Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on October 2nd, 2017

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How to Find a Quilt Maker

Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker

Way too many t-shirts? NeverWhen you first consider having a T-shirt quilt made, you might be tempted to choose a quilt maker based on price alone. But that’s not the best approach, because in the T-shirt quilt making world, there are so many different factors that can influence the cost of a quilt.

For example, quilt style, size, material quality, a quilter’s location, craftsmanship, a quilter’s experience and if there is subcontracting work can all affect the price of a quilt. Below are questions you can ask potential quilt makers about their product and experience. 

You can jump to any of the three main areas of inquiry:

Will they make the quilt you want?
What level of expertise do you want your quilter to have?
Who exactly is making my T-shirt quilt?
Conclusion
Complete list of questions


"There are many people who can make a T-shirt quilt, but very few can make one well."


Will they make the quilt you want?

If you are planning on asking anyone to make a quilt for you, here are 4 questions to ask them: 

  1. Compare traditional and Too Cool sytle T-shirt quiltsWhat style of quilt do you make?
    Will they make a traditional T-shirt quilt with equal size blocks and sashing? Or will they make a Too Cool style quilt? (They are also called variable style quilts by those who do not have the rights to use the copyrighted Too Cool T-shirt Quilt name.)
    You should know what you want before you hand over your T-shirts to anyone.  Read more about the different styles of T-shirts here.

  2. What quality of material do you use? 
    As with anything, the quality of materials used in a quilt can range from low to high quality.  Will you know this ahead of time? If they are making it for free, do you have the right to ask for what you want? Read more about material qualities here.

  3. Talking About Long-arm quilt a T-shirt quiltHow will you finish my quilt?
    Will they just tie the quilt and call it good? There are a number of ways to finish a quilt. Some ways are fast and awful and others take time and are awesome. Read about quilting here.

  4. What will you charge me?
    There are only a few people you should accept a free quilt from – your Mother, Grandmother or sister or brother. You should not accept a free quilt from anyone not related to you. A good T-shirt quilt takes time and good materials.  Would you offer to take a week of your time and $100 of your money to make something for someone not related to you? Most likely, no.

    You need to offer to at least pay for their labor and expenses. Remember, quilting is a skill like plumbing or auto mechanics – it takes practice.  You may dream of paying your plumber $2 an hour, but it’s not happening. Someone making your quilt needs to be compensated for their time and materials. Read more about how much it costs to make a quilt.

If your quilter does not answer those four questions to your satisfaction, you should consider looking for a quilt maker who can make the quilt you want. 

If on the other hand, your quilter answers those four questions to your satisfaction, the next question is if this person has the experience you want.


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. 

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


What level of expertise do you want them to have?

Andrea's 1st quilt from 1968Quilters all have to begin sometime. I began making quilts in 1968 when I was 5 years old. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making a quilt. That's my first quilt here. Thanks mom for having save it!

Some quilters begin making quilts when their children are born or when the kids leave home because they are looking for something to do. And quilting is a great pastime to work at.

The question is, how skilled do you want your quilter to be? Below are four levels of quilt making…

The Novice Quilter A novice quilter’s experience in making quilts of any type is limited. She may have gained her knowledge by taking a class, reading a book or watching a video.  A novice is expected to need help and guidance making a quilt. Her focus is learning the basics of quilt making.

The Intermediate Quilter The intermediate quilter knows the basics and can usually make a quilt independently. Advice and help from an expert is still needed from time to time. Her focus is on learning more of the basics and improving her knowledge and skills.

The Advanced Quilter The advanced quilter can make a quilt without assistance. They have made enough quilts that they can apply theory to unique problems that arise. The advanced quilter focuses on teaching and developing new styles and applications. 

Latest Tshirt quilt.jpgThe Expert Quilter The expert quilter is known as an expert in her specific area of quilting. She has been making quilts for years and has experienced and solved just about every conceivable issue that arises. She can provide guidance, troubleshooting and answers to questions related to her area of expertise. Here is the most recent quilt I made. A little bit of improvement?

To figure out the experience level of your quilter, you can ask the following questions to see what level of quilter they are…

  1. How many years have you been making quilts?
    Although the length of time someone has been making quilts should be an indicator of their experience, there are those who have been making quilts for a long time and still have poor quality work.

  2. Is quilting your full-time job or a hobby?
    If someone is quilting full-time, they have a lot more to lose if things don’t go well than a hobbyist who livelihood is earned elsewhere. Go with the quilter with the most to lose!

  3. Can your quilt maker do this?Can I see a T-shirt quilt you have made? Feel the quilt – do you like it? Look at the workmanship. Smell the quilt. Look at the quilt overall and close up. If you only have photos of one, here is an article on how to tell the quality of a T-shirt quilt from a photograph.

    If you have a special item you want used, ask to see a photograph of another quilt with a similar item used. For example, the Converse shoe in a quilt here Now that is experience! Yes, that is a real shoe. 

