Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on August 28th, 2017

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T-shirt Quilts – 8 Things That Can Go Wrong

Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker

“What can possibly go wrong?”

Ah, that infamous question that gets so many of us in trouble.

I would rather ask, “What is the worst that could happen?”  This way I can be prepared for the worst thing that could happen if I did XYZ. If I can live with the worst, then I go for it.

So, what are the worst things that could happen when you have a quilt made from your T-shirts? Here are 8 bad things that could happen. Included in each description are things you can do to help prevent these things happening to your quilt! You can click on any of the 8 links below to be taken to that bad thing or read them in order.

1. It's two Years Later – Still No Quilt
2. Designs from Your T-shirts are Cropped Off
3. Bad Result from Washing
4. Someone Else’s T-shirt in Your Quilt
5. A T-shirt Block is in the Quilt Upside Down
6. The Wrong Color Fabric on the Back of Your Quilt
7. A Block You Didn’t Want
8. The Quality of Your Quilt is Not What You Thought It Would Be

1. It's Two Years Later – Still No Quilt 

How not to make a T-shirt quiltThe story – John was asking around looking for someone to make him a T-shirt quilt. His neighbor was a quilter and she said that she would be glad to make the quilt for him. Then he waited and waited. Finally, after 2 years he asked for his T-shirts back. At that point, they were not T-shirts nor were they a quilt. They were a mess!

Industry standard – it should only take 3 to 8 weeks for your T-shirt quilt to be made. If it is anything longer than that, your quilter should let you know what the holdup is.

How do you avoid getting into this type of trouble? Choose an experienced T-shirt quilt company. Also, ask what the turnaround time will be. You can get into trouble if you decide to go with a quilter who has not ever made a T-shirt quilt or has only made a few. Find a company where all they do is make T-shirt quilts.

2. Designs from Your T-shirts are Cropped Off 

logos on a T-shirt quilt cropped offYou send out your T-shirts to have a quilt made with the expectation that the designs on your T-shirts will end up on your quilt. When the quilt is returned, the designs have been cropped off to fit the block size the company uses. If these were my T-shirts, I would be heart broken.

You can easily avoid this problem by choosing a company to make your quilt that uses multiple size blocks to ensure that the logo and graphics are not cropped off. In the photograph here, compare a T-shirt quilt on the right with a T-shirt blanket on the left. These two were made with the exact same T-shirts. We have circled the blocks on the left that were cropped off.

If you have to choose a T-shirt quilt company that uses just one size block, first figure out what size block they will use. Many times, it is either 12" x 12" or 14" x 14". Then measure the graphics on your T-shirts. Will any of them be cropped off? Can you live with that? 


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts or other clothing items. 
Our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide can 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

3. Bad Result from Washing

How to Care for a T-shirt QuiltYou received your quilt back and are enjoying using it. Then you spill pop (soda) on it. You throw it in the wash and it comes out shrunk and pink. It’s ruined.

You should be able to wash and dry a T-shirt quilt. After all, you can wash and dry your T-shirts. The only time this is not true is when you have a dry-clean only item in your quilt.

To prevent this from happening, first read the cleaning directions that come with your quilt before you wash it.  Some companies do say to dry-clean their quilts. This is because they don’t prewash the backing material to set the color and to shrink the fabric. This is a short cut that is taken to save the company money.

Before you have a quilt made from your T-shirts, read the company’s website to see how they suggest caring for their quilts. If it says to dry-clean only, this is a red flag for you to avoid that company. Here are our care directions.

4. Someone Else’s T-shirt in Your Quilt

Oh Boy, this is bad! Bad for you and bad for the other person’s quilt. This has not happened to us here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. 

T-shirt quilt operationsHaving someone else’s T-shirt in your quilt is a result of a poorly organized shop. When a box of T-shirts comes into a shop, they must be kept separate from everyone else’s T-shirts. We do this by assigning each quilt a plastic tote. This tote goes from station to station and everything stays in the box unless it is getting worked on. 

We also have stringent rules about moving a block between stations. We just don’t do it. If someone needs help on a block, the helper goes to that station and leaves her work at her station. No one walks around with T-shirt blocks.

