Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wrapping up memories in the fabric of life

Memories hold special places in our hearts and play a large part in shaping our lives. In the fall of 2005, Carol Earhart had to say goodbye to the father that meant so much to her and her family. Like so many fathers, Carol’s dad touched the lives of those he loved, and made a positive difference for each of them. Preserving his memory was important to Carol. Many times, memories of a loved love one are lost within just a generation or two, but Carol was determined to preserve her father’s legacy.

Quilting has been a long-time passion for Carol, but it took on special meaning after the death of her father in 2005. A year later, Carol’s mom was finally ready to go into her husband’s clothes closest and begin packing up his personal apparel. As an avid quilter, Carol knew of memory quilts which have been around for a long time and felt that combining her passion for quilting and preserving her father’s memory could go hand in hand.

The memory quilt actually became popular in the mid-1800’s as pioneers began moving west. These quilts were often made and given to newly married couples, or to families leaving the area, as an item of remembrance of those being left behind.

When the death of a loved one is involved, a memory quilt can sometimes be too painful to make, as Carol soon found out. “It was a very hard process to begin,” says Earhart. “As I sat down and held my dad’s jeans and handkerchiefs in my hand I became very tearful. But five years later, I can say how much these quilts have meant to all of us in my family, and my dad’s quilt has been a great way to preserve a part of him.”

Quilt making can be a rewarding activity that can be enjoyed by all ages of people with all skill levels. It is an act of expression that can capture emotion and beauty. Memory quilts in particular are a great way to preserve a specific memory, celebrate the life of a loved one who has passed on, or to remember an important event in life. Many memory quilts are made from the clothing of a loved one, and can help “let go” while still honoring their memory.

There are several types of memory quilt styles. Many quilts can be made with a number of different fabrics and selections of clothing. When preserving the memory of a loved one, clothing such as shirts, ties, jeans, dresses, t-shirts, trousers blouses, and handkerchiefs are good items to cut and piece together to form the quilt. By using small personal clothing pieces throughout the quilt, it allows the family to feel that a part of their loved one is still with them.

Not all memory quilts are made based on the loss of a loved one. They can also represent a change or growth in life, such as baby clothing to remember when a child was an infant or toddler, old school uniforms to remember the high school years, work shirts to remember a specific time in adult life or a promotion in life.

A very popular style is a memory quilt for the student who goes off to college. This type of quilt is designed with old t-shirts are collected, cut and pieced together to accompany the student to the dorm.

Another popular memory quilt style is the family tree quilt that traces family history and commemorates special moments within the family. Computer graphic designs of genealogical trees or family biographies can be computer generated to be transformed onto fabric.
Photo memory quilts are fast becoming a popular style that can be made completely with photographs or be used in a combination of clothing and photos. Living in the computer age has made it increasingly easily to make this type of quilt, which involves the process of transferring photos onto fabric thorough the computer and computer printer. Manufacturers have now made it possible to make fabric squares that can be put into a computer printer. With this style it is easiest to use a digital camera or burn photos onto a CD.

Memory quilts are a great way for a family to pass along information from one generation to the next. “The memory quilts I made for the members of my family have been a great way to preserve my father’s memory,” says Earhart. “I can remember him wearing his jeans that I incorporated into the quilts. I made six quilts all together that honor my father with that particular family member. I used photos I had taken of my dad with my mother, my two brothers, my two children and myself as the centerpiece of the quilt, then pieced the quilt together with his clothing and handkerchiefs.”

Memory quilts create a family heirloom that can be passed down through generations. They can be used as wall hangings or sofa throws. Whatever the use, they are a unique way to preserve and display a family’s treasured memories.

By Maribeth Uralrith

Carol Earhart is the owner of the Cotton Junky Quilt Shop – the area’s only quilting and quilting supply store. The Cotton Junky is located at 199 North Spring Street in Wilmington but will be moving to a new location at 110 West Main Street in early November. The Cotton Junkie houses over 750 bolts of fabrics, notions, tools, thread. Along with supplies, the Cotton Junkie also create custom quilts and has quilting classes available to the public. Hours of operation include – Monday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 6 and 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 on Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays. For more information on quilting, memory quilts or the Cotton Junky Quilt Shop, please contact Carol Earhart at 937-366-3602.

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