>>>>

Monday, January 13, 2014

Plain & Simple Truth!



I received an email from a quilter, who shall remain nameless –unless she wants to speak up!

My email conversation with her was really thought provoking to me and I thought you might enjoy it – I mean – we all know the “rehearsed and correct answer any quilter should give”, but I want you to remember that there are no quilt police here, and sometimes situations dictate that we take a different path.

Are you intrigued?

I’m talking memory quilts.

She writes:

Hi Bonnie,

I have a friend who wants me to make a quilt using her Dad's shirts. All of them are 100% polyester. But they are beautiful colors ....and he has passed so this would be very special.
I cannot get a definitive answer on the Internet or my local quilt shops. What do you think?
One of the issues....I understand there will be a nasty smell emitted when ironing.
What if I do a quilt using the shirts as appliqué instead of piecing?
Thank you for your help. I love your site.

Be well, S
My reply to her came quickly and I really didn’t need to think about it.  I just went with my gut feeling:
Turn the iron down and make the quilt.
 
This is about your friend's father and the memories the quilt will preserve.
 
Just do the best you can with it knowing that poly will not behave the same as cotton. If the fabrics are slippery, stabilize them with some iron on interfacing, the same way you would a t-shirt quilt.
 
This is not the kind of quilt that will be put in a show and judged.  It's not going to Houston, it's not going to Paducah, but its purpose is far greater, and the reward worth so very much more.
 
Make the quilt for your friend from her father's shirts.
Yes, I know that poly will wear differently with age, but it’s not about that ---new fabric will NEVER hold the memories that this fabric from her father’s clothing will.  It just won’t.
 
And while a quilt with new fabric may be preferable to some, I will take a quilt made with my grandfather’s clothing ANY DAY ---hands down.  Jelly Roll quilt vs Grandpa’s shirts?  NO CONTEST.
 
 
My departed Oscar on a pile of shirts ready to cut up!
 
In the DVD set of Why Quilts Matter, one of the interviews explained it all to me.  And I have to paraphrase because I couldn't find exactly where that excerpt was, but the woman was talking about how we have a love affair with fabric.  It’s the first thing we are swaddled in when we are born…it’s the last thing that touches us as we leave this life.  We can not get away from the fabric.
 
Quilters may be leary to say "sew it" from the poly blend shirts because they are afraid the quilt police are after them, or they would be judged somehow.

Quilt shops don’t want to say to say "sew it"  from the shirts because they want you to buy their expensive NEW  fabric –and I can understand that.  But this is a quilt with a different purpose --it is a comfort, a memory preserver.  New fabric can't do that.
 
I say SEW IT!  Because this is about your friend and her father, nothing more, nothing less, and I know you can do this! :)
 
These are my rambling thoughts as I wait for a phone call from Shelly at The Quilt Show to do my phone interview for my taping next month and I’m nervous as a cat!
 
Remember Quilt –Cam tonight at 9pm Eastern.  By then I can tell you how the interview went and fill you in with things.
 
Oh – and I’ll also be drawing for the winner of Why Quilts Matter in this evening’s post too!


Click Here to like our Quiltville Friends Page on Facebook for more fun!
You do not need a Facebook account to read the Facebook posts - They are viewable to all! Feel free to read & quilt along with us!

131 comments:

Terri in BC said...

Bravo, Bonnie! I recently finished two quilt tops, one made from leftover poly-cottons of dresses that I made my daughters in the 80's and another from 2" squares of mixed fabrics that date all the way back to my mother's collection from the '60s to my most recent quilt, Easy Street. I make what I love, and to me, the quilts made with memories are the ones closest to my heart (and dang the quilt police!)

Terri in BC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

amen.... I am a quilter fro way back and I want my quilts to be loved used and used more...If the fabric is right color and right texture I use it. most of the time each piece has a memory. I say it is time to get real about our quilts... every quilt is not judged...do it because you like to!!!! Joanie girl in sunny Lakeland FL

Jacqueline said...

I'm with you ! and don't worry about your phone interview, you will do great. You are a talented lady who has a heart as big as her talent.

You rock girl.

Mary said...

I am so with you on this, I am actually in the middle of making a quilt for a friend's mom, made from her Dad's shirts -- cotton poly blends, every one of them. Some of them are pretty threadbare. It's going to be a one of kind, much loved quilt. I have the top done, making the backing today, loading it on my long-arm frame tomorrow.

Deb M said...

what a wonderful comforting quilt that will be, I hope the shirts still smell like her dad too, --go for it honey your dad will be with you every step of the way.
Deb M

Sewing Junkie said...

Quilts are made from many fabrics. Cotton being preference. Silk and Wool are two choices I think of. When it comes to a family treasure like described I'm sure the family needs the memories not whether it is politically correct. Your advice was wise. Why did we become snobs over fabric choices? Wool,flannel, denim,silk and linen are just a few I have used. Chris

Saska said...

If a piece of fabric is thin, I've even used two together of the same. Didn't hurt a thing.
I've always used pieces of flannel in quilts too. Old flannel shirts have been washed to death, and I figured the polyester gods won't condemn a piece of linen or flannel beside it.

Remembrances said...

And may I be so bold as to ask - Who died and left the quilt police in charge anyway?

quilter1950 said...

I found in the past that the polyester sometimes shrinks when ironed. If your quilt is all poly, no problem, but if it's part poly and part cotton, this could be a problem. Turn the iron down as Bonnie suggested.

