SYTYC Week 3: In Loving Memory Quilt

7:00 AM

Last May my father-in-law died suddenly and without warning. He was only 64 and it’s been a hard year for my husband’s family to say the least.  
This week the challenge was LOVE, so I thought about a few different ideas of something that represented a true form of love, and in this case the love within a family.
 I made a quilt for my mother in law my father-in-law's shirts as a reminder of Loy--her husband, my husband’s father, and my kid’s grandpa.

 My mother-in-law recently gave my husband all of his dad’s shirts. My father in law was really specific in his shirts—they had to have collars, and chest pockets that snapped so his cell phone wouldn't fall out when he’d work. To me, his western style snap pocket shirts were his trademark, and so much a part of my memories of him. So I created a quilt using all of his shirts.


I designed the shirts to look woven together for a few reasons.
 Aesthetically, I liked the idea of having a visible identifiable way to see the fabric was a complete shirt, leaving the chest button pockets in tact and cutting around them. Symbolically I loved the idea of the weave pattern representing the close knit love of our family.  I planned all the blocks to have directions with the stripes of the shirts.  So vertical rows have vertical stripes, where the rows have horizontal stripes, to further reinforce the visual of a continuous ribbon weaving under and over each other.


 The actual sewing of the quilt top was quite simple, as it was all block sewing, just paying attention to the pattern of the shirts weaving together against the white background squares. 

I don't have quilting frames, so I tied the quilt with it just on my lap.  I first sewed all three layers together by basting it around the edges.  Then I worked row by row from one side of the quilt to the other,  using gray yarn to tie it.  The back of the quilt is navy blue and  I made my own white binding.
I also incorporated some free hand sewing on my machine to sew a dedication block, and my signature in the border.

I did blur out our last name for privacy, that's not how the actual quilt looks!


It was a really hard project to work on emotionally.  Each time I'd open my bag of squares, his shirts still smelled like him and you can imagine the wave of emotion that comes.  Also just the memories that you have as you're sewing a fabric so familiar and associated with specific events of someone close to you.
I just miss him.  Our whole family does, but I'm glad his clothing was able to become something we can still use and enjoy. 

Quilts are items of comfort, and so this one has been especially comforting just having it in our home and we've been using it more than we should as it is a gift for my mother in law. 
 I guess we're breaking it in for her.


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24 comments

  1. That was a beautiful post, and an amazing quilt! I'm sure your whole family is so grateful to have this lovely creation to remember him by.

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  2. Wonderful way to honor his memory-and a great and useful gift, as well.

    Love how you incorporated the pockets!

    I'm sure she will love it!

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  3. Awesome.

    When she cries after seeing it, take that as a huge compliment.

    This is amazing.

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  4. Jessica this is amazing. What a wonderful way to put together such sweet memories of him that will last such a long time. This quilt will get great use out of it for years to come. Sending hugs to your family.

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  5. it's so awesome! i love love love love it! you rock!

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  6. What a beautiful project. Thanks for sharing the story behind it. This project is such a reflection of love, I love how you made it personal for your family this week.

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  7. That's a great way to use his shirts! I'm actually fighting back the tears as I can fully relate. We just had to say good-bye to my grandma a month ago, so the memories are fresh.
    My uncle is also particular about his shirts and would probably wear the same ones as your father-in-law! :)

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  8. The quilt is a lovely tribute. I think breaking it in for your mother-in-law is a great idea. It must bring comfort and that is what it is intended for. Wonderful job Jessica!

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  10. So sorry to hear about your FIL. My Dad died very unexpectedly also. I took his pajamas & made a quilt to cover Mom's bed. 9 patch blocks with some of his favorite Bible verses embroidered in the center patch. She loved it and my 5 siblings each think it should be handed down to them! For some of us, there is great healing in sewing.

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  11. I love the fact that you were able to take something not usable anymore but something you identified with your father-in-law and give it a new meaning. I am sure your mother-in-law will be so overwhelmed by your gift and the thought behind it will be a cherished family memento.

    I loved your post, great work!

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  12. The weaving pattern you did is awesome. So so great! And I love the western snap pockets too. We have used the quilt I made from my FIL's shirts a lot. More than any other thing I have ever made. Your MIL will always treasure this. And I bet she sheds more than a few tears as she snuggles up with something that smells so familiar. What a great gift, the best kind ever.

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  13. Oh Jessica it's beautiful. What a lovely keepsake to be treasured and snuggled.

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  14. Jessica this is such a beautiful memory of Loy. I'm sure your mother in law has visions of him wearing each of these shirts! It is a wonderful memory. I will have to remember this.
    :) Susan

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  15. How nice of you to make such a special quilt for your MIL. After my MIL passed away (also unexpectedly) I used her favorite bath robes to make pillows for my Sister in laws. On the pillows I embroidered a line from a poem that one of them read at her funeral. The pillows are very meaningful to them as I'm sure the quilt will be to your MIL.
    I love the way that you left the pockets intact.

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  16. what a lovely quilt. I love how you chose to piece it and quilt it. So special.
    I had the privilege of putting together a quilt for a friend of mine when her mother passed. We also used old shirts as well. The quilt ended up being a gift for her father and he cherishes it so. That's what I love about making quilts.
    Thanks for sharing your quilt of love.

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  17. Great job. This is what quilting is all about..spreading joy and remembering.

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  18. Aw... I wish I knew how to make decent quilts. My grandpa died in September. My grandma just donated his clothes, but I would've made a quilt if I could and if I saw something like this!

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  19. This is beautiful! A close friend of the family died on Valentine's Day. I'd love to do this project for thier family. Can you tell me how big this is and how many shirts you used?? I just love this, the pattern the shirts and the love that went into it!

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  20. What a beautiful project, consider me inspired! My husband's grandmother was killed in a car accident in Nov and it was a tremendous blow to our family. We all live very close to each other and are an extremely tight knit group. She was the center of our family and being only in her 60's and very healthy we all thought we had many years left with her. When my husband's grandfather feels ready I'm going to ask if I can make a quilt out of her clothes for him.

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  21. What an awesome quilt Jessica! So special...I'm sure your MIL must be so happy! Congrats on your 2nd place finish for PRP too. You did awesome every week!

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  22. This brought tears to my eyes, what a perfect way to remember a special person. Much love xxx

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  23. My father-in-law passed away just over 2 years ago from cancer. He was only 58. Like you I made a quilt from his shirts. Actually I made three. Every square reminded me of this amazing, loving man. The shirts still smelled like him and I think I cried almost the whole time. We will always miss him, but making those quilts was healing.
    Your quilt is beautiful. Thank you for the post.

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