Several times a week, customers stroll into Bear Patch Quilting, seeking patterns, fabric, materials or advice for constructing a T-shirt quilt.

"It's a fairly easy project, compared to a pattern with a lot of small geometrics, but I wouldn't advise it for a first project," said Kristina Tagarino, who works at the shop in downtown White Bear Lake. "You can't replace the T-shirt if you make a mistake."

Professional quilter Anne Tuma disagrees. The owner of a home-based quilting business, Down Under Quilting, in New Prague, she offers a four-week T-shirt quilting class in her basement studio. Her classes, limited to 10 students, fill up quickly, she said (the next series is in July).

"People who sign up tend to come with some experience, with quilting or sewing," she said. "They are ready to really put their heart into these projects. It's about the T-shirt, not the quilt."

Tuma's students have a fallback in case they get overwhelmed. Part of her custom quilting business involves making T-shirt quilts from start to finish, so she can take over a project in a pinch. She also offers the service of doing the stitching after the quilt top is pieced.

Kevyn Burger