Theresa Thibodeau said...

Just beautiful Bonnie!

Jackie said...

Actually you can make quilts out of anything. I have deleted(dumped)poly fabric from my stash because it stinks when you iron it.
But.............
If the fabric came from somone I loved.. to be used as a memory I would brave the poly and love the quilt.
If I remember the poly makes the fabric stronger and may last longer and stay brighter than all cotton.
Quilts are made with your hands and heart. Whatever fabric used is good.

lindyloo said...

I, too, would make the quilt. And I was wondering when you would be a guest on The Quilt Show. I have been a member from the beginning and always thought you need to be one of their guest teachers. You have so much knowledge and enthusiasm to share...and their vehicle reaches so far. When you add theirs with yours, there can't possibly be any quilter out there who will not be a follower! Congrats.

Twisted Quilts said...

I agree, I have quilts that my grandmother made out of clothing. When my aunt looks at it she says that is the fabric I used to make my going away outfit when I got married. Quilts are full of memories.

Myrna said...

Yay Bonnie! Your answer is 100% right on the money! I have quilts that my mom made for me with scraps of poly blend fabric from dresses she made for me and my sister stitched into the tops. Both my mom and my sister are gone now and I treasure those quilts and the memories stitched into them.

Bev @ kwiltpharm said...

I sewed polyester clothing for YEARS and never had a problem with odor when pressing! You adjust your iron tempature for the fabric-and may need to use steam to keep the seams in the direction you want them to go! I would advise pressing seams open and making them a bit wider (3/8") to help them stay where they belong.
What a blessing this quilt will be to the loved ones remaining-(although I would probably lean towards using large pieces in the blocks or doing something like one of the "Turning Twenty" quilts or Bonnie's "Bricks and Stepping Stones") Maybe even just tie it rather than quilting it-it is going to be loved anyway it is made! God bless you for your generosity in doing this for your friend.

WIPPYSPLACE said...

my younger passed away and he LOVED his shirts....one thing he asked for from his death bed was to not donate his shirts!!!! I took them and carefully removed the sleeves, pockets, etc.....I cut the shirts into 5.5 inch squares EVEN the pockets....and I am making a quilt for my older brother of these shirts! I am even using the pocket blocks! and all the pockets are open so he can put whatever he wants into the pockets! so--I would say to the lady to go right ahead and sew!!! her friend will not be disappointed but will be delighted with such a quilt--NO other fabric will do!...thanks for sharing such a great story!

NancyinSTL said...

First of all, I couldn't agree with you more. It would have never occurred to me to ask the question posed. Further, I know some quilters who believe and preach that it is our obligation to support our local quilt shops by never purchasing the "inferior quality" cotton fabrics sold at big box and chain fabric stores, and by purchasing every new quilting tool introduced in the market. Personally, I LOVE sewing with recycled fabrics and get a lot of pleasure seeking good quality 100% cotton men's shirts at thrift stores for using in quilts. Since I was a child, I've always marched to my own drum, so quilt police and fabric snobs don't matter to me. Not everyone can afford to pay $12 or more for a yard of fabric, so should those who can't be excluded from the joy of quilting? I could ramble on and on, but I think I've said enough.

Tamara Hampton said...

My first quilts were for my grandsons out of my husbands plaid shirts, some of them poly blend. The white in the quilt was an upcycled white sheet... and I used some "quilt fabric" as well. After a couple years of heavy use, only one of the shirts I wish I hadn't used (it was pretty thin) but the shirts have held up and held their color better than some of the "quilt fabrics."

Sharon~Two Bits Patches said...

When I started making quilts for my children I used whatever I had. There was no such thing as a patchwork shop in Australia in the 1970s, so I used poly cotton, dressmaking scraps, old curtains, whatever had the right colour and the right weight. Now my grandchildren use those same quilts and the quilts still look great. Sometimes we get too stressed about doing it right, just do it.

Therese Ruff said...

Thank you for your reply. This is about love! The recipient will need to know how to care for it. DH's aunt had tears in her eyes when she asked me for a tie quilt. She sat on her sofa, alone, and cried into it many nights. Her son kept very little when she passed away, but made a point to thank me for the quilt which he did keep. Look forward to seeing you on the quilt show! My first subscription this year!

MarciaME said...

Some of my first quilts were of polycotton blends mixed either 100% cotton because I didn't "know better". But they were gifts for people I care about and I was going for color. the polycotton blends seem to ravel easier so a wider seam allowance might be a good idea.

Andee said...

Don't be nervous Bonnie...know that you are talking to lots of friends and fans that love all your wit and wisdom! You will be FABULOUS! Hope to catch some of quilt cam after work tonight, but if not I will be chiming in when I get a minute! :)

Schuermie said...

You are so right about the memories that will be in the quilt. Your answer brought tears to my eyes - I wish that I had done that with my Daddy's shirts!

bgail said...

My very first two quilts were from the dreaded polyester knits of the 70's! And yes, over 40 years later, we are still using those quilts. They have been to softball and soccer games, picnics, outdoor concerts, and are filled with the memories of the clothes my mother and I sewed from those fabrics. Wouldn't trade them for anything.

Leah said...

I agree 100% Bonnie. Normally I avoid poly for the reasons you mention. But this is a very timely post for me: I recently learned from a cousin that I'm about to be gifted with several boxes worth of my beloved late grandma's fabric. Grandma died in 1985 and, while she didn't quilt, she was a prolific household sewer. The cousin 'says' the fabric is all cotton, but we all know that most of it will probably be poly blend. Was I going to let that stop me from making my aunt a quilt from her mom's fabric? NO WAY! You gave exactly the right answer, Bonnie, and the daughter will dearly love the final quilt because of it.

