Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on March 22nd, 2021

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Puzzle Style T-shirt Quilts - The Good and the Bad

Q & A About T-shirt Quilts  |  Planning a T-shirt Quilt

Puzzle Style T-shirt Quilt by too cool T-shirt quiltsThere are two main styles of T-shirt quilts.

  1. The traditional style of quilt. This style is comprised of uniform sized blocks that are lined up in rows and columns.
  2. The puzzle style also known as the Too Cool style or the variable block style.
  3. Here's an article that explores the 6 styles of T-shirt quilts.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of a puzzle style T-shirt quilt. Understanding the good and the bad of a puzzle style T-shirt quilt will help you know if this style is good for your T-shirts.

To read about the pros and cons of a traditional style T-shirt quilt click here.

Positive Attributes of a Puzzle Style T-shirt Quilt

They are dynamic and interesting to look at.

Sorority T-shirt Quilts with pocketsA puzzle style, Too Cool style or variable size block style T-shirt quilts are interesting to look at because there is not a discernible pattern your brain readily picks up on.  Because of this, you have to spend a longer time looking at the quilt to figure it out. As a result, you will spend time looking at the quilt over all and its particulars. This means that you will look at, see, and think about the T-shirts. And this ultimately is what the quilt is about.

You will know that you have an interesting T-shirt quilt, when someone says to you, “If you don’t want it, I’ll take it.”

Many different block sizes can be included.

One of the key features of a puzzle style T-shirt quilt is the use of multiple sizes and shape blocks. I developed this style of quilt in the early 1990's. The first stack of T-shirts I was given had designs of all different sizes and shapes. Cropping off a design just to fit in a uniform size block was not an option, so I developed a method that puzzled together blocks of many sizes and shapes.

The result is that each T-shirt is cut with a block that fits the design on the T-shirt.  No graphics are cut-off and the margin around each graphic is similar. This makes for a smarter looking quilt. Cropped-off graphics and wonky margins on small graphics look like mistakes. I didn’t have to sacrifice the integrity of a graphic just to fit a predetermined block size.

The first quilt I made was a big hit. I have been making this style of quilt ever since. I still love the look and feel of these T-shirt quilts. I never get tired of them.


Learn more about T-shirt quilts by downloading our free T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.
The guide dives deeper into the differences in style, type and quality differences between T-shirt quilts. 
Learn all you can about T-shirt quilts so that you can have the quilt of your dreams.
T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Negative Attributes of a Puzzle Style T-shirt Quilt:

Way too many T-shirts to wear them all. This is an opportunity for a T-shirt quilt.You can’t know what size quilt any one stack of T-shirts can make.

Because all the blocks in a puzzle style quilt are cut to fit the design on a T-shirt, you can’t know exactly what size quilt a particular stack of T-shirts will make.

Some T-shirts are just more "meaty" than others. I can cut one T-shirt and get a tiny block. I can cut another T-shirt and get huge blocks from the front and back of the T-shirt and blocks from it's sleeve. These T-shirts are just not equal.

You won’t know what size the quilt is until all the T-shirts have been cut. Only then can you know what size quilt this pile of T-shirts can make. This can make planning this style T-shirt quilt difficult.  Click here to read more about how to plan a variable size block quilt.

It can be difficult to locate a particular block in a puzzle style T-shirt quilt.

find_blocksIf you want to be able to find a particular block quickly in a puzzle style T-shirt quilt, it may be difficult. This is because all the shirts are puzzled together and there are no rows or columns. You have to spend time looking at the quilt to find a particular T-shirt.

But most of the time this can be fun. When you look for one particular T-shirt, you end up seeing three or four other T-shirts you hadn’t thought about. It can become like a "Where's Waldo?" puzzle. I like having to search for a particular block. 

In this quilt here, we have drawn circles around particular blocks and have arrows pointing to the back side of a block. You can see from this simple example that you can spend a lot of time looking for a block. 

That's a good thing. You get to see all sorts of other blocks as you are looking!

Variable style T-shirt quilts are tricky to make and will cost more than a traditional style quilt.

Sewing a T-shirt quilt can be difficult.Making a puzzle style T-shirt quilt takes expertise, planning, math and puzzle skills. This is not a project that a first-time quilt maker can easily do. Even experienced quilt makers can find these quilts difficult to make.

What does this mean for you? These quilts take a lot of time to make. They will cost a lot more than a traditional style quilt. You can expect to pay anywhere from 3 to 10 times more than the traditional style T-shirt quilt. Read about the factors that effect cost here. 

T-shirt cannot be arranged in chronological order in a puzzle style T-shirt quilt. 

Jan Newsletter photos 3I am asked all the time if T-shirts can be arranged in chronological order. They can't. In order to be in chronological order, the blocks would have to be lined up in rows. Puzzle quilts don't have rows. They don't have columns. They are all over the place. This is not an arrangement that works for a timeline.

We design our quilts first according to block size and then by content and color.  It just doesn't work the other way.

If a quilt maker says they can lay a puzzle quilt out in a chronological, I would suggest you be very skeptical. I have been making puzzle style T-shirts since I developed the technique in 1992. Experience says that a puzzle style T-shirt is not the right solution for T-shirts that need to be in a chronological order. 

Conclusion

Before you have a quilt made from your T-shirts, you need to know exactly what style of T-shirt quilt you want. The style of T-shirt quilt you choose will influence the cost and look of your quilt. Here's our resource page about T-shirt quilts. It has lots of great information to help you figure out what you want your quilt to look and feel like. 


Learn more about T-shirt quilts by downloading our free T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide.
The guide dives deeper into the differences in style, type and quality differences between T-shirt quilts. 
Learn all you can about T-shirt quilts so that you can have the quilt of your dreams.
T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


Colorful Duke T-shirt quilt by Too Cool T-shirt quilts

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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