Memory Quilts

If you’ve been quilting long, chances are someone has asked you to make a memory quilt. The most common request is to use the clothing of a deceased relative, though I’ve also seen memory quilts made from baby clothes, napkins used for a wedding reception, and even wedding dresses.

My grandmother made what I call the original memory quilt–I can find in her quilts a few scraps from dresses I remember.

vintage quilt

Some of the pieces I inherited; I recall some of this fabric as dresses!

So what do you do when asked to make a memory quilt? I have one friend who just made several and considered it an honor to be asked. Another friend has made several but I believe she was “guilted” into them.

People who make these requests are not quilters, so have no idea of the hours of work and financial cost of making a quilt. Figuring it was information we could all use, I asked a few friends to estimate the cost in hours and materials of making a lap-size quilt (approximately 60″ x 72″), assuming all the fabric for the quilt top came from clothing provided.

Here’s what I came up with:

How many hours does it take to make a lap-size quilt from a simple pattern? Please include the time required to deconstruct the clothing and prepare it for use.

Estimates ranged from about 80 hours to about 160 hours. Several people noted that preparing the clothing for use in quilt construction takes a considerable amount of time.

quilt blocks

Shirt fabrics made into blocks

How much would you typically spend on batting and backing for a lap-size quilt?

$45 – $75, though one quilter noted that she uses up stash for quilt backs so considers this a benefit rather than a cost!

tutorial quilt from shirts

Quilt from clothing fabric including khaki pants and pockets from both a shirt and a pair of jeans. Tutorial here

How much would you typically pay to have a lap-size quilt professionally quilted?

$90 to $115, with quilting thread included in this price

What other costs should be considered?

Thread for piecing and quilting is expensive, with Aurifil currently $13 a spool!

Many clothing fabrics need a special iron-on backing to be usable, and that can be expensive.

Some clothing fabric requires research and problem-solving. For example, one quilter recently backed an eyelet fabric with plain fabric after researching her options.

One quilter noted the “cause-and-effect cycle” as a cost 😀  She notes that any quilt leaves just enough fabric to start another quilt, which will require buying additional fabric to complete it, which will leave scraps…you get the picture!

What other issues should be considered?

A couple of quilters noted that it is meaningful to both the family and the quilter for someone familiar with the deceased to volunteer to make a quilt, vs hiring someone outside the family.

One quilter noted that she included stained clothing in a quilt because she knew the source of the stains and that makes her smile.

One quilter noted that it is a privilege to have the skills, materials, and time to make a quilt and she feels it is an honor to use those to help other people.

Memory quilt blocks made by Jerri Szlizewski. Each block has 77 pieces! But she selected the design and wanted to do it.

And a final note from me: I read an article many years ago suggesting that, if someone asks you to make a quilt, it’s fine to say yes, BUT specify that you must be the one to select the design. I think this is wise advice for many reasons.

So, what do you think? Do you make memory quilts? Why or why not?

Thanks to Chela, Jerri, Laura, and Linda for taking time to answer my questions.

Magic Kaleidoscope

I decided to do another stack-n-whack type quilt and call it Magic Kaleidoscope. I made it up as I went along…er, used artistic improvisation in the design, I mean 😀

Here’s the fabric:

And here are the blocks set on point:

The little strips of color on the edges are being auditioned for an inner border.  The yellow won.

When I added a border of the original fabric, I did NOT like the result:

Before ripping off the borders, I took a picture and edited the outer border down smaller.

Still no-go. And BTW, I haven’t even told you all the different things I tried and then ripped out.

So finally I added a second black border and bound it in the same fabric used for the inset. Whew!

The original fabric served as a back.

Quilt Stats

Name: Magic Kaleidoscope

Made by: Me

Pattern: none

Size: 30″ x 30″

Quilted by: me

Mill Wheels

This quilt started with a pattern called “Potters Wheel” by Briar Hill Designs, available here. The directions were good, but of course I don’t usually make more than a couple of blocks of the same design, so it took a couple of years for me to complete this.

Of course I had to change something. When I got all the blocks done, I put them on the design wall in the suggested setting and didn’t like it. So I added irregular sashing, and now I love the quilt.

Here’s the wonderful circle quilting done by Andrea Walker of Walker Quilt Company.

I changed the name to “Mill Wheels” because I’ve seen those with a square center pretty often, but never have seen a potter’s wheel with a square center. The design also reminds me of the Chinese good luck coins with the square hole in the middle, but I didn’t use that name because it’s not really in my vocabulary.

Quilt Stats

Name: Mill Wheels

Pattern: Potters Wheel by Briar Hill Designs

Finished size (of my variation): 51″ x 51.5″

Quilted by: Andrea Walker, Walker Quilt Company

It’s a beautiful quilt but it would benefit from a class because the process is pretty involved, so I’ll probably teach it next spring at Studio Stitch. If you sign up for the Studio Stitch newsletter you’ll get the announcement.

