Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on July 13th, 2020

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How to Tell a Good T-shirt Quilt from a Bad One

Comparing T-shirt Quilts

Are you looking for a T-shirt quilt that is way better than average? Here's what you should be looking for when you're planning a T-shirt quilt. The best T-shirt quilts will have the following in common:

Blocks Cut to Fit the Design on the T-shirt

T-shirt quilt with different size blocksWhen I made my first T-shirt quilt back in the early 1990's, the first thing I noticed was that the designs on my sister's T-shirts were all different sizes. Some were very large and others very small. I needed a way to use all the graphics on her T-shirts without cutting any part off. I also didn't want to have too much blank area around any one design. 

This meant that I needed to cut blocks to fit the designs on the T-shirts. This lead to me developing the Too Cool or puzzle style of T-shirt quilt. Simply put, this style puzzles many different sizes of T-shirt blocks into one cohesive quilt.

When you are looking at T-shirt quilts, first look at the blocks. If all the blocks are the same size, the blocks were not cut to fit the designs on the T-shirts. Rather the designs were cut to fit a one-size-fits-all block.

If the blocks are cut the same size, your T-shirts with big designs will have the designs cropped off – you don’t want that! Your T-shirts with small designs will be forced to fit on a larger block. They will have a lot of extra blank T-shirt material around the design. This is a waste of space on your quilt.  

What to look for in a T-shirt quilt - different size blocks

Interesting Layout

What makes a T-shirt quilt's layout interesting? I think it's a layout that will keep your interest. A layout that will keep you looking for different blocks. A layout that is interactive.

There are two typical T-shirt quilt layouts: rows and columns and the puzzle style layout.  

Rows & Columns

traditional with sashingAs the name implies, the T-shirt blocks are lined up in rows and columns. Think of a checkerboard or an Excel spreadsheet. This is a very uninteresting style choice. Your brain recognizes the pattern and moves onto the next thing. It just doesn't keep your attention.

A rows and column layout will also not force you to look for any particular block because it's easy to remember where a particular block is. It's in the second column, third block down. 

Please note, Too Cool T-shirt quilts does not make quilt with one size block. This quilt in the photo here is nothing like a quilt we would make for you here. Don't expect us to make a quilt like this. 


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts. Consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide.
It's will help you know what you want your quilt to look like and what to look for in a quilt maker.
T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Puzzle Style

find_blocksThis is what I would suggest you look for. Why? Well first, because I developed the style. So, I am a little bias. Nevertheless, it's a great style. 

The layout is interesting. It's difficult to figure out the pattern. You spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. But you can't, because there isn't a pattern.  

As you look at your quilt, you come across a particular block and might ask, "where's the other side from that T-shirt?" Then you begin searching for it. As you are looking, you come across other blocks.

This is what's so much fun about it. You are always finding something else to look at. Something else to tell a story about or to remember. This is why a puzzle style T-shirt quilt is interactive. 

A quilt like this is dynamic and will keep you looking at the quilt longer and will have you wanting to go back and look at it over and over again.  
What to look for in a T-shirt quilt - puzzled blocksRead more about the different styles of quilts here. 

High Quality Material

The materials that goes into a T-shirt quilt effects the quality of that quilt. There are two main materials used in a T-shirt quilt: batting and backing fabric. 

Batting

loft of battingBatting is the stuffing in the middle of a quilt. There are all types of batting the a quilt maker can choose to put in a quilt. If a quilter chooses a high loft 100% polyester batting, they are choosing to use the cheapest most awful batting. A high loft batting is bad!! 

On the other hand, a quilt maker who choose 100% cotton or 80% cotton/20% poly needle punched batting is choosing to use the good stuff.

Since batting is hidden in the middle of the quilt, you can't see it. But just because you can't see it, doesn't mean that it won't effect the life and quality of your quilt. And since it is hidden, you will need to ask your quilt maker what type of batting they use. 

If you want a quilt that is better than average, you need to make sure you choose a quilt maker using good or great batting. You can read more about batting here.

