quilts as memory-keepers

memory quilt

Our friend Linnae recently introduced us to Pat Ludwig, a “self-taught quilter” who blogs all of her projects so you can see the full process of making a quilt start-to-finish. Patwig’s quilts are made exclusively from old fabric scraps, including khaki and denim pants, childhood dresses, curtains, neckties, bedsheets, and even seat cushions.

Her two most recent quilts are particularly interesting. They started out as 35+ button-down men’s shirts, given to Ludwig by a woman whose husband had passed away years before. She wanted her grandchildren to have a piece of the grandfather they had never met and commissioned Patwig to turn his shirts into the Nine Patch and Log Cabin quilts.

We love everything about this, from repurposing old materials into fantastic and functional art projects, to the very idea of a memory quilt. Quilts and blankets are attached to so many comforting and visceral childhood memories; having one made of materials that remind you of family or friends strikes us as a powerful way to remain connected to someone’s presence (even in their absence).

…It’s an old idea really: quilts were traditionally made from scraps of clothing that carried a bit of their history with them…

…It reminds us of the first modern quilt-as-memory-keeper: The AIDS QUILT, perhaps the biggest quilt in the world, comprised of panels made of the loved ones of people who had died from AIDS, to remember them. (Somewhere, amidst the thousands of panels, is one that Sally worked on with friends in the late ’80s, in memory of her friend Richard.)

AIDS quilt


AIDS quilt

—Sarah M.


Related posts:
evocative ideas from “the best of the selby 2010″
creative reuse: constance old’s hooked rugs
crispina ffrench’s re-imagined sweaters
pamela’s brilliant d-i-y wrist warmers
sewing advice for beginners

4 Responses to quilts as memory-keepers

  1. Cassandra 09.27.2011 at 9:13am #

    I am so glad you’ve written about this. I do the same in London – although different in style, absolutely the same in feeling. It is a real privelage to take someones life and memories and turn it into something practical, precious and very personal.

  2. Sally 09.27.2011 at 12:06pm #

    We received this email from Laura W:

    There are several excellent children’s books on this-ask any elementary teacher or librarian. My mother used to collect quilts and quilt samples to make reading these books more alive for her 2nd grade class. My favorite: The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy, pictures by Jerry Pinkey (intergenerational family, grandma and grandchild work on quilt from family clothes, grandma gets too sick to work on it, eventually mom picks up where grandma left off, fine illustrations too).The Patchwork Quilt

    In my mother’s memory, I’ve hung the colorful quilts all over my entry/stairwell walls so it’s the first thing everyone sees when they come in. Plus they look really great there.
    Thanks for your fascinating blog,

  3. Ramona 09.27.2011 at 3:51pm #

    My grandma made a small quilt for my first child and it was from the scraps of all the dresses she had sewn for me while I was growing up. What memories those scraps evoked!

  4. Sally 09.27.2011 at 9:10pm #

    Beautiful idea. And there’s also the time the quilter spent working on the quilt…stitch-by-stitch, in a labor of love.

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