Shortcuts to making t-shirt quilts for your customers: pricing & easy construction tips

June 14, 2016

T-shirt quilts are wonderful patchwork creations where each block is made from sentimental shirts that bring back precious memories for the person snuggled up inside.

While T-shirt quilts are an incredibly popular gift for graduates, they are also popular for anyone with a substantial t-shirt collection. These types of quilts are also a great way to generate revenue for a longarm quilting machine owner who quilts for others. They are also popular as auction items to raise money for worthy causes. In fact, this one was quilted by Shana and it raised $5,000.

Most customers who want a t-shirt quilt made are generally not sewists and will need the entire quilt made from scratch. However, since there is relatively little piecing involved, making the quilt top is a straight forward, easy process.

Most of your t-shirt quilt customers aren’t familiar with terms like backing, batting and binding. For this reason, I find it easier to use turnkey pricing when setting my fees for this service. I charge a flat rate per shirt which includes all labor, thread, backing fabric, sashing fabric, border fabric, batting and machine binding. I find using turnkey pricing makes things simpler for my customer and far easier for them to calculate when determining how many shirts they want to bring me.

Over on our APQS forums there is a great discussion going on about how much others charge for this service. Pop over and see what you think!

The customer provides the shirts freshly laundered without fabric softener and uncut. T-shirts are made from a stretchy knit fabric so it is important to stabilize it with a lightweight non-woven fusible interfacing. It is important that the customer launders the shirts without fabric softener as it can diminish the ability for the interfacing to adhere to the fabric.

To simplify this process I use a large t-shirt press I purchased used that will fuse the interfacing on one shirt in 13 seconds! I have some large teflon pressing sheets I use both below and on top of the shirts when pressing them to protect the ironing surface.

Once the shirts are interfaced they will be cut into blocks. Don’t cut them to size prior to interfacing the shirt as they may shift a bit when you press it. To make things super simple I use my 15” square rotary cutting ruler to whack the blocks down to size. You certainly could combine pieces of multiple shirts into one block but don’t forget to charge more for that service.

I don’t offer this service. I want it everything as simple for me as possible so I make one 15” block from one shirt. I plop down my 15” ruler on top of the interfaced shirt and quickly cut away the excess to leave me with my block. I have used sports jerseys, work shirts, cheerleading uniforms and even baby blankets when creating t-shirt quilts for my customers!

I love the look of sashing on a t-shirt quilt but I do allow my customer to choose if they want to pay the upcharge for sashing between their blocks. I use a black and white dot fabric for the two inch sashing to keep everything very gender neutral and to allow the shirts to be the stars of the show. I finish up the top with a three-inch outer border. Finally, the backing fabric I provide is a plain black cotton and I use polyester batting.

I find that the best tool I use for t-shirt quilts is my computerized quilting systemattached to my large APQS Millennium. Since the quilt is very stable due to all the interfacing and the polyester batting, I can quilt it using a large open meander. It is so nice to let the computer stitch out the quilt while I work on my next customer quilt or just go get a cup of coffee and cruise the internet!

If you do not have a computer on your longarm there are a variety of simple pantographs that would look great on a t-shirt quilt. Check out this posting in our forums with a variety of suggestions for pantos that would work well on your project!

Once it is quilted I bind it by machine using my sit down domestic machine. I apply the binding to the back first and then I pull it around to the front to stitch it down by machine for the finish. I find I do this while my Mille is hard at work finishing up the next t-shirt quilt!

Have you made a t-shirt quilt for a customer? What time saving tips do you have? What do you charge for your t-shirt quilt services? You can comment down below in the comments section. If you are thinking of ways to expand your machine quilting business consider expanding into making t-shirt quilts. They go fast and generate good income for your small business!