 

With A Little Help From My Friends

My blogging friend Mariss recently made a baby quilt and called it “Baby’s First Yoga Mat”, which I thought was a wonderful idea. Not long thereafter I learned that a young friend who is very athletic is expecting a baby, so it seemed I should call her baby’s quilt the same thing.

Her nursery theme is dinosaurs, so off I went to find dinosaur fabric. There wasn’t much to choose from. That surprised me since my grandsons love dinosaurs, but the lady at the quilt store explained that the interest seems to be shifting from dinosaurs to super heros at the moment, so that’s what’s available in children’s fabric. I did find some fabric I liked.

Then another blogging friend, Laura, came to visit and helped me select the solid to go with it.

And finally, my husband helped select the binding.

Here’s the quilt:

I free-motion quilted it in loops and hearts. I used a different stitch from my usual to attach the binding, and I think I like it:

Quilt Stats:

Name: Baby’s First Yoga Mat

Finished size: about 43″ x 43″

Designed and quilted by me, with a little help from my friends 🙂

 

Let the Holiday Hints Begin!

It’s never too soon to start your holiday shopping, or holiday hinting! Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

Postcards: The Barack Obama Mini-Quilt Portrait Series. I was so happy to see this collection! I keep postcards on hand to write notes to friends and neighbors, and before I retired I used them to leave notes for colleagues as well. Available here. And I’m a big Obama fan, so these postcards hit the spot.

Photo courtesy of C&T

I didn’t know about the Social Justice Sewing Academy, so I’ll be following up on that.

Glue pen! This is a glue stick but of smaller diameter and therefore easier to use for holding seams in place.

A regular glue stick and a glue pen

I got an Avery glue pen for a class with Ann Holmes ages ago and still use it. If you don’t need something this small, the back-to-school sales always have glue sticks at a good price. Buy early for stocking stuffers!

Tote bag made from recycled water bottles. There are a lot of these available, and C&T has some printed with beautiful quilt motifs.

Photo courtesy of C&T

I use these for shopping and for transporting “stuff” to workshops and retreats. A friend recently started using them as wrapping when she gives a quilt as a gift. Available here.

4. IBC Silk Pins. These are the best. They are very thin and smooth, but strong enough to spring back when they bend a little going through fabric.

Photo courtesy of Hancocks-paducah.com

I used to buy them from Clotilde before that catalog disappeared. (IBC stood for “Imported by Clotilde”). They are now available from Hancock’s of Paducah (among other places), and since I buy my batting from Hancock’s it all works out!  Another good stocking stuffer for quilting friends, available here.

5. Spray mist bottle. I have two of these, one for water and one for Best Press. Although Best Press comes in an excellent spray bottle, the mist bottle is better at spreading the liquid evenly across the fabric when ironing. I love it! Available here.

6. Rolling storage. I’ve had a little rolling storage cart for years. It doesn’t seem very well made, but with the reinforcement my husband did it has held up quite well. Very convenient for storing notions and thread. The drawers are just the right size. Here’s a link to one like mine, but there are many variations. And be warned, the price varies a lot for identical products, so shop around.

7. Ergonomic rotary cutter.  I bought one of these for better control after cutting off a piece of my finger.

Photo courtesy of Connecting Threads

It’s also great for easing wrist and hand pain. Just be aware that changing the blade is different from what you’re used to. I love this rotary cutter! It comes in both left or right handed versions, available here.

8. Electric Quilt. This is not a small item price-wise, so all the more reason to request it as a special gift! I have used EQ to design quilts on my computer for years.

I used EQ to draw several possible layouts for my Tula Pink blocks

It’s easy to use and has many more features than I’ve ever learned. If you want to draw your own blocks, design your own quilts, or draw out quilts you see pictures of, this is an excellent program. Available here.

9. Gorgeous jigsaw puzzles. C&T recently put out a couple of 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles of Kaffe quilts. Beautiful! Available here.

10. Grippy. This is one of my favorite new products. At least, new to me. I’ve tried many different non-slip strategies for rulers and templates, and this is the best and most economical so far. After I tried it on one ruler, I just lined the others up on the porch and sprayed them all at once. It’s clear, it prevents slipping, and I still haven’t used up a whole can.

As always, the links above are for your convenience; I do not get paid if you buy from them. C&T provides products for me to review, but I put only my favorites in my blog.

 

 

Super Simple Squares

A layer cake of Alison Glass fabric jumped in my cart when I wasn’t looking, and I’ve been wondering what to do with it. Finally, I designed this quilt.

The quilting by Julia Madison is an Urban Elementz panto called “Sound Waves”. I love it!

Quilt stats:

Name: Super Simple Squares

Finished size: 52″ x 52″

Designer: me

Fabric: Alison Glass

Quilted by: Julia Madison

Retreat! (At Last)

Our retreat group was so happy to get together again after having to cancel the last two scheduled get-togethers due to you-know-what. We went to Kim’s Summit Retreat in Maggie Valley, NC, and it was perfect.