Sally simplestitches said...

Well said Bonnie! It is not about the kind of fabric but what the fabric means (Dad's, grandpa's, family member's shirts). While it may be a poly blend it is the memories that it holds. Make the quilt.

Julie said...

Amen, Bonnie!

Melinda said...

I wish I had been a quilter when my husband died 11 years ago. He loved colorful plaid shirts that would have been so perfect for Bonnie's patterns! I saved a couple,had the sleeves shortened & still wear some of them for work shirts. That is a wonderful gift of love and memories you are giving her.

Lois said...

Very timely for me. My father passes away just 1 week ago. I'll be doing something with his clothes, just not sure what. He had a lot of tees and woven shirts too. I don't care what the fiber content is. They are Dad's and thats good enough for me.

Balinda said...

Please make the quilt out of the shirts. I am currently making the dancing nine patch from my dad's flannel shirts for my mom's 75th birthday in February. I already made bears for all our family out of my dad's overalls and shirts. Bonnie, you gave the most wonderful answer to this e-mailer. These memories will always be cherished

Darlene said...

That is the best answer Bonnie and brought tears to my eyes. The quilt will have such a special meaning BECAUSE of the fabric that is being used.

When my mom passed, I kept a bunch of her clothes to do make a quilt with. Nothing fancy, but I have so many pictures with her wearing these clothes that it will hold a special memory for me and my children when I am gone.

Scampbell40@zoominternet .net said...

I recently finished one for a mom that lost her 19 yr old daughter to sudden cardiac arrest. I used prom gowns with sequins and beads,flannel shirts,t shirts,sweaters,jeans,shorts and sweats.. Any fabrics that were filmstrip and had a lot of stretch I backed with lightweight interfacing. I used left over fabrics for the back. I embellished with buttons, rinestone pins, pockets.and labels from the garments. It's the memories not the "proper" quilting fabrics.

Anonymous said...

Go for it. It will be a much loved quilt. I too have my Dads shirts waiting to be cut up and stitched.

Nann said...

You are so right, Bonnie. The point of the project is that they were his shirts -- a tangible reminder of a loved one.

If there is a doubt about the wearability of the fabrics, you could recommend that the maker create a wall hanging or art quilt rather than a lap or bed quilt that would get a lot of use.

P.S. Yes, poly fabric smells when it's ironed (esp. on high heat). But once the quilt is assembled and quilted, how often will it be ironed?

Ele said...

I have been a daughter, wife, mother, dressmaker, teacher, quilter, and a few other things for my whole life, but when I get a request to make somebody something out of a loved ones clothes, I jump at the opportunity. I finished 15 teddy bears and a cuddle quilt out of a man's shirts, which were all sorts of fabrics. The fabric was thin because the shirts were old and very used, so I made linings for the teddy bears, and they all turned out well. The quilt went to the widow and I made the whole quilt out of the sleeves of the shirts, so the widow could feel her hubby's arms around her whenever that need arose. She cried when I gave her the quilt just before Christmas. She has told me she can still smell her loved one on the quilt, which I used the Majestic Mountain pattern for. You just never know how much an item made from loved ones clothes can mean to the recipient, so I say go for it. It will make you feel warm and happy inside to be part of the whole process. God Bless.

Julie Vernon said...

LOVE BREAKS BARRIERS!!!! You,, and the Why This Matter lady, are so very very correct!

Dad or granddad's shirts are PRICELESS .. they have a deep down in the fiber warmth of having LIVED with the person you love and miss.

To see the quilt, hug on it and YUP shed tears cuddling it --- bring joy from good memories. peace the person is still able to be hugged (in a way) and the quilt passed on to family.

BONNIE - YOUR ANSWER WAS AND IS PERFECT!
TEARS IN MY EYES HERE
JulieinTN

Anonymous said...

I just made a quilt for my nephew from his mother's knit clothing. He is undergoing cancer treatments and has to be in bed for 5 days at a time. Yes, he can smell his mom in her outfits. He lost her to cancer 3 years ago. I used the t-shirt method and the carpenter star for the pattern. I used 3 of her outfits of prints and solids. I had to remove the seam from the front of the pants, but all went well.

Ann Boykin said...

Bless and thank you Bonnie for your heart warming kindness. Your response made me cry. As a daughter whose mama recently passed away I've been sorting through piles and piles of fabric that was precious to my mom but might be snubbed by others. We had started a quilt together with many cotton offenders and I look forward to finishing it in the future...and maybe I'll even add some dreaded poly now!

Carol Hemmingsen said...

I totally agree with you. Wrapping yourself up in a loved ones clothes used in a quilt is almost as good as a real hug! I'm getting ready for your class in Sarasota - Virginia Bound I think it is called. I have gone through all my scraps even though in the book one of your suggestions is thrift store shirts. While going through the scraps, I remembered each and every scrap that has gone into quilts made for people I love. I can't wait to finish it because of that. So I totally get your response!!

Sue Monsey said...

I loved reading the comments everyone made - and I agree 100%. I would jump at the chance to make one of these for someone.

I quilted a poly quilt (Trip Around the World) with a sheet back on my longarm and it turned out just fine. I am pretty sure no one else wanted to tackle the project and I was new enough to not be afraid - lol

I hope she sends you a picture of the finished project so we can enjoy her work.

