Friday, December 18, 2009

Memories and Memory Quilts

A couple of years ago my sister, a heart specialist in Children's Hospital, asked me if I would make a memory quilt for the mother of a patient who had passed away.  A 16 year old girl who had Downs Syndrome and a heart condition.  I said I would.  We met at her son's Rugby tournament and she delivered a package of t-shirts that had been worn by the girl.  I just put the package in my suitcase, we visited, watched the Rugby game, went to the needlework and other shops together, and then I came home. 

When I got home I opened the package.  It held 12 t-shirts.  Each and every one was wrapped in pink tissue paper and had a note on top written by the mother.  They said things like "This was her favorite shirt because the cow said Moo."  or "This is the last t-shirt she wore...the holes are from pins holding er IV cords."  I felt sacrilegeous opening the packages. It was put away for several months before I could bring myself to get it out and work on the promised "Memory Quilt".  In the end, my friend Joan helped me by scanning all the notes into the computer and giving me a CD of those files.  I then printed them out on fabric and each T-shirt that I cut to size was backed by fabric printed with the note that her mother had written about that shirt.  It was difficult to cut up those T-shirts and even more difficult to work on that quilt. 

But, when I got going, it seemed to come together nicely.  I sashed each of these blocks in "Reversible Quilting" style as described in Sharon Pedersen's book "Reversible Quilting.  When finished the quilt still looked a little dull so I added appliqued heart-shaped balloons and silk ribbons drifting between the blocks to liven it up.  In the end, it looked great.  I sent it to my sister and she sent me back photographs (not digital) that were pretty rewarding, but heartbreaking at the same time.  The mother was in tears, but thrilled. 

That being my experience with "memory quilts",  I was against doing it again.  But when my friend at work came and asked me if I would do one for her son who had just left for an apprenticeship in another town, I couldn't say no because she is such a special friend!  She gave me all kinds of t-shirts and tidbits that were applicable to her oldest son.  I put this quilt together: 

It is made up of hockey shirts, pyjamas for a little guy, pieces of "Bumpa's" shirt, his ball cap, his crib sheet, his favorite t-shirts, a karate belt and other tidbits from his childhood life.  There is a pocket on the back made out of a crocheted blanket, and it holds a scrap of the wallpaper from his room. 

I couldn't make one of these for my own children because I didn't keep enough to do it with!  What a mistake!  However, my friend did and this is the result.  When I showed her the pieced quilt top, she broke into tears......pretty strong testimony that I did a decent job of it.  She got the backing fabric and the batting and it got quilted and finished. 

But that's not the end of it!  This young man was going to get this quilt for Christmas.  But he announced that he had proposed to his girl (isn't that romantic?) and would be married this coming summer.  So Mum, my friend, felt that the second son should get his quilt for Christmas too.  She apparently spent a week or more pondering how to ask me to rush the second one so they could both get them at Christmas.  When she came and asked me about it, she was pretty close to tears, but I knew it was important to do this thing.  I said I could put the top together so she could present it to him, but would have to quilt and finish it after Christmas.  So she agreed and brought me a bag of goodies for the second son and I put this quilt together:

This one has two pockets on the front.  One from a hockey jacket that is designed to hold the remnants of the original "stuffy" the replacement of which although worn too, is featured top and center.  The "Blue Jays" patch is actually a piece of a shirt that unbuttons and inside there is a cloth book that the boy had.  This one includes a baby sock, his favorite "leather" jacket, sheets from his bed, his grad t-shirt and more.

I found I enjoyed doing these two memory quilts.  I don't know if it was because the mother, my friend, was so pleased, or if it was because the boys are alive and progressing with their life plans and it's all pleasant memories.  It is difficult to work with cotton, stretch, polyester, nylon and fake leather ....and have it all come out square, but I did enjoy working on"" them.

I thought "Mom" should keep the quilts for herself and cuddle in them when she's missing the boys, but  she's going to go through with her plan and give them to the kids for Christmas!