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Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker

We reinvented the rule for making T-shirt quilts!

November 5th, 2022

By Andrea Funk

When I made my first T-shirt quilt, I didn’t know that there were established rules for making T-shirt quilts. “Who knew?!” I just made the quilt how I thought it should be made. In the process, I ended up reinventing the T-shirt quilt.

The result of breaking all the traditional rules is a T-shirt quilt that is very different. And the differences are what makes a Too Cool T-shirt quilt so much more.

There are 5 major differences that set a Too Cool T-shirt quilt apart from a traditional T-shirt quilt. Below is an explanation of each difference and why it matters to your quilt. 

1. Your quilt will be made with multiple block sizes.

cropped image on a T-shirt quilt

One of the first things I noticed about T-shirts is that the graphics are all different sizes. Look at your T-shirts – do you see the same thing? Some have very large designs and others very small designs.

I realized that I would need to use a number of different size blocks if I didn’t want to have to crop some graphics off. For example, if you have a graphic that is larger than the standard block size, you will have to cut that graphic off because your block size is smaller than the graphic. You can lose so much of your design that you might not know what the original graphic said! This can be a heart breaker if it happens to your favorite T-shirt.



too much space around a block for a T-shirt quiltFor those T-shirts with very small designs such as a left chest logo, the standard size block would leave that logo with way too much space around the graphic. Also, there is not enough fabric around many small logos to center it in the large block. So, you end up with a graphic that is skewed up into the upper right hand corner of a block. That just looks stupid. The photo here shows a small logo in a 14" square block. The correct size for this graphic is blocked out in black. You can see how a graphic in the upper right hand corner of a block just looks wrong. And it wastes a lot of space. 

So, my first step was to use a number of different block sizes so that none of the graphics on my T-shirts would be cropped off or left dangling.

Your T-shirts come first! 

In your Too Cool T-shirt quilt, none of the designs on your T-shirts will be cropped off in order to fit into a preset block size. The blocks will be cut to fit the designs on your T-shirts. 

2. Your quilt will not be built in rows and columns.

Compare a project repat blanket with a Too Cool T-shirt quiltTraditional style T-shirt quilts with a single block size are built into rows and columns. That is so uninteresting and mind numbing! Your brain sees the checkerboard pattern and then you are off to think about other things! A glance is all it takes.

A Too Cool style T-shirt quilt is not laid out in rows or columns because all the different size blocks don’t stack up into rows and columns. The only way to get any odd number of blocks, cut different sizes to fit together is to puzzle them together. The result is a quilt where it is difficult to discern the underlying pattern. The layout style forces your brain to stop and take a look.

In the photo here, the traditional style is on the left and the Too Cool style is on the right. Big difference!

You want people to have to stop and take a look at your quilt.
That is the only way that they will look long enough to see the actual T-shirts.

3. Your quilt can use any number of T-shirts or other machine washable fabrics.

The next thing I noticed is that I start with an uneven number of blocks that wouldn't stack evenly in rows and columns. For example, in a traditional quilt, you might have room for 4 blocks across by 6 blocks down: 4 x 6 = 24 blocks. That’s all the blocks you get. If you have more, then you would have to go up to 5 x 6 = 30 blocks. What happens if you have 27 blocks? 3 x 9? That would be 3 times longer than it is wide! 23 blocks? Well you would have to give up 2 blocks to make the math work.

Luckily, with a Too Cool T-shirt quilt; you can use any number of blocks you want.
The more blocks you have, the larger your quilt will be.
If you are willing for your quilt to be a little larger, you can add more!

4. Your quilt will be soft and cuddly because we don’t stiffen your T-shirts just to make them easy to work with.

On iron on interfacing hereTraditionally, T-shirt quilts were made using a product called iron-on interfacing or iron-on backing. The material is ironed onto the backside of each T-shirt to stiffen the T-shirt material so quilters could easily sew the T-shirt material to non-T-shirt fabrics such as 100% quilter’s cotton. The cotton is used as sashing between the T-shirt blocks.

There was another rule that I broke! I didn’t know that you “had to use iron-on interfacing to keep the T-shirts from stretching.” Oops.   Oh, wait – I didn’t have any problems from not using it.

Where did that rule come from anyway?! Since making my first T-shirt quilt in 1992, I have been fighting the quilting industry about the need to use iron-on backing. To this day, other quilters ask me about using iron-on backing. They just don’t believe that you can make a T-shirt quilt without it. I ask them if they have tried it. No, they say, they are too scared.

So how does this affect your T-shirt quilt?
Iron-on backing stiffens T-shirt material so it is easier to work with.
The result? Stiff feeling T-shirts! What do you want your quilt to feel like?

5. Your quilt will be quilted by our talented artists.

milie quiltingIn 1992 when I made that first T-shirt quilt, most quilters didn’t have access to or didn’t even know about long-arm quilting machines. At that time, quilts were either hand quilted, tied, tacked or quilted on home sewing machines.

By the early 2000’s, long-arm machines were becoming more readily available to quilt makers. Today, there are over 17 brands of long-arm quilting machines. Some selling for as little as $8000, while good ones go for over $40,000.

This means that everyone making T-shirt quilts today for a business will either have, or have access to a long-arm quilting machine. If not, they are just a hobbyist and not a professional. Long-arm quilting machines can be used in a number of ways.

  1. A computer can operate the machine – you press a button and off it goes. You can program the computer to do a repeating simple design or you can program the machine to do fancy complicated designs. The advantage to this method is that you can press the go button and walk away and do something else.
  2. A long-arm quilting machine can be operated from the back of the machine (not directly in front of the quilt) with the operator following a printed pattern on a table on the back side of the machine. This results in a repeating design from side to side of the quilt. This is called pantograph quilting.
  3. The machine can be operated from the front of the machine, with the quilter standing directly in front of the quilt. From this position, the quilter can draw any design they choose.This is we long-arm quilt our quiltsthe back side of a Too Cool T-shirt Quilt

Most T-shirt quilts are quilted with repeating patterns (#2 above). This is for a number of reasons…

  1. It’s easy and doesn’t take much skill.
  2. It’s fast.
  3. It takes less thread.
  4. It doesn’t require a computerized machine. 

Our long-arm quilting machines are operated by our artist. They stand at the front of the machine directly in front of the quilt. We use the machines to draw, doodle and trace on the quilt. Each block get its own design. It's very cool.

The result is that the back of your quilt will be much more
interesting than any other typical T-shirt quilt. 

You already know that your T-shirts are important. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be looking for a T-shirt quilt maker.
With Too Cool T-shirt Quilts you can relax because you know you will be getting the best T-shirt quilt possible.

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.