BEFORE YOU BUY! T SHIRT QUILT QUESTIONS TO ASK

Hello my friends, I know it’s been a while, but t’is truly the season. Meaning, this is THE season for quilters to be busy. June is second to the holiday season for reason of graduation gifts. But a far second, let me tell you.

I felt the need to take a moment to share a few thoughts, as I have recently found yet another “t shirt quilt maker” that offers a pretty sad result. This “company” brings customers in by way of a very low price. For those of you who want a t shirt (or memory, clothing, baby clothes, sports jersey, etc.) quilt made for you, here are some very important considerations I beg of you to ask prior to handing over your precious and irreplaceable items:

1. DO THEY USE A STABILIZER ON THE SHIRTS? Stabilizer is a light fabric that is ironed onto the backside of any jersey knit item to stop it from stretching. If you have shirts that are in good shape, or relatively new, this may seem like something that could be skipped. Not so, my friends.

When the shirts are sewn together, the stabilization prevents the shirts from stretching at the seam, so you don’t get your quilt back with all sorts of puckers at the seams. When the quilt is quilted, the stabilizer also adds an extra layer of strength and thickness to the top.

2. WHAT KIND OF BATTING WILL BE USED? Batting is the center, and batting price and quality varies more than cotton fabric. If they tell you they use 100% polyester, your quilt will not be as warm, but with all the t shirts you may be warm enough without a good quality batting. 80/20 batting is a blend, and cotton will quilt nicely, and lay flatter. Polyester batting also will not give the traditional look a quilt gets after washing, which happens with cotton batt as it shrinks in a little.

3. HOW MUCH QUILTING WILL BE DONE? Batting requires stitching or ties to hold it EVERY 4-6 square inches. So if your quilter says s/he will be quilting it every 12″, your batting will eventually tear and shift. Not good. Don’t pay someone to make your treasures into a quilt that will not last past a few washings.

4. WILL THERE BE ANY MATERIAL THE QUILTER PROVIDES? There are a few reasons to ask this question. One, if they are providing material for you, you will want to know the quality of the fabric (i.e. where did they buy it – a quilt shop or a craft store), the construction (is it 100% cotton), and whether it has been prewashed. Prewashing prevents additional shrinkage and especially with lower quality fabrics, the colors can bleed, which can essentially ruin your quilt. Secondly, you want to know that they are using good quality if that is what you are paying for. If the charge passed on to you per yard is <$10 you can bet it’s not fabric from a quilt shop, so you may have rougher texture, lower thread count, shredding seams or color bleed in the end.

I implore you to ask ask ASK for details from the maker PRIOR to relinquishing your shirts. It makes me very sad that there are great quilt makers out there potentially having their reputation tarnished by the few that are either ignorant or not focused on the quality and care of your special item.

These are truly one of a kind gifts and should be treated as such. I’ve made enough memory quilts to truly appreciate these irreplaceable gems and what they mean to the families that retain them.

In fact, your best bet is to ask to see photos of their previous work. That will give you a good visual as to what you should expect from them. Just FYI, all the pix posted here are from quilts I have made for my customers. 🙂 The three below were for siblings:

Buyer beware, and best of luck with your endeavor my friends!!

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15 thoughts on “BEFORE YOU BUY! T SHIRT QUILT QUESTIONS TO ASK

  1. chindeep3141 says:

    good to know!

    ~Melissa

    • I found a local site that was doing just an awful job and I didn’t want to be ugly, but realized many people out there wanting a tshirt quilt don’t know what to ask, and expect the quilter to know what they are doing. I want all customers of any quilter to have a great experience and ensure they end up with a product they can love and cherish for a long time, so I figured the best approach was to try to educate people.

  2. this is super helpful. do you have a recommendation for a tshirt quilter?

  3. akwoodfin says:

    Nice read, and great information! I’m about 14 months out from finishing a very memorable undergraduate career, and my t-shirts are a strangely precious collection of many wonderful times. I want them to be preserved in good hands! Thanks for this!

  4. THIS WAS THE MOST INFORMATIVE ARTICLE I HAVE READ ON T SHIRT QUILTS, AND WHEN I’M READY IN A FEW WEEKS I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE YOU MAKE MINE. I’VE SAVED YOUR EMAIL INFO AND WILL BE IN TOUCH WITH YOU SOON. THANKS FOR THE EDUCATION!

  5. Lisa Barth says:

    Hi, I wrote you yesterday about using sweater knits in a memory quilt. This person wants 4 quilts & the fabrics are , besides sweaters, acetate, silk, dress clothes with sequins, polyester. they will be picking out the backing, binding etc.( this is long distance) & sending it to me. I can give them recommendations as to what to buy, but this project really has me worried. It is for the friend of a relative I made some memory quilts for, but those were mostly t-shirts & jeans, much easier than working with dress clothes. I haven’t gotten any instructions as to what she wants just 2 boxes of old clothes with designations of which fabric goes to who. And no one has said anything about $. I am really frustrated & haven’t even started yet. Thanks for listening. Lisa

    • Oh Lisa, this sounds like a toughie. I would definitely look at how much labor this will take you, then draft up a cost and be up front about it with your client. If you feel like it’s too high a number, tell them you’re giving them a ‘friend and family’ discount, but the costs will add up for you with fabric, stabilizer and LABOR, because those fabrics are NOT easy to handle. If there aren’t instructions you can either tell them you are doing it ‘this way’, or ask if they have any particulars because if they want itty bitty squares the labor goes UP. Generally with those tough fabrics I keep it simple: 4-6″ squares patchwork, or 8-10″ squares with frames/sashing (sashing is great with tough fabrics because they contain them and you can trim everything back to square blocks despite how those stretch). These fabrics are just so difficult to sew AND quilt (with sequins, beads, etc. keep them away from seams and alert your longarm quilter to beware if you are using someone else for that). And if there are fabrics you aren’t sure about, do everyone a favor and leave them out.

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