I’m very excited that my article on what to look for in a t-shirt quilt was published in my local community magazine. I’m going to post the link to it, but I’m also going to post the article itself here.
With the availability and affordability of screen printing, t-shirts have become more popular than ever. It seems they are the most common souvenir these days – outpacing coffee mugs, key chains, and bumper stickers. Does anyone even collect snow globes anymore? We even say, “Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.” They now come with most events: road races, family reunions, clubs, concerts, VBS, school, and especially anything sports-related. For many of us, our closets are bursting with t-shirts of which, as a guess, only a small percentage actually get worn. It’s common to have a sacred collection of shirts, be it from high school, college, a fraternity, or otherwise, that we simply refuse to throw away. But while our memories may be plentiful, storage often is not. Walk through any second-hand store, and you’ll see plenty of discarded shirts from various occasions. Particularly sad are the uniforms that are donated.
As graduation season looms, many parents may be nervously looking at those piles of shirts their senior has collected over the years, shirt they aren’t “allowed” to get rid of, and wondering what will become of them. Bags of clothes sit around in closets, garages, and attics, waiting for nothing. So what’s to be done with these fabric memories? A lot of people have found that making them into t-shirt and memory quilts is an excellent alternative. The shirts are seen once again and put to good use.
There are plenty of local folks who offer this service in addition to several online companies. However, since quilting itself is an art form, not all services will result in the same product or quality. If you’re interested in getting a quilt made from your t-shirts, uniforms, or any other clothes, here’s a helpful guide on how to ensure the best quality product.
Blanket – is it actually a quilt or a blanket? A quilt is different from a blanket in a couple of major ways. A blanket may have one or two layers, but a quilt will have three: a front, back, and middle (called batting). It will have those three layers sewn together with a design. This sewing of the layers together is called “quilting”, and it’s what separates a quilt from a regular blanket. It’s why they last many years more than a blanket.
Materials – what’s included with the price? The batting and backing of a quilt can be quite expensive. Quality batting can go anywhere from $30-$60+. The backing fabric can require anywhere from 4-8 yards of fabric, and quality fabric from run anywhere from $8-$15 a yard. So when you look at a price, remember to check and see what that price includes. A seemingly small price can add up quickly if it doesn’t include the backing and batting.
Stabilizer – do they use it? If you’ve ever cut a t-shirt, you’ll notice that the material, jersey knit, rolls and shifts a lot. When making a quilt from fabric like this, a quilter needs to use a material called “stabilizer” to ensure the fabric doesn’t roll, shift, or bunch up as the quilt is sewn together and later on quilted. Seams that bulge and twist and aren’t straight are usually signs that someone didn’t use stabilizer. When used, stabilizer gives the shirts a clean look that is flat and straight.
Batting – what kind of batting do they use? Batting can be made of several different materials. Polyester is the most cost effective, but it doesn’t last over the years as well and isn’t as warm. Cotton is warm and washes well over the years. Wool batting is the most expensive as well as the warmest, but it does come with the same tricky washing guidelines that all wool products do. Most t-shirt quilts will go for polyester or cotton. Cotton is generally more reliable and longer-lasting.
Quilting – the closer the quilting design the longer it’ll last. The quilting that goes throughout a quilt holds it together and makes it last over the years. That being said, most batting does well with a quilting pattern that is spaced 10” or closer. It also drapes better and lasts through multiple washes longer. Quilting patterns spaced too far apart will often result in batting that shifts or bunches after a short while, leaving a lumpy and unattractive quilt.
The “Movie Test” – A short self-check that is an easy gauge of a t-shirt quilt or t-shirt blanket’s quality is called the “movie test.” If you put on a full-length movie and sat down with scissors and a seam-ripper, would you be able to disassemble that entire quilt or blanket by the end of the credits? If you can disassemble it in that short amount of time, then the quality is lower. A good quilt takes ages to take apart because of the materials and close-set quilting design.
These are some of the basic elements that will vary greatly among t-shirt quilt services. Don’t be afraid to ask them for specifics and options. Pinterest as a lot of great ideas, but be careful in matching your design expectations to costs. The fancier the design, the more time and materials invested in to it. Online services offer lower prices, but local services can offer more customization. Whichever way you decide, here’s to reviving those happy memories and freeing up storage space all in one product!