At Shadywood Quilts and T-Shirt Quilts of Texas, we have literally made hundreds and hundreds of T-Shirt Quilts over the last 10 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.
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.
We also always include Sashing and Cornerstones at no additional charge. We always press the seams away from the T-Shirt towards the sashing to reduce bulk. The cornerstones help us line the blocks up nice and even.
The finished T-Shirt 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 (or any quilt for that matter). Make sure your quilter does an 'all-over' pattern or 'pantograph'. There is no reason not to quilt through the T-Shirts. You want the quilt to be securely quilted so that it can hold up after years and years of loving use and laundering. Our favorite battings are Hobbs and Legacy brands.
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 it's 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!!
We have been asked to use 'invisible' thread. First of all, no thread is invisible. It might 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 grey or a light tan color.
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 or grandmothers have tried to do. It really does not cost that much, and the recipient will be much happier with the result.