I’m usually on UKQU designing Mystery Quilts, but I felt the need to tell you all about a recent personal make……..
Memory Quilt – indeed it is………Quite an experience to say the least….
What have I learned from this though?……. well I’ve always been a bit ambivalent where memory quilts were concerned. I know they can seem a bit morbid to some, the opinions radiate between a fabulous idea and a not so fabulous. Personally I’ve been happy to make smaller items for people being quite oblivious of any feelings to the items. Now I’ve made a larger item that actually resonates with me I’m changing my mind. I can see they’re not for everyone, but I have been more than surprised by the feelings and memories the making process has stirred. I’m grateful for those moments of laughter returned, a touch of sadness, but that soon passed into such happy memories, I’m a ‘memory quilt’ convert. I hope it gives the recipients as much joy……….
I’ve made quite a few different memory items over the years, but never one so poignant or as close to me as ‘Mam’s Quilt’.
Not my Mam, but an adopted Mam from what I refer to as my extended family. One of the matriarchs (an Aunt) of my best friend’s family who I’ve known since I was 5, (that’s a long time ago now!).
I was asked if I could make a quilt with some of Mam’s favorite clothes, her having passed away a while ago. But of course!! An absolute pleasure!
A while later I received an airmail parcel containing Mam’s favorites. It knocked me flat when I opened it. It was like she’d arrived for a visit. Only she hadn’t and never would.
I found myself closely inspecting the clothes, the memories started to flood back to me. A holiday in Ireland in my teens with my Bestie, the most amazing 2 weeks when we were let loose in our own transport for fun and frolics under the careful eye of Mam and family!
So many happy memories I’m not sure where to begin let alone stop! Family parties and events, outings and history. Activities and laughter. I was so fortunate to be included as part of the family. Where the family went so did I, as one of them, washing up and room sharing included! (I’m in the background on a horse!! Unheard of since!)
I found that I’d got lost in thought for over an hour, had done nothing but smile to myself (and cried a bit) and had gone in search of old photos on my laptop. This lead to more recent photos of ‘family’ activities all over the place with other members of Mam & Besties family, right through up until lockdown happened at us all. I’m so so lucky to, in effect, have mine and an adopted family!!
Back to the clothes:
I checked out the fabrics, nearly freaked when I saw so many different types of fabrics, not one of which would normally be seen in a quilt……A padded jacket, knitted jumper, crepe, lace, chiffon, jersey and a silky poly of some sort……
I was also shocked at the size of the useable areas; I hadn’t realized how small she’d become.
I packed it all away, taped it up and put it on the floor beside me in my studio. It’s what I do if I need to ponder things. Pack it away and let the subconscious deal with it. At some point something always surfaces. It’s usually the right design that emerges and then gets done at a rate of knots!
It must have been about 8 months, certainly most of lockdown 1, 2 and now 3 before all of a sudden I had to make! I first suggested a smaller item due to the types of fabrics, but no, a quilt it would be!
I decided to use another friends’ quilt design, one that I teach often, with pattern costs going to Macmillan, so more than appropriate for this occasion.
I rummaged my fabrics and added a good amount of quilting weight cottons in the hope that they would supplement and stabilize the other fabrics. I also ordered some black iron-on stabilizer and let the creativity flow! 2 days later I had many usable bits of fabric cut to size and ready to piece together and a little pile of buttons and embellishments to care for until they could be re-attached. (stabilizer is one of the reason’s I don’t usually enjoy dress making, but it’s a very useful thing!)
I was on a mission!!! All the piecing got done quite quickly. I was then really looking forward to some large stitch hand quilting for this project, I’d had many happy hours reminiscing whilst making thus far, here would be quite a few more hours…… but it wasn’t to be!!
Why? Because I’d had this bright idea to back the quilt with a waffle fleece instead of traditional wadding & backing……… all was fabulous to start, well, the areas where I’d added quilting weight cottons, but when I got to the fabrics that had been stabilized it started to beard terribly!! (fleece coming through to the front as I stitched)
I unpicked…… with what I like to call my ‘learning tool’!! (un-picker)
I considered removing the fleece and going traditional with wadding/backing, but it was so snuggly under there whist quilting I thought it would be a shame to change it, I’d hoped the Girlies would love it, almost like a hug from Mam.
Anyway, a long story short, much debate within my brain cell came up with a plan to have it long-arm quilted, the professional long-armers have tricks up their sleeves that us traditionals don’t…… I think the resulting quilting is fabulous! It reflects the design, isn’t overly complicated or densely stitched. Thank you Sarah at Ambleside Quilting. https://ukqu.co.uk/places/united-kingdom/cornwall/bude/ambleside-quilting/
I did get a couple of happy hours’ hand stitching the binding, it’s one of my ‘things’, I only ever hand stitch the finish, I don’t overly love a machine finish, to me it’s almost like adding finishing touches to a painting, not to be rushed!
What have I learned from this experience?…….
I now appreciate a purposefully made memory item, I can see their worth, even if it’s not for everyone.
I’m getting older and not overly happy about it.
I have some amazing and happy memories with more to come with a bit of luck!
I am so fortunate.
I’m more sentimental than I ever realized.
I hope those who I class as my extended family feel the same way about me.
(and I still have far too much fabric that I like to play with!!)
Made with love………..Be lovely.