What is a Memory Quilt?
What is a T-shirt Quilt?
Is there a difference?
I am often asked these questions.
For me, a Memory Quilt evokes strong memories for the owner. Memories of sporting activities (e.g., triathlons, runs, high school/university team sports, tournaments), memories of special occasions (e.g., weddings, anniversaries, birthdays), memories of favourite activities or hobbies (e.g., rock concerts, science fiction, gardening), or memories of a departed loved one. Special memories are evoked by the fabrics and graphics of favourite garments.
Memory Quilts can be made from virtually anything that is fabric and sew-able/quilt-able. This includes most garment items, and of course T-shirts.
A T-shirt Quilt is simply a memory quilt that is made exclusively of T-shirts.
By now, I have made quite a few memory/T-shirt quilts. If you take a look at the quilts that I have made, you will quickly surmise that I don’t do the standard row/column block setting type of quilt (i.e., equal sized blocks lined up in rows and columns). I prefer to optimize use of the quilt area to squeeze as much memory as I can into every square inch. I use all T-shirt graphics. This means that in addition to the main graphic appearing either on the garment front and/or back, I use small graphics from sleeves, hems, etc. If there are interesting labels, I even use those. If there are spaces between the main graphics or fabric items, I use remaining garment/T-shirt fabric to make “filler blocks”, so whenever possible, the entire quilt is made with fabric from the provided garments. I like to use interesting features of garments (e.g., pockets, buttons, zippers) if possible.
Recently I have started adding a few appropriate embroidery designs to some “plain” blocks. This is an option that can be discussed during the initial consultation.
I have made quite a few memory/T-shirt quilts and my process is generally the same for all of them:
1. Cut each garment for maximum fabric usage
2. Determine best size to cut the graphic(s) or other features
3. Apply lightweight fusible woven stabilizer to the back of each part that will then be cut to size (stabilizer is a cotton muslin with a heat activated bond on one side). Non-T-shirt garments may or may not require stabilizer
4. Cut the graphic, feature or garment fabric to pre-determined sizes
5. “Puzzle” the quilt top together and sew it
6. Load the backing, batting and quilt top onto the long-arm quilting machine
7. Quilt the quilt
8. Trim, label and bind the quilt. Done!
What do I charge?
I charge by the square foot to make and quilt the quilt top. This includes labour (design, cutting, pressing on stabilizer, sewing, quilting) and materials (thread, stabilizer). In addition, I charge the cost of additional materials such as batting, backing and binding fabric, which can vary according to client preferences.
I do not charge for in person consults if you want to bring your garments to me to chat about possibilities.
Things To Think About for Your Quilt
If you decide to hire me, I will want to get a sense of the person who will be receiving the quilt or the person who is being commemorated by the quilt. Favourite activities, hobbies, colours, personality traits (e.g., “girlie girl”, “loves dinosaurs”, “loves music”, “very kind”).
When collecting garments for a quilt for or about someone else, consider including something of yours. So, for example, include a favourite garment that you have worn in the mix of the other person’s garments.
I have made memory quilts for families (multiple quilts – one for each member of the family). In these cases, my customers have requested that some of the garments be included in all the quilts so each person has a piece of each garment. Obviously, for multiple quilts more garments are needed.
One estimate is that for a quilt that is 5’ x 6’, I would need between 25 and 35 T-shirts, depending on size and type of graphic. Of course, I can work with less, it just means more “filler” blocks are required.
For some good ideas, check out a book titled Modern Memory Quilts by Suzanne Paquette. It’s in the Calgary Public Library.
Finally, if you decide to have me make your memory quilt, please ensure your garments are clean and please do not use fabric softener or anti static sheets when drying. Thanks!
These 5 quilts were made for a family using mostly childhood clothing and receiving blankets in one case. Because most of the garments were small, many of the blocks are small. I've added embroidery designs to all of them. Can you spot them?
Here is a quilt that was commissioned by the proud grandparents of a new grad!