Debbie in Niles said...

Bonnie, I see a pretty strong message here and you are on the right track about the quilt police. My very dear next door neighbor passed away a few years back, she always wore men's button down shirts both cotton and poly and corduroy jeans. Her girls came to me and asked me to make memory quilts out of her shirts and jeans. There ended up being 5 quilts in all and they worked out just fine. They have been washed and loved by the owners. The hardest part was getting past my grief of losing her and then the wonderful memories flowed as I worked on the quilts. Go for it!

Myra Salto said...

I so agree with "make the quilt". A quilt is made to be use and wrap you in love and warm your heart. Doesn't matter what, how or when it's made but the joy it gives when it is being used.

Peggy said...

I agree whole heartedly. What about all those quilts made from ties? Crazy quilts in the 1800's were made from scraps of fabric used in clothing. This all 100% cotton only thing is contrived by the modern age. My mamaw made quilts it inspired me to be a quilter she used scraps from the clothes she made the girls, the "batting" was cut up old worn out wool coats and my mother and her siblings fought over those quilts because they were warm in the winter. The memories they shared when she passed on were wrapped in that fabric. I wish some of them had survived. My brother has passed on and was known for wearing these wool shirts and I've been looking for a way to use them in a quilt but the shrinkage factor for me is the big drawback right now. I still think this quilter should just go for it and make the quilt it is tied to someone's memories who cares what the fabric is made out of.

karen a. said...

I made two quilts from my late husband's poly blend shirts for my granddaughters with no problems at all. The quilts have worn well and the girls cherish them.32

Laura Kardos said...

I also say "make the quilt". Your thoughts on the matter Bonnie, were spot on:-)

Sewing In CT said...

Amen! I wouldn't hesitate to make that quilt. When my dad passed I was 14 and I wore his shirts to bed and around the house. If I'd have known what i know now, I'd have made a quilt and it would have been polyester! Check out Victoria and Bumble Beans. Her grandma made quilts from all kinds of fabric and inspires her today!

Mary Ellen said...

Ditto to all that you wrote. And here's more food for thought - Gee's Bend quilts made with whatever they had to hand. Now they're displayed in museums and were featured on postage stamps.

Carolyn said...

Hi, I'm so glad you told her to go ahead. Wash the shirts, cut the apart and "yes" lower your iron to poly setting. Just think how long that quilt will be around and how washable. Don't ask a quilt shop, they don't get sales recommending poly shirts. Friends and people like you give the best advice.
I made a small wall hanging from ties for someone with 3 tiny children that lost their father in 9/11. Then I asked for a few cotton shirts and made for each child a teddy bear from the shirts and embroidered their name on them. They loved them and it made me feel so good to do something.

pojo said...

I would love to have those to make a quilt. what memories lay there in those clothes.

years ago they used anything they had.

sew it and give it too her.

Regina said...

EXCELLENT response!!! Many times it is s not the content in the fibers, it is the context of the fibers that is important. You gave her the technical tips she needed for this loving project to succeed.

Sharon Douglas said...

Dearest Bonnie--your answer is, in a nutshell, why I follow your blog. I have scrap quilts with the occasional piece of poly in it because it's from a piece of my life--Dad's shirt, a leftover from a scrap bag my Granny gave me, a tiny piece from a pair of shorts I made for my first born. I'm not an acknowledged "quilt artist", but I am someone who wants to add that little piece of love and comfort to everything I sew. Kudos and hugs :-)

Claudia E said...

Bonnie,
I love your answer and I totally agree. Make the quilt.

ChristaQuilts said...

Your thoughts on this are so perfect!

And I love that you referenced Why Quilts Matter. I just did a review of that series on my blog today!

Teresa in Music City said...

Amen Bonnie!!! You preach it and I'll tap my toe and clap :*)

SubeeSews said...

I agree...Sew It!
And that would be a great title for a chapter of a book of your amazing life as a quilt designer and mega traveler. Sew It...what a wonderful phrase that says it all.
XOXOXO Subee
who has a polyester crazy quilt in her attic.
( 1970's)
Thing is huge and almost too heavy to carry. I should send it to a rest home after I cut it into smaller units. It would be nice and warm for them.

Janice Aisquith said...

I loved the reply you gave her suggesting to go ahead with the quilt. No, the quilt will never be judged, nor should it be, but to her, it will be one of her most treasured possessions.

Leslie said...

When my youngest son passed away 5 years ago, my dear friend offered to make a comfort quilt for me from his shirts. I have no idea what those shirts were made of but I do know there was polyester and rayon for sure. She managed to make a warm and comfortable quilt that wraps me in love from her and my son everytime I use it. I've never noticed any smell nor did she mention any when she was working on it.

Donna Frunzi said...

I so totally agree with Bonnie's answer. It's not about the fabric any more. Once you make memory quilts for people... let your heart guide you. It is so much more important to that person and let your love for quilting and their love for that person guide you!

Christine Once upon a Quilt said...

Yes yes and yes use the shirts and make the memory quilt the best you can.....
My dad died at 58 and I wished I had his shurts to make a quilt..
The quilt will be more than a quilt it will be the comfort when she thinks of him.

thequiltersshed said...

Great response, Bonnie. Such a loving thing to do for her friend.

Diana said...

Bonnie,
This was said PERFECTLY! You have captured the sentiment exactly.

