and what’s not good.
She may or may not make a high quality quilt. If your DYI quilt maker doesn’t have a quilting background, she might not have the knowledge to make a quilt that will last a lifetime. This might be as simple as seam allowance, stitch length or type of thread to use. All of which can effect the quality of your quilt.
As mentioned above, your DYI quilt maker might not want to put her money into quality materials. You need to be able to accept this. Or offer to pay for the materials yourself so you can be assured they are the quality you would like.
Turn Around Time
It could be right away or it could be 2 years from now. It might depend on what else she has going on in her life. You might want to establish your expectations a head of time. Typical turn around time for a T-shirt quilt is 4 to 8 weeks.
The Hobbyist T-shirt Quilt Makers
A hobbyist makes T-shirt quilts because it’s fun and she enjoys making them. It’s her hobby. If your ask her to make you one, she might be happy to make it.
A hobbyist typically doesn’t have a website. They get occasional business from Facebook or word of mouth. Making one to two quilts a month is a great month for her.
Making T-shirt quilts is not her full time job. It’s a hobby that she can make a little extra money from. This means that she doesn’t have anything to lose if something goes wrong with your quilt. She does not a professional reputation to protect.
Hiring a Hobbyist T-shirt Quilt Maker
Here’s some of what you need to take into consideration when you decide to hire a hobbyist to maker your T-shirt quilt.
Where can you find a Hobbyist Quilt Maker?
You can find a Hobbyist quilt maker on Etsy, Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook.
As with any quilt maker, you need to know what style of quilt they make. And you need to know what style you want for your T-shirts. If they don’t match up, this quilt maker might not be the right one for you.
Ask to see photographs of quilts this quilter maker has made. You can learn a lot about a T-shirt quilt from a photograph. Here’s an article about how to judge a quilt from a photograph.
Typically, but not always, a hobbyist quilt maker will not charge as much as a professional quilt maker. This is because it’s not a job for her. It’s extra cash. She might not be charging enough to even pay herself $2 an hours. This might sound great to you. But should you ask someone to make you something without adequate compensation? Read about asking a friend to make you a T-shirt quilt here.
This can be anywhere from great to awful. It just depends on the person making the quilt. I have seen a wide range of quality quilts made by hobbyist. So ask to see her work before you commit to having her make your quilt.
As with other quilt makers, materials are one area someone undercharging for a T-shirt quilt will try to make up for the low price. Again, ask your quilt maker what materials they are using. If they are not using the good stuff, you need to take this into consideration.
Turn Around Time
This will depend on what else is going on in your quilt maker’s life. Some might be quick about their turn around time while others will be very slow. Establish your expectation before you relinquish your T-shirts. Remember, 4 to 8 weeks in industry turn around time.
The Professional T-shirt Quilt Makers
A professional T-shirt quilt maker makes T-shirt quilts for a living. She will have a website. She will have a number of years of experience. She depends upon what she makes to put food on her table. She relies on her professional reputation. If something goes wrong with your quilt, she has a lot to lose.
Hiring a Professional T-shirt Quilt Maker
What’s great about a professional quilt make having a website is that all of these 5 items should be clearly listed on her website.
Most, but not all, professional quilt makers have one style of T-shirt quilt she makes. The more quilts of one style a quilt maker makes, the more proficient she is at making them. Fewer surprises will arise. If you don’t like the look of her quilts, you can go to another website.
There should be a pricing page on her website. It should list the prices of her quilts. It should also have information about services or other items that can increase the base price of her quilts. There should not be any surprises.
If you don’t like the cost, you can go look at another website.
This will be a little more difficult to figure out. Generally the less expensive the quilt the lower quality it probably will be. You can read reviews about what customers say about their quilts.
You can also look at photographs on her website and learn a lot about what she makes. Here’s what you need to know to be able to judge a quilt by a photograph.
The types of materials a quilt maker uses should be listed on her website. I doubt that she would lie about what materials she uses because she has her reputation to consider. If they are not what you want, consider looking for a different quilt maker.
