There’s a thing that happens when you tell someone you’re a quilter. Nine times out of ten, the person will ask if you make t-shirt quilts. My standard answer is no for many reasons; because it’s an arduous process, because I have next to no experience sewing knits, because I’m afraid I’ll ruin a beloved heirloom. Because once you start taking commissions like those it’s a tempting and slippery slope into a time-consuming job.
But there are things that change all of those circumstances. In the fall, my extended family lost a beloved man very suddenly. Tom was my aunt’s love for decades, a second father to my cousins, a man whose warmth and joy brought so much humanity to family gatherings. My aunt and cousins have been dealing so well with this life-changing event, but naturally they miss him a lot. In the winter, my cousin Lauren, who played volleyball for Rivier College not long ago, asked if I knew anyone who might be able to make her a quilt from Tom’s Rivier t-shirts. He and my aunt were her biggest supporters, and there were eight shirts in his XL size. I said, yes, you ask your cousin the quilter. I couldn’t imagine anyone else making this quilt, and I took the job very seriously.
Luckily, those eight shirts made a beautifully heavy 60″ square throw. I cut 12 1/2″ squares from the front and back of each shirt, using the leftover strips to piece 12 1/2″ blocks until I had 25. I used Pellon Shape Flex as interfacing so that the fabric would be stabilized with something that would behave like my usual quilting cotton. I used ball point needles and crossed my fingers. It came together surprisingly well. I was sure to take my time and sew mindfully, both for technical purposes and because I wanted it to look and feel good for Lauren.
I realized in making this quilt that this is why the memory quilting tradition is such an important one.It helped me grieve his loss in process. It gave many small things one big purpose. Most importantly, this quilt lets Lauren have another hug from Tom.
I am still not ready to take on t-shirt quilts for anything but very special situations, but I’m so so thankful I got to make this one.