Jan Manley said...

Definitely make the quilt! Well said Bonnie. It is preserving the memories that matters.

pcflamingo said...

I made a commissioned quilt from the clothing of a police officer killed in the line of duty. There were lightweight wool uniform shirts, fleece tops, T-shirts and sweatshirts. I also incorporated pictures of her and her young son printed on photo transfer fabric.

It was no great work of art, but it was bright and colorful, with stars, hearts, kites and other happy motifs. When I turned it over to her fellow (male) officers, they cried like babies. I was pretty sure that meant it was a success.

Sue said...

To all whom commented on this issue, you all are Right!!! the point here is MEMORY QUILT. I have recvd 3 bags of fabric(all kinds) types of fabric(poly,cotton,satin, etc.) yes, some fabrics are hard with the iron but yes, turn down the iron.
Bonnie you have answered the email correctly. Keep up the great job that you have been doing.

Judith Gale said...

Great answer!

MARY said...

I have made two memory quilts lately and have one more I am working on and I never gave any thought to the poly in the fabric. I just made them and know they will be treasured because of the memories. that's all that matters

Loris said...

Absolutely yes! This will be cherished. I had the honor of sewing together pieces from t-shirts, clothes and swatches of muslin with messages on it for a quilt for a family who lost a teenage boy to a diabetes complication. Passed from family member to family member and hung on the wall of the brother's college bedroom for awhile. They held it dearly. I was greatly humbled by being able to do something that became so important to them.

Cathy said...

The quilt will be treasured. I made a quilt with flannel scraps & poly blends shirts that were my dads, it's our favorite quilt!

Sharen said...

Bravo! Absolutely make the quilt. It will be a treasure for the daughter and a piece of her father for her to enjoy for years.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information and lovely words. My Dad died almost 5 months ago. The first thing I did (after the funeral) was confiscating his clothing knowing my mother would throw them away. There are shirt, T-shirts, ribcord pants and fleece jackets. I hope I can find someone who will help me make a quilt and a big living room cushion from it. I am so glad I made this move....It will be priceless to me and my son.

Thank you,
Chrizzy@online.nl

nankc said...

AMEN! I couldn't agree with you more. (I feel like saying, "Preach it, Sister!, like we say down south. LOL!) You are so right on with your answer. I wish I had a quilt made from my Dad's shirts. What a treasure that would be.

Mary said...

Good Answer! I hope I am the Winner of the DVD's I figured out how to watch you on my smart phone so I'll be waiting to hear you call my name! Sewing the final Border on my Mystery and Working on my 2nd Celtic Solstice. Only an hour more to wait,

janester said...

Hi, Bonnie,
Your work warms my heart, and gives me heart to continue working on quilts. Thank you!

Thanks for your perfect response to the memory quilt question. Late last fall a 90+-year-old friend showed me two quilts her mother made with decorator fabric scraps from the shop where she worked. The batts were thick wool, and the quilts were tied. The quilts meant so much to my friend. The fabric was crackly and the backing of each fabric had grown stiff with age. How I loved to soak up the old colors, grown gentle with years.

Maybe she and I have grown gentler with age, too, if we're lucky.

Colleen said...

My two favorite quilt are simple charm square quilts made from polyester fabrics mostly bone is heavy double knits.by my Grandmother. One from grandpas shirts and the other from scraps used for clothing and furniture covers.

Margaret said...

I have not read the other comments; there are too many.

That said, I am making a Japanese-style "taupe" quilt for my son for his 30th birthday (June 2015) which could turn into a wedding quilt. Current fabric for background of pieced blocks is some sort of blend (not labelled) in my stash that was given me some time ago. No emotional attachment to my son, per se, but it works. Thank you for reassurance that it does not matter!

stitchinpenny said...

There are quilters who quilt to bring joy and there are quilters who quilt to perfect technique and there are quilters who balance the 2. The best thing is to do what makes you happy with your quilting. It is too expensive to quilt if you aren't liking it. If you are quilting for friends use the grain of salt rule if you are paying for it and if they are paying for it you do what they want after you explain the strengths and weaknesses. BTW thanks for pointing out that polyesters and blends should be ironed at a lower setting, somehow that seems to have been forgotten by many.

Connie said...

My first quilt was made using skirts, blouses and dresses I wore in school. Many were poly/cotton and I treasure the memories from this beautiful quilt.

Trish Schuetz said...

Memory quilts are good not only for the receiver but for the giver, as well. I've already written you about my plans to make one for my daughter who's still not dealing well with the loss of her father...and it's been almost two years. I deboned all his dress shirts this weekend and have started putting them through my go cutter. I plan to do the same thing with his ties next and add string-pieced blocks of his ties to the quilt top. There were about 3-4 ties of his that were very special--to me and to him--and those I'm going to applique the picture end to a large block and highlight them. There were so many memories of my husband just in deboning the shirts. I know there'll be more when I get to his ties. Getting the shirts out of his closet to work with was the first time I'd been able to take anything from it. So, while I know the quilt will be a prized possession of my daughter's once it's done, it will also help me get past the fact that my husband of 34 years...who enriched my life more than he knew...is gone for good and never coming back. The comfort it will give me is knowing that the quilt will comfort my child--my baby--who misses her father so much it's hard for her to get through a sentence about him without welling up. The quilt police can go hang because memory quilts like this have nothing to do with rules or regulations--they have to do with love and dealing with the things in life that are the hardest.

Threads Around The Block said...

