I’d been carrying around clothes and ties belonging to my grandfather since he passed away in 2004, meaning to use them for a quilt. When my grandmother (who I counted on living forever) passed in 2013, I cherry-picked a few of her favorite shirts, nighties, and her satin pillowcase (slick so it wouldn’t mess up her hair).
I’ve never been a big fan of the memory quilts that look like a bunch of clothes sewn together – not that there’s anything wrong with them – they’re just not my style. I wanted a quilt that was designed with memory in mind, but with a style of its own. So, how to do that with a drawer-full of old clothes and soup-spotted ties?
A memory quilt is the perfect first foray into designing your own quilts or creating an art quilt. There are really no rules, and since you’re almost certainly creating an heirloom or decorative piece instead of something you plan to use on a bed or a lap, you’ve got free reign to just PLAY without worrying about size or function.
Grandpa had more ties than he had hairs on his head (seriously, take a look!), but I only chose ones that I could picture him wearing – ones he wore frequently enough that they said “Grandpa” to me. If you’d like proof, check out the stains on a few of them! I figure that’s just value-added historical authenticity. Right?
The same for Grandma. After asking for clothes, I received a giant bag that looked to have been emptied directly from her closet. My mom grabbed me her pillowcase (because if there were ever a more fitting tribute to her, I can’t think of one), and along with that, I went through and pulled the shirts and nighties that said Grandma to me. Shirts she wore a lot, shirts I had special pictures of her wearing, and anything that was old (think summery button-down sleeveless shirts I SWEAR she wore every year since about 1984). Everything else – including lots of nearly-new nice things – I donated to charity so someone could get more use out of them.
Looking over what I had to work with, I knew I wanted to create something that was meaningful (to me! it didn’t have to have grand meaning beyond just remembering these two people that I adore) and something that was as fun and creative as they were.
After many sketches, I decided on a general design, and since I’m not worried about size (aside from it needing to be smaller than the wall I want to hang it on), I’m going to let it tell me how big it wants to be as we go.
The center will be a circle of suiting fabric surrounded by Grandpa’s ties, Dresden Plate-style. I didn’t get any of his suits, though I wish I had, so I will be using new polyester suiting (of COURSE the suits were all polyester!) for a little dose of that historical authenticity.
I’ll applique them to…something (this is the one bit I haven’t decided yet!) and square it up. Because I’m far too literal for my own good, I’ll be surrounding the square with blocks of low-volume prints featuring hand-pieced hexagon flowers in the centers made of Grandma’s clothes. It’ll be the ultimate Grandmother’s Flower Garden.
I’ve been blessed to receive several of my great-grandmother’s famous crazy quilts, and I’ll do little crazy quilt blocks as the four cornerstones in her honor. I figured this was also a great way to embellish with shirt buttons and some hand-stitching.
Finally, the outer border will be using up leftover bits of fabric from the clothes in small shapes – maybe squares, maybe strips, we’ll see how much is left.
And of course, I’ll use the rest of the ties sewn together in strips to bind the quilt.
THE TIES THAT BIND.
If you rolled your eyes so hard there that they accidentally fell out of your head, blame my grandpa. He loved a good pun and passed that terrible character flaw on to me!
Stay tuned – in part two I’ll be creating the center medallion and showing how to use ties (an oh, so popular memory quilt material) to create a stunning part of the quilt. I hope you’ll follow along with me throughout the process – ah, who am I kidding! I NEED you to follow along and keep me accountable! This is one project that I very very much want to keep OUT of my works-in-progress basket.
If you feel inspired, gather the materials for YOUR next memory quilt and share them in the comments. Have you ever made one? Share a finished photo! I’d love to see…
Until next time!
Twas the night before Friday and all through the studio there is a flurry of activity as I clear my table in anticipation of the second clue. I wonder what it might be this week. The cheery red and white four patches remind me of peppermints and Christmas. The coffee is set and my clothes laid out. I am an early riser by nature and I wake early to begin checking my phone for the next clue.
It seems the world over is urging Bonnie to wake and to post the next clue…this is a testament to the positive power she has near and far...even across the water to Australia.
It’s Bonnie Hunter Mystery Quilt time and the theme is Good Fortune! What a lovely sentiment….good fortune. I have had the Good Fortune to be surrounded by friends and family both far and near and although the mystery is a special blessing for those whose families are scattered or gone for me it is a Blessing and a time for renewal and reflection.
This is the fourth mystery quilt I have chosen to create in the last 5 years. I took one year off and there are parts of me that still regret that decision. However, my design wall clearly called my name and asked that I finish a few of my own projects…..I completed 4 between Thanksgiving and Christmas...how, it’s a bit of a mystery.
Sunday afternoons mean lazy naps for some, football for others and for me it means cutting time.
I am usually rested and ready to set up my weeks sewing projects. At the end of a work day it’s easy peasy to sew a few seams here and there and by the end of the week I am ready for another Sunday afternoon cutting session.
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