What happens to your T-shirts when you give them to a quilt maker?
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What happens when your T-shirts arrive at your quilt maker? Since each quilt maker is different, I can't say for sure. But I can tell you what happens when you send your T-shirts to Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. So here's what happens, from arriving at our shop until the quilt arrives back at your door.
1. Your T-shirts arrive at quilt maker.
The UPS Guy, Postman and FedEx Guy are regular visitors to Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. They arrive with boxes full of T-shirts for us. We are always delighted to see our guys. (And here in Michigan, a guy can be male, female, pansexual or non-binary. We say. "hey you guys" whenever we address a small group no matter their makeup. It's just who we are.)
When your box arrives, the first thing we do is to open the box and locate your order form. We then immediately email you letting you know your box has arrived.
You can ship your T-shirts to us via UPS, Fed Ex, the US Post Office or any other carrier of your choosing. We do suggest getting a tracking number so you can follow your T-shirt journey to us. If you are getting your box ready to ship, here's an article about boxing up your T-shirts for shipping.
If you are in or driving through the area, you are more than welcome to drop them off personally. We love to show off the shop!
2. Your T-shirts are readied to be cut.
During this process we create a label with your name on it and affix it to a clear plastic box. All the cut blocks and paperwork are kept in this box until your quilt is ready to be shipped back to you.
The order form and any special directions are read carefully. If there are questions, we will call you.
Our goal is to cut your T-shirts within 2 business days of arriving at our door. We want to get your T-shirts in a plastic box as soon as possible so we can track the progress of your quilt.
3. Your T-shirts are cut.
We have unique workstations set up so when we cut your T-shirts, we are comfortable and safe. T-shirts are cut using a tool called a rotary cutter. The blades on these specialized knives are wicked sharp. Being safe is important! Our mantra around here is, "No blood on the quilts!" Wicked sharp tools!
We only have one box of T-shirts being cut at a time. I don't want to mix your T-shirts up with anyone else. We have developed crazy strict rule about working on one quilt at a time. If we have to work on another quilt, we either have to move to another empty work station or put the quilt we are working on away.
You don't want to get caught setting down a stray block to look at something else. You can get fired for that on the spot. Needless to say, this rule is followed.
In the photo here, Eli is cutting out a block from a T-shirt. Behind her, you can see some of the other blocks cut for this quilt.
4. The cut blocks are stacked by size and counted.
After your T-shirts have been transformed into blocks, they are counted. Twice. We need to have an accurate count of block numbers and sizes in order to figure out the size of your quilt.
The blocks are then put into your plastic box with any paper work. This box then moves to our next work station.
5. Your quilt size is calculated.
Until your T-shirts have been cut, we don’t know what size quilt they will make. Read more about why we don’t know this until your T-shirts are cut here.
We figure the size of the quilt by doing math with the numbers of blocks and sizes. This includes figuring a square root. After the size of the quilt is calculated, we will e-mail you with the size and options.
Upon receipt of your approval of the quilt size we then move to the next step.
6. A map is made of the quilt.
Once you approve the quilt size, a layout map of your quilt is created with a drafting program. This computer program does not actually move the blocks around; rather a human manipulates them. This is when the puzzled part of the quilt is fashioned. At this point, we are only working with block shapes, not specific blocks.
If you have a special request for a block placement, this is when we do that. For example, if you want a block centered, it is placed on the map first.
Some maps take 20 minutes while others take over an hour. And many times, the smaller the map, the longer it may take to create. This is probably the most difficult part of making a puzzle style T-shirt quilt. If you aren't good at puzzles, your map will not be puzzled well. Poor designers end up with many row, columns and four corners. These are all design problems we are able to avoid.
7. Blocks are assigned a spot on the map.
In this step, each block is assigned a unique spot on the map. This is when the color and other design feature decisions are made. So the color of each block is physically drawn on the layout map with color crayons. This is also when the quilt is broken into sewing sections.
From this step, the box goes to a quilt seamstress.
Notice that we have never physically laid out the quilt. Because of this, we cannot send you a photo of what the quilt will look like before it is sewn. We have calculated that it would add over 20% to the cost of the quilt if we were to physically layout each quilt. On top of that, the risk of blocks being separated and lost would be increased.
8. The quilt top is sewn.
Great care is taken in sewing a quilt top. Every seam is measured to make sure it is perfect. Every intersection where four corners come together has to be perfect. No fewer than three people review each quilt top. If there are any errors, it is returned to the seamstress to be fixed. Then it is reviewed again.
An experienced eye can pick out sewing errors on a quilt very quickly. Our goal is not to have any errors those experienced eyes could pick up. For you, this means your quilt top will be sewn carefully and professional. Here's an article about the most common T-shirt quilt construction errors.
9. The quilt is long-arm machine quilted.
Each block on your quilt gets its own special quilting design. The designs are either traced images from the T-shirts or free form designs.
We typically use a contrasting thread on a solid material so the quilting can be seen. For example, we might choose to use a light blue thread on a navy backing. This light-colored thread would show up great on the navy.
We take great pride in long-arm machine quilting. We feel it is one of those things that elevates us above other quilt makers.
Read more about long-arm quilting here.
10. The quilt is bound.
After a quilt is long-arm machine quilted, it is then bound. The binding is a strip of fabric that runs around the edge of the quilt to finish the raw edge of the top, batting and backing materials.
There are 3 main styles of bindings. You can read more about different styles of binding here.
We love to choose a binding color that ties in the front of the quilt with the back of the quilt. It's a fun area to play with.
11. The quilt is photographed and cleaned.
Because making T-shirt quilts is a dusty business, we photograph your quilt before we clean it. Otherwise we would have to clean it twice.
Each of our locations have a different setup for photographing quilts. The photograph here is of the photo studio at the Charlotte location. Here we have an overhead photo system.
Once we clean your quilt, it goes directly into a plastic bag and into the shipping box. Once the quilt is paid for, we ship it to you.
12. Your new quilt is sent to you.
We use a ransom photo method of letting your know your quilt is finished.
We don't ask for a deposit because we have to trust you to pay as you have to trust us with your T-shirts. So once your quilt is finished, we take a photo. Then we email you the ransom photo and the amount due. Upon receipt of the ransom, we ship your quilt to you.
The photo here is of a busy day of shipping out T-shirt quilts to waiting customers.
Every T-shirt quilt company has a different process. What happens here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts many not be what happens at other companies. We hope this helps you understand the general processes T-shirt quilt companies use when your T-shirts arrive at their location.
Read more about what to expect when you have a quilt made here.