When I finally had to put my mother into a nursing home, it was the saddest day of my life. It didn’t matter that the doctors told me it was the best thing for her. All I felt was that I was abandoning her. I didn’t want to do that to the woman I loved more than my own life.
Still, eventually I was convinced that my home was too dangerous a place for her to continue to reside. Also, her health was fragile at best. It seemed to change on a daily basis and I couldn’t make doctor’s appointments fast enough to keep her on an even course.
When that fateful day came, I wanted to leave her with something that said “remember you are loved.” I struggled with the perfect gift that could deliver such a message.
I tried to think of the things that I held closest to my heart. One of those was the quilt my great grandmother made especially for me. It kept me warm on cold winter nights and it always made me feel like I was wrapped inside her love.
While I thought a quilt was a great idea, I had no idea how to make one myself. So I had to come up with something that I could do that would have the same effect. I finally decided upon a memory quilt.
I purchased a quilt at Wal-Mart in all of my mother’s favorite colors. I made sure to choose one that had large blocks of white space because I intended to use those to personalize the quilt specifically for mom.
Next, I went through every photograph I could find of our family and settled on the best of the best. I chose the number of photos that matched the number of white blocks on the quilt. I printed each photo out on transfer fabric made to go through a standard printer.
Finally, I purchased trim, beads, and ribbon flowers for embellishment. These were used to accent the photographs once they had been ironed onto the quilt.
The finished piece was beautiful. It brought tears to my mother’s eyes; something that was hard to do. She lovingly placed on her hospital bed and has used it every day since.
Memory quilts are easy to make. To begin you will need these items:
Quilt (any size will do);
Iron-on printer transfer fabric;
A printer with both black and white and color cartridges;
A desktop publishing program;
Needle and thread (colors that match the quilt);
Trim (ribbon, braid, lace, etc.);
Embellishment (e.g., pearls, jewelry findings, crystals, ribbon flowers, etc.);
Permanent fabric glue; and
Follow these easy steps to put your quilt together:
Step 1: Choose a quilt. If you are talented, you can make your own. If not, you can purchase one at most major or discount department stores. They begin around $29.99. Be sure to choose one that has blocks of space into which your photographs will fit.
Step 2. Purchase the other supplies needed. Most can be found at any arts and crafts store. Make certain the iron-on transfer fabric is colorfast and the fabric glue can be used on multi-media (e.g., fabric, ribbon, beads, etc.). Also be sure that everything chosen is machine washable.
Choose trims and embellishments that compliment or contrast as desired. Make certain you have thread to match each trim and embellishment.
Step 3. Choose the photographs for your quilt. Include pictures of the person for whom the quilt is being made as well as their family members, friends, colleagues and other loves ones.
Narrow the choices down to the number of blank blocks on your quilt. Don’t try to squeeze too much into the piece or it will look scattered and busy.
Step 4. Determine the size for each photograph. This will depend somewhat on the size of the quilt blocks and somewhat on the trim you intend to use for each photo.
Don’t make all of the photos the same size. Varying the size adds more interest to the piece and gives you more liberty to get creative with the trim.
Step 5. Transfer the chosen photos to the transfer fabric using a desktop publishing program or something like PhotoShop. These programs allow you to manipulate the photo with regard to size, color, contrast, etc. That could be important if you are using any older photographs that need to be partially restored.
Follow the instructions provided with the brand of transfer fabric chosen. Most of them work the same way but it is best to be safe rather than sorry. There could be some printer restrictions on certain brands.
Step 6. Cut out the transferred photos. Before ironing them onto the quilt, mock up your completed look with trim and embellishment. That will allow you to cut your trim to fit the photos exactly.
Step 7. Iron the photos onto your quilt following the instructions provided with the transfer fabric. Make certain each photo is securely adhered to the quilt.
Step 8. Trim out your photos using ribbon, braid, lace or iron on transfers (for fabric). Be sure the edges of the photos are either covered with trim or are absolutely flat against the quilt in order to prevent rips and tears with use. If necessary, stitch around the edges with needle and thread for added support.
Step 9. Add embellishments to the photo using beading, sequins, ribbon flowers, etc. There are many heat transfer embellishment available today and these are ideal choices for this purpose.
Make sure embellishments are securely attached using heat transfer, permanent fabric glue or needle and thread. If these are not secure, they will loosen and come of the finished piece with normal wear and tear.
Step 10 (optional). If space allows, and if you want to, place quotes, favorite sayings, messages, names and photo descriptions, or whatever else you might want to add to each quilt block. This can be done by transfer fabric just as the photos were accomplished or you can embroider them on by hand.
Step 11. Scotch Guard each completed block. Follow the instructions provided on the Scotch Guard can.
Step 12. Spot clean the quilt if necessary before preparing it for presentation.
I can assure you this is gift that any loved one will hold dear for years to come. It combines the warmth of the quilt with the warmth of your sincerity in taking the time to design a one-of-a-kind piece just for them.