What to look for in a T-shirt quilt - good batting

Backing Material

Fabric room at Too Cool T-shirt QuiltsThe backing material should be a high quality 100% cotton fabric.  This is the fabric quilt makers choose who want to make high quality quilts.

Low quality materials are those with a low thread count or any amount of polyester. These fabrics will pill. Those are the little balls that form on cheap materials.  This will give your backing material an awful texture and will just look cheap.

When you think about backing material, think about how you tell a high quality bed sheet from a cheap one. Thread count - should be high and amount of polyester should be zero. But, a bed sheet should never be used on the back of a quilt. A bed sheet will always looks like a bed sheet. A quilt maker can always tell.

There is a lot to learn about backing materials. Read everything you need to know to make a good choices for your quilt here. 

What to look for in a T-shirt quilt - 100% cotton backing fabric

Interesting Quilting

First, the best T-shirt quilts are quilted. If a quilt is not quilted it's a blanket. Read more about the differences between a quilt and a blankets here. 

If a quilt only has a little quilting, it's not the best. One step up from that is an overall quilting pattern. This insures that the quilt won’t come undone, but it’s not interesting. An overall quilting pattern is static and is nothing that you will feel compelled to show off. 

compare quilting

If you want the best T-shirt quilt,  you need to be able to see the quilting on the back of the quilt.

In the photo above, you can compare the back of a Too Cool T-shirt quilt (black) laid on top of a Campus Quilt T-shirt quilt (pink). The pink quilt is quilted in an over all quilt pattern. There is barely enough quilting to hold the 3 layers together. And it's not very interesting.

On the black Too Cool quilt, you see that we traced a motorcycle from the front. This is a lot of fun. And you can see how much more quilting there is. The 3 layers of the quilt are securely held together.  

Too Cool T-shirt Quilts customers love the back of their T-shirt quilt as much as they love the front. Which one would you be more excited to share with your friends?   Read more about quilting here. What to look for in a T-shirt quilt T-shirt quilts that have a unique quilting pattern on each block

What else do great T-shirt quilts have in common?

A Skilled T-shirt Quilt Maker

quiltersSkilled T-shirt quilt makers make the best T-shirt quilts. But it’s more than just being a skilled T-shirt quilt maker – it’s the combination of style and skill.

You can find a skilled T-shirt quilt makers who have been making the traditional boring static T-shirt quilts for years. They know how to make this type of quilt, but they aren’t making the best T-shirt quilt. They are just making T-shirt quilts.

You can also find people making puzzle style T-shirt quilts who lack the skills to make them well.

You need a skilled quilt maker who is making puzzle style T-shirt quilts with the right quality materials. Read more about finding a quilt maker here. 

What to look for in a T-shirt quilt - skilled quilt maker making puzzle style quilts.

A Higher Cost

Panda T-shirt Quilt by Too Cool T-shirt QuiltsThe best T-shirt quilts will cost more because:

  • They are more complicated to make because they have many different size and shape pieces. It will take more time to cut, design and sew.
  • High quality materials will cost more than cheap materials. This will be reflected in the price.
  • Interesting quilting takes time! Humans, not computers, do our quilting. A computer guided long-arm sewing machine can do pattern quilting. Someone presses the go button and can walk away.  Humans do artwork and you have to pay for their time and skills
  • A skilled craftsman in any field is compensated for their skills. And quilting is no different. A beginner and an expert are on opposite ends of the pay scale.  Read more about how much a quilt cost here. 

If you want the best T-shirt quilt for your T-shirts, expect to pay more. You don't get great for bottom dollar.

Look - pay

Conclusion

You will like whatever T-shirt quilt is made from your T-shirts because they will be your T-shirts.

The best T-shirt quilts are quilts that someone would want even if it were made with a complete stranger’s T-shirts. The best T-shirt quilts have more going on than just the T-shirts. They have style, interest and quality.  

 


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts. Consider downloading our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide.
It's will help you know what you want your quilt to look like and what to look for in a quilt maker.
T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Sigma Kappa T-shirt quilt

 

About 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. 

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