Turn Around Time
This should be clearly stated on the website. Typically, it will be between 4 and 8 weeks. If for some reason it will be longer, the quilt maker should be in contact with you.
The Industrial T-shirt Quilt or Blanket Makers
There are only a few industrial T-shirt quilt or blanket companies. There are a number of things that set an industrial T-shirt quilt or blanket companies apart from professional quilt makers.
First is the number of quilts they make in a year. Once a professional quilt or blanket maker makes more than 2000 quilts a year, they are starting to move into the industrial sector of the industry. If a company makes 5,000 to 50,000 quilts or blankets a year, then they are industrial.
Second, is your ability to call and talk to your quilt maker about a special request or ask a question. Typically an industrial quilt or blanket company is just making too many quilts or blankets to be able to help in this fashion.
And third, is how the company was founded. Many of the back-stories of industrial quilt or blanket companies are not that of being founded by a quilt maker. Rather they were founded as a MBA project or for some other reason. A quilt maker did not start them.
Someone outside the quilt industry does not have the background to know if they are making blankets and not quilts. Or they just don’t care. So they will tell you that they are quilt makers, but they are not making quilts. They are making blankets. Read more about the difference between a quilt and a blanket here.
To traditional T-shirt quilt makers, this is frustrating. They are teaching you that a quilt and a blanket are the same thing. They are not. And that they have the same value and price. They don’t.
In the photo below, the blanket is on the left and the quilt is on the right. On the blanket, the white circles high light blocks that had their graphics cropped off. The green circles show the blocks with too much space around the graphic. The yellow X's are blank blocks. Lots of problems with the industrially made blanket.
Hiring an Industrial T-shirt Quilt or Blanket Maker
If you hire an industrial quilt or blanket maker make your quilt or blanket, here’s some of what you need to know.
To make more than 2000 quilts a year, the style has to be quick and simple. This means that they are making a traditional style T-shirt quilt. Here’s more about the different style of T-shirt quilts.
Industrial companies may be producing quilts or blankets. You should know what you want and what the company is making before you chose to send your T-shirt in. Don’t trust what they tell you that they are making. They might not know the difference. You need to know the difference.
Industrial made quilts or blankets will cost less than a professional quilt maker for a number of reasons.
- Economies of scale – the more fabric you need to purchase, the less per yard it will cost. This will save a lot of cost.
- Labor Cost – some large companies just don’t feel the need to pay a living wage for low skilled labor. And because of the simple style of quilts or blankets being made, lower skill level employees are used.
- Labor Saving Short Cuts – on the surface, this seems reasonable. Until you know that the short cuts will have an effect on the way your quilt looks and how long it last. And not in a good way.
- Your Labor – some companies ask you to do part of the work. That’s a great way to reduce your cost - if you know what you are doing. If you don’t, you might have to pay extra for your mistakes.
Like professional quilt maker, industrial companies also have their reputations to uphold. As a result, you will have a quilt or blanket of average quality. It won’t be perfect, but it shouldn’t fall apart on you.
The materials these companies use should be listed on their website. Again, you should know what you quality you would like used. They usually have limited color options. It makes it more economical for them.
If a company doesn’t meet your expectation, you know can search out other makers.
Turn Around Time
Industrial companies typically have turn around times that are within the industry standards of 4 to 8 weeks.
Which of these 5 types of T-shirt quilters you choose will depend on your circumstance, your budget and your expectations.
- If you have a very limited budget and don’t know any quilt makers, you might consider an industrial company.
- If you know a quilt maker or someone who has made a T-shirt quilt, this might be your starting point.
- If you have a decent budget you might look to a hobbyist. Read more about budgets and T-shirt quilts here.
- If you have very high expectations and a great budget I would suggest looking to a professional T-shirt quilt company such as Too Cool T-shirt Quilts.
Last thoughts – know what you want your T-shirt quilt to look and feel like before you begin your search for a quilt maker. Here are some articles to help you figure this out:
- What’s the difference between a quilt and a blanket?
- What style of T-shirt quilt would you like? There are 6 typical styles.
- Information about how to find a T-shirt quilt maker.
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.