Sunday, August 29, 2010

Memory Quilts for Charley's boys..

The Memory Quilts
I always tell my husband sewing is therapy for me. It calms me down, it helps me focus, it gives me joy, it lets me be creative, it frustrates me and it also soothes me. I had a big dose of therapy as I made these quilts for a dear friend's children from their father's clothes. This was probably one of the hardest, yet most therapeutic sewing projects of my entire life.

I was so honored when my very good friend, Carrie, asked me to make a memory quilt from her husband's clothes when he unexpectedly passed last fall. The quilts are for their two wonderful, spirited boys. Carrie is an amazing woman. She is strong, generous, witty, and has a great sense of humor. She is gentle, loving and kind, and most of all she is courageous. She has spent very little~ if any time wallowing in self pity since Charley passed. She has kept strong and carried on like no one can imagine. When Charley passed she talked to her kids about the upcoming "stormy days and sunny days" that they would face together. One of the many things I admire about Carrie is her strength- to keep chugging, but also her strength to be raw and human~ to cry, to laugh, to be angry, to be in denial, and to do it all over again the next day with her beautiful boys in tow as they push through and live life without their beloved Charley.

Carrie has reminded me to live in the now, to love and be loved.  Her journey has shown me that relationships are so important- not just family, but good friends who can play parts in your life that family members, sometimes for one reason or another, just cannot.

Being with Carrie in those early months as she lovingly chose each article of Charley's clothing so carefully with a heartfelt story and a deep sniff of each item was so brutally painful. Charley was a husband, a father, a best friend, a sailor, a bicyclist, and a darn good person. So I took on the project with gusto at first... and nearly 9 months later I was able to finish it. It is weird how one's reptilian brain, as my mother calls it, protects you. I was finally able to move through my sadness about Charley, my grief for Carrie and the boys, and my own personal grief/loss issues while creating these quilts.

The journey I took while making this quilt was a good one. I faced my own mortality, the fragility of life itself~ for my husband, my children, and of all those I love and care. I really had some great conversations with God the entire way. I measured, cut, sewed, and cried while remembering the painful grief of my childhood when my older brother, Jamie, died, as well as all those other people I have lost. I celebrated the lives of Jamie and Charley with each stitch. 

Memory quilts are hard. Emotionally as you can imagine, but they are hard to make from a construction standpoint because they are different types of fabrics in different shapes and conditions. You have to stabilize some fabrics so you can quilt them. So I did a lot of research online and decided~ well~ not to follow one bit of it. I just winged it and let the Holy Spirit guide me on this project.

I ended up doing a crazy quilt style so I could incorporate different parts of Charley's work and play shirts, well worn and carried daily handkerchiefs, chino pants, dress pants, swimsuit, sweaters, bicycling shirts, vests and oxfords... In the quilts for the boys I tried to include the tags from Charley's clothes in one square or a pocket from his swimsuit because he had such interesting clothing choices... He loved good quality fabrics and so it was really a joy to sew them. Each material represented a facet of his life~ work, play, family... I hope William and George will see that little glimpse of their father in this quilt. I also included some favorite phrases and nicknames that Carrie wanted in a square around each of the boy's initial.

I loved doing this for Carrie and the boys. Amazingly ~ I had just enough scraps for a throw for Carrie too. I hope it brings them joy, comfort, courage, and they feel part of Charley's legacy when they wrap themselves up in the blankets (backed in super soft swirl Minky) on the sofa with a hot cup of cocoa as they read a favorite book or watch movies of Charley. Thank you Carrie- for letting me be part of your journey!


  1. VERY VERY awesome, Jane! I hope the boys and Carrie loved them.

  2. What a gift you have given your friend.

  3. This is just too beautiful for words.
    Both you and Carrie sound like wonderful real people. It's a true gift to be both wonderful and real.