Five Details That Make a T-shirt Quilt Look Amazing
April 27th, 2020
By Andrea Funk
5 Details to Look for in a T-shirt Quilt:
1. The blocks fit the designs on the T-shirts.
2. All the graphics are centered on the blocks.
3. No graphic is cropped off.
4. The blocks are different sizes to accommodate different size graphics.
5. The quilt is not built in columns and rows.
On the Internet, there are millions of photographs of T-shirt quilts. Since you have landed here, you’ve probably seen some of them yourself.
To help you understand what you are looking at, we have broken down 5 details that are important to look for. Once you have these figured out, you will know what to look for based on what is important to you.
Look at lots of pictures and pick out the little details that set an amazing T-shirt quilt apart from an ordinary or awful quilt.
1. The Blocks Fit the Designs on the T-shirts
Look carefully at each block on a T-shirt quilt – do the blocks fit the designs from the T-shirt?
If part of a design is cut off or if a small design is floating around in a block that is way too large, these are a detail that takes away from the look of a quilt.
In the photo to the right, there are two quilts made with the exact same T-shirts. The blanket on the left was made by Project Repat with a traditional style design. The quilt on the right was made by Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. What's the difference? Here's a point-by-point comparison of the two.
In the Project Repat blanket on the left in the photo here, more blocks are cut wrong than right! The 10 blocks circled in white are blocks with images were cropped-off. The 3 blocks circled in green had too much blank space around the logo. The 2 blocks with the yellow X's are blank. Yet they left two graphics off the blanket all together.
Let's look closer at just one block - the block from the motorcycle T-shirt. The first photo here is of what the original T-shirt looked like. It says, "Motorcycle Classics."
The next image is that same T-shirt used in a Project Repat blanket. Now it just says, "Classics." And part of the bike has been cropped off.
The third image here is from a Too Cool T-shirt quilt made with the exact same T-shirts. Here, the design is seen in its entirety.
Ask yourself, which one would you rather have in your quilt?
So, 1/4 of the blocks were cut to fit the design on the T-shirt. The remaining blocks were cut to fit the standard block size. The block size chosen for a particular T-shirt needs to fit the design. A T-shirt quilt made with one block size just doesn't cut it.
Read more about the different style T-shirt quilts here.
2. All the Graphics Are Centered on the Blocks
Are the designs centered on the block? For example, if there is 3” of space on one side of the design and 1” on the other side, the design has been cut off-center. This might seem like a small detail, but it’s little details like this that should be looked at when considering a T-shirt quilt maker.
Here's an example:
In the block on the left, the design is cut off center from left to right. It was also cut on an angle. It's not a huge difference. But it is not as nice as it could have been. It might not matter to you. But if it does, study photos of T-shirts quilts with this detail in mind.
Planning a T-shirt quilt?
Here are step-by-step directions for ordering your Too Cool T-shirt quilt.
3. No Graphic is Cropped Off
You should have the entire design on your T-shirt in your quilt. Don’t accept an explanation of:
“If the design on your T-shirt does not fit into our standard block size, it will be cut off.”
This is one of those details that will standout and look poor. And you should not accept having your designs cut off!
In this series of photos here, we begin with a Mickey Mouse T-shirt. This is one of those T-shirts where your head becomes the head of Mickey Mouse. So it's important to keep that neckline in the quilt. Otherwise you won't understand the T-shirt when it's in the quilt.
The second photo is how this block should be cut. It shows everything including the neckline. The third photo is how this graphic looks cut with a standard 12" block. It no longer makes any sense.
Would you be disappointed if this were your T-shirt? If so, you want to look for a quilt maker who uses multiple size blocks. This way there will be a block size large enough to accommodate the entire graphic from this T-shirt.
On the other hand, if you are ok with the graphic being cut off, the a traditional style quilt maker would work well for your needs.
Read more about to judge the quality of a T-shirt quilt from a photograph.
4. The Blocks are Different Sizes to Accommodate Different Size Graphics
As you can see from the example above, designs on T-shirts come in all shapes and sizes. Thus, a T-shirt quilt must have blocks of all shapes and sizes. This is a detail that is quickly seen.
It's not just large size blocks. It very small blocks and blocks that are odd shapes need to also have blocks that fit their designs.
Look at this close up photo of part of one of our quilts. You will notice how many different size and shapes can be used. There are only a few blocks here that could be cut with a single size block. As a matter of fact, there are over 12 different block sizes used in just this small section of this quilt.
It would be heart breaking to have your favorite blocks cropped off.
Just say “no thank you” to a T-shirt quilt made from one size square blocks.
Here's more about the problems every T-shirt quilt must solve.
5. The Quilt is Not Built in Columns and Rows
Like the T-shirt quilt here, T-shirt blocks lined up in rows and columns are uninteresting. More than that, it makes it so you can quickly glance at the quilt and move on. It just won't hold your attention. Your brain can easily discern the pattern. You doesn't need to re-examine the quilt.
Your T-shirt quilt should be dynamic and interesting. It should be able to grab someone’s attention and hold it. Rows and columns just don’t do that.
If you have not seen thousands of T-shirt quilts, you might need to look carefully at photos to see the rows and columns – it’s one of those details that might not always be quickly discerned, but it’s very important. Once you begin to see this checkerboard pattern, you see it everywhere.
Also, just because a T-shirt quilt has different size blocks does not necessarily mean that it does not have rows or columns. Read more about traditional styles of T-shirts quilt here.
Your T-shirts are important! So when you are looking at having a T-shirt quilt made, don’t trust your T-shirt to just anyone who says they can make a T-shirt quilt.
Your quilt will probably look awesome to you no matter how it’s made – because they are your T-shirts. The real test of T-shirt quilt’s awesomeness? When someone else thinks it’s so outstanding that they say to you, “I’ll take it if you don’t want it.”
Want to learn more about T-shirt quilts? Visit our Learning Center.
We have over 200 articles about all aspects of T-shirt quilts.
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.