When we announced our call for contributors on Tuesday, we had so many of you reach out with amazing ways that you incorporate reused and sustainable textiles into your quilting! Below, community member, Constanze (@tree.textiles), shares her tips for reusing clothing to make memory quilts. Thank you for these thorough and meaningful tips, Constanze!
(Edited for clarity).
Hi, I sew a lot of memory quilts using the clothing of a lost loved one, outgrown baby clothes, or important milestone clothes (think middle school shirt or favorite band swag). Here are some tips I would give someone looking to do similar work:
1. Discuss expectations.
Discuss with the recipient/giver what memories they have of the person wearing the specific items, as well as their personality. A vivacious person may have preferred muted shades. An interesting design can reflect elements of a memory the fabric itself doesn’t capture. Stories can also provide inspiration for picking complimentary fabrics for the top, back, or binding.
2. Know the fiber content.
It’s important to know the fiber content for qualities that will make both sewing and using for as many years as possible: Is it machine-washable? Is it made to be close to the skin for longer periods of time? Will it stretch or unravel easily while sewing? Most issues can be addressed. If the material needs to be reinforced, ironing strips of fusible along the edges before cutting will help. If the material won’t work for a bed/snuggle quilt, consider making some textile art or very useful placemats or mug rugs.
3. Use the best parts of the garment.
Choose which pieces to use: I try to never use armpit, crotch, elbow, and knee fabric. The fibers may be worn down or the fabric stained. I love using pockets because you can tuck a special message or picture in it. Hoodie front pockets are great for an instant snuggie blanket. Lace or other trimmings can be used as embellishments.
4. Waste as little as possible.
Think about leftovers. After you cut the main pieces, is there enough fabric left for small bonus projects? I like making bow ties or hair bows for little grandkids and doll quilts from baby clothes to add to bigger items.
5. Consider expanding the quilt.
I love reuniting couples after they passed by adding a border from one partner’s clothing to the other’s original memorial quilt. You can use the same or a different design for different effects. Expanding baby quilts with toddler clothes as a great testament to a little one’s journey. I am dreaming about expanding my own son’s quilt until college!
6. Sew, gift/sell, enjoy.
A note on social media:
Always respect your recipient’s wishes. They may not want to see their memories on the big screen! As a result, a lot of my quilts don’t make their way to my IG.
I am really passionate about using meaningful textiles to preserve memories, so if these help someone looking to make a meaningful gift, I am happy! Thank you, FeelGood Fibers, for pulling information together for all of us quilters looking to become more eco-conscious!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to share these tips with our community! If you would like to follow Constanze on Instagram, she can be found at @tree.textiles.
For more eco-conscious tips check out 4 Simple Questions to Ask When Buying Secondhand Fabric and 7 Ideas for Eco-Friendly Quilting.