I continue to be amazed at the items that clients want made into memory quilts. This past year I have made quilts that incorported all sorts of items of clothing, baby clothing, and dishtowels. Pat from Cape Cod Quilts and Cottages joked that someone would want a quilt made from the bumper of their late husband’s cherished car, and somehow I would make it happen.
My latest project was a Christmas surprise that a mother wanted made for her two grown daughters. She had saved every pillow sham that the two girls had used in the room they shared. These are the pillow shams.
Some of the shams were not quilted, some were whole cloth quilted shams where the feature was the machine quilting, and three were patchwork pieced and hand quilted. There were two of most of the shams, but there were two special shams that I only had one of. The first was a crocheted pillow sham (bottom left) that was an heirloom from the mom’s grandmother. The second was the American flag sham, which was actually from the girls’ brother who had recently left for the Coast Guard.
I laid the shams out on the bed in the guest room for a week or so and paid them regular visits while I pondered how to construct this. Some of the shams had a coordinating fabric on the back, so I could use fabrics from the front and back. The striped sham had the same fabric on the back, so I could just use the back.
My dilemma was whether to deconstruct all of the shams to the point of undoing all of the quilting or to keep them quilted and add batting to the ones that were not quilted. The issue with that was that I would need a backing on the whole quilt, and the parts that were already quilted would need to be attached to that batting.
I finally decided to deconstruct all of the hand quilted shams and leave the machine quilted shams as they were. This ended up being just the tan sham and the aqua flowered sham. The shams measured about 20″ x 28″, so I was able to cut them each into four 10″ squares.
Next, I made nine patches out of the squares, which I cut down the middle horizontally and vertically and swapped two diagonal pieces and sewed them back together to make four disappearing nine patch blocks.
I found that the ruffle on the light blue pillow sham could be deconstructed to make sashing to go between the blocks. I then very carefully cut the individual circles from the crocheted sham and put fray check on the tips to keep them from unraveling, and hand appliqued them onto the sashing.
But what to do with the American flag? I had two concerns–the first was that the red had obviously bled on several washing, as evidenced by a lot of it in the white fabric as well as the back. Although it had clearly been washed many times, I hated to put it in the middle of the quilt and have it bleed into the other fabrics. I also was concerned that the bright red did not really go with the other colors. I had a similar concern about the aqua flowered sham, but since the mom wanted all of the shams included, I decided not to worry about the color scheme.
The stars were placed so close together on the sham that I could not cut squares and get the background included without cutting most of the stars, so I cut four circles with background for the first quilt (pictured) and just cut the stars out for the second quilt (forgot to photograph this one before I delivered.)
As I looked at the stripes, I realized that they could be made into four patches (or nine patches, but I went with four). By placing these as cornerstones in the border, I could include the red without it detracting too much from the overall look. I placed the stars in the sashing, and made a small center block featuring the machine embroidery from the white sham.
I decided to leave the batting in the two machine quilted shams and just have them double batted. As I machine quilted, I traced the original machine quilting in the tan sham and outlined the flowers in the aqua flowered sham, which gave a stuffed, trapunto effect. Most of the quilting was just meandering, but since the sashing was solid I decided to include feathers.
The two quilts took me all of the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas to complete (my apologies to friends who didn’t get a Christmas card from me and neighbors who had to look at my lawn angels in a heap on the lawn for a week.) When I delivered them the Friday before Christmas the mom cried, which is a fairly common response when I deliver a memory quilt. She couldn’t wait until Christmas, and gave them to the girls that day.
As I reflected on these quilts, I realized how these cobbled together memories resembled our cobbled together families. We have members that are siblings, half siblings, adopted, and married into the family. Some of our family members are very different from each other, but when they are sewn together with love, somehow we make it work.