Bereavement quilts can take many shapes. Examples of various types I have made appear in the following sequence. Bereavement quilts that are either t-shirt or tie quilts are shown under those two headings.

Traditional Bereavement Quilts

Sleeping under a quilt made from the clothes of your lost one can be very helpful in the painful process of grieving.  The design of such a quilt can be left up to me or it can be a collaborative effort.  Below are some of the traditional bed quilts I’ve made:

Helping her Girls with the Loss of their Young Father

Cheryl lost her husband suddenly when he was only 40 years old.  Her daughters Lizzie and Chloe were very close to their father and Cheryl wanted to do something positive to help her girls.  She sent me a huge box of shirts of all kinds, but I discovered he had an equal number of light and dark shirts, which cried out “log cabin quilts”.  Below is the first quilt I made for the youngest daughter Lizzie:

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Lizzie]r from her dad's shirts

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Lizzie from her dad’s shirts

Lizzie had chosen her dad’s red bandana from her quilt, which I used as the centerpiece for each block.

Chloe had chosen a blue bandana, which I used in her quilt. Chloe is a gifted figure skater, so I made a figure eight in the center of her quilt:

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Chloe out of her Dad's shirts

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Chloe out of her Dad’s shirts

Trousers were used for the borders of all three quilts.

The last log cabin quilt was made for Cheryl:

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Cheryl out of her husband Eric's shirts

Bereavement log cabin quilt made for Cheryl out of her husband Eric’s shirts

Raising two daughters suddenly on her own, dealing with her own grief as well as theirs, Cheryl is an amazing woman struggling in a difficult situation.  She wrote:  “… I love when I look at my log cabin that I picture the shirts and I picture Eric in the shirts… The quilts are so great to have around – much better than a sad closet full of clothes. This was one of the nicest things I could have done for myself. I just can’t get over it.”

I also made three t-shirt throws for Cheryl and the girls, which I am displaying on the Bereavement T-Shirt page.

Mother, Daughter, Granddaughter

Sarah sent me 54 shirts belonging to her father, whom she was very close to and missed very much. I first made the following simple quilt for her mother, who had chosen most of the shirts for her husband and I knew she would recognize each separate block of material:

Bereavement quilt made for wife out of 54 of her husband's shirts

Bereavement quilt made for wife out of 54 of her husband’s shirts

The centerpiece contains a beloved poem printed on fabric with embellishments made from several ties belonging to her husband:

Center of bereavement quilt made of ties and a print of her favorite poem

Center of bereavement quilt made of ties and a print of her favorite poem

For Sarah, I made a large quilt that was slightly smaller than a bed-sized quilt, but managed to use 50 of the 54 shirts. The poem that both mother and daughter loved was embroidered around the border of Sarah’s quilt.

Bereavement quilt for daughter made from father's shirts

Bereavement quilt for daughter made from father’s shirts

Below is a detail of Sarah’s quilt, showing the embroidery and the quilting pattern:

Detail of Sarah's Bereavement quilt

Detail of Sarah’s Bereavement quilt

Last, but not least, is Charlotte’s “beautiful yellow quilt”.  Charlotte was two when this quilt was made for her.  I got the idea from a quilt designed by Kaffe Fassett, although I didn’t follow his pattern rigorously.

Child's bereavement quilt made from granddaddy's shirts

Charlotte’s bereavement quilt made from granddaddy’s shirts

Detail of Charlotte's quilt

Detail of Charlotte’s quilt

Below is a picture of Charlotte on her quilt, with her mother’s quilt below it.

Charlotte sitting on her quilt

Charlotte sitting on her quilt

One reason Charlotte calls this quilt her “beautiful yellow quilt” is that the back is made out of yellow minky, soft and luscious.

Back of Charlotte's quilt

Back of Charlotte’s quilt

A Mother’s Gift to her Kids

Father's clothes used to make six bereavement quilts

Above are some of the 52 shirts and trousers that I received when commissioned to make a number of bereavement quilts for a young family who had lost their father. I checked through the clothes and came up with about five designs each for Luke and Lisanna, ages 9 and 7.

