Archives for posts with tag: memory quilt

Linda is a nurse who happens to be caring for her elderly mother at home.  Years ago after her father died, she started to weave a blanket from his old ties for a way to remember him.

She wove together her Dad's ties

She didn’t finish it, so she set it aside.

She’s also a neighbor, and one day she saw some quilts I made from old clothes, and asked if I could make a quilt using the blanket she’d started and her mother’s old scarves.  She planned to keep it at a vacation home her family has had for generations in Maine.  I was delighted to have a new commission!


She brought a large bag with the tie blanket, and this assortment of scarves and a few other pieces of clothing from other family members.

After showing her a Chinese Coin pattern quilt I made for my mother,  she chose that style as the primary design.  With a plan in place, Patwig got busy:  all materials washed, ties cut up, and fusible interfacing pressed to all ties and scarves.

Once the ties were all cut open and the scarves pressed, the interface is pressed onto the backs.  LOVED this red and black scarf so much I couldn't bear to cut it

Linda said her Mom’s black and red scarf was from the 60’s; it killed me to cut this up

Dad’s ties were myriad browns, featuring the small, repeating patterns typical of ties, in a handful of muted color variations.  In contrast, Mom’s scarves packed saturated jewel tones in a variety of splashy prints.  I was having trouble at first seeing how to work the two styles in together, until  I pinned the jazziest scarves to the wall and mated the ties by color to each

I pinned a bunch of the scarves to the wall and "matched" ties to them ... this helped me see a way to mix them together in the coin stacks

Then I cut and laid out just enough to show Linda how a Chinese Coin stack from her fabrics might look

She was happy with it, so I could proceed

She wanted a finished square of 84 by 84 inches for a full size bed.  I made enough rows to fill the bed top, which ended up a 54 x 62 inch rectangle.

This came together quickly

Lots of border was needed all the way around to bring this out to 84 x 84.  Ideally I might have bordered this in all black or navy to corral the rowdy colors.  But I had to work with the fabric I had.  After consulting one of the quilting reference books I’ve  picked up over the years, I thought I’d give the “basic braid” border a try.  Luckily Linda liked that idea

Light colors inside the border

I ended up grouping the lights on the inside and darks at the outside to highlight the center.

The corner, or capstone

For a braided border you can start with a triangle.  Strips are lined up at a right angle one at a time at each side.

Once I had a critical mass, I sent a picture to Linda just to be sure I was still barking up the right tree.  Fortunately her answer was “it’s awesome,” so I continued full steam ahead.

Luckily the measurement was in the desired 84" ballpark

It helps to be happy with how a project is turning out, but this work moved at a slow pace, one step at a time.  That’s the nature of craft, I suppose.  It always takes longer than I think it will.

Braided borders can also be made just all mixed up, but I think the inner light works best on this quilt given the center coin section

With repetition, it gets into a rhythm and begins to move faster

I'm thinking there may be another braided mash up in my near quilting future

The mostly white appearance at the back of the braids is due to the fusible interfacing. The couple that look grey/blue were nice thick denim, which didn’t require supplemental backing

Linda dropped the fabrics to me on New Year’s Eve.  At this stage it’s mid-February.  If I had worked all day every day I would have finished well before the end of January.

After the third side was done it was kind of depressing to see how many more strips I would need

I had light and dark strips ready from the earlier prep, from which I could pick and choose as I went along

As a project gets bigger, the pace slows because it’s harder physically to move the whole thing around.  I have a son in college so I use his room and floor down the hall from my workroom to lay it out … thanks Pete!

Ironing out the last side strip before attaching to the body of the quilt.  Makes a nice contrast to the floor covering in my office.  Color anyone?

Once all borders are sewn around the center, it is a finished quiltop.

I'm trying a new type of batting for this project -- for this one I used NAME HERE and it has a nice, fluffy loft.

Do any Patwig readers remember what you do with a finished quilt top? Yep, place it, top up, on a piece of cotton fill or batting …

… and then it needs a back.  I combined the handful of cotton clothing items Linda provided with old sheet sections from my stash to piece a back together.

For the backing I pieced together old sheets from my stash with cottons from clothes from Linda

Pressing, sewing and seaming the back took an afternoon

I stopped counting when my estimated hours on this project neared 90.  This is an info nugget for those who always ask me how long it takes to make a quilt.  Answer: it depends, but usually a long time!

