The Most Affordable T-shirt Quilts Have This in Common
If you are on a tight budget yet still want a T-shirt quilt, you have options. There will be tradeoffs, but if you know what those tradeoffs are going in, you will know where to set your expectations.
Here is what you can expect from a very inexpensive quilt maker, and what you may have to give up.
They Are Blankets – Not Quilts
The most affordable T-shirt quilt companies actually make T-shirt blankets. This is more than semantics. Blankets and quilts are not the same thing. A blanket has two layers that are unconnected. A quilt has three layers that connected with stitching. Read more about the differences between quilts and blankets here.
Both a blanket and a quilt can keep you warm. But a quilt is higher quality and can last longer. Do you consider cost more important than the end product? If so, a blanket may be what you are looking for.
Why are blankets less expensive to make?
- Blankets require fewer materials.
The backing material is all you need for a blanket. This is typically inexpensive fleece. A quilt requires backing material, batting and thread for the stitching.
- Blankets require less equipment.
All you need to make a blanket is a sewing machine. Whereas a quilt generally needs a long arm quilting machine. This machine can cost $15,000 to $30,000.
- Blankets require less skill to make.
A blanket is very simple to make. Thus, a person with fewer skills can make a blanket. A quilt takes experience. There is a longer learning curve.
Here’s an analogy that can help explain the difference in skill level. The skills of a blanket maker are equivalent to a high school dropout. Whereas a quilt maker’s skills are equivalent to that of a Ph.D. The skill level is that different! Expect a blanket maker to charge less for their time than a skilled quilt maker.
- Blankets require less time.
I could make a twin-size blanket in a half hour. It would take me well over 10 hours to make if it were a quilt. This is because there are fewer steps. And these steps are simpler and fast.
Cropped Off Graphics
Affordable T-shirt quilts and blankets are made using a traditional style of T-shirt quilt. In a traditional style quilt, all the blocks are the same size. This means a simple construction for the maker. It means a limited amount of layout time. It’s less sewing time.
This has an impact on the T-shirts you include in your quilt or blanket.
This happens when a graphic on your T-shirt is larger than the block size used by your quilt maker. Any part of the graphic extending beyond the template will be cut off. For example: The graphic on your T-shirt is 16” wide by 14” tall. The standard block size your quilter uses is 12” square. Anything that extends beyond that 12” will be cut off.
Look online or ask a potential quilt maker what size block they will be using. Then measure your T-shirts and see how much of the design will have to be cut off.
Say you have a special T-shirt with an oversized large graphic. Are you willing to have the graphic cropped off? It will look silly and could break your heart.
Are you willing to have the logos on your T-shirts cut off? If so, an affordable T-shirt quilt or blanket maker might be right for you. If you know ahead of time the part of the graphics on your T-shirt will be cut off, you can be prepared for part of your T-shirts design being gone.
Boring Traditional Style Quilt Design
Most affordable T-shirt quilt or blanket makers will lay out the T-shirt blocks in rows and columns. Quilt makers call this style a traditional style T-shirt quilt. Quilts or blankets made with this method are very quick and easy to make. That’s one reason why they are so inexpensive.
The problem is that rows and columns are mundane and uninteresting to look at. It is a pattern that your mind easily recognizes. As a result, you don’t need to spend a lot of time looking at the quilt. Your brain gets it and moves on. Are you unconcerned about aesthetics? Unconcerned about what you quilt will look like? Then a very affordable T-shirt quilt or blanket might be right for you.
What's the time difference between making a traditional style T-shirt quilt over a puzzle style? Let’s just talk about the quilt top for easy comparison. For every hour spent on a traditional style quilt, a quilter making a puzzle style quilt will spend over 6 hours. If you put a dollar amount on this… say $25 an hour – it’s the difference between $25 and $150! Big difference.
Another way a quilt maker keeps the cost down is by using the most inexpensive materials available. This is great for them, but not for you.
Inexpensive materials can cut a lot from the cost of a quilt. But inexpensive materials look cheap. They often feel coarser and do not wear as well.
How much can inexpensive materials save a quilt maker? Low-cost batting cost less than $4.00 a yard. The good stuff can cost over $20.00 a yard. Fabric has a similar price range. Say that your quilt needs 5 yards of backing fabric. The cost of the fabric could range anywhere from $20 to $100. This is a huge price range.
Can you see why a quilt maker would choose a less expensive fabric? They know the difference. And they hope that you don’t. Inexpensive fabrics can help keep expenses down for you. Expect an impact on the look, feel and life of your quilt.
To keep a quilt or blanket affordable, the person making your quilt or blanket has to work fast. The faster you work, the more likely you are to make errors. If the quilt maker wants to make your quilt profitable, it might mean that sewing errors will not be corrected. The time it would take to fix the errors would erase their profit.
For example, when four blocks come together, the four corners should meet perfectly. A company making affordable T-shirt quilts or blankets may settle for, “It’s close enough.”
If you don’t care about the quality of the quilt or blanket you are having made, then a budget quilt or blanket may be right for you.
When you are planning a T-shirt quilt, you have to consider many variables. From the different styles of quilts, to the level of craftsmanship and to the quality of materials being used.
When comparing T-shirt quilt and blankets, you have to know what you are looking at. Two quilts that look very similar might actually be very different.
In the photo below there’s a quilt and a blanket both made with the same stack of T-shirts.
The quilt on the left is a blanket. It’s made in the traditional style. It has polar fleece on the back and no quilting. Many blocks have been cropped off. The workmanship is poor. I know this because there are corners that don’t meet. And the front of the blanket is larger than the back.
The quilt on the right is a Too Cool T-shirt Quilt. It is an actual quilt because there are three layers held together with quilting. All the graphics were completely used. There was no cropping of the graphics because each was cut with a block size that fit the design.
This photo shows the backs of these. You can see that the blanket has no stitching. The quilt has awesome quilting.