The Artist’s Memory Quilt

This quilt goes down as one of the most emotional quilts I’ve done.  For starters, I was asked to complete it by another quilter, so I felt like it needed to be perfect. Another consideration was the fact that it was a memory quilt in memory of a younger person.  I’d done memory quilts before, and it wasn’t the first one I’d made for a mother.  But this one felt different, and I wanted more than anything to do the lady’s memory justice.  After all, I remembered her memorial service because I volunteered to help in the church nursery while it was going on.

Some things that stood out, however, were that my normal medium was gone.  This was not a standard t-shirt quilt.  In fact, there wasn’t a single t-shirt in any of the bags of clothes I was given!  But what I DID have was dress clothes.  Clothes with cool textures.  Clothes with beautiful embroidery.  Clothes with unique colors.  So I sat on the quilt idea and wondered what to do.

The mother, being a quilter, had suggested something akin to a “crazy quilt” style, but none of the patterns or images I found online seemed to be exactly right.  I looked around and must have seen 100 different ideas on how a crazy quilt can look.  And then one morning during my shower, where I do my best thinking, I thought of the 101st crazy quilt pattern!

Here’s the premise.  The lady was an artist.  Artists are all about color and balance and placement.  So I would make a sort of art gallery out of her clothes.  I would help to emphasize the “gallery” part by adding a shadowbox element to each of the sections. This would also allow all her different colors, textures, and details to be featured.

I started by going through the clothes.  I’d just gotten a new/old dining table to use as a craft table.  It was in my garage, so I stood there that night, listening to the chirping of crickets, at peace, sorting the clothes into the different color stacks.  I had enough for eight different color panels.  That left one empty block.  Then I had an idea I hoped would work for the last block.

Since she was an artist, and this was her gallery, I went through her old Facebook posts until I found exactly what I’d hoped to find – her artwork!  There’s some debate on whether the picture is a self-portrait or Tori Amos.  She wasn’t exactly distant comparison.  It was one of the few pieces I found, and I downloaded it immediately.

IMG_2779
Her artwork – printed on fabric.

Now that I knew how many stacks I had and how many blocks I could make, I sent the mother a draft layout.  We worked and switched a couple of color sections, and then I got the green light to start cutting.

img_2147

One of the first ones I did was red.  I’d been told she loved red; it was her favorite color.  So it seemed natural to begin here.  After that, I got better at my blocks and was able to knock out the other seven faster than I anticipated.

After that, I enlarged the artwork and used two pieces of fabric paper to print it out.  It was still smaller than I needed, so I added a red border to make it the same size as the other panels and began piecing the top together.

I added the shadow boxes and was happy to see them coming together. It wasn’t long before I was able to send her a picture of the completed top.

img_2148

Now the next challenge was with the quilting.  I thought long and hard about doing a simple stipple pattern, but then I had another idea.  I decided to revive the circle-swirl quilting pattern because I wanted to add some whimsy to it.  I also didn’t want to distract from the clothing panels, so I kept the main part of the quilting to the white area.  I used the dreaded “invisible thread” to reinforce the clothing panels and make sure they didn’t shift or bubble up.  (Imagine trying to sew with fishing line and you’ll understand why this kind of thread is a last resort.)

IMG_2778
I quilted in swirls to balance out the hard edges from the boxes.

We went back and forth on the backing and finally settled on a black, white, and red pattern.  From there, I had to complete the last element – but maybe the most important.  I had to make the label.  That took some thinking because I didn’t want it to be a let down.  I remembered that the mother was happy I’d chosen to focus on colors because her daughter’s memorial service featured a homily from a friend who described her in terms of color.  I loved it and was startled because, as said before, I wasn’t at the actual service.  I was in the nursery.

Keeping that in mind, I asked for a copy of the friend’s homily.  I used phrases and created a label based on that.  Now the lady’s sister deals in graphics, so she worked her magic and made my original label look far better.

Label 2.0
Her sister and I worked together to create a label based off of her friend’s words at the memorial service.

I printed the label on fabric and sewed it to the back corner.

IMG_2780

This quilt was a long journey, filled with emotion.  But it was also filled with creativity and pushed me to new limits.  In many ways, the artist from whom it was made inspired it, and I feel like she had a hand in its making.  In the end, it was and remains an honor to have been tasked with making this.  It is one of my favorite and proudest works.