The layers are sewn together, turned inside out, then press it out with an iron a final time

At the end of the day, the piece itself is the reward, because I really liked how it turned out

I used 16 yarn ties to secure the layers together (thanks Ellen Banner for your yarn donation!)

I can't get a full picture of it but this is one side ...

I'm happy with the liveliness of this piece

I hope you enjoyed reading about how this came together. Thanks for making it to the end!

I think it’s on its way to Maine.  Next project will be an experiment using recent fabric donations.

Last year I made quilt commissions (three quilts, five pillows) for two wonderful people, all using clothing of deceased loved ones to remember and honor them.   One of these projects utilized button-down shirts, which I cut up.  The parts I couldn’t use for the quilt ended up in here:

My plackets, collars and cuffs stash had grown out of one box and into two.  I have long waited for inspiration to help me bring life to this assortment of cast-offs.

Cue my adored friend Chuck (who has the ego-pleasing habit of referring to me as an artist), and after a glorious afternoon immersed in abstract expressionism at MOMA, I was ready to begin

Plackets have a sturdy texture and form

I started by joining buttonhole plackets together.   I wasn’t sure where it would go, but putting two and two together, so to speak, seemed as good a way to start as any

I lined them up so they balanced in a pleasing way

I left logos and care tags showing for texture and to signal "repurposing"

When the rows sewn together reached the size of a square I stopped, and started a second.  The squares are 25 inches.

Modest Machine trotted right along with me

Two were done in no time and I hung them up to see where this was going

Thumb tacked to the wall through the buttonholes

It made sense to add two more to create another square.  Because the first were dominated by brights, the next would be milder

This square is all solids, mostly muted tones

And this is all patterns: florals, stripes, and checks

As I got close to having all four of these done I was genuinely giddy — so high was my anticipation for the result.  But it was a let down … what was wrong?

Though it was an irreversible decision, there seemed no other choice than to cut corner to corner, and the result was so much more engaging

It also conjures the quilt pattern "Diamond in the Square"

The next step is joining the pieces together.  This was not agreeable at all  … a diagonal or “bias” cut in fabric goes against the weave, and weakens it, makes it stretchy, bunches it up as you move through it.   It’s really just awful, especially when you’re joining multi-layer plackets of different depths.

But I loved the diagonal movement so much that I ignored the horrible sounds coming from my sewing machine

To rise above this unpleasantness, I thought ahead to what should happen around the edges — it wouldn’t do to have open-ended plackets hanging off into nowhere.  The answer was right there in the plackets, collars and cuffs box

There's something very pleasing about the rounded corners of cuffs

Coupled together and back to back in a row, the cuffs would suitably corral the bold stripes of the plackets.   I lost no time joining lights and darks

Joining one cuff to another is simple; joining the duos and quads and so on is not

I liked the theory that 188 inches of pleasingly rounded cuffs would frame the inner composition.  The execution was another matter.

The best way to join separate and thick pieces of fabric is with a zig-zag stitch.   This involved taping a cuff row over each side in turn and peeling the tape away while carefully feeding into Modest Machine, who bulldozed through it like an overenthusiastic dog let off leash to chase birds.

The resulting stitches ain’t pretty.  I winced at first, but this piece isn’t a quilt in the traditional sense (it doesn’t have fill or backing), so it needn’t have pretty stitches.

It’s about reusing discarded materials in unexpected ways to create something new that celebrates color and form.

69 inches sqaure and ready for hanging

This piece is available.  Email me at or comment if you’re interested.  Meanwhile I’ll be pondering what to do with the collars.

The last time you heard from me I had just completed memorial quilts so two little boys could have a physical connection with their grandfather.  Their grandmother Sue, who commissioned the project, provided about 40 of her late husband’s button-downs shirts for this labor of love. Masses of scraps remained in its wake

In the beginning there were scraps

What to do?  I could throw them out (unthinkable), file them in my fabric stash (tedious), or … of course, make a quilt!

Behold, a colorful block rises from scrap ashes

This enterprise commenced mid-August, still summer, when the days are long and light and sewing hundreds of fabric bits together seems just as good as anything else to do.  It began with block constructions, like this

Color leads the way

Block by block, matching pieces by length, coupling by complimentary colors or color groups, I sewed bits together

No pattern here, just freestyling

One by one, the glittering jewels that center each block beckon for a supporting structure

Small scraps join to form columns

and it’s done when

.... the matching scraps have run out

And so it continued, in a groove that I enjoyed immensely, until about 25 squares and rectangles were stacked on my table.  Time to lay them out to see what they did together.  I decided to use just squares

Keep reading to see what I did with the squares, and tell me what you think: would the mix above have worked just as well on its own?

