Saturday, July 13, 2013

Memory Quilts

This project has taken me a long time.  Way too long.  A friend of mine died a few years ago.  It was very sudden and unexpected.  Our kids were close in age, and we had gone all the way through their schools  together:  elementary, middle school, and high school.  Needless to say, Susan's death hit a lot of us very hard.  I try to concentrate on all the good memories I have of her: having lunch together, working as marching band parents in high school, going shopping, visiting back and forth.  

At her memorial service, another of her friends, knowing that I am a quilter, asked me if I would be interested in making a quilt from Susan's clothes.  I felt really honored to be asked to do this.  So, when her family had gone through her closet, I collected a few bags of her clothes, trying to select mostly cottons.  And, even later, I finished two quilts, one for each of her sons.

The quilt at the top measures 62" wide by 68" long.  First I cut strips 4 1/2" wide of Susan's clothes.  Then I decided to use a light green Kona cotton for the inner strips and  the border.  Those little strips were all 4 1/2" by 1 1/2".  I laid all the clothing strips out on a bed top (my design wall wasn't available) and arranged them in a random way.  (Is it random if you are intentionally arranging them?!?)  I tried to not have the same fabrics next to each other, or too many blues in one spot, etc.  I sewed the little green strips between each of the clothing strips, then added a light green border, and quilted it with a meandering viny-ey type of design down each row.

Susan was very proud of being a New Yorker, and also of having ties to the New York Fire Department.  When I was going through her clothes, choosing fabrics for the quilt, I came across a lot (A LOT) of blue FDNY t-shirts, so I knew I had to include them somehow.  I chose one shirt for each quilt, cut out the logo, and in this case, fused it onto the back of the quilt.  You can see that I used a wonderful Harmony Art organic fabric, called 40 Ginkgos for the backing fabric.  It's an extra wide cotton (so no seams necessary), it's beautiful, and Susan had ginkgo trees in front of their house.  The perfect choice.

This particular t-shirt had printing on both front and back, so I went ahead and fused this 13" by 13" square onto the back, too.

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This quilt was made using a different "pattern."  Each bordered square measures 6 3/4" by 6 3/4".  The whole quilt measures 48" wide by 62" long.  I didn't find enough cotton fabrics that were of a quilt-like weight, so I also used heavier fabric from some shorts, slacks, and even a denim jacket.  Susan loved her denim jackets and had many of them!

In the photo above you might be able to tell that there is part of a pocket included in the top square.

And I found some of this beautiful blue mottled/batik-type rayon fabric which was from a dress with a Hilo Hattie's label in it.  From that I can surmise that Susan bought it on a trip to Hawaii, and I'm sure she liked this dress a lot.  It even had very cute buttons on it, so I included one here.

For the backing and the border I found a nice light blue batik.  Since this wasn't an extra wide fabric, I had to piece the backing.  I did that by adding a solid blue strip off center, between the batik fabrics.  And into that strip I placed another FDNY shirt logo.  For this t-shirt piece, I ironed some fusible on the back, and just sewed it into the strip like ordinary fabric.  The shot below also shows the quilting I did on the quilt, which was an overall free motion stitch I found from Leah Day's website.

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I realized that I was going to have to give these quilts away (surprise!) and I wanted more than a photo to remember them, so I made two little mini-quilts for myself to keep.  This way I can remember how the quilts looked and some of the fabrics included.  I have shown them here next to my 14" ruler, so you can see they aren't very big.  

On the green-ish quilt above I scaled down the pattern so each of the strips finishes at 1 1/2" wide.  For the blue-ish quilt below, I used the same scale as the large quilt, but only made four blocks.

I won't say it was fun making these quilts.  That's not the right word.  I guess I would say it was meaningful to me.  It helped me to grieve for my friend.  I found, not surprisingly, that I was thinking of Susan and her two sons a lot while I was making them.  I'm very happy I made these quilts.


  1. Please accept my sincerest condolences on the loss of your close friend. Several years back I lost a close friend to cancer and her decline was very difficult. I made her a quilt which she used till the day she died. It was difficult for sure, but it does help you grieve. Remember only the good times....she would want you to...
    Hugs xo

  2. I think this is one of THE MOST THOUGHTFUL ways to remember someone. What a great gift to be able to literally wrap yourself up in the memories and love. It is a sincere honor to be a small part of this heartfelt gift.

  3. I couldn't have said it better. Thank you, Harmony, for your kind comment and your fabric.

  4. Oh Jan, this is too too sweet of you. I love these. I found 2 quilt tops in my mom's sewing room after her death. I cut them into 8 pieces and made little quilts for my kids and for all my nieces and nephews. They all treasure them as will Susan's 2 boys I'm sure.