Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Granddad's Memory Quilts

I've seen several beautiful memory quilts lately on different blogs.  So when my Granddad passed away, after everyone had asked for things that were special to them, I asked to have the shirts that were left.

They'd been sitting in a bag in the corner of my bedroom for months, and I decided that they really should get made into quilts for Christmas.  (Sometime around October, I was congratulating myself that I wasn't really making many gifts, so it wouldn't be too crazy leading up to Christmas.  Like remember that Christmas 2 years ago when all three of our kids got a new quilt for Christmas?  Crazy.  Christmas would be nothing like that....and then I remembered these quilts and another one for my niece...and I ended up making 4 quilts as Christmas gifts.)

Anyway...when I started making the Sock Snowmen I figured I really should cut the shirts into squares before taking scraps for the snowmen scarves.  I didn't want to run short of fabric for the quilts.  While I loved making the quilts, I will say that cutting squares out from shirts is a pain...each one has to be individually cut.

I figured if I was going to make these I should hurry up and do it since this Christmas is when emotions would be most raw for my nana, mom, and uncle, and this would be when the quilts would be most appreciated.

I really hadn't paid all that much attention to the shirts that Granddad wore.  I knew he wore Western shirts but hadn't really noticed the color. Turns out that Granddad must have really liked to wear blue and maroon...or that Nana really liked to buy him blue and maroon shirts.  I'm not sure which of them did the choosing.  Probably they picked them out together.  Nearly all of his shirts were some shade of blue or maroon, or some combination of the two.  There were just two or three solid colored shirts that I left out because they didn't mesh well.

Whenever I could, I left pockets and other details from the shirts in tact, especially because the western cut of the shirts was a lot of fun.  I also didn't want the pattern to get too complicated, so I stuck to three sizes of squares.  10 inch squares, 10 by 5 1/2 inch rectangles, and 5 1/2 inch squares.

It turned out there were just enough squares to make three quilts.  I decided to try different things on each quilt.

Nana's Quilt
Nana's favorite color is blue, so I used the bluest squares on hers, although one of the fabrics had a bit more maroon to add a little spice.  When I look at this one, it makes me think of winter and ice.  (Maybe not the best vibe for a quilt...but it makes me think of winter and ice in a heartwarming way.)

For the accent panel on the back, I chose some Waterfront Park Flight by Violet Craft.  (Disclaimer: This post does contain links to one of my sponsor's, but I was not compensated in anyway for writing this post, and all fabric used was purchased by me.)  Back when Nana and Granddad lived in the country, she had well stocked bird feeders and they loved to watch all the different birds, so this is reminiscent of that.

Mom's Quilt
My mom's quilt ended up being the scrappiest and had fabrics from the most shirts in it.  I just moved the blocks around until they seemed balanced, and tried to make sure all the pockets were facing the same direction.

For the backing on hers, I chose Waterfront Park Bridgetown by Violet Craft as the main fabric with Waterfront Park Reflection by Violet Craft for the accent strip.  I first saw Violet Craft's Waterfront Park line when I attended the Northwest Modern Quilt Guild Meet-up last summer.  She's a designer from Portland, and having grown-up outside of Portland.  I loved her fabric line inspired by Portland's Waterfront Park and the bridges of Portland...but I really had no idea what I'd actually use the fabric for.  Typically, I save designer fabric for my quilt fronts and use something more plain, like Kona solids or store brands for my backs, but the Portland Bridges fabric was just too perfect to represent my mom and the colors were perfect.  My mom loves Oregon and Portland, and has even taught Oregon Literature classes.  , I'd been looking for an excuse to use some of her fabric.

(And I still have a few scraps to play with.  The more I see the Waterfront Park line, the more I like it.

Uncle Maury's Quilt
And last but not least, I made a quilt for my Uncle Maury.  The darker solid maroon fabric stood out so much against the others, that I thought an actual pattern would be better than the randomness of the other quilts.
The solid maroon actually came from 2 shirts, one that was plain and one that had eagles.  Granddad was in the Army and Uncle Maury served in the Coast Guard, so I thought the eagles were fitting for his quilt.