Since there were still lots of whites, it seemed a no brainer to use them for sashing around the blocks.

The steps involved: group by length, sew pairs, sew resulting couplets, and so on until the lengths surround each block

I thought a layer between the white sashing would pop the color even more, so in went a light mint green, which addition opened up six holes for more color to fill

Can you see the resemblance to the quilts from last post?

With the center of the quilt essentially done, it’s time to conjure a border.  The scrap pile still waited with plenty on offer

Modest Machine gamely gobbled along as I fed it countless pieces of fabric, joining until they reached eight inch lengths, which would then be sewn together for a basic strip border

This took some time, but the robust border that resulted seams worth the effort

I finally did run out of color scraps for the strips so I used remaining whites to fill out the border at the corners

When a quiltop is finished, it’s time for “backing.” As there were many whole shirts and sections that had yet to meet my rotary cutter, I rather extravagantly cut out 15″ square blocks.

I told you I could put these shirts to good use, Sue!

I hadn’t used any new materials up to this point, and was determined to recycle for the batting (fill) as well.  It should come as no surprise that I keep batting remnants, and after stitching four pieces of batting and pinning all three layers (top, batting and backing), I carefully folded it up for Modest Machine to sew

Is keeping pedal to the floor three times around a rather unweildy 66" x 82" pile of fabric rather like circling the yard perimeter with a ride-on mower?

Then I can stand up and stretch my legs while ironing the whole thing out

Now that it has volume it looks and feels like a quilt

Not quite to the finish line, I pick out yarn for the ties

Red and blue too good to be true

And it’s done.   Twin sized, nearly all recycled materials (can you guess the one element that is not recycled?) and for sale (email me with your best offer!).  Thank you for reading Patwig’s Blog.

Made by hand (and Modest Machine) in New York City, USA

This story starts with two little boys living in the Midwest.  In addition to being pretty lucky in the parent department (example of a house rule:  being read to is a right, not a privilege), they have an exceptionally dedicated grandmother, Sue.  Sue is very involved with her grandsons, but is understandably rueful her husband died before he could know them.  She wanted them to have something that would evoke him.  This is where Patwig comes in.

Sue contributed more than 35 shirts for this project. After I cut up the first bunch (the stack in front) she sent more.

She wanted a twin sized quilt for each boy made from her husband’s old button-downs.  Some were standard white formal fare, many sported various hues of blue, with and without stripes, and a few were appealing paisleys and plaids.  After seeing sample Patwig Quilts, she chose the Nine-Patch block pattern and the Log Cabin pattern, which I hadn’t made before.  That settled, she essentially gave me carte blanche to create, and I continued to be amazed at the trust people place in strangers.

Where to begin wasn’t hard to decide.

Log Cabin is a classic quilt block. A square sits at the center, (typically red), and rows of blocks are placed around it, one side light, one side dark.

I started with easy colors, as in the solid pairings above, and proceeded to more complex couplings, like the patterned lights and darks below

The red/pink and paisley here were among Sue's favorites

As blocks were completed I put them down on the floor to see light and dark create patterns.

The dark side is the strongest visual element here

I’d been working one block at a time until this point, and feeling assured that I was on the right track, shifted to mass production.  This meant cutting 17 squares, 119 light blocks, 102 dark blocks and backing all with fusible interfacing.

A rotary cutter and grid mat make this more efficient, but it still takes time. Music helps.

Once all components were prepped, I sewed them together and put them down on the floor

until I arrived at this…

"Diamond in the Square" is another classic quilt pattern

With the Log Cabin blocks done, I was ready to turn to the second quiltop.  Fortuitously, many cutting remnants offered a head start


The Nine-Patch ultimately required 567 two inch squares

Making the Nine-Patch was very enjoyable; each is an individual composition.  This is the part I truly enjoy.

Once they began to multiply, I line them up en masse to see what they would do

More hodgepodge than medley

Moving to the floor, I added space between them

Much more distinct this way

Then each Nine-Patch got a border, all from button-down shirts

Steady production continued — sewing, pressing, sewing some more, until 63 Nine-Patch blocks each had a pressed border.