We were greeted by this beautiful Sassafras leaf on the front steps

Assembling some of the triangles from one of our previous swaps

Haha! This was a donation quilt project we were scheduled to do in October of 2020!

This was picked up from the quilter and I got it bound. More later.

One group member modified the free Kaffe Fasset pattern “Carnival” so she could use smaller blocks

This is a paper-pieced block-of-the-month that two of our members are doing

One retreater is making at least two quilts from fabric featuring national parks

I took these orphan blocks and put them on the design wall…

…then made additional blocks and strips to fill in the holes

That was so much fun! We are looking forward to the next one 😀

 

Can This Quilt Be Saved?

Ha! Many, many years ago there was a column in a women’s magazine called, “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” I have no memory of reading the content, but somehow the overly-dramatic title has stuck with me. (I just asked Ms. Google, and I’m not the only one who remembers this: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/can-this-marriage-be-saved_b_58404189e4b0b93e10f8dfdf)

Anyway, in moving I have come across some experimental pieces that I’ve kept. I learned something from each of them, but sometimes what I learned was that a particular piece was not especially attractive!

Well, this didn’t work

The above piece was an experiment after reading a book by Freddy Moran. It’s well made but not especially attractive. For me, the colors don’t “gel” and the prairie points are entirely too regular in their arrangement.

This unquilted piece, approximately 42″ square, is the THIRD attempt to make something with these dotted fabrics! The other versions were no better, but I’ve saved some of the fabric by cutting out circles and using them as applique.

Rescued Dots

I think the “rescue” was pretty successful, and I’ll probably do something similar with the rest of this fabric. So I guess that’s 4 iterations of a design with those dots before finding something successful! 

And then there’s the Stuffed Olive Block. Never mind why I designed it in the first place. I made it into a pillow, but really, we have more than enough pillows. I think it just has to go!

I’m a firm believer that no experience is wasted, so we’ll call it good even if some of these just go out with the trash.

Of course that’s nowhere near all the experimental pieces I came across, but that’s all for now 😀

P.S.: I enjoy seeing “barn quilt” blocks as we travel, but this one struck me as unlikely:

 

 

Cheater stripes!

Studio Stitch has had this beautiful striped fabric for several months and I’ve been wondering what I could do with it.

Then I found this pattern: Oriana by Alison Glass. It’s intended to be made with strip sets, but it was just perfect for this fabric!

Those sharp points weren’t the easiest thing to do, but I love the way they worked out.

I made this quilt with just part of the number of circles called for, and it finished at 47″ x 48″.

I’ve loaned the quilt to Studio Stitch to display, and I’ve written a “cheat sheet” for them. If you  want to use striped fabric instead of making strip sets, they’ll give you a copy when you buy the pattern, which they have in stock. (I’m not sure it’s on their website, but you can phone them at 336-288-9200.)

And here’s a money saver: Alison had intended to have templates available, but COVID has held that up. This means all you have to do is trace her printed templates (in the pattern) onto LARGE sheets of template plastic and make your own. That really was pretty easy.

So of course when I went to Studio Stitch to show them the quilt, they had this new fabric in…

Just sayin’ 😀

Woo! The Book I’ve Been Waiting For!

I’m a fan of Cindy Grisdela’s work and have gone through the exercises in her previous book, so I was thrilled when C&T sent me Cindy’s new book for review. Adventures in Improv Quilts covers the basics of design and color, but includes some more complex quilts than her previous book. Some of them remind me of Maria Shell, whose book I also love.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy’s colors are bright and interesting. She often combines colors I wouldn’t have thought to use together, which causes me to look twice at the design. That’s a plus!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes plenty of detail on technique. I was especially amused (and gratified) to learn that part of Cindy’s design process is to outline the size for the quilt with blue tape on her design wall. I’ve done that for years and find it a very effective way to think about filling the space as I design. Validation is always nice!

Photo courtesy of C&T

The book includes a chapter on color choices, which will be welcomed by numerous quilters who worry endlessly about the “right” colors. I choose my palettes intuitively, with better results some times than others, so maybe I should pay more attention? I love the color examples in the book, starting with basic palettes and progressing to the addition of other colors or values to give the project variety.

Photo courtesy of C&T

Cindy then goes on to cover the basic principles of design. These won’t be news to most quilters, but her examples shine. I think I will go back to the “bits” left from working through her previous book and see if I can enhance them by using some of her examples from this book.

Photo courtesy of C&T

My favorite advice in the book: “Don’t fear wasting fabric”! That’s a liberating thought!

My second favorite is one of her tips for free-motion quilting, but I think it could apply to most any part of the process: “If you feel like you’ve made a mistake, keep going. Either ignore it or do it again so it becomes a design element.” I love that! I love this book!

The book is available here, but this is not an affiliate link. C&T sends me books for review, and I tell you about my very favorites among them.