Andrea Funk

By: Andrea Funk on June 4th, 2018

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Who Knows How to Make a Perfect T-shirt Quilt?

Planning a T-shirt Quilt

Here at Too Cool T-shirt Quilts, we aren't perfect.  Some people might not admit to being less than perfect, but not us. We know that we are not perfect.  We check and double-check everything so we can make you a “perfect” quilt. But alas, we are only human.

We have been making T-shirt quilts since 1992. In those intervening years, we have made many mistakes. When we make a mistake, we don’t just say “oh well.” Nope. We learn from mistakes to improve our processes. And to provide you better directions in preparing your T-shirts.

What We Have Learned

Here are some of the mistakes and issues we have faced over the years. I will share with you what we learned from each. And more importantly, what we do differently because of what we learned.

1. A Block in Upside-Down

This is a photo of a T-shirt quilt with one block in upside down.When I made my first T-shirt quilt for my sister, the quilt blocks faced every which way. I hadn’t even considered putting them all right side up. My sister told me that I might consider facing all the blocks right side up. Okay. I can do that.

My second and subsequent quilts all had their blocks right-side-up — mostly. Sometimes a block ended up in a quilt upside-down or sideways.

As the company grew, additional sewers became involved in the process.  We developed a system to make sure everything is correct. Every once in a great while we miss an upside-down block.

Here is a picture of a quilt that we made recently. Seven of us looked at the quilt and no one saw that a block was in upside down. Can you find the upside down block?

When a customer asks about an upside-down block in their quilt, here's what we tell them: 

  1. We aren’t perfect no matter how hard we try.
  2. It shows you that this is a human made product. Our quilts aren't something we program a computer to make. They are actually hand made.
  3. When your great grandkids take your quilt to Antique Road Show in the future, they will be told, “Wow! This is a rare find. A Too Cool T-shirt Quilt with an upside-down block. This is highly sought after.”
  4. And most of all, that we are sorry, we made a mistake.
  5. There isn't a way to turn the block right-side up.

2. Backing Material Color Not Setting

Photo of the washing machine and dryer that we use to wash the fabric we use on a T-shirt quilt.I will cringe when I think of this error. My customer’s quilt turned blue 

When I first began making T-shirt quilts, I purchased backing material on a quilt by quilt bases. I was young and didn’t have a lot of money. This meant that I purchased fabric as inexpensively as possible. Well, I got a steal on that backing fabric.  Then, I failed to prewash the material. Then, the quilt was ruined. Read how to care about a T-shirt Quilt.

What I learned… the quality of the backing material is so important. The extra cost to get the good stuff is always worth it! We always wash all the fabric we use in our quilts. If the color does set, we give the fabric away. It’s just not worth the risk. 

If you are looking for a quilt maker, this is something very important to ask about! Read more about finding a quilt maker here.

3. Failing to Follow Directions

An example of a special instruction sheet to make sure we all have the correct information when making a T-shirt quilt. As a one-person shop, remembering and following directions was easy. Making only a few quilts a month meant that there weren't a lot to remember.

But the minute I added my first employee, things changed. Things were missed. Shortly after adding my first employee, we added a special instruction worksheet to our paperwork.  This is a bright colored piece of paper where any special instructions are written down. As a quilt works through our shop, each person touching that quilt has to read and sign off on the special instruction worksheet. 

This works, most of the time. We work very hard on making sure that we don’t miss anything.  But things do get missed. When they do, we “walk the cat back” and figure out where in the process we missed a step. 

 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. Spoiling a Surprise

A young woman surprised with a T-shirt quilt as a gift.This would happen when we would call a customer about their quilt. This was more important in the days of shared home phones and no email. If we told the person answering the phone that we are calling about a T-shirt quilt, it would have been a dead giveaway that a T-shirt quilt was in the works.

I hate being the one to give away a surprise. To keep this from happening, we added a spot on our order form asking if the quilt is a surprise. Knowing that a quilt is a surprise allowed us to help keep the surprise a secret.

5. Thread Color Blunders

Thread choices for a T-shirt quilt.We spend a lot of time deciding what color quilting thread to use. Many years back we made a quilt with a red backing. We used a light pink thread for the quilting. It looked great. 

It was only after the customer received the quilt that we learned that the quilt was for a guy! Oh. Luckily the pink thread was very light and almost looked white.

From that moment on, we started asking whom the quilt is for. Knowing who the quilt is for helps us make thread color choices and quilting style choices.

Not all mistakes are ours!

At this point, we have actually found that most errors are not ours. This doesn’t mean we don’t make errors. It means that we are not mind readers!

The most frequent error is that a customer included a block they didn’t want in the quilt. This results from:

  1. X out what you don't want used in your T-shirt quilt.Not X-ing out a graphic they didn’t want used.

    This is the only way we know that you don’t want something used. Read more about marking directions here.

  2. A sibling or friend’s T-shirt was mixed into the pile of T-shirts. 

    Please don’t expected us to know that. Just because a name on one shirt is different, we don’t know that it doesn't belong. If we feel that something doesn’t belong, we do ask. And 99% of the time, it does belong. We have to assume that if you sent a T-shirt that you want it in your quilt. Please go through your T-shirts before you send them to us. 

  3. A customer telling us they assumed that we would know.
When this happens, we always ask each other here, “how were we suppose to know that?!” We are not just asking this because we are bewildered. We want to think if there were a way we could have known.

  4. A customer making up her own directions.
Please don’t make up your own directions. If you are unable to follow our directions, you have to understand that we might not be able to follow your directions!

PLEASE LOOK AT THE FRONT, BACK AND SLEEVES OF YOUR T-SHIRTS. It's very easy to forget that some T-shirts have things on the backs and sleeve. This is a big reason some blocks are added that should not have been added. 

We are not mind readers. We make over a thousand quilts a year. As a result, we have developed very detailed instructions on how to mark your T-shirts and how to give us directions. Read more about that here.

Unhappy with Style Choices

A young woman seeing her T-shirt quilt for the first time and loving it.Most of our customers love our style choices. There are a few hate them. We do our best.

A T-shirt quilt is a one-of-a-kind piece of art.  We base our decision on our experience and education. Three of us here have college degrees in art and design. I have an MA in design. So, we have educated reasons for the choices we make.

Design choices are not mistakes. We make these decisions based on our education and experience making T-shirt quilts. If someone is unhappy with a design decision, we don’t blame ourselves. It’s just a difference of opinion. If there is an easy way to fix to the style choice, we will change it.

Handmade products are a comfort in this day of mass produced products. A T-shirt quilt is not only awesome because it is made from your T-shirts, it’s also a unique handmade product. Your quilt is like no one else’s, so celebrate its individuality.

 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

 Salt Lake fire fighter with his T-shirt 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. 


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