Related Blogs and Posts – these are different memory quilts:

Memory Quilt

Memory Quilt – dad

Memory Quilt and Pillow

Star Wars Quilts: Episode 2

This post is a continuation from yesterday’s.

After sewing all the strips together for two twin-sized quilts, I had to get to work on the silhouettes.  The Luke and Darth Vader ones were easy because I still had the silhouettes from the original quilt.

The key to making these quilts is to use the 805 Pellon fusible web interfacing.  I traced the images onto the interfacing, pinned them to the quilt, and then I ironed away.

IMG_2079

It’s strange.  When the 805 works like it’s supposed to and peels off properly, you get fabric with an entire side of glue that’s ready to be ironed onto another piece of fabric.  For these, some of the spots worked correctly, but I had a lot of areas that simply didn’t want to cooperate.  This is where I had to go back and pin again.  The fusible interfacing to there to ensure everything stays put and doesn’t shift while being sewn down.

The next step was the cut out the figures.

IMG_2080

I like to use gray for the lightsaber handle and satin for the lightsaber blades.  I had considered several other options before settling on satin, including glow-in-the-dark fabric.  But I couldn’t resist the sheen of the satin and liked how it “popped”.  I ironed the lightsabers on right after the figures were situated.

IMG_2081

I used the close-set zigzag stitch and my duel-feed foot to trace around my figures and make sure they were secure.  After Luke and Darth Vader were ready, I moved on to my newer silhouettes: Rey and Kylo Ren.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Episode 3.

Related posts and blogs:

DIY Star Wars Quilt

Raising Darth Vader

Supernerdydadreviews: A New Hope

Star Wars Quilts: Episode 1

A while back I wanted to use up some of my blue fabric from my fabric stash since the drawer was overflowing.  My son had recently asked for a Star Wars quilt, so I decided to take care of both challenges at the same time.

Fast forward to the fall of that year, and I am participating in a rather large craft fair – one of the largest I’d done.  I find out my booth is on the corner, and I panic because I simply can’t have the side of my booth be the backs of the quilts hanging up on the inside.  I needed something to hang on the outside of the booth, but I’d sold a couple of quilts on Etsy that would have done the job.  I ran upstairs and asked my little buddy if I could borrow his Star Wars quilt for the show.  He’s such a good sport and didn’t hesitate to agree.  I placed it on the outside, and the visibility was excellent.

IMG_2095
The original Star Wars quilt hanging outside my booth at a craft fair.

When I placed his quilt up, I expected it to gain some attention, but I wasn’t prepared for how much attention it would garner.  My booth neighbor behind me said that everyone who passed by her booth was talking about the Star Wars quilt.  I had several people ask about what it would cost to make one for them since I had a “Not for Sale” tag on my son’s.  I joked that if he wasn’t in charge of my end-of-life decisions I could have sold that quilt three times that day.  So it seemed a no-brainer that I would make one to sell after that show.

It didn’t hurt that I still had a lot of blue fabric left over from previous projects, gifted to me, or rescued from remnant bins.  The first thing I did was to get out all the blue fabric I intended on using and placed it in the order I wanted.

IMG_2067
All the blue fabric I intended on using.

After that, I cut them all into 3.5″ strips.

IMG_2068

From there, I sewed the strips end-to-end and rolled them up on an empty tissue holder.  The final radius of that roll was 4.25″.

There’s not much new in the quilting world in regards to techniques, but I *might* be the first person I know of to use what I call the “chair technique”.  I had my husband video the beginning of the process.

From here, I sewed together the strips into pairs so as to make organizing easier.

It was here I realized I had much more than the original twin-size quilt goal.  In fact, I had exactly enough strips cut to make TWO twin-sized quilts. I laid everything out and then picked up every other strip segment; this helped in that my strips were still going in order from lightest to darkest, allowing the silhouettes to be mostly in the lighter fabric.

I decided that I would make one with the original Luke and Darth Vader silhouettes like I had for my son, but the second one would be linked to the newest film and feature Rey and Kylo Ren.

Stayed tuned tomorrow for Episode 2.

Related posts and blogs:

Katy Quilts: Finish it Up Thursday

Aby Quilts: Star Wars Quilt Finished!

Legacy of a Last Jedi