Last summer, I was asked by a very good friend and co-worker for a quilt request she could barely put into words. I was relatively unfamiliar with the details of her situation but after speaking with her it was a double quilt request I wouldn't think to refuse.
When my friend was younger, much younger, her boyfriend and her had been involved in a fatal car accident. Her boyfriend did not make it and she was left to carry the emotional scars of that day for the rest of her life. As she picked up the pieces, she saved a few (particularly his clothing) as a final reminder of his life and the relationship that had once been so real and tangible.
Old clothing holds special value. Clothing has been worn, it holds memories. Clothing has captured smells, it contains reminiscing scents. Clothing has a style, it can tell a story as vague as a stain to the passerby or as deep as a relationship to the well-trained eye.
I always cringe when asked to create quilts from old clothing. As some are aware, clothing stretches and shrinks, warps and moves, it bleeds, puckers and never matches up. It is textured, silky, slippery, holey, stained and used. Old clothing is worn and in being so is the most beautiful, precious and sensitive fabric on the face of this planet and this situation was no different.
My friend had kept a box of his old clothing tucked away for safe keeping, awaiting a time when opening it would once again flood the mind with memories and flood the senses with a slightly bitter pleasure of past love and loss.
You see, the man that once wore those clothes had a sister, and she was now pregnant. She was pregnant with not one but two beautiful babies and her baby shower was fast approaching. The task at hand was to create two quilts from his clothing in a months time for the showering of well-wishes on the expectant mother.
1. The quilts need to be classy, pretty, baby-like without being overly so.
2. The quilts should match but one was for a boy and the other a girl. This needed to be done without using classic baby fabrics of pink and blue.
3. The quilts should not be glaringly obvious of containing clothing, the use of clothing should be subtle enough to be tasteful but obvious enough to provide meaning.
As I dug amongst the array of old worn T-shirts, jeans and flannels I was completely overwhelmed. How do you capture all of those feelings in a quilt? How do you pick and choose, which ones should I use? What shirt meant the most or pair of slacks held those sleepless nights. As I started to plan out my design I began to see the symbolism forming throughout the quilt.
I started with the center. I used a well worn and loved navy t-shirt to sew into the center of every block on both quilts reminding them that love will always be there, in the middle of everything, to give you peace.
Although the pictures make this hard to see, I next used a white t-shirt to attach the blocks to one another. All of the vertical strips on both quilts were made from the same white t-shirt. The vertical strips surround the new fabric linking them to each other and bonding them for life.
On the back of both quilts I used strips of his old jeans, laid horizontally to be the foundation for them to grow on, love on, live from. And on the front, in adjacent corners, I put his initials, a tribute from my friend to hers.
These quilts were made with love, tears, patience, determination and in haste but they were made! I love them both and I am so thankful to have been chosen to be a part of such a beautiful gift.
I will leave you with a quote from Pericles...
"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others."
Be that which leaves you feeling satisfied with the marks you leave on this world and those around you. Spend not one day living in regret, and be constantly thankful for all of life's blessings because they are sometimes so quick to disappear.
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