Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on November 16th, 2015

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3 Problems a T-shirt Quilt Must Solve

There are many different styles of T-shirt quilts. Some styles are very traditional while others are much more modern. The big question to ask about any solution is if it solves all of the challenges that are inherent to T-shirt quilts.  

Here is a look at many of the problems that have to be solved in order to consider a T-shirt quilt successful.  

Problem 1 – The graphics and logos on T-shirts come in many different shapes and sizes. 

T-shirt logos come in different sizes and shapesThink about your own T-shirts. Do you have some shirts with large designs and other designs that are small? This is not just from one T-shirt to another. A lot of T-shirts will have a small design on the front and a large design on the back.  And then there is the shirt or sweatpants that have a graphic that runs vertically down the arm or leg. 

To solve this problem, a quilt needs to be designed in such a way that all the blocks are cut according to the design on the T-shirts.  So you will have some blocks that are large and some blocks that are small. 

Unsuccessful solutions are those that will crop off part of a design to fit the graphic into a one-size-fits-all block. Any graphic that is cut off proves that this solution failed.  

Also, a small graphic that is swimming in a huge block is also not a good solution. A small block surrounded by too much blank area (especially if the graphic is in the upper right hand corner of the block) not only wastes space but also looks silly. 

Problem 2 – A quilt must attract and keep a viewer’s attention.

This means that the solution has to be interesting and novel enough for your brain to have to stop and figure out the pattern. The human brain can discern patterns easily – that’s what we do best. Our brains are constantly surveying our surroundings looking for things out of the ordinary. As long as the pattern is familiar, our subconscious lets the rest of our mind know that it’s ok to be doing something else. 

If you relate this concept to a quilt, a quilt with a very simple pattern is so easy for us to figure out that we don’t spend a lot of time looking at it.  So a quilt that is laid out in a grid – say 4 blocks across by 5 blocks tall is such an easy problem for our brains, that we don’t pay much attention to it. 

A quilt that is built with columns of various width blocks will be a little more interesting to look at. But again, our brains rapidly recognize the columns and moves on.

compare a traditional T-shirt quilt with a Too Cool T-shirt quiltThe best solution is a design that is puzzled together. When we look at this design, we might begin to see a column or a row, but then a block of a different size interrupts it. This makes us stop and have to consider what we are seeing again. As your brain continues to look for the underlying pattern, you will stay actively involved in looking at the quilt. A puzzled together quilt is a great solution because you keep looking at the quilt. 

Problem 3 – The different color T-shirt blocks need to be balanced throughout the quilt.

Florida Gators T-shirt QuiltAny design solution, successful or not in other categories, can fail if the colors of the T-shirts are not balanced.  For example, if all the red blocks in the quilt are congregated in one area of the quilt, the quilt will be unbalanced. 

A quilt maker must be skilled enough to have the various color T-shirt blocks spread evenly throughout the quilt.  Spend time looking at photos of T-shirt quilts. Squint your eyes and look to see if any globs of colors stick out. If so, the quilt is not as successful as it could have been. 

Many quilts that are made of uniform size blocks laid out in rows and columns will not look balanced. You could lay them out in a dark/light checkerboard pattern, but if there are more darks than lights, this pattern can’t hold. 

When you are looking at T-shirt quilts, look at how they solve for these problems. You should want your T-shirts preserved in a quilt that is awesome for anyone to look at. If they are your T-shirts, you will probably at least like any quilt they are made into.  But the test of a great T-shirt quilt is if someone says, “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it!” This means that the quilt is about more than just the T-shirts it was made from. 

To learn more about having a T-shirt made with your T-shirts, consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide

About 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.