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.
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.
For 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.
Traditional 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!
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
Traditionally, 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
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.
In 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 $5000, while good ones go for over $25,000.
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.
Most T-shirt quilts are quilted with repeating patterns (#2 above). This is for a number of reasons…
Too Cool T-shirt Quilts uses #3 above.
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
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.
To learn more about having a T-shirt quilt made from your T-shirts, head over to our resource page.
If you can't find what you are looking for there, let us know!