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

Unicorns, Glitter, and overcoming fears.

Confession time: I am afraid of triangles. Specifically, I’m afraid of using triangles in quilt tops. My past experiences with them have been less than pleasant and have included prying stuck corners out of my sewing machine feed, cutting-trimming-recutting, and getting aggravated because my corners didn’t line up. It’s been a long time since I’ve even bothered to try them. I’ve done paper piecing plenty, and I had resigned myself to that being the only way a dreaded triangle will ever enter my work. However, I love a challenge and hate being defeated, especially by my own self. So I decided recently to give the half-square triangle (referred to in quilting lingo as “HST”) another go. Luckily, I stumbled upon this little tutorial. It was perfect! No cloth corners getting stuck, and the angles were assured!

After testing it out and making one lap quilt and some test squares, I decided to use one of my pre-made kits and go for it.

That green and gold pinwheel is so much more than just a square.  It’s a refusal to be defeated!

I found a cute unicorn fabric in the remnants bin at JoAnn’s a while back, and I thought it would be cute with some pinwheels. It was at this point I decided to make the absolute, most over-the-top girly girl lap quilt impossible could! I made pink and green pinwheels, and I used light pink sparkly fabric for the borders.

When I went to look at the fabric for backing, I thought I might find a cute flannel, but I saw something I thought was much better. I ended up picking a bright pink flannel-backed satin, and it’ll be added warmth as well as a nice, sleek feel.

For quilting, I decided to forego my default “loops and swirls” and add another layer of “girly”. I drew a meandering pattern of hearts, stars, and flowers all over. The end result was rather cute.

Related posts and blogs:

Unicorn horn

Pixelated Unicorn Quilt

Magical Show and Tell – another cute unicorn quilt

Disney Princess Silhouette Quilt

This quilt was made as a surprise for a friend expecting her first child, a daughter.  This friend is a dedicated Disney aficionado, and I knew right away I wanted to do something related to Disney.  But focusing on one princess seemed…inaccurate.  This friend loved all things Disney, so I decided to go for several at once.  I sent her a message asking who were her favorite Disney princesses, and she replied back with several.  To her credit, she had to have known I was up to something but didn’t ask any more questions despite my strange messages to her.

I’d seen on Pinterest a quilt with a little boy silhouette holding balloons, and I remembered the balloons being a big part of that Disney World experience.  I decided to go that route.  I purchased several pink fat quarters and made the balloon shapes.  That step was easy enough.  The girl and princess silhouettes took some more thought.

I looked around at a LOT of little girl silhouettes before settling in on this one.  In the end, I picked this one because you could see the cute, wispy pig tails, and it made me think of some spunky girls I’ve known, but you could also tell she was wearing a pretty fluffy and fancy dress.  I liked the balance in there and felt that any daughter my friend had would have a similar dynamic.

The princess profiles were easy to find, but they didn’t want to translate to fabric all that well.  To be honest, there were a couple of points where I thought the girl was just going to have to hold regular balloons sans princess.  It was the lips and chin that didn’t want to work with the fabric and sewing machine, and in the end I took another friend’s advice and simply smoothed out the lips and chin, letting the hair, brow, and nose do most of the defining.  For the most part it worked.  If you look closely, you can see another princess added in for Daddy – Disney’s newest acquired princess – Leia Organa.

Funny enough, one part I was having to focus pretty hard on was the strings.  I couldn’t, of course, have real strings hanging loose.  That wouldn’t be very durable, and this quilt was for a baby, making them a safety hazard.  So I decided to use an extra wide stitch and keep it simple.  I wanted to make sure the strings looked natural and relaxed like they can with actual balloons.  I was relieved when they turned out well.

This quilt was a first for me in another technique as well.  I used a pink bobbin and black top thread while quilting the silhouette.  The backing was such a pretty pink that anything distracting from it would have been a shame, but the black silhouette also needed to stay clean, so I held my breath and gave it a go.  I was so thrilled when I realized I didn’t have to chose between ruining my top or backing!

After all that I quilted it together with a small stipple pattern.  I’m happy to report that the quilt gets regular use!

photo 2
I put the silhouettes of mommy’s favorite princesses on there and included Princess Leia for daddy.

 

Related posts and blogs:

My definitive ranking of [almost] every Disney Princess

Princess Quilt

Disney Nerds