Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on July 15th, 2019

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10 Things You Should Look for in a T-shirt Quilt Maker

Finding a T-shirt Quilt Maker

So, do you have that stack of T-shirts you want turned into a T-shirt quilt. Have you had a T-shirt quilt made before? Do you know what you want your T-shirt quilt to look or feel like? Without some basic information, you may choose a quilt maker who is not the right fit.

Here are 10 things to look for in someone who may make your T-shirts quilt. These are clues you can use to determine a quilt maker's skill and if they are a good fit for you and your T-shirts. 

1. How long have they been in business?

T-shirt quilt with a girl standing on the stairsAny less than 3 years is a clue that they are a beginner. The length of time in business can correlate to a quilt maker's skill level. Making a great T-shirt quilts take practice. There are many things to learn about the T-shirt quilt making process.

I have been making T-shirt quilts since 1992 and learn new things all the time. I can draw on my experience to find a solution to a new problem. Knowing works and what doesn't work is important knowledge to have. Experience counts.

Are you okay if your quilt is an inexperienced quilt makers failed solution to an easy problem? If not, look for a quilt maker with experience. The length of time in business is one way to gauge a quilt maker's experience.

2. How many T-shirt quilts have they made?

T-shirt quilt in the too cool styleAny less than 200 quilts indicates a quilt maker is in the learning stage. But even after 200, they may be a poor quilter. Most quilt makers improve with experience. Most, but not all. I have met quilt makers who make awful quilts after making 100's of quilts.

The number of quilts is a good marker for a quilt maker's skill level. Just remember, not all quilt makers improve with experience.

3. What style of T-shirt quilts are they making?

Did you know that there are 6 general styles of T-shirt quilts? Do you know which style you want for your T-shirts? If not, start with this article that explains the different style. Then jump back here. Now do you know which style you want? Excellent!

The quilt makers you look at need to be making the style of T-shirt quilt you want. Don't ask a quilt maker to make a different style quilt than they currently make. That is, unless want your T-shirts to be a quilt maker's guinea pig. Go back and read #2.

Below you can compare a traditional T-shirt blanket on the left with a Too Cool style T-shirt quilt on the right.  Here's an article that goes into more depth about this photo comparing a traditional T-shirt blanket with a Too Cool style T-shirt quilt

Compare a traditional T-shirt blanket on the left with a Too Cool style T-shirt quilt on the right.


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


4. Are they using iron-on backing or interfacing?

IronThe quilting industry tells quilt makers to use iron-on backing or interfacing to make T-shirt quilts. This is a myth the quilting industry has kept alive. Why? Well, if quilt makers think they need iron on backing, they will buy it. The myth is kept alive to sell an unneeded product to quilt makers.

A quilt maker does not have to use interfacing or iron-on backing. You can read why I think need iron-on backing is useless here.

If a quilt maker uses iron-on backing this is a clue for you. First, iron-on backing is a sign of inexperience. Second, it illustrates a quilt maker's fear to try new things. (Although we have been making T-shirts without interfacing since 1992. So, it's not all that new.) And third, it will make your quilt stiff.

Iron-on backing is unnecessary on the back of T-shirts. It's an added expense that will just make your quilt stiff. Ask potential quilt makers if they use iron-on backing or interfacing. If they do, consider removing them from your list of potential quilt makers.

5. What type of quilting does a quilt maker do on their quilts?

Quilting holds the three layers of a quilt together. The three layers are the quilt top, the batting and the backing material. These three layers must be connected to make the quilt.

If there is no quilting or only two layers, this is not a quilt. It's a blanket. Here's an explanation of the differences between a quilt and a blanket. It's important to understand these difference. Whether you have a quilt or blanket made make a difference. It will influence the quality, price and longevity of your T-shirt quilt or blanket.

There are two major things to understand about quilting. First, if the three layers of a quilt aren't connected or connected sparsely, the batting can bunch up and be lumpy. This is just no fun. Here's more about batting used in a T-shirt quilt.

the quilt on the left has very little quilting. The quilt on the right is quilted in the Too Cool style. Each block gets it own quilting pattern.Second is how the quilting will look on your quilt. Some companies use a simple standard overall pattern. It's fast, cheap and kind of boring. We think quilting should be fun and interesting. We quilt each block in our quilts with a different pattern. Read more about what great quilting looks like here.