When you are looking for a T-shirt quilt maker, ask about how they keep one shirt from ending up in the wrong quilt. The answer, “we just don’t” is not the answer you should accept. Ask about the procedures they use to protect against this.

5. A T-shirt Block is in the Quilt Upside Down

block in upside down on a T-shirt quiltYep, we have done this and probably will do it again. It’s easier to do than you might think. We are human after all. And it’s not the end of the world! To prevent this, we have a number of steps in place to avoid this from happening. Here are some examples…

  • When a T-shirt is being cut out, if there is even a tiny bit of concern that the top and bottom of the graphic might be mixed up, we mark the top of the block right after it has been cut.
  • We also have each quilt top proofed by at least 2 other people before it can move to the next step.
  • If a block is found to be upside down when we are quilting the quilt, we will stop and fix it.
  • If we are not sure if a block is in right, we will shoot a photo of it and email it to the customer.

Even with deliberate processes in place, sometimes a block does get in upside down. Can you find the block in the quilt here that is upside down?

When I began making quilts, I worked by myself. A lot more blocks ended up in upside down because there was no one else to help me check each quilt top.

You will have a greater chance of this happening in your quilt if your quilt maker works alone. It also might happen if your quilt maker does not have processes in place to prevent this.

6. The Wrong Color Fabric on the Back of Your Quilt

backing colors for a t-shirt quiltYou asked for your backing to be red and it comes back with orange. This is an error that can’t be fixed if you had a quilt made. If you had a blanket made, then you might be able to change backing colors. Read more about the difference between a quilt and a blanket.

This usually comes down to communication issues between a quilt maker and you the customer.

To prevent this, we have a number of procedures in place. This includes documenting any backing color change that differs from the order form. We also have an email trail that we can use to confirm backing color choice.

Here, each person who handles the quilt, has to read every note that has been written. If anyone sees a conflict, it is brought to the attention of the manager. Then we go back into the email trail and double check.

You can help when you ok your quilt size. At that point, rather than just saying “ok” you can say something like, “Ok, large lap size, light blue for the backing and green for the binding”.

7. A Block You Didn’t Want

I hate those calls that start, “There’s a block in my quilt that I didn’t want.” It’s a block from one of your T-shirts, but you didn’t want it included.

This one is on you. Here are some simple steps you can do to prevent this from happening.

  1. Follow your quilt maker’s directions for marking your T-shirts. This is important. The times this happens is when our directions were not followed. Read more about our directions here. If you make up your own system or use another quilt maker’s system, your quilt maker might not understand what you wanted and end up putting in something you did not want.
  1. If you will die if something is put in your quilt that you don’t want, don’t send it! That guarantees that it will not end up in your quilt.

We can fix these blocks by putting another block over the block you didn't want. But it never looks as good as the original quilt looks. Look through your T-shirts carefully before you send them to your quilt maker. 

In the photos here, can you find which block we had to replace?

T-shirt quiltT-shirt quilt

8. The Quality of Your Quilt is Not What You Thought It Would Be

It’s difficult to know the quality of a quilt from photos. Read more about that here.  Once a quilt has been returned, it usually is what it is. I have met many people who have been utterly disappointed with the results of their quilt. Heart broken.

This tells you that you need to do your research for a quilt maker rather than just choosing your neighbors’ aunt’s friend because you heard she can make a quilt. Read more about choosing a quilt maker here.

We have remade many T-shirt quilts that were very poor quality. It can be done, but it is expensive.  So, do your research. 

awesome t-shirt quilt

Conclusion

So now you know what the worst that can happen when a T-shirt quilt is made. You also now know what to do to help keep these things from happening to your quilt.

Most quilter begin each T-shirt quilt with the pure intention of making as fantastic quilt as they can. But pure intentions don’t always result in a fantastic quilt. Find a quilter with experience and systems that mitigate as many of these “worst things” as possible.


Discover more about having a quilt made with your T-shirts or other clothing items. 
Our T-shirt Quilt Buyers Guide can 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