Luke’s Quilt – I first made the Contemporary Log Cabin Quilt below for Luke:

Bereavement Quilt - full sized bed quilt for young boy

Most of the shirts were so well cared for they looked new, but the turquoise one used above had to be a favorite, for it was frayed around the cuffs.  It was one of my favorites as well.  All the material used in this quilt except the backing came from the father’s shirts and trousers. Trousers make good border material.

 

Lisanna’s Quilt – I made a Ribbon Quilt for Lisanna, using two different shirts for each color except the orange middle.

Ribbon Quilt - Bereavement Quilt for young girl

This was a deceptive pattern, since I had to be very careful about the pieces I used, making sure that they were the same throughout. It goes much quicker if you have only one material for each color, instead of two. But the result is stunning, I believe.

 

I was told that the kids loved their quilts.  See below for a picture of how they felt when they got their quilts (I made both kids a smaller throw to have something more their own size).

Kids receiving their bereavement quiltsOne Family – Three Quilts – A Collaborative Effort

A family lost their beloved husband/father at the age of 50. Using the husband’s clothes, I made the three quilts shown below. The mother’s queen-size quilt was made from eight shirts and two pairs of trousers and featured a unique design chosen by the mother. The outer border was fashioned from black dress jeans her husband was wearing on their first date. The mother chose the purple fabric used for contrast.

Bereavement quilt for Tess

Bereavement quilt for Tess

The second quilt was a queen-sized quilt for the daughter, which featured a beautiful butterfly design chosen by the teen-aged daughter, who also chose the color blue for her contrasting fabric.  The outside blocks were made from an additional eight shirts/ Borders were fashioned from two pair of trousers.

Bereavement quilt for family - made from flannel items

Bereavement quilt for family – made from flannel items

In the third quilt, made for both mother and daughter to share, I chose the double wedding ring design and used three flannel shirts and a pair of his flannel pajamas.  Forest green flannel was chosen by the client for the background.

Contemporary Quilts

Quilt without binding re

The quilt shown above is a good example of a contemporary quilt, although I believe all quilts have their roots in the past. This beauty was the brainchild of my customer who wanted a quilt made for her mother using her mother’s father’s clothes. She wanted the buttons on his shirts to show in some blocks as well as some of the pockets and of course other memorabilia from her grandfather’s life as a pilot.

Bereavement qult - Cathie's tribute to her son Ben

Bereavement quilt – Cathie’s tribute to her son Ben

This contemporary quilt takes traditional blocks (Mariner’s Compass, Snail’s Trail) and combines them with family pictures, photos of Ben, memorabilia, logos from shirts, and family treasures such as bits of his baby blanket (at the top) and part of his christening outfit (center of quilt).  Really, contemporary is simply bringing the past up to the present time.

Other Contemporary Quilts

Below are more quilts I would consider contemporary, even though they contain elements of the traditional quilt:

Kendall's quilt re

Bereavement quilt - Lindsay's quilt

Bereavement quilt – Lindsay’s quilt

One of thirteen quilts made for a large extended family from the clothes of the mother of my customer Deonna. This is certainly a more contemporary use of the traditional block.  And the clothes were gorgeous and inspiring to work with.

EightPictorial Quilts – Each a Unique Design

Bluebell Woods of England

Bluebell Woods of England - Bereavement quilt honoring mother

Bluebell Woods of England – Bereavement quilt honoring mother

Jan was very specific about what she wanted when she brought me her mother’s clothes. She wanted something close to a photograph, nothing cartoon-like or abstract. Her mother had grown up in England near the famous Bluebell Woods and often spoke of walking among the bluebells and how beautiful and peaceful it was. The blue flowers gradually turn purple as the season progresses, which is a good thing, because most of the clothes were lavender and purple. I used a picture from the web for a template. Jan loved her quilt, which I made as a throw but which can obviously be used as a wall hanging.

Closeup of Bluebell Woods bereavement quilt

Closeup of Bluebell Woods bereavement quilt

I had the perfect clothes to work with, a white knit shirt with leafy dapples of brown which I used to simulate sunlight on one side of the trees, a light green knit shirt with lots of big white embroidered leaves, which became the canopy of branches above, and best of all the two knit shirts used in the background which so closely resemble an actual wooded background of bushes, plants, trees and sunlight.