"Cute as a button" is a little precious, but I think it fits here

I was enjoying this small form stuff so much I’d forgotten the bigger picture — how they will form a quiltop:

Back on the floor

Going for 9 rows of 7

Next time I'll wear knee pads

All down, random placement.

How about alternating light and dark rows?

We have a winner

This is the midpoint.  The primary design –the quiltop– is done.   The rest is, shall we say, finish work (albeit with a decorative border).  This is mostly assembly, but what it lacks in creativity it pays back in satisfaction as the finished piece slowly comes together.

Two stacks of quilt blocks

Individual blocks make a row, rows make a quiltop

I'm making more of an effort to get my corners "on point"

You can see the fusible interfacing on the backs here

A border brings each quilt up to twin size.  I made a strip border drawing mostly from the white and striped button-downs.

My son suggested adding more dark colors

After almost 300 two-by-seven inch strips were pressed, fused, sewn together and ironed, the quiltops are “framed”

A border on the Log Cabin really pops the diamonds out

This is my sixth Nine Patch quilt

Next up: batting (or fill) and backing.  Sue has provided two full-sized sheets for the backing.  Who can guess why this one has patchwork in the corners?

These sheets were repurposed twice: Sue had given them to a friend to use as drop cloths for painting before they got to me

Once the layers are sewn together and pressed (That sounds so breezy, doesn’t it?  At about 65 by 82 inches, it took about an hour to seam each twice), I hand tie them together with yarn (another afternoon) with a nice light blue yarn I picked up for a song in Chinatown

A tapestry needle works best to pull the yarn through the layers, finished with a double knot.

This work takes place on the floor, where helpers stroll

Ursula is the only one of our cats that goes after yarn

Finished, side by side

Congratulations to you for making it all the way through this!  I believe you are among a small, but attentive group of people.  If there’s anyone you know whom you think might make it all the way as well, please send a link to this page to them, or post on your preferred social media.

Next post will be a Patwig Scrap Project.

January has brought me a new commission.  The starting point is a collection of classic understated Hermes ties that belonged to a beloved husband and father, long stowed away by his wife, Ellen, who had lately come to a place where she felt ready to do something with them.  Luckily for me, her daughter is a friend who thinks well enough of my abilities to recommend me for the doing something part.

There were ten ties, which Ellen had given her husband for birthdays over the years:  mostly blues and reds, intricate designs on smooth matte silk.

It's amazing how much fabric is needed for one tie: the rug here is 71" wide.

And there were penguins, cavorting on a silver 11 x 8 upholstery sample (seen in the photo above just below the ties).  Of course there was a story.  When Ellen and her husband were young newlyweds keeping to a lean budget, outings to the Bronx Zoo became a favorite routine.  A transplanted Texan, Ellen was fascinated by the variety of animals and couldn’t get enough.  Her husband tired of viewing the mammalian standard bearers of the Northern Hemisphere, but would happily wait for her in the penguin house until she was ready to go, such was his interest in the flightless seabirds.  Their home filled with penguin mementos over the years, including a chair upholstered in this fabric.  Though at first glance this little piece of upholstery didn’t seem to fit with the refined Hermes ties, clearly it belonged in a quilt made to remember this wonderful man.

She also had two Chinese silks (one black, one gold), a rose colored Thai silk with a pattern that looks like lanterns, and a very bright fuchsia check.

Ursula, always a good girl, wisely stayed just off the fabrics.

Ellen had chosen Chinese Coin (see an example in this post) as the basic pattern for the quilt, which lends itself particularly well to ties.  The goal is a topper for her king size bed, about 76 x 80 inches.  This will be close to a Patwig record for size, and I’m feeling more than a little nervous about not screwing it up given the value of these ties.  Nevermind the fact that Ellen is an expert seamstress herself, having made custom crib bedding for all of her grandchildren.  I’ll admit to a little yikes moment before I started cutting.

The penguins determined the length of the coin strips — 11 inches — and each tie yielded about six strips.  The yellow Chinese silk and the rose Thai pattern offered the most yardage, and thus offered Ellen a choice for the sashing and border.

Because silk is so fine I press fusible interfacing onto every piece so they won’t run away while I’m trying to sew them.   Once that’s done it’s back to the floor to play around again.

Because all the "coins" are not sewn together yet, some length will be lost, but at present it measures about 65 inches without the outer border.

Now I just need to start sewing it all together!  But first, I’ll take it up before a kitty decides to rearrange it, like this one did on another project a few years ago:

%d bloggers like this: