What to look for when buying a t-shirt quilt – a published article

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.

Online link to magazine 

Link to information about ordering a t-shirt quilt from me. 

Article

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!

Three Quilts for Three Brothers

Recently I received a picture of a senior with his quilt that I’d made.  This one was particularly special because it was the third one I’d made, and it was the final one as this was the youngest of three brothers to graduate.

I made the middle brother’s quilt first.  This is a nice change of pace for all you middle siblings out there, I’m sure!  After that I went back and made the oldest one’s quilt, followed most recently by the youngest.

I enjoyed making these and loved that they all used the same fabrics along with the same “G” on the back.  This is the only client I’ve done a G on the back for, and all three quilts have it.

I also had no idea it was possible to be in as many leadership and community service clubs as these brothers were in!  I’m not sure how the school will fair next year since their presence will have moved on to greater sites.

*Somehow I managed to not get any pictures, or save them, of the oldest brother’s quilt.  Oh well, I can assure you it looks quiet identical to the youngest brother’s.

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I used gold crepe back satin to make the G and at the intersections on the front. 
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It won’t stop raining here, so I had to get creative with my picture-taking. 
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The front of the hoodie!
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This signature shirt required a bit of “Frankenstein”ing to make everything fit, but I managed.  
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The first quilt I made for the middle brother.  I had some fun in the school library with an impromptu photo shoot. 

Back GFinished 1

 

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Related blogs and posts:

Wearable memories: Hug a Tee!

Senior Band Quilt

This quilt was gifted, so I can share!

This quilt is a great example of why I tell folks not to worry about not having enough t-shirts for a certain size quilt.  I can always add in more blocks.  For example, this person had 8 shirts but wanted a twin-sized quilt for her daughter.  So I simply went in and added quartered blocks alternating with the shirts.  I like the overall look.

Layout

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I was still waiting for the embroidered patches to get back to me. Hence the hole in the middle.

Also, I had a couple of clients want to know about embroidery.  That is one service I do not offer as of yet.  Sometimes I think about getting a fancy embroidery machine, but then I remember that I am limited on  space and funds and time.  I don’t know if I would even have the time to fully learn it.  I still have a serger that I am too scared to touch.

One thing about this quilt that I especially love is the backing.  It is made from a fabric called “shirting flannel”.  So it’s extra soft.  Basically, it’s pajama pants material.  Can you imagine?!  A quilt with pajama pants material on the back?!  I keep looking for more ways to incorporate this kind of material into my quilts as it’s just so darned comfy!

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Pajama Pants Material!

Senior Quilt

This quilt is a great example of what a quintessential senior quilt looks like.  In this case there are student council shirts, football jerseys, baseball uniforms, and goofy teacher shirts.  The sashing has gold crepe back satin because I really wanted the luster that came with actual gold colors.

I sent her the update pictures as I went.

This mom also asked for a large gold G to be on the back as a nod at the high school logo.

I liked this one so much I had a small photo session in our school library.

Finished 2

 

 

Cheerleader T-Shirt Quilt

This won’t be the last t-shirt quilt you all see.  They are sort of my bread and butter.  I do more t-shirt quilt commissions than I do anything else, and they help out with a lot around here. Graduation season is picking up, and I’m starting to see inquiries and am getting orders.  I’ve completed two already and am meeting someone for a 3rd.

In honor of graduation season coming upon us (a time that is often busier than Christmas for me), I’m doing a post on one of the senior quilts I made last year.  This one was interesting because the school colors were black and silver.  You would think this makes for a boring or “ugly” combination.  But I realized as we looked through the fabric that it was also a combination that was hard to get wrong. In fact, it made for a nice contrast to the shirts!

 

So I’ll show you guys a bit of my process.  For starters, I make a draft. This was for a basic layout – no sashing or borders.  The name was about the only frill.  I’ve gotten rather good at drafting layouts far more complicated on Microsoft Word.

Ariel Layout

I use fusible interfacing to make sure that jersey knit stays put.  It’s stretchy and likes to bunch up without a stabilizer. The shirts themselves were quick since I wasn’t doing a border.  There was one spot open, and I made a quick 9-patch to match the backing.  This is a great example of why I tell folks not to stress about how many shirts I’ll need.  I usually tell them to send me what they want included, and I’ll try to figure out a way to make them all fit.

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This one was made of the senior’s cheerleading shirts.  There were plenty to be had and a generous amount of glitter! I liked the traces of pink in the shirts; they “popped” once they were placed beside the black and silver school colors.

 

 

For the backing, my client chose an “oil slick” design that was a nice and playful balance for the black and silver school colors.  I used the same fabric in the front 9-patch as well as the letters of the name.

This particular quilt was pretty fun to make!

Related blogs and posts:

Rosebud’s Quilts: Another t-shirt quilt

Rock & Roll Marathon T-Shirt Quilt

Quilts in Common: T-shirt quilt for graduation