T-shirt quilts (yes, again)

NO Saints SB Tshirt quilt

NO Saints SB Tshirt quilt, quilted with footballs

I guess the reason I feel the need to cover this topic over and again is because well, it’s important. People collect t-shirts from concerts/places/life events/football teams that are important to them. T-shirts cost money, AND usually represent great memories, accomplishments or something important to the owner. Well, quilts ALSO cost money. So in essence I feel like by me (an expert on this topic) informing you (the reader) about details to consider, I am helping you to protect your investment.

OK, before I get to the meat of the topic, I just have one more thing to say: IF YOU ARE TRYING TO MAKE A TSHIRT QUILT FROM PINTEREST, STOP NOW!!! Not trying to be mean; trying to save you from spending exponentially more when you have to take your work-in-progress to someone who knows what they’re doing to fix it for you. And I say this from being that person that fixed some works-in-progress.

Well, one more thing: you pay for what you get. I don’t see the website up anymore, but there was a local person a few years ago charging $75 for t-shirt quilts, and they were HORRENDOUS. Not only were they ugly and poorly constructed, but the ‘quilting’ was so sparse that the batting would have begun to fall apart within a few washes.

OK here we go:

1. INSIST on seeing examples of their work. Here’s what to look for:

  • Does the quilt maker have one style? If so, that is exactly how you can expect yours to turn out. Inquire if they have more options to offer.
  • Are the panels of the t-shirts cut so that some of the words/picture is missing? Is that what YOU want?
  • Can you see the quilting stitches? If not, can you see lines that look wavy (like when a curtain drapes)? That could indicate the stitching is not frequent enough to support the batting. Stitching/ties should be every 4-6″ square with standard (poly, cotton or blend) batting.
  • How do the quilts look? Is the maker’s style elegant, country chic or throw it all in the pot and stir? Elaborate quilts can be made from t-shirts, but usually a more extensive pattern will call for a higher cost. So if that’s what you want, discuss it with the quilt maker.
  • If you have sports jerseys, has this quilt maker worked with them before? I can say they are a big pain, and experience is very helpful. Same goes for silk shirts, neckties and crown bags.

If they have examples on hand to show you, that’s even better.

2. Ask them what kind of stabilizer they use. I use that phrase because using stabilizer is NOT an option, it is required. I tell you this as a t-shirt quilt maker AND as a long arm quilter. When it comes time to quilt the layers of your project together, if the shirts are not stabilized, they will stretch and pull, and you will end up with puckers and wrinkles in your quilt or a quilt that is not squared up, and that just does not look good.

I’ve had a regular customer ask me about this, because she was making one and didn’t want it to be so heavy. There are very lightweight stabilizers that can keep the weight down, and a lighter weight batting can be used as well, if that is a concern.

3. Ask them WHERE they purchase their fabric. YES there is a difference in quality. If they give the name of a local quilt shop or start rambling on about this great online store they found, you’re safe. Joann’s even has ok fabric. But if they buy at Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Hancock’s or even Michaels, then ask to see some samples of fabric they would use in your quilt. If it’s rough, that means it is not as tight of a weave, which means it may shrink more, the dye may fade quicker, and that fabric will likely have holes in it in fewer washes.

4. Ask about their process. How do they go from t-shirt to quilt? How do they decide what shirts go where (this question can ensure all your red shirts do not end up in one column)? Do they quilt it on their regular sewing machine, on a long arm machine or do they have someone else quilt it for them for you (could increase the cost)?

5. Ask how they finish the quilt. Borders make a great frame for quilts. It also allows for the edge of the front to tie in color-wise to the back of the quilt. And it provides a no-stretch surface for the quilt maker to bind the top and back together.

