A Trio of Amazing Memory Quilts

Just a quick FYI for quilters in southeastern Wisconsin, Ben Franklin Crafts in Oconomowoc is celebrating it’s 45th Anniversary this week. They have a number of exciting things planned and I’ll be there demonstrating some of the techniques from my books. For all the information please go to their website: https://benfranklincraftswi.com/anniversary/


And now on to my topic of the week:

Earlier this year I taught for the Northwest Suburban Quilt Guild of Chicago and met a very talented member named Joyce Drenth. During show and tell Joyce shared quilts she was making for her granddaughters. I was blown away and asked if I could share the quilts and their stories in a blog post. Recently I received this note from Joyce:

“Hi, Chris, I very much enjoyed your wonderful presentation, “Quilt Tales”, to our guild. The journey through quilting was greatly enjoyed by all. After I shared my three quilts made for my three granddaughters, you asked me to email you with my story shared that evening. Now that my last little darling received her quilt, I can let ‘the cat out of the bag’ and share the images of the quilts.”

I’m sure you’re going to enjoy the quilts and their stories:

“As a 2015 Christmas present for my 5 grandchildren, I purchased some Color Me fabric, cut it into fat quarters and backed each with freezer paper for stability. I gave each of my son’s three dancing girls (ages 8, 6 and 3) a piece of the ballerina fabric and one package of fabric markers to use to color their dancers. Included in the present was a coupon for “Sewing with Grandma”. I had already started the tradition of working with the girls around Thanksgiving time to sew Christmas presents for their Mommy, Daddy, Aunt, Grandma and Godparents. We enjoy the time together learning all about creativity, sewing, safety, pride and enjoyment in giving hand-made projects to loved-ones.

Good News – Bad News!

Good News! They completed coloring their fabrics within 6 months.

Madison’s quilt back

Maia’s quilt back

Bad news! I was in the midst of packing up our home to move. So, the sewing time with grandma was put on hold temporarily.

Bad news! I had not decided on a worthy project to utilize the fabric.

Good News! My daughter-in-law had a terrific idea. She saved different pieces of clothing the girls wore throughout their early years and asked me if I might be willing and able to create a small Memory Quilt for the girls. Her wishes included the use of the clothing in the shapes of hearts. While viewing Pinterest, she saw some samples she admired, so off to the fabric store we went so that she could select the background materials she envisioned for the quilts. Chevrons in gray and white tones are prevalent among the girls’ quilts, but each was slightly different from the other sisters.

Great News ! I decided to buy some backing fabric and have the girls border their colored fabric with enough fabric to make the backs of ‘their’ Memory Quilt! So, this past February, I scheduled time to complete this task.

BAD News! My sewing machine decided that the tension setting would not respond to my ‘demands’. The April birthday quilt swirls were being outlined in 12-weight thread when my machine’s electronics decided I was not in charge. To compound this, the store to which I took my machine informed me that it would be one month before they would get it back to me!

Good News! My daughter inherited my loving mother-in-law’s rarely-used Featherweight (newly serviced) machine that she was very willing to allow me to borrow. I took it to my son’s house and all the girls got to sew on this wonderfully-memorable machine. The featherweight’s diminutive size and totally different capacity for stitching compared to my computerized machine was a true sharing moment for me as I explained only forward and reverse stitching that I grew up with in my sewing journey. A history lesson in the making!

Since all my five grandchildren are very familiar with my presents of gifting appropriately-holiday- themed pillowcases, the girls were speculating that their framed artwork would be turned into future pillowcases for their beds – but they were very surprised!

Good News Again! Each of the girls has a birthday in spring months: March, April and May. When the March birthday came, there was an abundance of smiles and memories to share. Mommy and Daddy especially remembered moments in time when the piece of clothing was worn, the location, time and age of the daughter. Since each of the girls’ clothing included a pocket or two, I decided that I would incorporate them in the ‘Memory’ theme. I asked Mommy and Daddy to write a special little ‘memory’ note to tie up into a scroll and tuck it into a pocket. I did see a few tears well up in the parents’ eyes as they were read! Such a special family moment!

Madison’s quilt front

Maia’s quilt front

Emma’s quilt front

Even though I wrote a label to each of the girls, I also ordered Story Patches labels by Rob Appell that were printed with a black sewing machine. I wanted the memory of sewing on the Featherweight to be recorded on the back of the quilt for them forever. In the QR code, I included my personal message that could be scanned for the girls to see and remember our time together through the years. Pictures I took during the sewing times reflected the projects made and the ages of the girls when the gifts were created. I also recorded a video for each granddaughter where I remembered our times together creating the projects shown in the pictures.

For the middle child, I included background fabrics from both older and younger siblings within her quilt. Who knew such a simple little fabric purchase and gift of “Sewing with Grandma” would result in a wonderfully-memorable moment in time! Serendipity!

My Label Quote:

Quilts are a journal,

Bits and pieces of fabric…

Various shapes and sizes…

With colors that come to life.

Joined together, they tell a story.

I hope this captures the quilt journey for each girl. Thank you for expressing an interest in these loving presents. I also tried to capture the essence of their quilts in their handmade cards. I always create a card for the birthdays, capturing their theme of the year. This year it was ‘A Time to Remember’.

Dear Joyce, thank you so much for sharing these wonderful memory quilts with us!


And one more thing  🙂 !

Last week I shared a photograph of a quilt made by Maria that contained barn and covered bridge blocks. This past week Cari emailed me with a photo of a quilt she made with some of those same blocks.

Cari wrote:

“After looking at your article on spacing those barn photos I thought I would send you a landscape I made this spring using three barns from that same panel. My friend has a wall of barns and wanted some texture among them and asked if I could make her a quilt. She picked out the three she wanted and I put them on a stripped background, added trees,,grass, etc. I really had fun with this new venture”.

A beautiful setting for those blocks. Great job Cari!

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