I had a client who wanted quilts made for her daughters out of her mother's polyester dresses. I hesitated but saw what it meant to her. They turned out beautifully. I starched as I went. She cried as she stroked each block and told me what she remembered her Mom doing while wearing that dress. She sent me the sweetest thank you note that year after Christmas, telling me everyone cried when the quilts were presented to her girls. Memories mean so much and the fabric content was not an issue (lots of spray starch)

Elizabeth said...

Perfect advice in my opinion. I have a whole bag of my father's shirts and jeans that will be going into several quilts. They aren't all cotton, some are nearly thread-bare, but with a little stabilization, they will all go in. The comfort of being wrapped in those familiar fabrics, some of which Dad wore for 40 years, will be a joy! Bravo!

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chris said...

Amen to everything you said!

Old quilter said...

A couple of the most interesting quilts I've ever seen are done in poly double knits from the 60's, made crazy patch style and tied. Memories from the family's grandma, and therefore treasured. Sewn on foundations, weigh a ton, and loved !

GinaG said...

Sew it! My favorite quilt, not even quilted yet, is pieced from my Dad's shirts. He passed away 3 1/2 years ago. My mom (who loves to hand quilt, but hates to sew) made 4 king size quilts for my brothers and I. Those quilts are priceless beyond measure. :)

Michelle said...

Polyester does smell funky when you iron it. There was an odd smell in the house this afternoon -- turned out my teenage daughter was upcycling one of my vintage sheets into a skirt. With permission, but I didn't realize she was doing it right then.

Didn't the shirt get ironed while they were still shirts? Or was that just the house I grew up in?

Sometimes I have a feeling that the quilters issuing the dire warnings (and knitters -- ask them about acrylic and you'll get similar dire warnings) have ever worked with the stuff.

Jane B said...

Its all about the memories not the type of fabric. Years ago my mother made a quilt for me out of left over scraps of many different types of fabrics she saved from all the shorts, dresses, skirts she sewn for me when I was a little girl. I did not know she kept those scraps. It was an amazing and wonderful gift. I am so glad she took the time to make that special quilt!

Tantie said...

Who asked the quilt police for their opinion? Memories are what is important and in this case the shirts evoke (not sure that's the correct word) the memories. I wasn't fast enough to get Dad's shirts but I did snag all his ties, about 200 of them. The idea was to make myself a quilt but I have since thought I should share (still debating) so may make door wreaths instead for his grandchildren, my sister and myself.
Linda

Marilyn said...

I would have said go ahead as well. I recently made a quilt for my sister and one for me from my mother's clothes. None of them were cotton except one of the slacks. Some fabric was knitted and some that really slippery poly dress blouses. Even some of the most quilt police type friends loved them both. They both turned out well and I even entered one in a show. It is the memories that count the most. Actually both worked out really well.

Evie H said...

Touche! I am now finishing up a ninth memory quilt made from the remnants my late mother left from her sewing projects. The fabrics are of all content -- cotton, blends, poly, sateen, etc. some tightly woven, others not so much. But as mom called them, the material all "play" well together (meaning they launder as one) and the recipients love each quilt. They may not last a hundred years, but my quilts aren't meant to. I hope your inquirer makes that quilt for her friend. It will be priceless!

Judy said...

I have made three memory quilts from childrens out grown clothing which consisted of every from pj knits, shirts, jeans, baby bibs, lacy dresdes etc. I am proud of all three of them and they are the most fun quilts I ever made. They even included receiving blankets sewn togethher for the back of two of them

E Michelin said...

I agree. Sew the quilt and encourage her to make a journal about memories associated with the different shirts. I surprised my DH with a quilt made from a variety of fabrics and I discussed each patch with him. Was he ever so pleased that I included fabric from the last dress his mother was working on, my first maternity blouse, our first bedroom curtain, his dad;s old pants and some fabrics from our son's clothing.
I tied it and used a blanket we had been given as a wedding present as batting and backed it with a flannelette sheet.
If I had bought new fabrics, he would not have loved it and talked about it as much.

Anonymous said...

She asked the wrong question , but you gave her the right answer.Most of the quilts will never make it in to a show, and some will even be made from cheap (!!) cotton, but that does not mean we should stop making things we love for people we care about. Thank you for your "real" answer

wanda_fabric@hotmail.com said...

My Dad passed away last year and I also had some shirts and sweaters belong to him.They were all different materials plus I didn't have enough to make a quilt.I debated for awhile what I would do with them.Then one day I thought of pillows !!! I bought a pillow form 16 x 16 and put it on a shirt to see what way I wanted to make them.It was easy, square up the bottom and sew across. Centre the pillow with the front buttons and square up the sides and across the top.If there is a pocket you can also centre the pillow to keep the pocket if you wish.The botton front makes a nice closure for the pillows.Now I have enough pillows to give to all my Dads nieces and all 6 daughters !!! So nice that they will all have a little piece of Dad.

Kim McKee said...

Lovely post with sweet thoughts. I share your convictions to the letter and am glad you put it so well. Preach it, Sister!

queenopearls said...

::: tears in my eyes ::: Absolutely make the quilt with the shirts! :-D I wish I had such a quilt.... even it was made with the lime green polyester suit my dad used to wear. (Imagine a 6'6" man wearing a lime green suit and cowboy boots). He had his own sense of style. I'd gladly snuggle in a quilt of his suits, shirts... whatever. Thanks Bonnie and thanks to your friend for making this for her friend!!!
~ Christina in Cleveland

Anonymous said...

