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A memory quilt

October 15, 2010

It’s nearly a month late, but I finally finished Scott’s birthday present.  And by “finished” I of course mean half done.  I made him a quilt, but not just any quilt.  This one is special.  It’s a memory quilt.  Last spring Scott’s dad L.T. passed away unexpectedly.  While we were dealing with everything that happens when a parent dies, this idea somehow showed up in my mind.  I gathered up all of L.T’s clothes.  All of his pants and button up shirts and suits and anything else I could find.  I hid them under the piano and while Scott was at work and Creamie was napping I secretly started cutting them up.

Scott's quilt 1

Only, it turns out that cutting squares out of clothing is a much more time consuming process than just cutting out squares.  I was picking off pockets, and trying to make the most of the little fabric I had (LT’s not a big clothes guy…).  And it seems that I cut out 4.5 inch squares for days.  And then after the squares were cut I took the advice of a much wiser quilter than me, my cousin Liz.  She suggested I  put some lightweight interfacing on the back of those thin cotton shirts.  And I’m glad I did.  Not only did it make the squares a million times easier to sew together, I think they will hold up a lot better.  Of course, that meant after the interfacing was ironed on I had to cut them out again.  Sigh.   Finally, after cutting out squares for forty days and forty nights (perhaps a slight exaggeration) I realized I’d never finish the whole quilt in time, and it was time to move on to Plan B.

Scott's quilt 2

Plan B: Just finish the top.  After I had laid out my quilt and started sewing squares together I realized just how big this thing was going to be.  And since I am going to quilt it myself I decided that there was no way I was going to be able to get it quilted in our small house without Scott finding out about it.  Did I mention that this quilt is huge…. like 90″ square huge?  No?  Oh. Well it’s big, and I’m a little nervous about fitting it under my machine.  Plan B was going great.  I did what anyone trying to keep a secret does.  I banished Scott to our bedroom with his laptop and his snacks and threatened death if he so much as thought about taking off his noise canceling headphones.  I needed to sew in the living room so I could see the whole thing layed out while I worked on it.  I told him that if he needed something he should text me from the other side of the wall.  Such a great age we live in, right?  Plan B was going along nicely, and then life intervened again.  Creamie had a few less than awesome (read non existent) naps in a row and then I got called away on an emergency midnight thrifting adventure.

Scott's quilt 3

Plan C: Give my dear husband who I love more than anything else in this life a big box of squares and a partially finished quilt for the big 3-0 birthday, with a promise that it will be done soon.  And look, only a month later the top is finally finished. Scott loves what this quilt is going to be, and I love that we’ll have a little part of his dad with us always.

I’m adding this to Sew+Tell at Amy’s.  I also need to thank a few of my quilty/sewing friends for some serious input in the laying out of this quilt.  Scott is usually a great sounding board to bounce ideas off of, but that wasn’t going to work so well in birthday stealth mode.  I think it was TraceyJay who inspired me to go with diagonal stripes and I love the way that they turned out.  I’m going to spend the morning catching up on some projects while Creamie plays with grandma, and then I’m going to spend some quality time with a needle and thread and see if I can knock out two more Christmas presents. Have a happy weekend!

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Kim permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:09 am

    Wow this is such a wonderful idea you had. I bet he will treasure this for ages! 🙂

  2. Paige permalink
    October 15, 2010 8:13 am

    Now that is beautiful.
    And its a beautiful idea, too.
    I’m sure he loved it.

    You have a great weekend too!


  3. October 15, 2010 8:50 am

    okay, this post made me cry! I love your heart and the spirit you’ve shown through this! it’s truly a beautiful quilt and I know it’s a family heirloom in waiting!

    beautiful. sniff. just beautiful!

  4. October 15, 2010 9:12 am

    this quilt is special, beautiful and a wonderful memory that will last a long time! I loved reading about the creation of this great quilt!

  5. October 15, 2010 9:31 am


    That really is an awesome and impressive (half) finish. I love how the diagonal stripes turned out and I think you are a compete genius for thinking of this memory quilt (and a few other things 😉 in the first place.

    xo -El

  6. October 15, 2010 9:35 am

    Looks awesome! The stripes are so bold! Very touching and I am sure your husband will hold on to that quilt forever!

  7. October 15, 2010 9:39 am

    I love this!!! What a sweet post. I love how the colors all turned out great in the end.

  8. October 15, 2010 10:52 am

    this is so amazing…not only does it look fantastic it is such a special gift for your husband. the sentiment alone is awesome.

  9. October 15, 2010 11:36 am

    this is so beautiful, on two different levels. a wonderful idea and so far, gorgeously executed! what a treasure it will be when it is finished.

  10. October 15, 2010 1:25 pm

    Also crying. Between the Chilean miners and this quilt, it’s been a two Kleenex pack week for me. Bravo, this is wonderfully inspiring. And way better than a thong (next year, tho).

  11. October 15, 2010 9:11 pm

    AMAZING idea! so what if it took you a month to finish 🙂 it’s going to be something your husband will cherish FOREVER!

  12. October 15, 2010 10:35 pm

    shoot… add me to the criers.

    Beautiful quilt E.

    I love how it turned out, but mostly I love all the love you put in to this.

    Gorgeous. And yes… huge! That is like queen size!

    Are you going to straight-line or diagonal quilt it? Or free motion?

  13. October 16, 2010 8:52 am

    This is amazing looking! It takes quite a while to make these big tops. Not only is it a great man quilt, your husband will have fond memories of his dad. Awesome job!

  14. October 16, 2010 2:14 pm

    What an amazing story behind this quilt! It is so beautiful and will be treasured forever! I am new to amylouwho’s site and her “Sew & Tell Fridays” and I’m so glad that I found her site and your’s as well! 🙂

  15. October 16, 2010 11:14 pm

    This is awesome. What a labor of love – and it looks great too. (I love the UTA square. 🙂 Think how even awesomer it will look when it’s quilted. (Except, maybe you don’t want to think about that part right now.) But it will be amazing.

  16. October 17, 2010 6:08 am

    This is such a nice quilt story! I have cut a lot of shirts up for fabric, and you’re right- it’s a ton of work. But so worth it. Hubby is going to LOVE you for this!

  17. October 17, 2010 5:11 pm

    I read your post…twice. sob! sob! What a wonderful post & a precious quilt.
    Warm wishes from Tokyo, Japan!

  18. October 18, 2010 1:26 pm

    What a beautiful quilt — and an even more beautiful story. I absolutely love it!!! Thank you for sharing it with us – along with the story. It is truly touching.

  19. marie ireland permalink
    October 22, 2010 8:59 pm

    I too make memory quilts for family using deceased’s clothing…it is a ton of work here in Ontario, Canada but Iusually make 6″ squares & include pockets from shirts which I then stuff with other pieces of fabric in hankie puff style, sew on name labels if resident of a nursing home, use shirt cuffs sewing on buttons, any monograms etc. They all turn out so different but a real treasure.
    Great job.,


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