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Stained-glass T-shirt Quilts at a Glance:

  • A thin fabric between each T-shirt block mimics the “lead came” seen in stained glass.
  • All the blocks different sizes & puzzled together.
  • No interfacing nor iron-on stabilizer.

The Stained-glass T-shirt Quilt! 

Stained-glass double border - colorful by Too Cool T-shirt Quilts

The Too Cool style stained-glass T-shirt quilt is the coolest quilt I have made in years! The thin fabric between blocks, mimics the “lead came” seen in actual stained-glass.

I love how it sets off the colorful blocks. From here on, we will call lead came simply “leading.” The photos just don’t do the quilt justice. There are also additional photos below.

Here is are more photos of stained-glass T-shirt quilts. 

The Origins of the Stained-glass T-shirt Quilt 

Jean stained glass quilt in progressMost winters my husband and I take an extended vacation in our camper van looking for the warmth. The winter I developed the stained-glass T-shirt quilt, I decided I wanted to make a blue jean quilt on the road. When I was searching blue jean quilt projects, I was drawn to a stained-glass blue jean quilt.

Before leaving, I purchased a dozen pairs of jeans from Goodwill and set about designing my quilt. I used the Too Cool methodology. But at a very small scale. 

Complete blue jean quiltIn my mind, I wanted a project with small pieces because it would be easy to work on while traveling. I cut my smallest pieces 2” and the largest 8”.

I had forgotten that I was making a queen size quilt. Eventually all the small sections would work into a very large quilt.

In this quilt, I am using ¼” fabric for the leading. I chose to use a dark fuchsia rather than black because I love fuchsia. In this first photo, the blue jean quilt top is about ¾ of the way complete. In the second photo it is complete and on my bed. It's a very heavy quilt.

Before I left home, I tested my piecing procedure to Practice sample for a Stained Glass T-shirt quiltmake sure it works. It did.

Then I looked around at all the T-shirt material around me. I thought, “I can make a stained-glass T-shirt quilt!” This thought came about a day before we left. Not enough time to do more than make the 12” small sample block you see here.

My sample was so fun. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it out. I spent my trip collecting T-shirts. I would go anywhere and do anything as long as there was the possibility of a T-shirt. I was a gift shop junky! I ended up with 32 T-shirts. I didn’t even wear most of them! It was a blast. 


What makes a stained-glass T-shirt different?

To answer that question, first we have to ask, “different than what?” There are four main styles of T-shirts quilts. Here are the different types and how a stained glass quilt is different.

This infographic compares 4 types of T-shirt quilts. You can quickly see the difference between all 4 styles here.

The Difference Between Leading" and "Sashing" on a T-shirt Quilt

Stained glass T-shirt quilt close upThere are some quilt makers who will claim the leading is no different than sashing. You can see the blue sashing in the "traditional with sashing quilt" in the picture above,  but they are very different.

The sashing in the traditional quilt is simply to separate the rows and columns. But it will never give that quilt the looks of a stained glass window. It looks more like a spread sheet!

Whereas in the stained-glass quilt, the black fabric is there to act as the leading. Sure, it separates the block, but that’s not its purpose. Its purpose is to make the quilt look like a stained-glass window.

There is also a size difference between leading and sashing. Leading is less than ½ inch wide. The narrowest sashing is typically 1 inch and averages 1½ inches wide.

The Difference Between Leading and Piping

(Sounds like we are plumbers!) Too Cool T-shirt Quilts offers the option of adding piping around a special block. This will help set one block apart from the rest. Read more about piping here. 

Piping on a centered blockPiping is a thin piece of folded fabric that is sewn around a block. This fabric is only sewn in on one side. It adds texture to the quilt. See the close-up photo here. The center white block has piping. It's there to make one block stand out.

Leading is different. The leading is part of the quilt top. It does not extend above the surface of quilt. Rather, it is a piece like any of the T-shirt blocks.

Level of Difficulty for Making a Stained-glass T-shirt Quilt

The difficulty level of a stained-glass quilt is off the chart! If you go back to the graphic above for reference. The level of difficulty for each style of quilt on a scale of 1 to 10 is as follows:

  • military funny stained glassStained-glass Quilt - 20
  • Too Cool or Puzzle Style - 10
  • Traditional with Sashing - 4
  • Traditional without Sashing - 1 

I have been making T-shirt quilts since 1992. And not just a few each year. Last year we made over 1300! That equates to a lot of experience!

The stained-glass quilt is still a challenge for me. That says this is not easy. I had to redo a lot of seams. It’s easy to sew in little puckers.

Sewing stretchy T-shirt to cotton takes experience and care. The T-shirt likes to stretch and the cotton doesn’t. They just don’t play well together. There was also a lot of planning and figuring while I was sewing. It’s not for beginners! 

For those of you who are quilters, remember we are not using iron-on backing or interfacing on the back of the T-shirts. Could you do this without interfacing? It will be tricky!

If you are a quilt maker, here's a link to our direction for stained-glass T-shirt quilts. 

If you are looking for a quilt maker to do this for you, choose carefully. I wouldn’t let someone experiment with my T-shirts. Ask to see an example of their work. Ask if they use iron on backing (it makes your quilt stiff!)  Read more about finding a quilt maker here. 

This is a new twist on the T-shirt quilt.  It will be awhile before you begin to see a lot of this style of quilt.


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

Thoughts and Information About Stained-glass T-shirt Quilts

What type of T-shirts would lend themselves to be made into a stained glass quilt?

choosing the leading for a stained glass T-shirt quiltAt first, I though it would only work with colorful T-shirts. As I made more and more stained-glass T-shirt quilts I discovered that it would great with many different color groupings of T-shirts. 

For each stained-glass quilt I make, I consider what color leading will look the best.  To do this I cut a small block from each color T-shirts. I then lay possible leading onto this palette. 

HarleyDavidson Stained glass T-shirt QuiltMost of the time the choice is obvious. We have made all black quilts using this method. This Harley-Davidson quilt with orange leading is striking.

Below is another all black stained-glass T-shirt quilt. I used teal leading because so many of my favorite T-shirts had teal printing. 

This quilt would have worked well with red leading too. I love this quilt and get to look at it every day. Yes, it's a great looking quilt. But is also my personal travel quilt. I get to revisit each of those places we visited, it's nice remember such fun trip with this quilt. 


Travel Stained-glass T-shirt quilt by too cool

Once A Quilt Has Begun…

Once we begin a T-shirt quilt in the stained-glass style or our Too Cool style, we can’t change to the other style. The two styles quilts are cut differently. Once we begin your quilt, it has to be finished in the style it was begun in.

Pricing of a Stained-Glass Quilt

Very, very expensive. Why? They are difficult to make. But, if your budget allows it, and your T-shirts are right for the style, you will have a T-shirt quilt that will knock your socks off!


If you are interested in a stained-glass quilt, we will work with you before we cut your T-shirts. If we don’t think that your T-shirts are a good candidate, we will let you know.

I have seen 1000’s of T-shirts. Yet, I keep looking at my stained-glass quilts and marveling at them. 


If you are a quilt maker:
Do you think you have the skills to make your own stained glass quilt?
Check out our comprehensive 'How to' videos to make it yourself.

For Quilt Makers: How to Make a Stained-Glass T-shirt Quilt

Sept quilt 8 stained glass

Sept quilt 3 stained glass

Close up of a stained glass T-shirt quilt


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.