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Quilting Designs used on a T-shirt Quilt - What's Best?

March 30th, 2020

By Andrea Funk

The back of a Too Cool T-shirt Quilt

3 must have features to make the quilting on a T-shirt quilt standout:

  • Contrasting thread on a solid material so the quilting can be seen.
  • Each block quilted with a different quilting pattern.
  • On some blocks, a design or word on the T-shirt block is trace.

The quilting designs you see on the back of a T-shirt quilt should be fun. But not all quilt makers choose to or can include this type of artistry in their quilts. The quilting on a T-shirt quilt should be cool and include the following features: 

  • A contrasting thread on a solid material so the quilting can be seen.
  • Each block is quilted differently from the other blocks.
    • Some blocks receive an over all pattern.
    • On other blocks, a design or word on the T-shirt block is trace.

An explanation of each is below.

The two photos below are a great example of contrasting thread and backing material and tracing. The first photo shows the front of the quilt. The second photo show the back of the quilt. Here you see the tracing of the girls from the front on the back. This is an example of cool quilting. 

The front of a T-shirt quilt with a sea horse that has been traced.

 The back of a T-shirt quilt with a sea horse that has been traced.











1. A contrasting thread on a solid material.

Why is this important? So the quilting designs can be seen! 

Quilt makers have two approaches to long-arm quilting when it comes to seeing the stitches. They will either hide the quilting or show it off. Each approach will effect the look of the back of a T-shirt quilt. 

Hiding the Quilting Stitches

print backing will hide the long arm quilting stitches.A quilt maker would want to hide the quilting on a T-shirt quilt for a number of reason. 

  • When a T-shirt quilt is hand tied or machine tacked. Read more about the type of quilting here. 
  • When the quilting is very simple or irregular because it is done on a home sewing machine.
  • If the quilting will be done in a repetitive pattern.

There are two ways hide the quilting or stitching on a quilt.

  1. The first is to use a thread color that matches the color of the backing fabric. This way when you look at the back, you mostly see the backing color. 
  2. The other way to hide side the stitching is to use a print fabric. When you look at the back, all you will see is the printed fabric. The stitching just gets lost. Read more about using printed backing fabrics here. 

Showing Off the Stitches

Car_back_redWhen you do awesome long-arm quilting, you want to show off your work. The best way to do that is to use a solid color backing material and a contrasting thread color. 

Here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts, we believe in showing off our quilting!


2. Each Block is Quilted Differently 

back of a quilt blueA quilt maker can use an over all pattern throughout the entire quilt. This is easy and quick for them to do. But it is not very interesting for you to look at. With an overall pattern, the quilting becomes a structural part of the quilt. It just holds the three layers together. 

When a quilter uses a different pattern on each block, the quilting becomes more. Sure, it holds the three layers of the quilt together. But it also becomes part of the visual look of the quilt. 

Some Blocks Receive an Overall Pattern

A different pattern on each block can be a lot of fun. A good T-shirt quilt maker will choose a pattern that looks great on each specific block. 

In the photo here, you can see a variety of designs mixed in with blocks that have been traced. 

Other blocks have a design or word on the T-shirt block traced.

This is where the magic is! When a block is traced from the front of the quilt, you will see the design on the back of your quilt. You flip over your quilt, and there it is. A quilt without tracings is not quite as fun nor unique.


Planning a T-shirt quilt?
Here are step-by-step directions for ordering your Too Cool T-shirt quilt.

How to Order a T-shirt Quilt


Q & A: About Too Cool T-shirt Quilt's Quilting

Can I get an overall design quilted instead of having the each block receive its own quilting design?

Day of the dead tracing backWe can do an overall design if you would like. But understand that this is not what we excel at.

T-shirt quilt companies who do overall quilting design either use a computer guided long arm quilting machine or follow a printed templates by hand with a laser pointer.

Since we do art quilting on our quilts, we have very little experience with over all designs. We can do loops or stippling.

Part of what make a Too Cool T-shirt quilt so cool is the quilting. With an overall pattern, your quilt becomes more pedestrian.    


What types things can be traced from the T-shirts?

We analyze the following characteristics of a design:

  • Size
  • Complexity
  • Line drawing vs. shading
  • Type of fabric
  • Surrounding graphics

Our quilt makers use these characteristics to choose what to trace and what will get an over all pattern. 

Can you only trace designs that are on that block of the T-shirt or can I provide a stencil?

paper tracingTypically we trace designs on the T-shirts.  The design is then seen on the back of the quilt and the back and front match. We can use paper stencils to quilt specific designs on your quilt. They work great but keep the following things in mind:

There will be an extra cost because we have to remove excess paper. This involves tweezers and picking out of paper.

The design will be a mirror image of the paper stencil. So if words are used, they will be backwards unless they are printed out backwards.

We can print out your designs or you can send them with your T-shirts.

Pricing for Paper Stenciling

Because of the added work we do charge for paper tracings - $25* each

*Prices effective until 7/1/24

How to make a stencil for us:

Print out your word or line drawing on a piece of paper and send it to us. Or you can e-mail us your image and we can print it out for you.

Could I specify what kind of design I wanted?

tracing faceIf would you like a specific image on your quilt, you can tell us what you would like stenciled on. If you would like a specific image traced from your T-shirt, put a note on the shirt noting that you would like it traced. If we can trace it, we will.

Do you have a question about a T-shirt quilt? We would be happy to answer them. Please e-mail your questions to:



Scroll down for more photos!

Want to learn more about T-shirt quilts? Visit our Learning Center.
We have over 200 articles about all aspects of T-shirt quilts.

Learning Center


More Photos of Cool Quilting on T-shirt Quilts

black back

Purple back 2

back of a quilt blue

purple back

King Back

back purple

family_reunion_back Batman Back

Pittman back Hacker Back


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.