Friday, February 23, 2007

quilts that heal

since last fall, one of my ongoing quilt projects is a set of quilts that I'm calling "healing quilts." in late september I received a call from fran a woman deep in the pit of grief. fran and her two teen aged daughters were having a most difficult time coming to terms with the sudden and unexpected death of their husband and father. fran said she got my name from a therapist who coincidentally is a friend of mine. during a conversation, fran mentioned that she thought it would comforting to have something tangible, perhaps a quilt, made from clothes her husband wore. our mutual friend said, "I have just the person for you" and gave fran my contact information. long story short, fran called and soon after our phone conversation, fran and I met. during our meeting I learned quite a bit about fran, richard, their children and their history and lives together. I was touched by the love they shared and the tragedy of his sudden death. after our initial meeting, I hoped I could create something out of his clothing that would provide comfort to fran and her girls and help in the healing process.

I brought home 8 large black plastic garbage bags filled with ri
chard's clothes and began the task of figuring out how to turn these clothes into quilts for fran and her daughters. honestly, this was no small task - the sheer amount of clothing packed into these bags was pretty daunting - methinks richard was a bit of a clothes horse. in december I delivered two quilts I made for the daughters. richard was a large lovable, teddy-bear of a man unless he had to dress differently, favored large comfy cotton knit shirts. at first I found that this presented a quilting challenge but soon I figured out a solution to the problems this type of fabric presented (I stabilized the fabric with woven cotton interfacing). the quilts for the girls were each made from richard's everyday shirts. because I was using knit fabrics the quilts had to be fairly simple - in other words, no intricate or difficult piecing - and since they were intended to be used the quilts needed to be durable. fran grew up near amish country in eastern pennsylvania and both her and richard were great quilt enthusiasts. for the girls quilts I settled on a design for the quilts that could conform to the dictates of the fabric I was using and a design that I hoped would evoke a familiar and comforting style. many of richard's favorite shirts had emblems which corresponded with organizations he supported or represented this added an additional bit of history to each of the daughter's quilt.

richard was a lawyer who did have to wear suits and subsequently he had a large collection of fairly monochromatic colored suits. unfortunately, the shirts he wore with the suits were exclusively highly starched white shirts. thus any notion of making a quilt of interesting shirt patterns was quickly dispelled. for fran, who like richard is also trained in law, I envisioned a different style of quilt than the ones I made for her daughters. for fran's quilt I cut up richard's suit pants and constructed a more intricately pieced quilt - the primary block I used is called "courthouse steps" and is an adaption of the popular log cabin block. I anchored the steps with four 'column" blocks along the top of the quilt are friendship stars and along the bottom are flying geese. the quilt is bordered by small one-inch squares.
all three quilts include what I call 'memorial writing' which provides some information on richard the person.

yesterday I met with fran and her girls and delivered fran's quilt. the presentation of the quilt was a moving experience for all of us - fran was once again overwhelmed, with eyes filled with tears she stated the quilts are really 'magic.'

at the beginning of this post I mentioned that this is an ongoing project. although the quilts for fran and her daughters are completed richard continues to live on for this quiltmaker. when I delivered the daughters' quilts in december, richards parents were visiting. upon seeing the quilts, richard's mother asked if I could make a quilt for her. and then fran mentioned that richard has two sisters and asked if I would be willing to make something for each of them. although right now, I need to turning my attention to some other projects - this time celebrating a few upcoming births rather than honoring a beloved family member. but, the piles of cloth from richard's clothes are resting contentedly in my studio waiting for me to help transform them into objects of comfort for richard's mother and sisters.

1 comment:

Caraleekanab said...

Kim, I've always thought this idea of using the loved one's clothes to make a quilt was a lovely idea. I met a woman here in Kanab who did the same for a friend with her husband's clothing. She used his ties to make a sunburst in the middle, and his favorite Hawaiian silky flowery shirts to fill in. It was beautiful quilt. What an act of love for you to make such beautiful tributes, creating heirlooms at the same time.