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. If there is no batting, the end product is not actually a quilt and will not have a finished result (sort of like taking two pieces of paper and stapling the edges together and that’s it – the whole inside is left disconnected).

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.

5. HOW ARE THEY FINISHING YOUR QUILT? Finishing, meaning the binding (see photo below). This is a great example of an applied, double fold binding attached by machine to front and back, with mitered corners. If they are folding the back over to the front the finish may not be as clean, and same for knife edge finish.

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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memory quilts – a very important job

I had a friend ask me once, whether I thought the popularity of t shirt quilts had increased due to the Twilight movie. I honestly had no idea, because I didn’t pay attention to the timing of the movie and that aspect of my business. I have recently noticed the increase of memory quilts I make as a percentage of quilts total.

That could be partly due to the fact that many of the memory quilts I make are requested for multiple family members from the clothing of one person. Last Christmas I made 6 quilts from a man’s blue business shirts for his widow and sons. I helped a friend make another 5, and am currently working on a set of 5, in the same fashion.

I have made a small wall hanging out of grandpa’s ties, a small patchwork quilt for the mother of a still born baby and a quilt for mom to remember her son by. Oftentimes, the quilts are made as gifts, with the receiver unsuspecting.

When I meet with someone to determine what the project will finish up to be, they often ask if I need a deposit. With t shirt quilts and memory quilts alike, I require nothing other than those special items they are giving me to work with. They are irreplacable, and when they belonged to some one that has passed on, each item truly has a special significance.

Usually when I’m working on these types of projects, I feel a connection to the person. I mean, literally I am handling some of their favorite clothing. The person giving me their items usually tells me a little something, as do the clothes. The smell of smoke, some dog hair, or the Italian silk fabric all tell a little bit of the story about the former owner. What tells the most is the fact that someone loved that person so much that they want to have their items turned into an item that can be loved and cuddled with for a very long time after.

Today I cried. I guess that’s the proof that I get emotionally involved in my work. I’m making quilts for family including a young girl, about 7 years old. Her daddy died from a medical condition, he was 47. He also left behind 2 other children and his loving wife. When he painted, he wiped his slop on his jeans. He used to take his wife dancing, and must have had some of that Air Force still in him because those jeans were starched to the hilt!

Every quilter that I know wants to please their customer. For me, the joy I hear in my clients voice is of greater importance than the check I receive (except that I do have bills to pay…). But when it comes to these quilts, I know they have a very special meaning for the receipient.

Below are some photos of memory quilts I have put together or finished for clients. Like t shirt quilts, they aren’t and shouldn’t necessarily be large square blocks thrown together, unless that is what the customer specifically requests!