Please make the quilt your friend will love you for it.

marcy said...

What happened to Oscar??

Judymc said...

Definitely!! Sew it!! I think the polyester fabric would be great strip pieced--just flip & sew.

Always In Stitches said...

Kiddo's to you. I have taught many a class and spoke with lots of quilters who are afraid to step outside the box. My answer is and always will be...are you happy with it? Does it make you happy? This is what quilting is about. Making memories, for yourself, your friends, your family and if they want a quilt made out of the lining of an old suitcase so be it. This quilt will be cherished forever. I quilted a quilt for a customer made out of her grandpa's ties. As I was quilting it I thought of who this person was. What did he do? So the quilt became special to me as well.

Ellen L said...

Thank you for sharing this touching story. I love that you told her " to just sew it"!

Linda B in TX aka MI said...

thankyou for your comment, Bonnie.
Oh how true that quilts big and small can be made from just about any fabric. Art quilts have proved that.

Susie Jensen said...

Bonnie,
Once again you are right on. I have some of my brother-in-laws shirts and am planning on making wall hangings for his kids out of them. I am mixing them with other fabrics for Christmas wallhangings. There are some things more important than fabric content. Love and memories are what counts.

Jean C. said...

Soooo right! A quilt is a magical thing...it can take you to the moon and back, down the river with the crocodiles snapping at your toes, it can be a tent, or hold a picnic. So many things made from material... it doesn't matter what it's made out of, it's the memories you make or have made from the very threads of the fabric. I once made a quilt (my very first)as a joke for my relatively new husband out of his old striped football socks. He laughed and laughed! And later down the road, that very silly very lumpy quilt was what our little kitty had her batch of kittens on. Quilts hold your heart, your tears and your loved ones... we all know that they can hold your memories til the cup runnith over. There is a quilt in our back yard right now 5 feet below the snow and grass and dirt holding our beloved Jamie the dog. We are here reading this blog and writing our comments because they have meaning to so many of us. And because so many mean so much to us. Good Luck with the Quilt. God Bless you for being such a wonderful friend!
Jean C. 49384689

Jean C. said...

oops apparently while on my soapbox the numbers I was to write to prove I wasn't a robot... went thru on my comments area. lol... such is life!
Jean C.

Linda R quilt nut said...

Last summer I had the privilege of helping my friend, Kathy, make memory quilts for each of her four grown children. Her husband passed away suddenly at age 49 in 1998. Kathy had kept some of Mike's clothes in totes all that time, and asked me to help. I really did none of the sewing, just told her how to make it (no pattern). Kathy was able to follow directions very well (she had some sewing experience) and she did a wonderful job. Each quilt contains something special that was very meaningful to that child. We put in flannel pockets and cuffs from treasured flannel shirts, his embroidered name Mike off his work jackets (he had four), his red work bandana (which we used as trim on each quilt), MN Twins hankies from the World Series, etc. Their youngest son was named John Wayne, so there were John Wayne t-shirts on his quilt, and so it went. Her children were absolutely thrilled with this memory of their father and couldn't believe Kathy had made them. I felt very honored to be a part of it. What a keepsake and wonderful memories for her children.

RosieGma said...

Oh Bonnie, that was some email. I hope that the quilt gets made, not only will it benefit the person receiving the quilt, when they cover themselves in that quilt it with feel like the arms of their loved ones around them. Also, the quilter will get to know the wearer of all those shirts. While cutting, ironing, sewing and quilting they will begin to ask, I wonder what he was doing when he wore this shirt, or who he spent time with, what they talked about. I have made several memory quilts for parents who have suffered the loss of a newborn. To have a quilt made from the clothes they child would have worn, and to know that a similar quilt was made to enfold their child in love, and remember their hopes and dreams for their child. It has always been a comfort for me to make this kind of special gift. Thank you for your quips....

HollyCraft Originals said...

I still have a quilt my grandma made me out of all sorts of fabrics...mostly polyester...it is still in great shape and i used it every night when i was growing up...pretty much until i got too tall for it and then some! It was my favorite blanket! :)

Kucki68 said...

I am pretty sure we would be missing all of the graphically wonderful Gee Bend quilts, if there was a quilt police, so go for it. Just make sure to
consider how it will behave, applique with poly might not be a good idea as it does not hold a crease well.

Amanda said...

Well said Bonnie, and lovely to read all the positive responses from everyone. My Nanna made me a little quilt for my dolls bassinet and it not cotton. I cannot bring myself to throw it away, now that my girls have finished with it, some 40 years later it is only just wearing thin and I can see the wadding inside is a bit of old blanket. Love it!
How long do these things have to last anyway?!! Surely only as long as there is someone to love them?

Hanne said...

Thank you again and again for encouraging each and everyone to sew with their heart involved, and pay no attention to those who thinks differently :-)

A memory quilt in polyester is as valuable as any other quilt :-)

You inspire me a lot!

Jo said...

QUILT IT, QUILT IT, QUILT IT.
It's all about the memories not about the best fabric.
I made a memory quilt with a crochet blanket, that I had made my husbands grandma, as the backing. Yes it was hard but it is so very treasured.
Those memories mean so much more.

Anonymous said...

That's what quilts were originally made from, scraps from garments, curtains, feed sacks, anything! My most precious possessions are my grandmothers old quilts, made by her neighbor using scraps grandmother saved through the years. They would never win any award but the patterns and the handwork is beautiful! Much nicer than some that you see today. Plus they have been used and loved for years and still holding together.

