This past month, I had the bittersweet joy of working on three memory quilts for a family. A small quilt for a little girl who had lost her dad, and two lap sized quilts for boys who had lost their dad and their dear grandpa, too.
I’ve found that memory quilts work a little differently than regular quilts- not that any handmade quilt could ever be called “regular”!
A lot of quilts start with a fabric pull, meaning the quilter chooses the best fabrics for a specific quilt or idea. Color, shade, volume, pattern size, fabric type, and probably some things I’m missing, all go into deciding which fabrics to “pull” to use in a quilt.
Memory quilts, on the other hand, often start with textile treasures found in the homes of loved ones. A quilt pattern is then chosen based on what will work best both for those fabrics and for the people that will be using the quilt.
Often times, we’re tempted to just remember the good parts of a person that has passed away. I wanted these memory quilts I was working on to show that even where there is darkness in life, love and light can still be found. Much sketching (and quilt math!) later, I came up with three patterns to use.
**Note, the dimensions in the pictures above are not the final dimensions! If you’d like block sizes and assembly directions for these quilts, contact me and I’m happy to share!**
Now came the tricky business of prepping and cutting the material for a memory quilt.
Tricky because the clothes can be all different types and weights.
Sometimes a few layers of spray starch will be enough to help stretchy materials stiffen up, but often the lighter and stretchier fabrics need to be interfaced before piecing the quilt top.
Hems, seams, and belt loops need to be unpicked if there’s a pocket or particular piece of fabric you need.
Sizes of the quilt blocks you’ve planned may need to be readjusted if there’s not enough of one fabric.
Patterns may not line up exactly because of fabric warping with time and because you don’t have the luxury of always fussy cutting when there’s only so much of one shirt or pants.
Quilting memories takes a minute. But it’s always worth it!
A special touch for these quilts was to add embroidery stitches with the actual handwriting from Dad and Grandpa. So thankful for printable and water soluble hand embroidery products from Sulky that make this possible!
A super soft minky backing was used to help make these quilts snuggly so the kids can feel wrapped in warmth and love.
I was able to snap a few pictures before sending these out. It was a cold and windy day, so extra thanks to my mom for holding the quilts up!!
The smallest quilt used fabric from “baby girl’s” dad. I wanted her to have a big heart to know that she is hugely loved, even when times are sad. Using her dad’s jeans for the border gives a plain backdrop to make the heart really stand out. I’m hoping she will use the pockets to hide treasures and notes over the years.
The second quilt I gave the name “pocket path”. It’s for a pre-teen boy and has 11 usable pockets. Quilting around the pockets so I didn’t sew them shut was tricky, but it was important to me that they weren’t just for show! The idea behind this quilt is to serve as a reminder that there are tough times in the walk of life, but love can light the path to walk on. I cut a path through the dark fabrics, by using light colored squares to highlight this. It warmed by heart hearing how much this boy was loved by his grandpa and dad.
The last quilt was a little bit bigger and a gift for a teenage boy heading off to college soon. Like with his brothers, I wanted to accent that love brings light to the darkness that sometimes hovers around us in this life. I put a light colored heart in the midst of dark fabrics, because love can shine through and refuses to be snuffed out.
I hope these quilts bring a tad comfort and warmth in such a difficult time. It’s so meaningful for me to be able to work with the clothes of special people, creating something that will serve as a tactile reminder of how much those left behind are loved.