Memory Quilts: Keepsakes to Treasure

By Sherri McConnell

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Just like a scrapbook or a photo album, quilts can be used to preserve memories and commemorate special events. There are many different ways to create a memory quilt using fabric and other embellishments- some memory quilts can be simple and easy to sew while others might involve a variety of techniques and embellishments.

Memory Quilts

Photo credit Cactus-Needle

One way to create a memory quilt is to incorporate t-shirts that signify an event or a time period in a person's life. For example, a high school memory quilt could be made using a student's t-shirts from throughout her high school years. T-shirts representing the student's interests and activities can be collected and pieced together to create a quilt top. T-shirts can be cut to the desired size for quilt blocks; it is also a good idea to use a fusible interfacing on the back of each t-shirt block to keep the material from stretching. A variety of patterns and tutorials for t-shirt quilts are readily available; see the Craftsy blog post about t-shirt quilting here.

A memory quilt can also be specific to a certain activity - a football memory quilt, a cheerleading memory quilt, or a Boy Scout memory quilt for example. Memory quilts can also commemorate special events such as births, baptisms, anniversaries, graduations, and weddings.

When it comes to wedding memory quilts, guests can be asked to sign "signature blocks" when attending a wedding reception that can later be made into a quilt for the bride and groom. In order to create a signature quilt, you'll want to be sure to use pens with archival ink. It also helps to stabilize the fabric with interfacing or with freezer paper ironed to the back to make it easier to write directly on the fabric. Signature blocks should be pressed with a hot iron to set the ink before sewing the blocks into a quilt.

Memory Quilts

Creating a special tribute block or explanatory label for the back of the memory quilt is also an important part of the piece. The tribute block should announce the occasion and date that the quilt is commemorating.

This collage shows the front and one of the back labels of an Iowa Memory and Tribute quilt created by my grandmother to commemorate the 150th anniversary of her home state. The front of the quilt includes blocks with representations of Iowa farms, silos, livestock, and historical landmarks.

Sometimes it's a good idea to get the whole family involved in a memory quilt project. My family has created four 50th anniversary quilts: one for my grandmother and one for each of her 3 sisters and their spouses. These anniversary quilts used a variety of techniques including machine embroidery, cross-stitch, appliqué, and patchwork. One person was in charge of the project, piecing the blocks to send out to the other family members so that they could sign and embellish their block as they desired. Then the blocks were all returned to the lead person, who was responsible for assembling and finishing the quilt.

Memory quilts can be fun to create and they can also become cherished heirlooms. What type of memory quilt would you most like to create?

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