What You Need To Know About Random Style T-Shirt Quilts

What is good about a Random/Puzzle Style T-Shirt Quilt?

  • You get to use every t-shirt in your closet or drawers
  • Thin and lightweight

What’s bad about a Random style T-Shirt Quilt

  • Cheaply made
  • Little or no quilting
  • Too much (scribble) quilting
  • Not made to last a lifetime
  • Lumps and bumps at the intersections
  • Chaotic
  • Front logo of shirt not located anywhere near the back of the shirt
  • Might have t-shirt fabric from ‘other’ people in your quilt

There are two main styles of T-Shirt Quilts

The traditional style of t-shirt quilt is the most popular and has many variations. The main feature is that there are usually uniform columns and rows.

The random style of t-shirt quilt; also referred to as ‘variable’, ‘puzzle’ or ‘chaos’ style quilts, has different sized blocks in many sizes and shapes.

See https:www.TShirtQuiltsTX.com/blog/t-shirt-quilt-style-order-or-chaos.html

You get to use every t-shirt in your closet or drawers.

OK,  this is good and/or bad.  How many t-shirts do you have?  Have you been collecting tees for your whole life, or just the last few years?  Random/Chaos/Puzzle quilts can use up to 60 or 80 tees to make a queen or king sized quilt (for nearly a $1,000).  What kind of craziness is that quilt going to entail? 

Positive Attributes of a Random Style T-Shirt Quilt:

The other thing about the puzzle quilts, are that they are thin and very lightweight.   Great, if you live in southern Florida or Mexico.

Negative Attributes of a Random Style T-Shirt Quilt:

One of the worst things that happens when you have a typical random/chaos quilt made is that it is cheaply made.  Generally, there is no stabilizer to  make the blocks easy to use in a quilt.  They sew stretchy t-shirt material directly to another piece of t-shirt fabric.    The intersections make a ‘bump’  (in the professional quilting world, we call these ‘hammer quilts’, because you need a hammer or something else to flatten out the intersection where four or more shirts come together.)

Quilting is the stitching that holds the three layers together.    Professional longarm quilters, will quilt an ‘all over’ design that does not detract from the collection of tshirts.  Some of the ‘professional’ random quilt makers use high school kids and other random non-professionals hires to quilt their quilts.   They either do minimal quilting (like squiggles/scribbles) or they over quilt the top with what we call scribbles.  Neither is professional looking or contributes to the longevity of your heirloom quilt.  We WANT your quilt to last a lifetime.  We use high quality materials, do professional piecing and quilting to ensure that you have a quilt that you will treasure for generations.

With a random style quilt, the blocks are uniform in style,  usually based on a four inch grid.  Sounds great.  However, if you are having a sorority quilt made, the t-shirt always has the date and pertinent info on the front side of the tshirt, and the big image on the backside of the shirt is on the other side of the shirt is always the generic image. With a random quilt the front logo is placed on one side of the quilt and the larger backside image is usually placed on the other side of the quilt (in order to balance colors).  With a professional ‘traditional’ quilt-maker, we will ‘combine’ the logo from the front of the tee to the image on the back image creating a cohesive image.

Dallas Fireman T-shirt Quilt. Different height rows to accomadate different sized images.

If images on tees are too large (i.e. larger than 14″ square) we generally try to make an entire row of shirts larger to encompass the larger sizes.  Another row, will be scaled down to  keep the quilt in balance.

Note that the top row of blocks are 16″ tall, then the standard 14″ and the 3rd row is 12″. This to accomodate the oversized tshirt images. We don’t crop them all to a standard 12″. There are also several blocks where we combined several logos to create new blocks.

The last and most creepy reason to avoid random style quilt makers is that they collect fabrics from ‘other’ peoples tees and use them in YOUR quilt.  Yuck.  Do they launder before using it in your quilt?    Most tshirts that we receive have not been laundered before they come in.   Again, Yuck.

Before you have a quilt made from your T-shirts, you need to know exactly what style of T-shirt quilt you want. The style of T-shirt quilt you choose will influence the cost and look of your quilt. Here’s our resource page about T-shirt quilts. It has lots of great information to help you figure out what you want your quilt to look and feel like. 

Using Hats in a T Shirt Quilt

Wow, you have a favorite hat from your favorite baseball team (Go Astros!!!), favorite hobby or whatever. (Hubby has an obscure image from  the insert adapter of a 45 record that you use to play on a record player on his favorite hat). Whatever your hat represents, you probably want to include it in your t-shirt quilt.  The image represents YOU!

