Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on November 12th, 2018

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The 10 Most Common Mistakes You See in a T-shirt Quilt

Comparing T-shirt Quilts

Are you are looking to have a quilt made from your T-shirts? If you know what to look for in a T-shirt quilt, finding the right quilt maker will be easier. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes you will find in a T-shirt quilt. Some of these errors you can see in a photograph. Others you can see in person. The last two you will need to ask about.

Mistakes That Are Easy to Spot

These mistakes you can see from looking at a photo of a T-shirt quilt. If you don’t like how these look, choose another quilter. If you can see these mistakes in a quilter’s portfolio, they will probably show up in your quilt.

1. Cropped Off Logos and Graphics

Image of a T-shirt quilt block that includes the entire graphic from a T-shirt. T-shirt quilt with the image cropped off because of the use of just one block size. Traditional style T-shirt quilts will crop more designs off than a puzzle style quilt.

Logos and graphics on a T-shirt come in many different sizes and shapes. Just look at your own stack of T-shirts to see what I mean. Basically, some graphics are large and some are small.

The graphics on your T-shirts are important. You won’t be considering a quilt if they weren't. You will be disappointed to receive your quilt back with parts of images cropped off.

In the first photo here, you can see part of the motorcycle has been cropped off. And the entire word "motorcycle" has been cropped off!

This happens all the time. Why? It has to do with the style of T-shirt quilt you choose to have made.

A traditional style T-shirt quilt uses just one standard block size. If any graphics on your T-shirts are larger than the block size, those parts will be cut off to fit in the block size.

How do you avoid having graphics on your T-shirts cropped off? Choose a quilt style which uses multiple block sizes. Read more about the different style of T-shirt quilts here.

2. Intersections That Do Not Perfectly Meet

The four corners do not line up. poor workmanship.An intersection in a quilt is when four corners come together. When four corners come together in a quilt, they should meet perfectly. When they are off, they look like the intersection in the photograph here.

The further-off they are, the worse the error looks. You have to decide what distance, if any, is too much. We try to make all our intersection match perfectly. 

If they are off, then the quilter did not do their job. The corner should have been fixed. Blocks not coming together perfectly is a signal that the quilter said, “That’s good enough.” Ask yourself, is it good enough for you?

3. Blocks in Sideways or Upside-Down

A T-shirt quilt with an upside down block. Unless requested, all the blocks in a quilt should be in the same orientation. This is the orientation that they were cut from the T-shirts.

Blocks designed into the quilt sideways means the quilter had an issue. They couldn't figure out how to make the layout work without twisting the blocks. This can happen to the best sewers. But, most of the quilts in their portfolio should show the blocks in the correct orientation.

A block in sideways in a design issue the can be solved 99.9% of time. I wouldn’t add a quilt with a sideways block to my portfolio. I only want to show my best work. When you look at a quilt maker’s work, you shouldn't see more than one quilt with a sideways block. If you do, this will tell you one of two things:

  1. The quilt maker has not made enough quilt to feature quilts without sideways blocks.
  2. The quilt maker does not consider a sideways block a mistake.

A block in upside down is an error. Most quilt makers will catch this most of the time. I say most of the time because even with 5 people proofing a quilt top, sometimes we miss a block in upside-down. Can you find the upside down block in this quilt?

 A block in upside-down should be caught 99.9% of the time. When you look at photographs of a quilter maker’s work look for upside-down blocks. If you see more than one quilt with an upside-down block, pay attention. Consider the possibility that your quilt may end up with an upside-down block.

4. Inconsistent Blocks Shape

crocked messed up block in a T-shirt quilt.Most T-shirt quilts are made up of squares and rectangles. This means the top and bottom of any block will be the same width. A block with one side wider than the opposite side is called a trapezoid. If a block is shaped like a trapezoid, it is a mistake.

Blocks in a quilt needs to be a consistent square or rectangle. If you see a skewed shape that you would need a geometry teacher to identify, continue your search for a quilt maker.

In the photo here, the light blue box shows how the block should be. The black block behind the light blue box is skewed. A lot!

A quilt with blocks that are not squares or rectangles indicates a quilt maker with limited experience. Or a quilt maker who did not care enough to fix the error.


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


5. Tucks or Wrinkles in Seams

The seam is where two pieces of fabric come together. Seams should be smooth and wrinkle free.

A seam with a tuck on one side indicates that one piece of material was longer than the piece to which it was being sewn. Thus a “tuck” had to be taken in the longer piece so it could be sewn to the shorter piece.

A quilt maker must accurately cut and sew together the T-shirt blocks. A tuck in a seam shows that a quilt maker did not proof their work for errors. Tucks are errors.

