How to Pick Backing and Binding Colors for Your T-shirt Quilt

The Construction of a T-shirt Quilt  |  Planning a T-shirt Quilt

There are 1000's of color combination you could choose for your T-shirt Quilt. How do you pick the best one for your quilt? Here's a place to start.

Topics:
What is the backing and binding on a quilt?
Choosing You Backing Color
Color Samples
Choosing a Binding Color For Your T-shirt Quilt

What is the backing and binding on a quilt?

First, let's make sure you know what we are talking about. Here is an explanation about what the backing and binding materials are. 

Backing Material

solid backing with print binding on a t-shirt quiltThe backing material is the fabric that you see on the back of a quilt. In the photo here, the backing material is blue.

There are many different quality levels a quilter can choose from. Read more about that here.  Hopefully you will have a quilter that will use a high quality fabric. It is this fabric for which you will need to choose a color.

Here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts, we use a solid color fabric so you can see the quilting on the back of the quilt. We love to showcase our quilting.  If you use a print fabric, the quilting will not be seen. 

We also like to use a solid color because it will stay timeless. A print fabric can date a quilt very quickly. And not always in a good way.

We have over 250 colors available. So a lot of choices! 

Note: We do not use white on the back of our quilts because it is difficult to keep clean while we work and it is see through.

Quilt Binding

the binding of a t-shirt quiltThe binding is the fabric that is sewn around the outside of a T-shirt quilt. You see about ½" of the binding from the top, side and back of a quilt. Bindings are used to cover the raw edges of the quilt top, batting and backing materials. We have over 400 solid-color and print bindings from which to choose.

In the photo here the black fabric with the little colored stars is the binding material.

Note: We do not use white for binding because it is difficult to keep clean while we are working with it and it will show all the dirt. White will quickly become grungy.

Here are 10 terms you might want to learn about T-shirt quilts. 

 

Choosing You Backing Color

Begin by first choosing your backing color because this is the largest amount of color in your entire quilt. There are several methods you can use to choose the color for the backing of your T-shirt quilt:

1. Choose your favorite color.

Quilting on the back of a T-shirt quiltAdvantage: It’s your favorite color and you know that you will love it.
Disadvantage: Your favorite color may not always directly relate with the colors of your T-shirt. For example, your T-shirts are mostly blues, black, gray and white and your favorite color is green. Green might not be the best choice in this situation. A blue backing probably would work best.

2. Choose the backing color from the color of your favorite T-shirt within the quilt.

This is a sure way to know that your backing material matches at least one shirt in your quilt. You can mark that shirt with a note on blue painter’s tape saying “ backing color”. We will match that color to one of our backing fabric color. If we don't have a color that is close enough or not at all, we will give you other options based on color and let you make the final choice. 

Advantage: That color is already in the quilt top and you know that it will match.
Disadvantage: That particular color does not have a perfect match in fabric.

3. Choose your school colors for your backing colors.

back of a HS graduation quiltAdvantage: If this is a school activity related quilt, the backing color will be in many of the T-shirts. And by default, it will be a perfect choice for your quilt. 
Disadvantage: You might be sick and tired of your school colors.

4. Choose a color that will work in the room in which you plan to use the quilt. 

Advantage: You know that this quilt will look great in this room, right now.
Disadvantage: If you move or remodel, then the quilt may no longer work with the new décor.

5. Ask us to suggest backing colors.

We will look at all your T-shirts to make our suggestions. We will give you a number of options and then you can make the final decision.
Advantage: We have been making T-shirt quilts since 1992 and have a practiced eye in choosing colors.
tracings on the back of a T-shirt quiltDisadvantage: You might have a different perception of the color you OK. For example, if we say that a teal would look good and then when you see the backing in real life you say, “that’s not teal, it blue.” Although if we suggest a color that is not easily understood, we will say something like, “teal like your XYZ T-shirt.”

6. On your order form, tell us to surprise you.

We can do that!
Advantage: We are experienced in choosing backing colors for T-shirt quilts. We do this everyday and you choose backing colors perhaps just a few times in your life.
Disadvantage: You might be surprised more than 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 quilts. 