45 RPM Adapter for record player
45 RPM record player adapter

We have had mixed opinions  over the years on whether we can include the logos from a hat in a t-shirt quilt.

Recently, we had an order for six quilts and  they wanted to include 27 hats.

Wow.  27 hats. Keep in mind that each hat requires special attention.   Hats are NOT normally FLAT.

Kandi Corner Golf Academy hat used in quilt
Kandi Corner Golf Academy hat used in quilt

So, what is the plan?  OK, we always say that anything that can be laundered can be used….  Hmmmm.  So why do we charge $12 per hat to add a hat to your quilt?

Steps to use a hat logo in a quilt:

  • Rough cut out the logo/image from the quilt
  • Apply a fusible glue to the backside of image (Heat N Bond)
  • Use special templates to create a pleasing shape, resulting in a ‘badge’ circle or oval shape.
  • Additional layout, to determine ‘where’ to add the badge
  • Iron the badge to the quilt top.
  • Stitch around the badge to the quilt top with matching thread color.
  • Quilt the quilt top.  usually causing a thickness that may or may not quilt with the quilting machine.  Sometimes, if the thickness is excessive, the computer will stitch ‘around’ the badge instead of through it.
Astros Hat logo
Astro hat logo used in t-shirt quilt

All of those steps add about 20-30 minutes to the process of making your quilt.  We normally charge $7.50  to $10.00 for a standard  “combine”.  Appliquéing a hat image is a huge time suck that we have to pass the costs on to you.  We thought this was best over the option of not accepting hats for inclusion. Let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

More information about ‘COMBINES‘.

5 Golden Rules of Quilting

March 28, 2017

Rules Were NOT Made To Be Broken!

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the Rules of Quilting That WERE Made To Be Broken.  I received several emails commenting on those rules, and telling me about their encounters with the “Quilt Police”.  There is a difference between developing good sewing habits, and just not knowing what to do.  Here are some of the ‘basics’ that I have always taught beginning quilters.

1. Always Test Your 1/4″ Seam Allowance 

Pretty much everything in quilting requires a ¼” seam. If you learned to sew making clothing, you are familiar with a 5/8″ seam allowance.  Let me say now, forget that. If your seam allowance is an 1/8″ off with large pieces of fabric making up your block, 1/8″ might not seem like a lot. BUT, if there are many seams that make up your block, an 1/8″ times 4 or 6 turns into a 1/2″ or 3/4″ difference. Your alternate blocks won’t line up.

Here are a few methods to achieve an accurate and consistent  1/4″ seam allowance

  • ¼” foot for your sewing machine –
  • With computerized sewing machines, find the perfect 1/4 inch by clicking the needle to the desired

But,  two methods are very easy and practical. First, get a 1/4″ seam allowance foot.
This foot extends exactly ¼” beyond the needle on each side so you can simply line up the edge of the foot with the edge of your fabric and sew. Quarter inch feet are available from most sewing machine supply stores, and many fabric stores.
Second, mark a solid line on a piece of typing paper with your ruler.
**Scant 1/4″

2. The Iron Is Your Friend

Each seam you make should be pressed to one side – usually towards the darker fabric although this is not always practical. Any time you will be sewing together items that already have seams in them, be doubly sure that you’ve pressed the seams before sewing again.

3. Check your work

Do this frequently until you start to feel more confident in yourself. It won’t take long to develop this talent. It is just about as hard as it was to learn to stay in your own lane while driving. Just remember to check! Especially when you are a beginning quilter, you’ll need to verify that you’re sewing 1/4” seams. Just slip whatever you’ve sewn under the ruler and check it out.

4. Measure Twice, Cut Once

Depending on the amount of fabric (or t-shirts) that you have, it is always important to take correct measurements. If you are looking a pattern, double check that what is listed actually makes sense. When I was an early (aka inexperienced) quilter, I made a costly mistake in cutting some expensive fabric according to pattern directions. Guess what. It wasted a LOT of fabric, and I ended up not having enough fabric to complete the pattern as instructed.