The first photograph here shows what a seam should look like. The second photograph show a tuck in a seam.

This photograph here shows what a seam should look like in a T-shirt quilt   This photograph show a tuck in a seam of a T-shirt quilt looks like.  

Mistakes That Are Difficult to Spot

The following mistakes typically can’t be seen from looking at a photo of a T-shirt quilt. You are more likely to see these errors when look at a T-shirt quilt in person.

6. Blank Blocks Sewn Inside Out

This shows the difference between the front and the back of a piece of T-shirt material.

Blank blocks of T-shirt material are used to make borders or to fill out empty spots on a quilt. Some quilt makers use these more often than other quilt makers.

T-shirt material has a right side and a wrong side. In 

other words, an inside and an outside. Look at your own T-shirt and compare the inside with the outside of the T-shirt. Can you see the difference? It can be difficult to see because it is subtle and you might need better glasses. One of the first test we have for prospective employees is to see if they can tell the difference. If they can’t, then they or not offered employment.

Once you see the difference, you can almost always see the difference between the front and back of the fabric.

When a quilter puts a filler or other piece of T-shirt material in the quilt inside out, it’s a mistake. We carefully proof our quilts to make sure that we don’t have pieces of blank T-shirt material in wrong side out.

This is very difficult to spot in a photograph of a quilt. But when you are looking at a quilt in person, you can see this error.

It’s not the world’s worst T-shirt quilt error, but it is an error nevertheless. 

7. Holes in Seams

A seam is where two pieces of fabric are sewn together. The outside of the seam should lay smooth and flat. The inside of a seam should have the same amount of seam allowance shown on each side. See the photo here for an example of how the inside of a seam should look. 

back_of_hidden_holehidden_hole

But not all seam look like this. The two pieces of material must line up perfectly before the seam is sewn. If not, there is a chance that one side of the fabric might not get caught in the seam. This leaves a hole in the seam. Sometimes the hole can be large enough to put your finger in!

Some quilters don’t not check their seams from the back to see if they are sewn completely. A hole indicates that a quilter didn’t care enough to check his or her work. This is a huge mistake. And a big issue for the quilt’s longevity!

The first photograph here shows what a hole on the front might look like. The second photograph is the backside of the same seam. Here you can see that the seam allowance is non existent on the red piece of material. The seam allowance on the yellow material is correct. 

You might be able to see from the front of a quilt a hole in the seam.

8. Nothing Holding the Front and Back of the Quilt Together

fleece on the back of a T-shirt blanket. This is not a quilt.

If your “quilt” comes back without any stitching holding the front and back of the quilt together, you actually have a blanket.

The person who called it a quilt either lied to you or does not know the difference. Avoid making this error! Read more about the difference between quilts and blankets here. With this information, you can avoid receiving a blanket when you wanted a quilt.

In the photograph here, you can see that on this blanket, the purple backing material is not connected to the T-shirts on the front. This is a sure sign that you have a blanket and not a quilt. A blanket has a much shorter life expectancy compared to a quilt. 

Mistakes You Need to Ask About

The following mistakes can’t be seen from looking at a photo or seeing a T-shirt quilt in person. These errors you might be able to feel. We recommend you directly ask about these two items.

9. Cheap Fabric

Inexpensive quilts typically are made from inexpensive materials. Using inexpensive or cheap backing fabric can save a quilter a lot of money. To off-set the low purchase price, a quilter will skimp on the quality of materials used. Read more about that here.

This is ultimately a mistake you can avoid making. Ask what types of backing fabric is your quilter uses. Look for the answer of high quality quilters 100% cotton fabric. Think of bed sheets. Read more about backing materials and fabrics here. 

You can’t tell from a photograph about the quality of fabric used. You will need to ask.fabric room at Too Cool T-shirt quilts

10. Cheap Batting

l In the photograph here, the cheap batting is on the left. It's much thicker than good batting. The loft of polyester batting can be a give away about the type of batting used in your quilt. Unlike cheap backing fabric, you can’t see cheap batting. You might not even know that you're quilter used cheap batting. But, sooner or later you will know. You will know when the batting ball up after you wash your quilt. Or you will see the fibers poke out the back of a quilt.  The back of your quilt will look a little harry.

In the photograph here, the cheap batting is on the left. It's much thicker than good batting. The loft of polyester batting can be a give away about the type of batting used in your quilt. 

Please note, a thicker batting does not equal good batting! Polyester battings are bad and cotton battings are good.

You need to ask what type of batting your quilter will be using. Read more about types of batting here. 

Conclusion

These are your T-shirts you are hiring someone to transform into a quilt. Make sure the quilt you get back is one that you are proud to show off. And one that will last for generations.


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


Virginia tech T-shirt quilt

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.