Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Harley Memory Quilt

Quilt Festival!
 It's that time of year again! I've admired the quilts in the Blogger's Quilt Festival before, but this is my first time to enter.  My entry this year is the Harley t-shirt memory quilt I made for my cousin out of some of her father's Harley stuff.
The finished memory quilt
 This quilt measures about 60x70 and everything in it except for the black solid sashing, the gray solid that the patches are mounted on, and the checked fabric in the back was made from clothes.
The original pile of "source material"
In the assortment of clothes my cousin sent there were quite a few T-shirts along with half a dozen patches from motorcycle rallies, a do rag, and a pair of boxers.  One of my big challenges was that I wanted to use everything I could, so that meant I couldn't use a traditional t-shirt quilt layout as the patches would be all different sizes. 
I designed the final layout using 12"x14" big blocks with a 5"x14" strip beside them which could be subdivided as I needed.  The sashing around the big blocks is 2" wide and the sashing within the blocks is 1" wide.  I sketched the layout and played with the random arrangement of the big blocks until I was happy with them.
Motorcycle boxers cut along the seams and stabilized with iron-on backing.

 The camo background on the front of the quilt all came from one camo shirt. I used patches that included the pockets, buttons, and tags to preserve the character of the clothing.
These buttons can be unbuttoned to reveal the small motorcycle print from the boxers underneath.
I quilted it simply because I didn't want it to lose its softness, and it was already quite heavy.  I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks and made double sure the patches were securely attached by sewing them down again, through all 3 layers.  Anywhere that needed additional quilting I chose a matching thread color and tried to outline elements of the t-shirt design or stitch along existing seams from the clothing.
The camo at the top is the shoulder panel from the back of the shirt, complete with pleats.
In the back of the quilt I used up all the bits I had leftover from the front with a simple arrangement and set it in a checked flannel sheet.  The flannel made the quilt extra cuddly.  I know that this is going to be a treasured keepsake, so I really wanted it to be comfortable and functional. 

The back of the quilt, using up leftovers.
At the last minute I remembered to cut the tags out of the t-shirts and attached a couple under the binding of the quilt.  I machine sewed the binding to the front and then turned it and hand sewed it to the back.
A tag from one of the  T-shirts
My quilting companion and Chief Quilt Inspector, Wilson, tested for quality control before the quilt made the long journey by mail to Mississippi.

Wilson: Quilt Inspector
Working on this quilt was a healing process for me.  I began work on it about a year and a half after my uncle had passed away and the wounds were still very much raw from his death.  Something about the physical labor and time put into the project helped me to feel like I was moving on. It was easier, I noticed as I was making it, to focus on the details than the big picture. It was easier if I let myself forget that these were clothes, and let them just be fabrics.  That is another reason that I try so hard to preserve the character of the original clothing when I make a quilt, because I want it to be clearly tied to the person who wore those clothes.  Unlike a quilt made from new, crisp fabrics, these fabrics show wear and tear.  Signs of love and life.

Focusing on the details
It was gratifying to feel like I was actually able to DO something to bring comfort to my cousin and her mother because for so long there was nothing anyone could do.  Really, a quilt is a small thing, and no matter how much comfort it bring that is only a drop in the bucket to the loss of a loved one.  He is gone, and nothing can bring him back.

My Uncle Steve
Steve killed himself on Aug. 17th 2010 and we miss him every day.  He showed no signs of depression, he was not in debt, had a good job and was very much loved.  He could be your friend or family member. 

Suicide is a real thing. It happens. We need to talk about it to spread awareness and reduce the stigma of seeking help.  There is help out there; no one is alone.  If you need help, call:  Suicide Hotline Directory.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : 60″x 70″
Special techniques used : applique,peek-through fabrics behind buttons
Quilted by : myself
Best Category : Scrap Quilt, Throw Quilt, Home Machine Quilted
entry # 310

Read more posts about this quilt here.


  1. Kat

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this quilt on Bloggers Quilting Festival. What a great healing quilt this is for you and will be for your Cousin and Mom. You have made a wonderful gift out of an extremely sad part of life. And! It is great to view that you have a sense of humour.... the Motorcycle boxers under the buttoned section :) Good for you and your family. Heal well with this quilt!

  2. Fun quilt. Someone wants me to make them one and yours is a good example. Thanks for sharing and have a great day

    1. I'm the one who asked Eileen to help me make a memory quilt for my daugther's high school graduation gift. My cousin committed suicide on my birthday. I remember him every day and always ask the question why? I loved him very much. Thank you for sharing.

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  4. Love this project. I think your gesture embodies the community aspect of quilting in many ways. What a great way to create a lasting souvenir for your cousin.

  5. What a wonderful thing to do for your cousin. I am considering making a T shirt quilt for a young man in our church who recently lost his mother. She had saved T shirt squares in a little bag with a note "for quilt". I've never worked with T shirt fabric before, so this will be a challenge.

  6. What a special quilt and I hope it brings much healing and focus to the good memories!

    You did such an amazing job of making all those different elements work together. Wow!

  7. Love the quilt and it's story behind it. May Uncle Steve be at peace!

  8. This is a very moving post - thank you so much for sharing! Also, thank you for going into so much detail about your process and how you approached the clothing as fabric elements. This will no doubt be a family treasure.

  9. So so sorry. Know that you are not alone in this senseless tragedy, happens in many families. I hope it has helped you and your family and will continue to comfort you.

    Come see my entry #46 Batik Tulips, hand applique, hand quilt, wall hanging.

    And if you like antiques #23 red zigzag quilt

  10. I'm so glad I saw your entry, truly a significant help for healing. I made a memory quilt out of shirts, I didn't know about T shirt quilts then, and I still regret not having those T shirts. I'm sure your cousin and aunt will treasure this quilt!