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

Dallas Fireman Quilt

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.


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

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.

  • hundred t shirtsOK,  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? 

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 Quilt with different sized rows to accomodate different sized t shirts/

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.