Coloradolady said...

this could not have come at a better time. I too am in the middle of making four quilts out of knit fabrics, and poly fabrics. Only about two shirts were actually cotton fabrics and I have struggled with this and worried it would not work. I finally found a doable pattern that I thought I could make that represented the mom who owned the clothing. I was wondering about the quilting part of it, but feel encouraged to keep working to finish these and all will be well.

Bonnie....it was a clear message for me, as I have worried about this for a while. Thank you for posting this, and giving me the push I much needed to keep working and getting this project finished!

Debbie DeBaeremaeker said...

I just made a quilt for a friend using her daddies shirts.

the one was very stinky.
but it was a great quilt and she loved it!

I used foundation piecing for the blocks because of all the different fabrics.

http://debaeremaeker.blogspot.com/2013/12/jessicas-quilt.html

Lin Block said...

I am still sorry that it didn't occur to me to save my daddy's shirts for a quilt- instead I donated them. What a blessing it would be to have now. I didn't save my mother's tops and dresses either because they were all so nice I wasn't thinking of cutting them up- just someone getting to use them. But what a joy it would be to see those colors and fabrics again. I would cretainly do it now if I had a chance.

Louise SS said...

Amen!!! Thank you for encouraging(spelling?) memory quilts!

infoladyone said...

I have a quilt made from all of my Granny's 1970's polyester pantsuits, and wouldn't trade it for the world!

Cherri Anderson said...

My youngest sister passed two years ago and she was a heavy smoker.

My niece,a very faithful loving daughter for many years,cared for her mother through a lifetime of drug abuse and destruction of her body because of it.

The last three years of her life was spent nearly bed ridden and clothed in flannel and fleece pj's.

I have acquired those pj's for the purpose of making a memory quilt for my niece but the cigarette smell was very overpowering. I began washing several times then washed with soda in the the water and finally used vinegar.

My son who is extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke told me that he could not smell the cigarette smoke.

I am now looking for a pattern that will allow me to mix the flannel and the fleece and be a joy to look at. Any suggestions would be awesome.

Cherri, in Davenport, WA

Granny Lyn said...

Oh, Bonnie, as usual, your heart is absolutely right! I have many poly quilts, made by other quilters and by me, but please email her back and remind her to use POLYESTER THREAD not our usual cotton. Poly thread has a stretch to it like the poly fabrics, cotton will break easier when the quilt is used and washed. I use Guitterman threads when I sew with poly fabrics.
I'm so glad you're a "from the heart" quilter, and not worried about the quilt police knocking down you sewing room door. Lyn in Michigan

stitchinggrandma said...

I am encouraged now to open up a box that was sent to me and start working on a quilt for my friend. She mailed me the shirts just after Thanksgiving, and I told her I would work on it after the first of the year. So, whatever I find, it will be cut up and made into something my friend will hopefully love!

Dar said...

You could not have said it better. I have made severl quilts from poly/cotton shirts and they wear very well. In fact, they dry more quickly and are lighter in weight, but if not mistreated should last as long as 100% cotton content. I'm using a quilt that was made for me in 1969 and it gets washed more frequently than most -- it is still in one piece and very little wear shows. In fact, the parts that look a bit worn are the cotton backing and binding.

Lynn Czar said...

Bonnie, you are so right. These quilts will never win awards; but to those for whom they were made are priceless.

Lynn Czar said...

Bonnie, you are so right. These quilts will never win awards; but to those for whom they were made are priceless.

Tiff W in TX said...

I've made quite a few memory quilts and love to see the reactions of the people. Nothing can come close to that...not even a prize winning quilt.

Sharon said...

I learned to quilt from my grandmother….she would use ANY fabric she could get her hands on, no matter the fabric content. If she thought it was pretty she used it. I recall a block or two that she made with pieces of one of those dishtowel calendars that used to hang in her kitchen.
If the fabric can be used to make clothing, it can certainly be used to make a quilt.
Ignore the busy body quilt police. Life is too short to let them rain on our parade!

lefuntz said...

Look into quilting history and this is how quilts were made. Cut up pieces of fabric from old clothes. And they can even be made into works of art. Check out Luke Haynes. He buys clothing in bulk from Goodwill etc, His quilts are fabulous and they are not made from expensive cotton from the local quilt shop. This quilt will be beautiful for the memories it holds, not the fabric used.You are right on!

Peg Botham said...

I agree 100% if I had been quilting when my Dad past I would have loved to do the same thing, cotton or polyester.
I have an antique quilt that I bought from a seller that is made from fabric from the whole family during the 30's. It isn't perfect, the seams don't match in places but do I care, heck no I love it because it meant so much to someone years ago.

Peg x

Sewing Sue said...

Lost a cousin to colon cancer about two years ago... quilts and other things made from her clothes keep her near to her family and we wouldn't trade them for all the quilt show quilts in the universe. You usually speak from your heart, and on both this issue and an interview I think that's the best thing to do. You rock!

Deb Lindley said...

Sew it, quilt it, LOVE IT...Amen! I call these types of quilts, "Hug 'N Lug" quilts and the name describes them perfectly.

Beautiful reply, Bonnie...Thank YOU!
~Deb

Anonymous said...

I go one step farther when using an old shirt. I remove the label and sew it on the block. Gives it a very different and unusual look, a sort of cabin or rustic feel.