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Color Samples

Swatches
fabric colors for a T-shirt quilt

There are not color choices on our website because of the potential for the color not to read accurate from computer to computer. For example, something that looks green on my computer monitor could end up looking blue on your monitor. I think that this would cause more heartache than it would help. So, you can either tell us the color you would like used or send us a swatch of the color you would like used. A swatch can be anything from a paint chip to a piece of material. Below is a list of some possibilities:

  • Cut a 1" x 1” piece of fabric from one of your T-shirts
  • Scribble on white paper with a color crayon or marker
  • Paint chip
  • A Fabric swatch from some other project  
  • A wallpaper sample – circle or point to the specific color you would like
  • A photo or color swatch from a magazine with the specific color circled
  • A colored piece of paper like construction paper or a sticky note
  • Get creative; it makes it fun for us!
Hex Code Color sampleAnother option is to use a Pantone color number or a computer Hex code.

A Pantone number is a commercially accepted color system where the colors are number in a standard system. Pantone "is the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries." We have a list of each Pantone color number and what it's closest fabric color would be. 

A Hex code are those digital letter/number combination that indicate a particular color for a computer. The Hex code would be a starting place for us. There are millions of different colors a computer can display and we just have over 250 fabric colors. 

More About: Planning Your T-shirt Quilt

Choosing a Binding Color For Your T-shirt Quilt

back and binding of a T-shirt quiltNow that you have decided on a backing color, next you need to pick a binding color. Mechanically, a binding covers the raw edges of your quilt.

The aesthetics of the binding is two fold. First, it provides a thin frame around the entire quilt and second, it visually links the back of the quilt to the front. The binding can also provide us with cues as to what thread color to use to quilt your quilt.

Do note: we do not use white for binding color because of dirt. The binding is the part of a quilt that is handled most. The white binding will quickly become grungy and not attractive. We also have issues keeping white clean while we work.

More About: Planning Your T-shirt Quilt

Below are a number of ways to consider what binding color to choose for your T-shirt quilt.

binding and thread choices for a T-shirt quilt1. Use the same color for the binding that you use on the back of your quilt. 

Advantage: It’s an easy decision and will look great. 
Disadvantage: If the backing color is in many of the T-shirts on the face of the quilt, the backing color might be a shade off the color of some of the T-shirts and look off. This is because T-shirt material and cotton fabric do not reflect light the same. If this is the case, it might be better to choose either a contrasting color or a print.

2. School colors.

If you choose to use your school colors, the backing would be the darker school color and the binding could be the lighter color. For example, if your school colors were royal and yellow, the backing could be royal and the binding yellow. Or vise-versa.

Advantage: This would match the colors in your T-shirts and it would provide an obvious thread color choice. In the example above, the thread color would be yellow. 

But if you go the other way around and use the lighter color for the backing - gold in this case and the darker color for the binding - royal, we would have issues with the quilting thread. We have learned that dark quilting thread looks awful on the face of your quilt. Especially if you have a lot of lighter colored or white shirts. So royal blue would not be a good quilting thread for us to use.

Disadvantage: If one of your school colors were white, we would not use that on the binding. Since we don’t use white for bindings or backing, an alternative color would need to be chosen. Some options are light gray, cream or using the same fabric that is on the back of the quilt.

blue and black border.jpg3. Choose black for the binding. 

Advantage: Black goes with most everything, so your choice would work. 
Disadvantage: Black does not give us cues for what color thread to use for the quilting. We will typically choose either a gray thread or a pastel variation of the backing color for the quilting.

4. Use the same color as the backing material, but in a print material. 

Advantage: This can help the backing material match the front of the quilt better. A print can also up the customization of your quilt. Prints look great and also give us cues for what color thread to choose. 
Disadvantage: We don’t have a library of prints to show you plus our print selection is always changing. So you may not like the print we use. In over 20 years of making T-shirt quilts, we have only had to replace 3 bindings that customers were unhappy with. And if you are unhappy with the binding, we will change it out for you no questions asked.

5. Ask us to surprise you.

Examples of backing and binding on T-shirt quilts

Advantage: We have years of experience in choosing binding colors and do a great job selecting bindings that enhance the look of the quilt top. 
Disadvantage: You maybe more surprised than you wanted to be. But remember we will change out the binding for you if you are unhappy with it.

Although the binding on a quilt is small, when done right, a binding can enhance the look of your quilt. If you need help choosing your binding color, please let us know and we will be happy to help.

Conclusion

Put some thought into the backing and binding of your quilt. It is an important part of the overall look of your quilt. And if are stuck, we are more than happy to help. 


Having a great T-shirt quilt made takes research, planning and direction following.
But the effort is worth it when you have a great quilt made from your T-shirts.  
To learn more about having a T-shirt quilt made with your T-shirts, consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide

Back to: Planning Your T-shirt Quilt 

Awesome quilting on the back of a T-shirt quilt