For the back of his quilt, I ended up using some flannel.  I went to the fabric store looking for regular quilting fabric for it, but when my sister Kendra and I saw these anchors on navy blue, the fabric pretty much just jumped into our cart.  The color was right and my Granddad and Uncle shared a love of the ocean, and boating.  Granddad was Harbor Manager for years on the central California Coast, and my mom and uncle grew up near the ocean.  The accent strip on this one was some extra from the backing on Nana's quilt.

I stuck to pretty simple quilting...just straight lines on each side of the seams.  I just used the edge of the presser foot as my guide.  I've realized I love the look of the double-off-the seam quilting lines.  I find myself using it in a lot of quilts.

Anyway, it was fun to think about Granddad while I was sewing them, and also to think about  how surprised my nana, mom, and uncle would be to get their quilts, since I'd done a pretty good job of keeping them a secret.  I'm happy with how they turned out.

And I really can't post about these quilts for giving a shout out to Becca and Kris of Quilt Sandwich Fabrics.  My sister Kendra and I stopped by their shop on Black Friday since we were in the area and they happened to be in the shop.  (They're an internet-only shop, but if you're in the Everett, WA area and know when you'll be stopping by, you can arrange a visit.  They've got some amazing fabric and beautiful quilts.)
I pretty much knew going in that I was going to get the Portland Bridges fabric, but of course a few other fun fabrics ended up going home with us.  They also saved the day on the binding fabric.  I mentioned that I hadn't figured out what I was going to do for the binding, and they pulled out the PERFECT binding fabric.  It was a brick red that really matched the shirts perfectly, because it had a different visual look from most solids.  Turns out it was Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton in Brick and the color comes from cross weaves of bright orange and bright purple.  It's amazing stuff...and was the perfect finishing touch.

They also really saved my bacon several times with these quilts, since I ran out of fabric twice.  (That's what I get for trying to be cheap and not buy extra...and not really planning them ahead very well.)  The second time I ran out was only about a week before Christmas when I needed more binding fabric and only had a few days left to get them in the mail.  Becca and Kris also saved the day when, after realizing I hadn't bought quite enough binding fabric, they filled my order the same day and sent it out priority mail right away.  I got the last quilt finished just in time to photograph, and get them in the mail.

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  1. I know what you mean about individually cutting pieces from shirts it is definitely slower than using yardage! I am making a shirt quilt atm... or should I say I have a shirt quilt UFO, but it is getting very close to the top of my to-do list LOL. The quilt and sock me turned out wonderful, well done :)

  2. What a lovely way to remember your grandpa!

  3. Beautiful photos. I LOVE my quilt! Thank you so much, Polly!!

  4. wow these are beautiful! made me tear up. i made a quilt for my great aunt (who has since passed) when she went into the nursing home using all of her handkerchiefs and aprons so she had a piece of home. thanks for sharing!

    Lindsay @ Wedding Rings to Teething Rings (stopped over from Inspire me Wednesday)

  5. I love these remembrance quilts, especially with the western pocket on the blocks. What a great way to remember him.

  6. These will be special keepsakes for a long time. I love the idea of using his shirts, with fabric that means something to the recipient on the back. My neighbor has a neat memory quilt that had Grandpa's jeans for the front, and his suits on back. Great work on these!

  7. Your memory quilts came out so nice Polly! I totally understand the trouble cutting up shirts can be, I cut up so many when I did the 4 memory quilts last year. The backings you chose all have such great connections, I love how you thought about it so carefully. I can totally see your mom, uncle, and Nana loving them for years to come.

  8. These are so beautiful and special. I have a stack of t-shirts from my uncle that I will be trying to quilt soon too.

  9. From beginning to end this was such a heartfelt story and i am sure your granddad was smiling down on you while you were sewing those beautiful quilts!!

  10. What a lovely and thoughtful Christmas gift. How nice that you were able to make enough quilts for those who were closest to your grandfather.

  11. They are truly treasures Polly! I love each one. They will be handed down as special quilts to remember Grandad for sure. When my father in-law died 3 years ago I was able to take all of his pants and jeans to make two denim quilts. He was an outdoorsman so both quilts have camo and quite a bit of khaki to go along with the blue jeans. You look at them (and just like these quilts you've put together) you really see my father in law... :)


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