  • If they do a knife edge finish, that means they put the whole thing together, sew three edge sides together, flip it right side out, sew the last side and then quilt or tie it. This can lead to batting getting loose inside the quilt (by not getting sewn into the edges) and sloppy quilting.
  • If they fold the binding over from front to back or back to front, that will secure the edge but ask to see examples of their work, because this can ALSO lead to a very uneven look and really fat binding.
  • If they use a double fold applied binding (also called French fold), you will have a very tight, clean edge to your quilt. Especially if they know how to miter their corners.

a beautifully mitered corner

You should expect to spend between $400-1200 on your quilt, depending on a variety of factors, including number of shirts and desired quilt size. Understand, your quilt maker may be supporting their family and this is their source of income. Their labor is their time and it will cost you. Batting and fabric costs add up as well. I have spent $120 just for the backing fabric on one quilt (the one below)!

king size crown bag quilt

king size crown bag quilt

Because you should expect to pay that kind of dollar, you should also expect a result that is on par with that price. But, YOU have a responsibility here too:

1. Ask questions. I have outlined a few above that I don’t think the average non-quilt maker would know to ask. If there is something else you are unsure of, ASK. It’s not a dumb question, it’s smart for you to become educated about your expenditures in advance.

2. Tell him/her what you want! The scariest quilt I have made in recent times happened to be the last one, and what made it so scary is that she told me to just do whatever. As a long arm quilter I LOVE that, but as a quilt maker, I cannot predict what colors she does or doesn’t like, so I just went with what I thought she might like. Fortunately for me, she loved it. I did too, but it could have been a disaster if she didn’t like yellow. Or purple (the back was tie dyed white/purple)!

tshirt quilt

tshirt quilt

3. They should ask you questions during the initial discussion, like how big you want it to end up (is it for a bed or not), who is it for, do you want all the shirt blocks to be the same size, specific colors you do or do not want in the quilt, any special deadline or shirt that should be centered…  Usually people tell me if it is a memory quilt, which is a great tidbit, because I mostly quilt those in all-over hearts and try to keep the color scheme upbeat. This was a memory quilt with not much to use (sudden loss). Included were t-shirts, a sweatshirt, PJ pants and a watchcap. If your quilter has experience, she’ll make anything work for you :).

memory quilt

This was a memory quilt for a baby lost pre-term. The birthing coach had me make it from onesie’s from the other babies she had birthed.

memory quilt from onesies, patchwork style

memory quilt from onesies, patchwork style

4. As a quilter and quilt maker, I can tell you that I try to do everything to my best ability. But I’m not the one paying for the quilt and I’m not the one that’s taking it home. You are, so make sure YOU know what you are getting for your money.

If you are unsure, reach out. You can also Google ‘tshirt quilt photos’ and find more than enough fodder to peak your imagination. Best of luck!

Monthly Block – January Version

Ok, we’ll see how this goes. Once upon a time I was a VERY A type personality. Since leaving the corporate world and rediscovering my sense of humor, I have also become a bit disorganized. All of which I am OK with, I’m just hoping I can keep this together for the duration of the year and continue with this project without fail.

Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, I am happy and ready to share :).

I decided to make a quilt top from my turquoise scraps. I usually find my inspiration in magazines, so I was scanning through a few I had pulled out of my stack. Sometimes it’s from a pattern in the magazine, sometimes a photo of a quilt on the wall of a showcased store. In this case, it was a block:

"THE" block

“THE” block

Far from being my colors, I already knew I wouldn’t recreate it in drab greens. I also knew it would be MUCH scrapier than this example, as she used the same fabrics for all her rectangular blocks. I began to look through my blue scraps to see what I had. Then I started to wonder if it might be more exciting with even more color to it.


drawing it out

drawing it out

While I was drawing and coloring, I was thinking this would look too busy, and maybe I should add an alternating block – white outside with a 4 triangle center. Then I thought, maybe I should sash it and add blue cornerstones instead. I love sashing. So of course, that’s what I went with.

I also decided for color placement to keep the center’s of the squares white, as well as the sashing, and the remainder of the blocks parts to be made of turquoise/bright pink and turquoise/lime green. The block in the magazine shows 9″ finished, so I decided to make the quilt 5 blocks across by 5 down, 25 total. With the sashing and a border, I thought that would make a nice lap sized quilt.