5. Use the BEST Quality Materials That You Can

“Cheap is as Cheap Does”, kinda my take on using fabrics. Sure, you can buy ‘cheap’ fabric at Wally World or at Jo-Ann’s. Just dont do it! My very first quilt that I made (Aunt Sukies Quilt) made back in the late 70’s was made from .77 yard fabric from Zayre’s (in upstate New York- don’t know if they are still around….) Anyway, because I wanted a scrappy looking quilt, I bought a half yard of a whole bunch of fabrics at a very cheap price. Not knowing anything about fabric content (100% cotton versus poly-cotton blends) and started ‘my stash’. OK, so I have given away that I have been quilting for 40 years (OMG) That first quilt has been laundered a gazillion times. Some fabrics are faded, and others are disentegrating – the polyesters have held their color!!!

For an heirloom quilt that you would like your family to enjoy for generations, use the best quality fabrics that you can afford. The assembly of the blocks willl work better, and the quilt will last longer.

Oops, The Dog Ate My T-Shirt Quilt!

Can You Fix My Quilt?

Things happen.  Puppies are teething, and maybe they used your favorite tshirt quilt to chew on.  What we can do?

The quilt on the right was christened by our own Shiner  (a blue heeler) about 12 years ago.  He teethed in several places, but I already fixed the worst holes..  These that are left, just make me go awwwww.

 So, what happens when you have a quilt that is damaged?  Can we fix it?  Well, yes, pretty much anything can be fixed.  However, it might cost a bit.

The Repairs

Most companies  will say NO!!! we won’t fix that.  What we do is take the quilting stitches out (much easier when the quilting isn’t that ‘scribble’ quilting.…) ; replace the offending block (you might have to provide a new t-shirt) . We then reload the quilt on the quilting machine and quilt the new area.  This all takes time, and is not our most favorite task.  While we do not want to be in the business of repairing quilts, we will repair a t-shirt quilt that we made, and for a reasonable price.

In these two photos, the dog didn’t eat it, but when the quilt was laundered the old blanket they used in two of the blocks disintegrated!  You can see inside the quilt, the stitching and needle holes from where we removed the quilting.  It is an easier job if the repairs are done on one of the side of the quilt, but in this case the blocks were on both sides of the quilt

After replacing the blanket squares, we added the new tees, then quilted it.    You couldn’t that tell we had done any repairs after we were finished.

Note: If the repair needs to be made in one of the borders or sashing, hopefully we will still have the fabrics in stock, buy can’t be guaranteed. Also, the number of times the quilt has been laundered may have caused fading in the fabrics, if not laundered properly. 

Hopefully, the love for your t-shirt quilt will be limited to snuggling and curling up in a chair!

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.

Back to Quilt Care

Can a T-Shirt Quilt Made From the Same Color Shirts Look Good?

Same Color TShirts

You have a collection of tees, maybe from running (mostly white) , Harley Davidson shirts (mostly black) or concert shirts (again, mostly black).  Can we make these quilts look great?

We say YES!  We do this by adding a sashing border around each tshirt .   We add a contrasting color fabric around each shirt so that the monochrom colored shirts don’t ‘mush’ together like in those chaos/random quilts.  

White  tees made into a colorful quilt.
White tees made into a colorful quilt.

Recently, a customer emailed us with concerns that all of her t-shirts were  all the same color (Harley-Davidson black tees).  She was concerned that the quilt would be ‘too dark’, and what could we do to ‘perk’ them up a bit.

We advised her that adding sashings add a bit of contrast/color around each shirt so that the quilt would not be a big blob of ‘black’ (or white) and un-appealing. Sashings actually add an essential element that ties the colors of the tshirts together, and makes the quilt a complete piece of art.  Whether it  is a bright color for those all white running shirts, for a gray neutral for the mostly Harley or Concert shirts.  The sashings give the eye a place to rest, and not get lost in a mass of one color.

Quilt made from Wichita State (Kansas) Wheat Shocker tshirts
Quilt made from Wichita State (Kansas) Wheat Shocker tshirts
Quilt made from all White TShirts

Again, the quilt on the left consists of all white tees.  By adding the green sashings, the green accent border (and cornerstones)  ‘perk’ up the quilt and adds interest to the final quilt.  What do you think?

Whatever collection the of tees that you have.  You can lay them out the way you would like, or let us take care of that for you.   Normally, most collections of tshirts are not all one color.  But, if they are, trust us to add design elements such as sashings and accent borders to give you a complete and pleasing quilt.

T-Shirt Quilts of Texas is a professional company making custom quilts from YOUR t-shirts for over 15 years. Let us know what your collection consists of and we will be happy to create an heirloom for you.