The Costs Involved in Making a T-Shirt Quilt

Aren’t you all the same?

A review of T-shirt quilt companies will reveal a wide range of quilt pricing ranging from $125 to over $1,000. Believe it or not, in some instances your “t-shirt quilt” company may not make real quilts at all, but rather blankets that are falsely advertised as quilts. Not all quilt companies are alike, and the quality you receive can very widely, so it’s important to know the costs involved to better understand if you are receiving a genuine quilt.

There are two major factors that impact t-shirt quilt costs – labor and materials.  


Labor

This is a large component of your quilt. A high quality t-shirt quilt company has skilled quilters who have worked at their craft for many years. With the current minimum wage at $7.25/hour, a t-shirt quilt company focused on high quality knows that minimum wage workers will not have the skills for the job. Talented and knowledgeable t-shirt quilters are not unskilled. This means their hourly rate is higher than an entry level worker.

Also, in the labor costs, is the time that it takes to make a quilt. Quilts that have a simple design, like a shirt next to a shirt, next to a shirt, etc. really don’t take much time at all. This design is taught in many high school sewing classes and in many cases, your shirts are simply put in a stack and sewn starting at the top and working down to the bottom without any consideration as to whether the same colors should be so close to each other.  

It takes considerable labor time to make a proper quilt

More complex t-shirt quilts require more time not only in properly cutting the shirts but also in the layout and design. We lay out all our quilts and analyze them for color balance and aesthetics. We also send you a picture of the layout for your approval. This way you have an idea of what it will look like prior to anything being sewn and quilted. The approval process takes time too, and that is included in the cost of the quilt. We may rearrange a quilt 3 or 4 or 5 times until a customer is happy. We don’t sew it until you like what you see!

Quilts analyzed for color balance

All quilts (as opposed to blankets) should be quilted, and that process takes time. Whether it’s stitching in an all over pattern or specialty quilting, it takes skill and time that entry level workers don’t have.

The back of a real quilt (note quilting pattern)


Materials

All genuine quilts have the same basic material components which are fabric, batting and thread. If you are looking at a quilt company and they don’t mention batting, then these are the companies that advertise “quilts” but really make blankets.

Fabric – Not All Cottons are Alike

Fabric is used not only on the backing of the quilts but also on the front in the sashings that separate a checkerboard design. Fabric comes in many different colors as well as many different weights or thread counts. You can buy fabric at Walmart and you can buy fabric at a specialty quilt shop. Both may sell 100% cotton but it’s the weight and quality that matters. A low quality 100% cotton will not hold up to the wear and washing like a high quality 100% cotton. At Meg’s we use only 100% quilter quality cottons and flannels for our fabric.

Batting and the Quilt Sandwich

Batting is the layer between your quilt top (shirts) and your backing. In the quilting world, this is called a quilt sandwich. The batting that is used is very important and like fabric, it comes in many different materials from polyester to 100% cotton batting as well as an 80/20 cotton/poly blend. They are now even making batting from recycled plastic bottles! However, we will focus on the main battings you may hear and see.

Polyester batting:

Polyester battings are made from polyester fibers and tend to bunch up with multiple washings. If you find a low end quilt price, chances are they are using polyester batting. As far as quality and price, polyester batting falls on the low end. Many t-shirt quilt companies looking to cut costs will use a polyester batting. Polyester batting needs to be quilted closely. Meaning the stitches need to be put close together so that the batting in between those stitches does bunch up with use and washings. I don’t suggest polyester batting for t-shirt quilts.

100% cotton batting:

This is fine for t-shirt quilts but it tends to be thin and tears easily when it’s moved or loaded onto the quilter. This batting needs to be quilted closely too, otherwise, like the polyester it may bunch up with wear and washings.

80%/20% cotton/poly blend:

This is the batting that most quilters use. It’s a high quality blend of cotton and poly. As the batting is needle punched over hot drums, the needles melt the poly and that binds the cotton fibers together to form a strong batting that will not bunch and will lay flat. 80/20 blends are very hard to tear; therefore quilting stitches can be farther away from each other. It also won’t bunch up and break down with washings like the other two battings mentioned above will.

Here at Meg’s we only use 80%/20% cotton/poly blend that is manufactured by the Warm and Natural Company. All their battings are made here in the United States. 

Thread

Again, another material that has a variety of materials used to make it. All-purpose polyester thread is a great thread for sewing and is used by most t-shirt quilt companies. There are different companies with different qualities of all-purpose thread. We use only Gütterman brand all-purpose thread. We’ve found that it holds up extremely well to wear and washings with minimal breakage.

Thread for quilting is different from sewing threads. We suggest that only cotton thread is used for quilting and those that are specifically woven for use on long arm quilting machines. Some companies use “invisible” threads and they are similar to fishing line. We don’t suggest that these be used for quilting because they break too easily. Here at Meg’s, we use Superior Thread Omni line for all our quilting.


Good Work Ain’t Cheap …

I realize that all of this may be confusing, but if you want your quilt last you for many years to come, you want a knowledgeable and skilled quilter who uses only high quality materials. As my father used to say…”good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good.”

If you have any questions, please feel free to download my T-Shirt Quilt Buyer’s Guide or you can contact me directly at meg@megsquiltedmemories.com or (810) 250-1825. I look forward to hearing from you!