After that it was just a matter of cutting my scraps and sewing them together. I made 13 green blocks

green block

green block

and 12 pink.

pink block

pink block

I set them every other block.

quilt top center

quilt top center

I waited to decide on the border until the next morning. Overnight, I had a thought of doing a triple border, each strip the width of the sashing, but in the pink, blue and green, from the same fabrics the blocks were made. But when I held strips up to the quilt hanging there over the back of my longarm machine, I didn’t like how it looked.

Before I do things like borders, I put a strip of what I’m thinking along the edge of the finished portion and take a few steps back and squint. Yes, squint. It just works.

I considered for a bit not adding any border, but I ALWAYS add borders. As a quilt appraiser, I can tell you that borders not only frame a quilt and finish it, they add value. So I looked at a strip of green, and then a big strip of pink, didn’t like either, so I decided on a solid white border.

finished quilt top

finished quilt top

Then I looked over at my table and realized, maybe this had something to do with my color palette inspiration!



I feel like this particular quilt belongs on a Caribbean Island or something. In the meantime, it will sit on my shelf with all the other quilt tops I’ve made that I have yet to quilt. Hopefully it won’t be there tooooooo long…

Part 2 of this project will be making a block, or perhaps an entire quilt (I suppose an entire quilt would better showcase what it is I’m trying to do here), differently. When I was finishing up another quilt, I found some purple and white tie dyed fabric. I thought maybe I will make the next quilt from that alone. Or maybe all purples and white.

One month I plan to do it with black instead of white/cream as the offsetting color. I will likely do one in fall colors, mixed up though, not separated by blocks. I should probably do one set on point, and perhaps one month I will do the alternating block idea.

So THE PLAN is to continue this project every month, and the PURPOSE is to show how different a quilt can be and look based off the colors and setting chosen.

And the secondary purpose is to infuse you with creativity, inspiration, and the empowerment that YOU can really do this with almost any pattern! You can make it what you want, you CAN make it different than what the instructions tell you. It’s kinda fun to not follow the rules sometimes ;).

Happy quilting my friends.


It’s been a while

I haven’t posted to this blog in a while, but I have been blessed this year with a request I spoke late last year, whether I really meant it or not. I prayed that my business would prosper, but that this year I might have time to be creative and do my OWN projects as well.

Actually, I did mean it, because I was SO busy last year I truly did not have time to do anything ANYTHING but quilt for others. Don’t get me wrong = I LOVE quilting work that others bring me! But sometimes, just sometimes, I want to be able to make something. Create something from scratch.

I believe I have been given that very opportunity. Funny enough, I finished up my holiday deadline projects right before we left for Christmas celebration with family in Memphis. I had time to put together a scrap quilt, and then had no business. To clarify, no business due. I did have a few quilts brought to me for the coming year, nothing in a hurry though.

So I quilted a charity quilt for the guild, and finished two O L D projects TO COMPLETION (yay me!), which is unheard of in this house. Then I started another project with scraps.

This week I decided to get all my quilting-for-other-people work done. I have one task I don’t want to do – I have to tell a client I can’t do her quilts. She asked me to follow a pantograph. I don’t do pantographs. I found her someone that could and she said she wanted me to try to freehand a design like it. I tried (on that charity quilt), and it was AWFUL. Which means I not only have a limitation, but I have to admit it to someone else. sigh.

Anyway, the next post you will see from me will be soon, and it will be regarding this last project using scraps. I found a block pattern in a magazine and sort of modified it to make a top, which I finished the center of today. I still need to decide what to do for the border.

But I’m thinking I can take the concept of this block and play with it with different color combinations, different shades and batiks vs. conventional prints. What I’d like to do is showcase this each month, to show how DIFFERENT the same exact pattern can become with very small changes.

I don’t want to spoil all the fun with pictures and everything, but this first time around I took the block and used different colors than suggested and put in sashing and cornerstones. That’s one of my favorite ways to make quilts – it really separates the blocks and relieves the potential for muddled confusion of too much altogether by giving your eyes a break.

So, thanks for hanging with me. I’ll get busy with these pix and write up and plans so we’ve got some good info to circulate. 🙂

Happy quilting!