Memorial Quilts: Getting Started

In 2015, I will be working with The Colors of Healing program at Children's Hospital Colorado. It is a bereavement program for parents who have experienced the loss of a child. I have a personal connection with this group as my oldest daughter died unexpectedly in 2005, she was 6 years old. I have found The Colors of Healing to be a good support program. I look forward to being able to share my skills in sewing as an aid in the process of healing heavy hearts.

Sew You Studio | Memorial Quilts: Getting Started

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Below are some simple suggestions for getting prepared to make a quilt block* for a memorial quilt. These suggestions are for the families who will be participating in the quilting workshop day at Children's Hospital but are helpful for anyone interested in making a memorial quilt.

*A quilt block is made when pieces of fabric are sewn together to make a square/rectangular shape. The quilt block can be used as is for a simple project or you can make multiple blocks that will make a quilt when sewn together.

We will begin on a small scale by making a decorative throw pillow cover or a wall hanging. By beginning with a small project, I believe the process will seem more approachable especially if your heart is hesitant or you think your sewing skills are limited. After making your first block, you will have a better understanding of how to expand the process to make a quilt, if you desire. 

Let's get started. . . 

MATERIALS For the Memorial Quilt Workshop, you will need fabric (see below). We will provide other materials which include: thread, sewing machines, sewing tools, cotton or wool batting, cotton fabric for the back of the quilt block, interfacing, and a pillow form. If you have your own, feel free to bring them along!

FABRIC To begin, find some clothes, blankets, or fabric items that you would like to use. Think about why that piece is meaningful or important to you and also how you can use it with other fabrics to create a unique design. I suggest you consider your fabric choices so that they tell a story. If you find a fabric that you think may by difficult to work with, bring it along! We will do our best to make it work.

A personal example is choosing the Barney t-shirt my daughter liked to wear and then matching other pieces of her clothing/blankets with the color purple to accent the t-shirt. 

DESIGN I will be teaching you the basics of constructing a quilt block and will review some basic designs. If you have an idea in your mind about how you might want to layout the fabric items that you select, draw it out! If there is a story behind your choices, write it out! Creating your ideas and dreams on paper is a good way to begin the memorial quilt process. You may stick with your design or you may change your mind. Either way, it can be helpful so that your quilt block is special and unique. If you do not have any design ideas, don't worry! We will be happy to guide you along! I am certain you will find inspiration by looking through your child's items. 

CUTTING After you decide on a design plan, you will be ready to cut your fabric. You may feel very emotional about cutting the clothes and blankets that belonged to your child, it's natural. This may be a difficult process but it may also be a very freeing process. Here is a link to a piece written specifically for the emotional side of making a memorial quilt: Emotional Considerations for Memorial Quilting.

You want to make the most of the fabric you have. Most often you will want to cut clothing pieces at the seams but sometimes you will keep the seams intact. It will all depend on the design of your quilt block and how much fabric you need. The most important thing to remember is to cut the fabric bigger than you need so that you have enough for your quilt block design.  If the clothing item has a special character or pocket or section that is important for you to use, cut at least one inch around that specific area. We will be guiding you through the process of cutting at our workshop day. There is no need to pre-cut your clothing/blanket/fabric selections.

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Those are some basic suggestions to consider before getting started on creating a memorial quilt. At the Memorial Quilting Workshop Day, we will be guiding you through the process of preparing your fabric selections for a quilt block. Please come to the workshop with your special clothing/blanket/fabric items. We will also teach you basic sewing skills so that you can put your quilt block design together. Some parents will only get as far as the design process and some may actually make a pillow/wall hanging! The pace will be different for everyone but my hope is that you will find some peace and healing as you create a memorial quilt.