At Shadywood Quilts and T-Shirt Quilts of Texas, we have literally made thousands of T-Shirt Quilts over the last eleven years. Suffice it to say, that we have a bit of experience in making a successful T-Shirt Quilt.
While we are busy making T-Shirt Quilts for hundreds of folks every year, we have several people that bring us the T-Shirt Quilt TOP for us to finish. We love taking care of you, but sometimes we cringe when we see the top that the customer wants us to work a miracle on.
Here are some suggestions to make a successful tshirt quilt top, and what you should demand your quilt-maker include when creating your quilt.
1 - STABILIZER
Usually, the problem is that they have not STABILIZED the T-Shirts before piecing them together. We use a high quality 100% cotton fusible to stabilize all T-Shirts before including them into a quilt. This prevents the block from stretching or looking "saggy" in the finished quilt. While we don't suggest using a heavy-weight polyester, that is still better than NO stabilizer at all. If you do decide to not use a stabilizer, we will require a stabilizing 'waste' border be added to control the stretching. The folks that do not include stabilizer are going 'cheap', and your quilt will not last a lifetime.
There is a popular t-shirt company that boasts that they do not use any stabilizer. Keep in mind that they boast they have done the same thing for over 20 years. We call it 'going cheap'. Our stabilizer is a 100% cotton product with 'sizing'' in it to help stabilize your t-shirts. The first time it is laundered, the 'sizing - or starch' is washed out, and you will have a soft supple quilt.
On the other hand you can OVER-stablize. The goal is to stabilize, not turn the tee into concrete! There are cheap interfacing that is meant for use in making clothing. Items you might want to 'stay in place' like shirt collars or a jacket lapel. Ask what kind of stabilizer or interfacing that your quilt-maker uses. It should be 100% cotton like the rest of the materials in the quilt.
Note the photo to the right. The red t-shirt is stablilized with our 100% woven cotton. The white t-shirt with Pellon or other polyester stabilizers. ASK your t-shirt maker what they use.
2 - SASHINGS
We always include sashing and cornerstones at no additional charge. We always press the seams away from the T-Shirt towards the sashing fabric to reduce bulk. The cornerstones help us line the blocks up nice and even. See T-Shirt Quilt Terminology for more details. Tshirts that are sewn directly to each other is going to add bulk or the intersections come together. ( Longarm quilter terminology - 'volcanoes' - meaning large lumps of fabric). A professionally done quilt will be flat with no 'lumps or bumps'.
The sashings also contribute to giving the quilt an overall sense of order. Random (or Chaos) quilts don't give the eye a place to rest.
3 - BATTING
The finished tshirt quilt does not have to be heavy and cumbersome when it is complete. Use a high quality 80/20 (80% cotton, 20% Polyester) batting. Don't go 'cheap' on the batting (or any of the fabrics) when making a t-shirt quilt. Make sure your quilter does an 'all-over' pattern or 'pantograph'. There is no reason not to quilt through the tee shirts. You want the quilt to be securely quilted so that it can hold up after years and years of loving use and laundering. Don't settle for 'scribbling' quilting or minimal quilting on YOUR quilt. The t-shirts should be the focus, not the quilting.
In most cases, stitching through the emblems does not cause any problems for the quilter. However, sequins and crystals can wreak havoc with the longarm machine and the needles. Be aware that the 'hopping foot' cannot go over these items and may cause the stitching to 'go around' the 3-dimensional object and corrupt the quilting. 'Puff' paint also causes problems, and if you think about it, is not very pleasant if you put your face on it!!
4 - THREAD
We have been asked to use 'invisible' thread. First of all, no thread is invisible. It might be a translucent shade that blends really well, but we really don't know how well the nylon or polyester thread will hold up to repeated washings and visits to a hot dryer. We always use neutral colored thread, more on the light side that won't detract from the shirts. Most popular colors that we use are a light gray or a light tan color.
5 - QUILTING
Be realistic. If you are not familiar with machine quilting on your domestic machine, let a professional quilt your quilt. PLEASE don't tie your quilt or just stitch around the squares. We have had so many people bring their quilts to use to fix after well meaning moms, aunts, grandmothers or friends have tried to do. It really does not cost that much, and the recipient will be much happier with the result. We want your quilt to last a lifetime.
T-Shirt Quilts of Texas is a full service professional business that can help you complete your quilt at most any stage. We also 'fix' quilts made by non-professionals. If you get started, and don't feel you are going to be able to complete your quilt. Take pictures of your quilt in process, email it to us, and we can let you know if we can help you get it finished.