Thursday, July 2, 2015

In Memory Of, #1 {a finished quilt}

As I have mentioned several times, I was commissioned in November to make two memory quilts by a local woman who lost both of her parents in 2012.  She found my blog through my Local Quilt Guild website and we started discussing:

...I am looking to hire someone to make two quilts for me.  They do not/will not necessarily be identical.  One is for me, one for my brother.  Our parents passed away six months from each other in 2012 and were known for their whimsical personalities and style.  I thought it would be fun to take the mix of fabrics from some of their signature wardrobes and have quilts made....Despite living in Vermont, they met on Cape Cod and lived life to the fullest.  They tended to be rather preppy and at the holidays could be seen in a lot of plaid...

She describes her parents as fun, whimsy, and prone to off-the-cuff style, often showing up in thrift store tux's or plaid pants and skirts.  We agreed on a pattern and I got to work sewing, deciding to start on the quilt for her brother first.  My design was based on Dots & Dashes by Bethany Fuller of Grace's Dowry Quilts (  I did not purchase a pattern.  I ended up using freezer paper as a foundation and sewing alternating strips of background fabric and clothing fabric to create the blocks.  What I ended up with I think accurately reflects both my customer's style and her parent's style.

The block were laid out in a grid formation alternating the direction of each block, horizontal or vertical.  The resulting quilt is both modern and simple but still evokes some of her parents plaid loving spirit.  Fabrics include neck ties, skirts, whale pants, paint stained sweatshirts, knit sweaters, and navy shirts.

The whole thing is quilted in a square grid using matching Aurifil thread in lines spaced about and inch and a half apart.  The quilt is bound using a solid navy color.  It finishes at 53.5 x 62", just smaller than a twin, so it's a good size lap quilt.

For the back of the quilt I used a solid taupe brown and off-set one extra block from the front with squares from her father's wool Navy blanket, a t-shirt with special meaning, and a piece from her parent's hand pieced and hand quilted drunkards path wedding quilt.

I learned a lot about myself and commission quilting during this process and was thankful for the opportunity to stretch myself and my skills.  My customer was wonderful to work with but we often had competing ideas about what would and wouldn't look good for the quilt.  I found that I often lacked motivation to work on the quilt and had to really force myself to push ahead and finish it.  With my own quilts, when I'm not feeling great about them, I can put them down and come back to them when I'm ready.  With this one, I was on a deadline to finish it for a customer and didn't have that luxury.  That was really difficult for me to do.

My customer was very understanding though and recognized that this was my first attempt at making a commissioned quilt.  In the end I think she was really happy with the final quilt also.  I can't wait to hear how her brother likes it.

After this experience I would definitely make another commissioned quilt but I would be more picky about what I would and wouldn't take on.  For instance, I'm not sure I would make another memory quilt like this.  I felt a lot of pressure to not screw it up... after all I can't just run to the store to buy more fabric if I do.  What are your thoughts, have you made a commissioned quilt before or better yet, a commissioned memory quilt?

Once again, Thanks to my Dad for holding the quilt for me to take pictures.  (Thanks Dad! You're the best!)

And with:


  1. I've done quite a few commission quilts and they do add pressure to the process... what I dislike the most is that I end up doing the same quilt over and over until I'm a bit sick of it! I haven't done a memory quilt before - but this is a wonderful modern version. I like that the quilt you did has some style because many memory quilts are sort of plain.

  2. Awesome job! Commission quilts are so hard because you want to follow the wishes of your customer but still make it unique. You did such a good job on both fronts. Also clothing quilts are hard when nothing matches but the design you made definitely makes it work :)

  3. Wow, Jennifer, the quilt turned out beautifully. Commissioned quilts are all so different for me; some are a struggle, some I zip right through... and all are learning experiences in one way or another. Knowing that you would do it again is fantastic, and having some thoughts on how to guide it for the future will really make the next process smoother (it has for me!).

  4. I think you did a wonderful job and I can just imagine the fun her brother will have recognizing each of the fabrics. I love the design. I agree there is added stress to do commissioned work, but it's so satisfying when the recipient loves it. Good job!

  5. Having lost one parent this year, I cannot imagine what losing two in six months would feel like.
    I can see how a commissioned memory quilt would be challenging. When sorting through Dad's clothes, I found little to inspire my inner seamstress. Dad's style was cargo pants with dozens of pockets. I love the tux plus plaid idea! Too many people spend their whole lives wearing beige. They sound like quirky but thoroughly lovable people.
    I think the quilt is a success. It will look nice in the son's home, and you have tied different fabrics together with a unifying background. It has some great colours – blue, red, yellow – plaid and stripes, and the combination works brilliantly.
    Do you have a second quilt to make for the daughter too?


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