Learn about quilting styles and methods so you know what you want. Then you can use this information in selecting your quilt maker. 

In the photo here, you can see that the quilt on the left has very little quilting. The quilt on the right is quilted in the Too Cool style. Each block gets it own quilting pattern. Which one do you like best?

6. Is the quilt maker sending their quilts out for quilting?

long-arm quiltingSome quilter makers only can do part of the quilting process. They must send out their quilts to be long arm quilted. There are risks associated with your a quilter farming out your quilt for quilting. These risk include loss, indifference to your requests, and unknown environment.

Ask potential quilt makers if they do their own quilting. If they don't, this is a clue they are not a professional. A clue about their lack of experience. And a clue they won't always have your T-shirts in their care. (This should scare you!)

7. How creative is the quilt maker?

Converse in a T-shirt quilt - very cool!You don’t want a cookie cutter T-shirt quilt – they are just too boring. The more creative the individual, the more creative your quilt will be.

To judge creativity, look at photographs of a quilt maker's work. Here are some things to consider:

  • Look for how they handle odd items. If there aren't any odd items, the quilt maker hasn't progressed beyond the basics.
  • Are any T-shirt design cropped off? If so, this is not a good sign. All the designs on your T-shirts should be used in their entirety. A creative quilt maker will know how to do this.
  • Look at the backs of a quilt maker's quilt. Is the quilting interesting and fun? Or is it repetitive? Do you like the quilt maker's style? If not, continue your search.

Here's an article about getting clues from a photo of a T-shirt quilt. This information can help you be a better detective in your search for a quilt maker.

8. What quality of materials are they using?

Fabric room 2019Some quilter’s prices may seem very low. One reason they are low is because they are using low quality material. Low quality material can make even a nice quilt, not very nice. Think about other areas in life where low quality materials are used. Sometimes, it just makes for a cheap item. A lower price T-shirt quilt is not always the best deal.

There are  two materials that can effect the cost and quality of a quilt. 

  1. The backing material.
    The backing fabric should be 100% high quality quilter's cotton. Here's an article that explains about the backing material in more detail. 
  2. The batting material.
    There are two main types of batting that are used in quality T-shirt quilts. 100% cotton or 80% cotton/20% poly mix. The 80/20 is the better of the two. Anything made with 100% polyester batting should be avoided. Here's information about the types of batting quilt makers typically use. 

9. Is the home or shop smoke free/pet free?

This can be a personal choice. If you are not a smoker, having your quilt come back smelling like smoke is awful. So having a quilt made in a home of a smoker might be a deal breaker. The same for cats and perhaps dogs. If either smoking or pets would be an issue for you, ask about them up front. 

10. How long will it take to have your T-shirt quilt made?

UPS Guy You don’t want to send your T-shirts to someone and then have to wait months or years to have your quilt returned.

This happens! It happens when the person making your quilt isn't a professional. People who are not professionals have other jobs or duties that take priority over quilt making.

It can also happen when you agree to work with someone who doesn't know what they are doing. They get started on it the quilt and realize they have no idea what they are doing. So it gets set aside.

I have had customers who have had to go back to a "quilt maker" and retrieve their T-shirts 5 years later. It's not a good situation!

A reasonable turn around time is less than six weeks. Industry standard is 4 to 6 weeks. Before you give someone your T-shirts, ask when the quilt will be finished. After 8 weeks, I would start to pester your quilt maker.

A good quilt maker will state on their website what their turn around time is. They will also let you know if they become backed up and need to push out their due date. A good quilt maker will keep in touch with you.

Conclusion

T-shirt quilt with a fancy borderBefore you send your T-shirts off to any quilt maker, make sure you know you will be getting back the quilt of your dreams. Having no T-shirt quilt at all is better than having a cheap piece of crap that leaves you broken-hearted. 

Take your time and do your research. You will be happier with your decision and your quilt. 

Below we have a list of interview questions you can ask a potential quilt maker. You are welcome to print this out and share it.


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


Interview Questions

Interview Questions Photo 

Home made T-shirts in 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.