In the years since I began making T-shirt quilts in 1992, I have made numerous quilts from all white T-shirts. Despite being all white, they end up much more colorful than you might imagine.
Below is what I know about all-white T-shirts and white T-shirt quilts.
White Clothes Initially Equated to Wealth
White started out as a status symbol. It has to do with wealth and the economics of washing clothing. White could never kept clean; therefore it wasn’t practical for everyday wear because it showed every speck of dirt. When you wore white it showed that you could afford to only wear the outfit once or that you had some way to keep the outfit clean. That was a powerful status symbol.
Why would you end up with only white T-shirts?
Here are a few typical situations where you might end up with a stack of all white T-shirts.
Tennis player – they often wear white. One of the major reasons is that white reflects the sun and thereby keeps the players cool. Also tennis was a game of the elite and as we’ve already stated white was the color of the upper classes. These traditions have continued to today and most tennis tournaments have a white T-shirt option.
One event that only used white T-shirts – Another situation where you might end up with all white T-shirts is if you collected T-shirts from just one event. And that event only printed on white T-shirts. Printing a T-shirt on white costs less than printing on a colored T-shirt. So to save money, events that don’t have a large margin will choose white T-shirts. The quilt above is one such example.
Only purchased white shirts – There are those of you out there that just like white T-shirts and will only wear white T-shirts. And in that case, you will have a lot of white T-shirts.
It just ends up that way – sometimes you will just end up with white T-shirts. It happens.
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.
Will an all white quilt be boring?
One of the questions that I get asked often is will an all-white T-shirt quilt be boring? My answer not at all! First, they are your T-shirts and tell your story. So you will love it.
Second, an all-white quilt is actually very colorful. This is because the color comes from the printing on the T-shirts themselves. On a colorful T-shirt quilt, you get the color from the actual T-shirt material. As a result you see the blocks – the background first and then the graphics second.
Since the background on an all-white T-shirt quilt is white, you stop seeing it. Your eye immediately goes to the graphics themselves. And usually the graphics are fun and colorful.
Basically it’s a totally different experience than a T-shirt quilt made from colored T-shirts.
What if you have a single colored shirt and the rest are white?
I would suggest you not use that one colored T-shirt. It will stick out like a sore thumb. If this shirt is the most important shirt of the group and it has to go in the quilt, I would suggest adding additional blocks of this color into the quilt so that that one colored block is not the only thing you initially see.
In the quilt to the right, the blue blocks were very important to the customer and had to go into the quilt. We did the best we could balancing the block by adding other blocks of this color throughout the quilt. But you can see that it dominates the quilt.
If you only have one colored T-shirt, I would suggest one of three things –
Put the block from that T-shirt on the back of the quilt.
What if you have 2 or 3 colored shirts and the rest are white?
A white T-shirt quilt with 2 colored blocks – this is a hard call. It will depend upon the color of the few shirts and the flexibility of size of the quilt.
If the T-shirts are very bright and colorful, I would suggest not using those T-shirts. They will totally over power the white T-shirts.
If the T-shirts are pastel or light color, we can use them in the quilt successfully. We will need to add other blank blocks in from those T-shirts to balance out the color.
Also, the larger the quilt, the better chance we will have to balance the color. If we have the flexibility to make the quilt larger, and thus make room for the additional blank colored blocks, even better.
Should you use a border on an all-white quilt?
You can. I wouldn’t choose a white border because it will not be seen and will just be a waste. You can choose a colorful border. If so, I would suggest that you use the same color on the back of your quilt.
What color should you use on the back of an all-white quilt?
Not white. There’s enough of that on the front. Also, I don’t like to use white on the back of T-shirt quilts – too much dirt in the world. Read more about that here.
I suggest looking at the graphics in all the T-shirts and deciding if there is a color that is prominent or that you love. I have found that royal blue is a great color. So many graphics on white T-shirts seem to have royal blue in them.
What color binding?
Again, not white. Once again, there is too much dirt in the world.
You could use the same color as you use on the back of your quilt or a contrasting color. If you are not sure, we can give you some options.
If you have a stack of all white T-shirts, they will make a beautiful T-shirt quilt! If you are ready to have a quilt made, here’s how.
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.