Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on June 22nd, 2020

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So Many Way to Screw Up a T-shirt Quilt

For the uninitiated, a T-shirt quilt is just a T-shirt quilt. You might think that anyone with a sewing machine can successfully make a T-shirt quilt. But that’s just not true. There are so many ways I have seen T-shirt quilts screwed up in the past 25 years.

Based on having made 1000’s of quilts and having remade so many others, our advice is to have your quilt made right the first time. Here are some mistakes to avoid.

Here's a list of what not to do!

A T-shirt blanket has nothing holding the front to the back.1. Have a blanket rather than a quilt made.

There is a difference between a quilt and a blanket. A blanket has two layers and no quilting. Whereas a quilt has three layers held together by quilting.

Before you hire someone to make a quilt, double check that they are actually going to make you a quilt! Don't just ask, "Do you make quilts?" Some people making T-shirt blankets actually think they are making quilts. (A sure sign of inexperience!) The better question is. "Do you long-arm quilt your quilts?"

Read  about 10 questions to ask a quilt maker here. 

2. Have a novice make your quilt.

Not all novice quilt makers will screw up a T-shirt quilt on their first attempt. I look at my first attempt and cringe. But if someone has not made a T-shirt quilt before, they don’t have a track record proving that they can be successful. Ask to see a quilter’s work before you contract them to take your favorite T-shirts and make a quilt. Read about the different experience levels of quilt makers. 

Fabric room 20193. Use cheap fabric and materials to make your quilt.

Quilting materials come in a wide range of quality. There are fabrics that are cheap crap and there are fabrics that are wonderful and will have a great longevity.

You can’t tell from a photograph what type of fabric is being used. You will need to ask what’s being used. Here’s more information about quality of fabrics. One quick hint, the cheaper a quilt is, the more likely lower quality material will be used.

loft of batting

4. Use 100% polyester batting.

There are many different types of batting that can be used in a quilt. The worst type is 100% polyester. This is because if the quilt is not quilted close enough, the batting will wad up during subsequent washings. This type of batting will also poke out the back of the quilt through the fibers of the backing material. You can actually pull out fiber.

Look for 80% cotton/20% polyester or 100% cotton battings for the best results. Read more about batting here.

T-shirt quilt graphic that was cropped off5. Have all the blocks cut the same size.

It’s ok if all your T-shirts have the same size designs and graphics. But very rarely does this ever happen.

If a design on your T-shirt is larger than the standard block block size, then the graphic will be cut off. This can break your heart if it’s your favorite T-shirt.

Look for quilt makers using many different block sizes. Read more traditional style T-shirt quilts that use one block size here.  And read more about variable style T-shirt quilts here. We here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts invented quilt with different size blocks in 1992.

6. Have a quilt layout in rows and columns.

This is boring, lazy and just makes your quilt look like a checkerboard. A puzzle style quilt with different size blocks is much more interesting to look at. Think about what will hold your interest over the years of looking at your T-shirt quilt. Read more about different quilt styles here.

To learn more about the different types, styles and qualities of T-shirts, download our T-shirt Quilt Buyer’s Guide. 
It’s a great place to begin your journey to finding a quilt maker.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide

7. Choose an awful color for the back of your quilt.


This is something you need to think about carefully. How do you explain the color you want for the back of your quilt?

If you choose a company with just a few color choices, you will have to take what they have. But be careful, there are some companies that may call a color maroon, while in actuality, it might be fuchsia.

Choose a company who has access to hundreds of colors. Then send a swatch of the color you like. Read more about backing colors here.

8. Include the wrong T-shirts in your quilt.

This is mostly on you – look carefully at the T-shirts you choose to send. If there is a part of a T-shirt that you would die if it got into to quilt, cut that part out and don’t even send it.

We have the most problems with the wrong T-shirt getting into a quilt when someone is having a quilt made for someone else. They just didn’t know not to send a particular shirt. Read more about how we have you mark T-shirts for use in your quilt.

Theatre T-shirt quilt made with a variable block style. 9. Micro manage the making of your quilt.

We have found that the customers who give us free-reign with their quilt end up with totally awesome quilts. It’s when someone wants to micro-manage his or her quilt that it ends up being less than wonderful.

For example, if you want 10 of 20 T-shirts all in the center, then your design becomes stilted and the colors blotchy. If you want one or two shirts centered, that’s cool. Too many after that just muddies the process and the end product.

If you want to make all the decisions, I would suggest that you make your own quilt top. Read about that here.



10. Use a company that does not prewash their backing fabric.

washing_machineThe backing fabric is the material used on the back of your quilt.

To save time (and time is money), some companies will not prewash their backing material. This is a bad practice. Quilters prewash backing fabric to make sure that all the loose dye is out and that it’s been shrunk.

If your quilt comes without the backing material prewashed, be prepared. When you wash your quilt, your quilt may turn the color of your backing fabric. The backing material may shrink. Neither of these is good for your quilt.

If a company advises you to dry-clean your quilt, be very wary. They tell you to dry-clean your quilt to cover their liability (read "butt") because they know when you wash it in the washing machine, your quilt will be toast. Pink toast with a shriveled up backing.

11. Ask a quilt maker to make something they don’t make.

For example, say you want a quilt made in a style your quilt maker has ever made. This goes back to having a novice make your quilt. The first time anyone makes something, she or he is essentially a novice. If you want something that your quilt maker does not make, find someone else who is an expert at what you want made.

This is how NOT to make a T-shirt quilt.12. Try to make a T-shirt quilt yourself, without directions and a sewing machine.

Making a T-shirt quilt does take a sewing machine. And if you are not a clever seamstress or quilter, you should consider different patterns and methods before you begin cutting your T-shirts.

The most messed up T-shirts we have had to remake are those where someone began trying to make the quilt. They then realized after they cut their blocks that they had no idea of what to do next. But if this is you, we can help you finish your quilt. Read more here.

More About: General Information About T-shirt Quilts

To learn more about the different types, styles and qualities of T-shirts, download our T-shirt Quilt Buyer’s Guide. 
It’s a great place to begin your journey to finding a quilt maker.

T-shirt Quilt Buying Guide


T-shirt quilt with an awesome border.

Back to General Information About 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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