There may or may not be sashing between the rows and columns.
Two Main Styles of T-shirt Quilts
The traditional style of quilt. This style is comprised of uniform sized blocks that are lined up in rows and columns.
The the puzzle style aka the Too Cool style. This style has blocks of many different sizes that are puzzled together.
In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of a traditional style T-shirt quilt. Understanding the good and the bad of a traditional style T-shirt quilt will help you know if this style is good for your T-shirts.
Positive Attributes of a Traditional Style T-shirt Quilt:
1. You know exactly how many blocks you will need.
Figuring out how many blocks are needed for a traditional style T-shirt quilt is as easy as simple multiplication. If a quilt is four blocks wide and four blocks tall, then you simply multiply 4 × 4 = 16. You would need 16 blocks for this quilt.
This does not mean you can put 16 T-shirts in the quilt, only that you can put 16 images or parts of a T-shirt in the quilt. If you have only 15 images, you will have to have a blank block. If you have17 images, you will have to eliminate one.
To figure out the size of the quilt you simply multiply block size by the number of blocks in the width and in the length. So using a 16-inch square block, a quilt that is 4 blocks wide would measure 64" wide. The length of the quilt would be 4 × 16" = 64" inches long.
If you go with a traditional style with sashing, you will also need to account for the width of the sashing.
Knowing exactly how many blocks you need for a quilt can help you feel in control when you are planning a quilt.
2. It’s easy to locate a particular block.
If you have a favorite block it will be easy to find. You just have to remember that it’s in the second column third block down. You can go to that block every single time you look. Since you know where the block is, you can avoid having to look at other blocks as you look for your favorite.
3. They are easy to make and won’t cost a lot.
Because all the blocks are the same size and are lined up in rows and columns, this style of T-shirt quilt is very easy to make. Somebody with no sewing experience probably could muddle through the project.
It’s because of this simplicity, a traditional style of T-shirt quilt is inexpensive. An average sized traditional style T-shirt quilt that is tied or not quilted at all can probably be made in about an hour. The less time it takes to make a quilt, the less expensive it will be for you. Here's an article we wrote about how much T-shirt quilts cost.
Planning a T-shirt quilt? Here are step-by-step directions for ordering your Too Cool T-shirt quilt.
Negative Attributes of a Traditional Style T-shirt Quilt:
1. Not Interesting
A pattern of rows and columns is very easy for our brains to discern. As a result we don’t have to spend much time looking at the quilt. This style of quilt is great if they are your T-shirts. But nobody else will be very interested in your quilt because there will be little to hold their attention. Again rows and columns are simple and once we’ve detected the pattern, our brains will be onto something else.
2. Uniform block size results in cropped-off images.
Using one block size in a quilt is great if all the T-shirts have the same size designs on them. But 999 out of 1000 stacks of T-shirts will have many different sized designs within the stack.
The problem with a one-size-fits-all block size is that some of the designs on your T-shirts will be too large for the block. Those designs will have to be cropped to fit the block size.
Other designs on your T-shirts may be much smaller than the block. Those designs won’t get cut off; rather they will be left with too much margin around it.
Small designs typically are printed in the upper left hand breast pocket. There is not enough room on the T-shirt to center these small logos. The result? Small designs will have too much margin and the design will be in the upper right-hand corner of the block. This will look like a mistake. And silly.
In the quilt here, yellow arrows point to the small blocks. You can see how wrong they look.
In the three photos below, you will see what one T-shirt (the first image) looks like in a traditional quilt and in a Too Cool style quilt. Big difference! In the middle photo, the entire word "motorcycle" was totally cropped off! What do you think? Think about this in terms of your own T-shirts.
Before you have a quilt made from your T-shirts, you need to know exactly what style of T-shirt quilt you want. The style of T-shirt quilt you choose will influence the cost and look of your quilt.
Want to learn more about T-shirt quilts? Visit our Learning Center. We have over 200 articles about all aspects of T-shirt quilts.
In the photo here, you can compare two styles of T-shirt blanket (left) and quilt (right). The blanket on the left is traditional style made with 12" block. The quilt on the right is made with the variable blocks, puzzle or Too Cool style. Read more about this comparison here.
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.