  4. How many quilts do you have going at any one time and how do you insure that my T-shirts won’t get mixed up with another quilt?
    boxes separting T-shirtsA more experienced quilter will have more than one quilt being worked on at a time, but they will have figured out how to keep individual quilts segregated from one another. They should be able to describe in detail how they segregate one quilt from another.

  5. Do you have a long-arm quilting machine? If not, how do you quilt your quilts?
    A quilt maker with a lot of experience making T-shirt quilts will have a long-arm quilting machine. If she doesn’t, ask how she quilts her quilts.

There is more to making a T-shirt quilt than you might think. If your T-shirts are important to you, put consideration into your choice of T-shirt quilt makers.  Strive to find the most experienced quilter you can to make your quilt. 

Who exactly is making your T-shirt quilt?

Did you know that not all T-shirt quilt companies make their own T-shirt quilts? Some companies will send the entire project or part of the project to someone else to make! 

Why does this happen?

Long-arm quilting machine on a T-shirt quiltThis goes back to why someone enters the T-shirt quilt business. Some people enter the business because they made one quilt and someone sees it and asks if they will make them one.  Most of the time, these are quilters or sewers who have quilting experience and can do all the steps of the quilting process.

Other people have entered the business as part of a MBA program or because they see it as a way to get into business.  These companies are not started by quilters or sewers, but by business people. These owners could be in any industry, but they chose the quilting industry.  The problem is that they have the business skills but not the sewing skills.

When in the process does it happen?

Sewing on a binding takes practiceThere are some companies that will farm out your box of T-shirts when it arrives at their doorstep. The business is set up so that one person is running the business, handling the website, calls, payment and the like. When a box of T-shirts arrives, they are assigned to subcontractors to do the actual work.  But you, the customer, only know and deal with the middle person.  

Other situations of work being sent out involve the use of expensive equipment. If a T-shirt quilt is long-arm quilted – which it should be – the quilt maker you hire might not have a long-arm quilting machine. They are very expensive (think “small car”) and take up a lot of space. So, they will send the quilt tops they make to a long-arm quilter to be quilted.

Other people only like to make the quilt top and don’t want to bother doing the more complex and difficult work, so they will send the quilt top off to be quilted and bound and finished by someone else. 

What does it mean for you?

It means that your quilter is not actually making your entire quilt. This means a number of things. 

  1. The person you think has your T-shirts doesn’t have them. This means that the quilt top or T-shirts are leaving their shop or home.
  2. Are you certain that subcontractor cares what they are doing to your T-shirts? After all, it’s not their name that will go on the product.
  3. Will the subcontractor call and ask you questions if need be? 
  4. Is the subcontractor’s location smoke and pet free?
  5. Is that location insured?
Early days at the Too Cool work shopWhat should you be asking your T-shirt quilt company?
  1. Do you make my quilt entirely in your shop?
    If no:
    What work is done off site? 
     Where is off site?
     Who are you sending the work to?
     What is their quilting experience?

  2. Do you use subcontractors or employees?
    Employees are better than subcontractors because when employees do the work, it is done on site, with the company’s equipment and under supervision. Whereas a subcontractor is responsible for his or her own work, not the company to which you sent your T-shirts.

    Should you send your T-shirts to a quilt company that sends your work off site and/or uses subcontractors? Ask yourself why your quilt should be sent off site… if it is because of a lack of quilting skills, I would say no. There are better options to choose from. 

    If it is being sent off site because the quilter does not have the right equipment, I would suggest you be hesitant. You should know when, where and to whom your T-shirts are being sent. 

Sewing a T-shirt quiltHere at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts we make all our quilts in-house. If for any reason, we would need to transfer your T-shirts from one location to another, we would contact you first to get your permission.

Your T-shirts are so important. Make sure you know what will happen to them once they arrive at a T-shirt quilt company.

Conclusion

There are 1000’s of people making T-shirt quilts. Some are better made than others! Your job is to find the quilt maker who can make the best quilt for you. You need to know the following:

  • Will they make the quilt you want?
  • Do they have expertise you want them to have?
  • Do you know exactly who is making your T-shirt quilt?

Once you know the answers to these questions, you will have the knowledge to seek out the best quilt maker for your T-shirts.

Complete list of questions

  1. What style of quilt do you make?
  2. What quality of material do you use? 
  3. How will you finish my quilt?
  4. What will you charge me?
  5. How many years have you been making quilts?
  6. Is quilting your full-time job or a hobby?
  7. Can I see a T-shirt quilt you have made? 
  8. How many quilts do you have going at any one time and how do you insure that my T-shirts won’t get mixed up with another quilt? 
  9. Do you have a long-arm quilting machine? If not, how do you quilt your quilts? 
  10. Do you make my quilt entirely in your shop?
  11. Do you use subcontractors or employees? 

Click here to download a printed PDF of these questions.

 


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. 

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


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