Last year, I started sewing memory quilts for people who had lost someone close to them.
For this particular project, I was asked to make several lap-sized memory quilts from someone’s favourite soft, stretchy nightgowns and sweaters.
I started by cutting through any gathered/ruched areas so the fabric could lie flat …
… ironing the fabric smooth …
… and cutting out 12” x 12” squares using a plastic quilting template. This is faster with a rotary cutter and mat, but tracing squares and cutting them out with scissors works fine, too.
Once I had cut squares from almost every piece of clothing, I sorted them into piles so each quilt would have roughly the same amount of each colour or print. I decided I had enough squares to make everyone a nine-patch quilt.
The one piece I hadn’t cut up yet was what had been her favourite shirt, so I wanted to do something special with that one. There wasn’t enough of it to be able to give everyone a square of it, but there was enough to make a special accent for each quilt: an appliquéd name.
I knew the thin stretchy fabric of the nighties and sweaters wouldn’t have been the best surface for supporting an appliqué, so I modified my nine-patch plan so each quilt would actually have seven squares of clothing plus a fleece rectangle that took the place of two squares. The fleece would provide a stronger backing for the appliquéd names.
I carefully snipped the favourite shirt open and ironed Heat’n’Bond Lite to the “wrong” sides of it.
Then I printed the names out on regular printer paper, cut them out and traced each name backwards onto the Heat’n’Bond Lite (since I was working on the wrong side of the shirt fabric).
I cut out each name — snipping through the fabric and the Heat’n’Bond Lite — and peeled off the paper backing, so the fabric name had a shiny backing on it. Then I laid it onto the fleece rectangle and ironed it down, melting the adhesive so the name stuck to the fleece.
Once the name was firmly stuck to the fleece, I used a zig-zag stitch to sew all the way around each letter. This prevents the name from fraying or peeling off the quilt, but it also provides a nice finished look. (I experimented with a few heart shapes, too, and it definitely worked better on the fleece than on the stretchy knit fabrics.)
Now it was time to assemble the quilt tops. My serger and I had been going through a rough patch in our relationship but thankfully he decided to smarten up, which made the process much faster than using my sewing machine. Holding my breath, I used my (temperamental) serger to sew together each row and attach the rows to make completed quilt tops.
The final step was adding the backing and finishing the ends. I spread out a thick, fuzzy white blanket (right side up), laid each quilt top over the blanket (right side down) …
… and cut around each quilt top so it had a matching “back” cut from the blanket.
I pinned these “sandwiches” together and stitched around three sides, leaving one side open so I could turn the whole thing right-side-out. Then I tucked the raw edges under, sewed the final side shut and continued sewing around all of the edges for consistency.
These lap-sized memory quilts are very snuggly and warm. Because the clothing squares were all cut from well-loved nighties and sweaters, they’re also super soft.
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