How to Avoid Messing-Up Your T-shirt Quilt
February 28th, 2022
By Andrea Funk
7 Ways to Screw Up a T-shirt Quilt
1. Have a blanket rather than a quilt made.
2. Have a novice make your quilt.
3. Use cheap fabric and materials to make your quilt.
4. Use 100% polyester batting.
5. Have all the blocks cut the same size.
6. Have a layout of rows and columns.
7. Include the wrong T-shirt in your quilt.
... And so many other ways.
For the uninitiated, a T-shirt quilt is just a T-shirt quilt. You might think that anyone with a sewing machine can successfully make a T-shirt quilt. That’s just not true. There are so many ways we have seen T-shirt quilts screwed up in the past 30 years.
Based on our experience of having made over 10,000 quilts and having remade so many others, our advice is to have your quilt made right the first time. Here are some mistakes to avoid:
Here's a List of Things Not To Do!
1. Don't Have a T-shirt Blanket Made When You Want a T-shirt Quilt
There is a difference between a quilt and a blanket. A blanket has two layers and no quilting. Whereas a quilt has three layers held together by quilting.
Before you hire someone to make a quilt, double check that they are actually going to make you a quilt!
Don't just ask, "Do you make quilts?" Some people making T-shirt blankets actually think they are making quilts. This is a sure sign of inexperience!
The better question to ask is, "Do you long-arm quilt your quilts?"
Read about 10 questions to ask a quilt maker here.
2. Don't Have a Novice Make Your T-shirt Quilt
Not all novice quilt makers will screw up a T-shirt quilt on their first attempt. I look at my first attempt and cringe.
If someone has not made a T-shirt quilt before, they don’t have a track record proving they can be successful. Ask to see a quilter’s work before you give them consent to take your favorite T-shirts and make a quilt. Read about the different experience levels of quilt makers.
3. Don't Have Cheap Fabric Used in Your T-shirt Quilt.
Quilting materials come in a wide range of quality. There are fabrics that are cheap crap and there are fabrics that are wonderful and with great longevity.
You can’t tell from a photograph what type of fabric is being used. You will need to ask what’s being used. One quick hint, the cheaper a quilt is, the more likely lower quality material will be used.
4. Don't use 100% polyester batting in your T-shirt Quilt.
There are many different types of batting that can be used in a quilt.
The worst type is 100% polyester. This is because if the quilt is not quilted close enough, the batting will wad up during subsequent washings. This type of batting will also poke out the back of the quilt through the fibers of the backing material. You can actually pull-out fiber.
Look for 80% cotton/20% polyester or 100% cotton batting for the best results. Read more about batting here.
5. Don't Choose a Quilt Style with All the Blocks Cut the Same Size
In any grouping of T-shirts, there will be large and small graphics on the T-shirts. This means that a one size block quilt will end up cutting off parts of graphics or leaving other graphics with too much space around them.
If a design on your T-shirt is larger than the standard block size, then the graphic will be cut off. This can break your heart if it’s your favorite T-shirt.
Look for quilt makers using many different block sizes. Read more traditional style T-shirt quilts that use one block size here.
And read more about variable style T-shirt quilts here. Here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts, we invented quilts with different sized blocks in 1992.
6. Don't Choose a T-shirt Quilt Style with Rows and Columns
This is boring, lazy, and just makes your quilt look like a checkerboard. A puzzle style quilt with different size blocks is much more interesting to look at. Think about what will hold your interest over the years of looking at your T-shirt quilt. Read more about different quilt styles here.
To learn more about the different types, styles, and qualities of T-shirts,
check out our learning center. It’s a great place to begin.
7. Don't Choose an Awful Color for the Back of Your T-shirt Quilt.
This is something you need to think about carefully. How do you explain the color you want for the back of your quilt?
If you choose a company with just a few color choices, you will have to take what they have. But be careful, there are some companies that call a color maroon, while it is actually fuchsia.
Choose a company who has access to hundreds of colors. Then send a swatch of the color you like. Read more about backing colors here.
8. Don't Include a T-shirt that Doesn't Belong in your Quilt
This happens more often than you might think. This is on you. Please don't expect your quilt maker to catch this.
Look carefully at the T-shirts you decide to send. If there is a part of a T-shirt that you would die if it got into to quilt, cut that part out and don’t even send it.
We have the most problems with the wrong T-shirt getting into a quilt when someone is having a quilt made for someone else. They just didn’t know not to send a particular T-shirt.
Read more about how we have you mark T-shirts for use in your quilt.
9. Don't Micromanage the Making of Your T-shirt Quilt
We have found that the customers who give us free reign with their quilt end up with totally awesome quilts. It’s when someone wants to micro-manage their quilt that it ends up being less than wonderful.
For example, if you want 10 of 20 T-shirts all in the center, then your design becomes stilted and the colors blotchy. If you want one or two shirts centered, that’s cool. Too many after that just muddies the process and the end product.
If you want to make all the decisions, I suggest you make your own quilt top. Read about making your own T-shirt Quilt here.
10. Don't Choose a Company Who Does Not Prewash Their Backing Fabric.
The backing fabric is the material used on the back of your quilt.
To save time (and time is money), some companies will not prewash their backing material. This is a bad practice. Quilter makers prewash backing fabric to make sure that all the loose dye is out and that it’s been shrunk.
If your quilt comes without the backing material having been prewashed, be prepared. When you wash your quilt, your quilt may turn the color of your backing fabric. Or the backing material may shrink. Neither of these is a good look for your quilt.
If a company advises you to dry-clean your quilt, be very wary. They tell you to dry-clean your quilt to cover their liability (read "butt") because they know when you wash it in the washing machine, your quilt will be toast. Pink toast with a shriveled-up backing.
11. Don't Ask a Quilt Maker to Make a T-shirt Quilt in a Style They Don’t Make
For example, say you want a quilt made in particular style. Yet your quilt maker has never made this style of T-shirt quilt. They might be willing to try the new style out. Of course, your T-shirt quilt will be the guinea pig. This might end up a disaster!
This goes back to having a novice make your quilt. The first time anyone makes something, she or he is essentially a novice. If you want something that your quilt maker does not make, find someone else who is an expert at what you want made.
12. Don't Try to Make a T-shirt Quilt Yourself - Without directions and the Right Tools for the Job
Making a T-shirt quilt does take a sewing machine. And if you are not a clever seamstress or quilter, you should consider different patterns and methods before you begin cutting your T-shirts.
The most messed up T-shirts we have had to remake are those where someone began trying to make the quilt. They then realized after they cut their blocks that they had no idea of what to do next. If this is you, we can help you finish your quilt. Read more about already cut T-shirts here.
If you want an awesome T-shirt quilt, do your research first. Know what you want, what you don't want and what you want to afford. Only then should you start seeking out T-shirt Quilt makers.
We are more the delighted to make a T-shirt quilt for you.
Here are your next steps:
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.