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Q & A About T-shirt Quilts

That Awesome Quilting on the Back of a T-shirt Quilt Is What We Do

February 26th, 2018

By Andrea Funk

Tracing on the back of a Too cool T-shirt quilt

The quilting designs on the back of a Too Cool T-shirt quilt are not only fun, they are one of the things that set a Too Cool T-shirt quilt apart from other T-shirt quilts. Below is an explanation of the features of our quilting and answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.  Here's a video showing long arm quilting of a T-shirt quilt.



Features of Our Quilting Include:

Thread_colorsContrasting Thread Color

We typically use a contrasting thread on a solid material so the quilting can be seen. For example, we might choose to use a light blue thread on a navy backing. This light-colored thread would show up great on the navy.

Each Block is Quilted With a Different Design

Every block in our quilts is quilted with a different pattern. Some blocks may receive an overall pattern such as loops, sunbursts, or meanderings. Note, this overall pattern is by block and not on the entire quilt.

While on other blocks, we might trace a design or word on the T-shirt block. For example, if Mickey Mouse is on the front, we would trace him and then on the back of the quilt you would see Mickey. Very cool!

Q & A About the Quilting Designs on the Back of Our T-shirt Quilts.

Q: Can my quilt be quilted in an overall design quilting on the back of a T-shirt quiltquilted rather than having each block receive its own quilting design?

A: We can do an overall design if you would like. But understand that this is not what we excel at. T-shirt quilt companies who do overall quilting designs either use a computer guided long arm quilting machine or follow a printed template by hand with a laser pointer. Since we do art quilting on our quilts, we have very little experience with overall designs. We can do loops or stippling.

Part of what makes a Too Cool T-shirt quilt so cool is the quilting. With an overall pattern, we feel that a quilt becomes more unimaginative and pedestrian. 

Q: What types of things can be traced from the T-shirts?

A: Generally, we like to trace line drawings. We analyze a graphic on a T-shirt block for the following characteristics:

small flip flopsSize: The graphic needs to be larger than about 6 inches. It’s more difficult to capture the detail of a small design. Here, the pink block with the flip flops is too small to trace. 

Complexity: The more complex a design, the less likely it will be traced. Typically, the more complex a graphic, the less likely it would be a line drawing.

Line drawing vs. shading: A line drawing is a drawing done with lines that vary in width. Shading is used very little if at all in a line drawing. Think paint by numbers. 

A drawing done using a shading method uses the fill as part of the structure of the design. So, to translate this type of drawing into a line drawing, we would have to determine where lines would have to be. And this is difficult and it just never looks great.

The seahorse is a perfect example of a line drawing. Here you see it on the front of the quilt and then traced on the back.

. Seahourse front to tracingseahorse tracking back to front


Want to see more photos to get a better idea of what your quilt could look like?
Check out the photo gallery and see some great Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. 

Photographs of T-shirt Quilts

Faces: We typically avoid tracing faces. They usually are not line drawings and they look poor on the front if they are traced.

Type of T-shirt Fabric: If a fabric is super stretchy and would distort if we traced something on it, then we would choose to do an overall pattern on that block.

Another example would be a material where you could see the stitching on the front because the stitches sink into material. Think velour. When we trace something, we need to be able to see where we have been and if the stitches can’t be seen, we would get lost.

Surrounding Graphics: We try to spread our tracings out throughout the quilt. If three traceable items are right next to each other, we might choose the one we think would work best. But sometimes all 3 are too much fun and we trace them all. 

number tracedWords and Numbers: There are collections of T-shirts that don’t have any graphics – they are just words. In this case, we would choose words throughout the quilt to trace. Numbers are also great to trace.

But remember, when a word or number is traced from the front of the quilt, they will be mirrored or backwards on the back of the quilt. In the example here, you can see that the I♥︎NY and the number 90 are mirrored.

Q: Can you only trace designs that are on that block of the T-shirt or can I provide a pattern?

A: Typically, we trace designs on the T-shirts. The design is then seen on the back of the quilt and the back and front match.

paper tracing

We can use paper patterns to quilt a specific design on your quilt. They work great but keep the following things in mind:

  • Copyright infringements.
  • There will be an extra cost because we have to remove excess paper. This involves tweezers and the picking of paper.
  • The design will be a mirror image of the paper stencil. So, if words are used, they will be backwards unless they are printed out backwards.
  • We can print out your designs or you can send them with your T-shirts.
  • How to make a stencil for us: Print out your word or line drawing on a piece of paper and send it to us. Or you can e-mail us your image and we can print it out for you.

Q: How involved can I be in the selection of quilting designs on my quilt?

A: We have found that the less involved or the less Day of the dead tracing backyou micro-manage your quilt, the better your quilt will be. That said, here are a few things you could do if you would like:

  • If would you like a specific image on your quilt, you can tell us what you would like quilted in and provide us the paper printed pattern. Remember there will be a charge for picking out the paper.
  • If you would like a specific image traced from one of your T-shirts, put a piece of blue painter’s tape on that shirt noting that you would like it traced. If we can trace it, we will. If not, that block will get an overall design.
  • If there is a design or pattern of ours that you hate, you can request that we not use it on your quilt. We will try to avoid it. 

Do you have a question about a T-shirt quilt? We would be happy to answer them. Please e-mail your questions to:

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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.