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My travel T-shirt quilt made by Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Photo by Catharine Norton.

My travel T-shirt quilt made by Too Cool T-shirt Quilts. Photo by Catharine Norton.

Over the years, I’ve picked up dozens — well, probably hundreds — of souvenir T-shirts from my travels.

I almost always buy at least one, and often more, from each trip. Some haven’t even fit me very well, but I liked the look of them, so I bought them. Others I’ve worn so many times that they’re practically threadbare.

But no matter how well worn or ill-fitting, I had a hard time throwing them away. Well, truth be told,  I never threw any of them away .

They were, after all, souvenirs of my travels — one of the few things I regularly collect from my trips — and remind me of places I’ve been, cruises I’ve taken, hotels where I’ve stayed, or restaurants I’ve loved (or that just had cool T-shirts).

Most that I stopped wearing ended up in boxes or bins and shoved under a bed in the guest room.

Then it came time for us to move across country and downsize. What to do with my boxes of old T-shirts?

How About a Quilt?

My wife, Catharine, had an idea. She had read about a  Michigan-based company called Too Cool T-shirt Quilts that cuts out the logos or designs from old T-shirts and fashions them into colorful quilts.

I was sold; my T-shirts would live on!

All we had to do was wash about 50 T-shirts — enough to make a queen-sized quilt — and X-out with tape the parts we did not want to appear on the quilt. We also included a number of cloth patches I had collected in my travels — the kind that read “Greenland,” “Gibraltar,” “Hong Kong,” “Ushuaia,” etc. — that I’d never really figured out how to use.

Then we shipped them all off to Michigan and Too Cool T-shirts did the rest. After a few weeks, my T-shirt (and cloth patch) quilt arrived at our doorstep.

The result was stunning (see photo above).

It now adorns the bed in our guest room, which I walk through to get to my office several times a day, and I never fail to stop a moment and admire it.

Ecuador, Vietnam, Nepal, Argentina, China, St. Kitts, Australia, Russia, Micronesia, and more destinations are represented in full color, beautifully sewn and designed. The quilter even put “Down Under” — Australia’s nickname — upside down, a great touch. And she cleverly positioned a camel T-shirt I bought in Israel so that the front of the camel is in the upper left corner and the rear of the camel is in the lower right.

Too Cool T-shirt Quilts was founded by a woman named Andrea Funk back in 1992, and her business has expanded rapidly over the past quarter century.

Travel-themed quilts are just one of the many categories of quilts she’ll tackle. You could send in old T-shirts (or sweatshirts) honoring your alma mater or sorority, focusing on a favorite hobby or activity, tracing your child’s athletic career at graduation — whatever you choose.

You can even send in old neckties to turn into a quilt — which would make a great retirement present.

As for me, I recently found another box filled with old souvenir travel T-shirts that I’d completely forgotten about, currently sitting on the floor in my closet. Maybe it’s time to give Too Cool another call.

You might also like: Dazzling Displays at the National Quilt Museum.







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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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