Isabella's Whimsy

handmade with love

Making Memory Quilts

on June 2, 2015

Memory quilts serve a special purpose.  They not only reflect important aspects of a person’s life, but they also help in transitioning to a loss, or maybe a better way to say it would be, they help establish a different type of connection to a person.

Three years ago our family lost my brother-in-law.  We all grieved, but my sister and I were concerned for their great-grandchildren; we wanted them to be able to recall their Papa Jack and have lots of stories to tell about him.  So we started talking about making memory quilts for them.  His life was full of interesting activities, so the planning process began.

The first thing I did was ask my sister for a piece of clothing for each quilt.  Other memory quilts I made had each focused on a special shirt. But these memory quilts couldn’t be limited to just one idea, because my brother-in-law’s life was too full.

The next thing I did was brainstorm a list of activities and interests to include in the quilt.  Because I am not a sequential thinker, after I had a few ideas, I started making some blocks which led me to the decisions that

  • the blocks would not all be the same size
  • that some blocks would be appliqued with my own designs
  • some would be pieced
  • each quilt would have a design from a t-shirt included
  • the main colorway would be red, white and blue, but other colors would play a part as well, for example, his vintage two-tone green pick-up truck must be included (his great-granddaughter already has her bid in for it, and she isn’t even a teenager yet!).

Then life got busy and I put the ideas aside, but kept them percolating in the back of my mind.  Here are the beginning blocks.

Beginning Blocks Jack

A couple of days ago I realized I was ready to move ahead and make these quilty dreams into reality.  So, here is what I did,

  • pulled out the blocks I had made and the fabrics I kept stashing away as I had come across them
  • made a fresh list of activities to be reflected in blocks
  • determined that throw-size quilts would be the size, about 45″X65″
  • drew a preliminary grid that I could use to plan the layout
  • decided I would need about 18-20 medium to large blocks to represent the ideas and to make a full quilt design
  • decided each of the quilts will have matching blocks regarding size and design, but will use different colors, or slightly different appliques in order to remain unique
  • decided to rotate the layout grid of one quilt so the quilts will not be identical, but will be efficient from a sewing perspective
  • measured the 4 blocks I had already made for each quilt
  • determined some more block designs; along with my applique designs I will be using pieced blocks from traditional and modern patterns
  • requested additional information from family members that I will use in the block designs
  • sat down and made two more blocks, because now I have a list of blocks to make

List of blocks to makeTwo new blocks


As I was making those two new blocks today, I thought I would write about the process and share a few photos as I go. Maybe someone else will want to make a memory quilt and can benefit from my learning experience.

My goal is to have both quilt tops finished before June 30th, so I can take them when I fly out to see my sister and those kids!



One response to “Making Memory Quilts

  1. What a beautiful way to keep his memory close!
    Thank you for sharing with Fiber Tuesdays!

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