Leafy detail on Bluebell bereavement quilt

Leafy detail on Bluebell bereavement quilt

Seascape – An Abstract Art Work

Seascape - A bereavement quilt honoring mother - king-sized bed quilt

Seascape – A bereavement quilt honoring mother – king-sized bed quilt

Chris sent me loads of his mother Barbara’s clothes – mostly pastel and simple cottons and knits. He wanted a quilt for his king-size bed but he wanted an abstract that wasn’t a picture in the usual sense of the word – something Monet-like, something with no discernible bottom or top, but with maybe a few organic shapes. A new and challenging project for me. Luckily the clothes were beautiful, with many blended colors of blue, as he decided on a sea scene.

Bereavement quilt seascape displayed on sofa with Duncan

Bereavement quilt seascape displayed on sofa with Duncan

A closeup of the quilt displayed on my sofa (Duncan sitting on the side). I did buy extra jean material for the outer border, as Chris has three sisters for which I needed to conserve material. The jellyfish and the adjoining school of tiny fish were made from parts of the dresses that Barbara wore to Chris’ wedding (and to his sister Missy’s wedding as well.) Fortunately, Chris was very pleased with his quilt.

Three Pictures in One Quilt

Missy's Quilt - Bereavement quilt made from three ideas

Missy’s Quilt – Bereavement quilt made from three ideas

Chris’ sister Missy had three ideas in mind for her quilt. Her mother Barbara had been a very successful doctor in New Orleans, so she wanted the skyline of New Orleans incorporated into the quilt. But Barbara was a many faceted lady, who also studied ballet after med school and performed in New York City for a while. So Missy thought her mother dancing in the sky would be appropriate – as she had grown up in Texas and always marveled about how big the sky was there. While growing up in the hills of Texas she had owned a Palomino, which she had loved. Missy asked if it would be possible to include something about the horse – and then left the entire design up to me.

Top portion of Lady Dancing above the skyline of New Orleans

Top portion of Lady Dancing above the skyline of New Orleans

Having almost run of out of blue materials, I used my own (or bought) material to make a patchwork blue sky, along with the hills of Texas below. One of my favorite things to do is to make a skyline out of clothing (see Boston skyline on the Tie Quilt page).

Bottom of bereavement quilt - Lady Dancing above New Orleans skyline

Bottom of bereavement quilt – Barbara riding her Palomino among the Texas hills

Tree of Life

Bereavement Quilt made from Chef's Clothes

Bereavement Quilt made from Chef’s Clothes

This quilt was made entirely from the jackets and pants of a world class chef. Katie fought cancer all her life but managed to do more her short life than most. Only in her thirties at the time of her death, she was working for Cirque du Soleil and was also a mother and an accomplished pianist. This quilt was for her mother, who chose the theme. Only the red for the cranes and the slim border were added materials. Not only did her mother choose the tree of life for the main feature, but she also wanted three red cranes flying across the moon. This quilt is a great example of collaboration between my customers and myself in creating the perfect quilt.

Bora Bora Quilt

Quilt Made Only from the Sleeves of her Husband's Shirts

Marge wanted a simple picture – a calm and restful scene of Bora Bora where she and her husband had spent their honeymoon only three years before her husband died and she wanted the quilt to be made only from the sleeves of the shirts and jackets, so that she would feel as if her husband’s arms were around her when wrapped in her quilt.

Bereavement Quilt Detail - hut made from wedding tie and handkerchief

There was one exception to the “only shirt sleeves” request:  the tie and handkerchief that Bill wore at the wedding were included. From them I made the Bora Bora hut shown in the detail above.

The Forest Quilt

Bereavement Quilt - Forest View for Son

Bereavement Quilt – Forest View for Son

The quilt above was one of two quilts made from a mother’s beautiful clothes and gifted to a daughter and a son from their father. Gloria loved the woods and she loved to dance. For the son, I made a view of the forest surrounding their home (with artistic license – there was no stream). Thirty items of clothing were used to make this quilt and I deliberately had the water flow right off the quilt.  I copied Ruth B. McDowell’s method of paper piecing the background (read more under Appliqued Quilts in my Blog) and then appliqued extra details onto the finished patchwork.

The Dancing Lady Quilt

The quilt for the daughter embodied the dance theme. I chose the image of a dancing lady soaring in the sky with a setting sun in the background. As Gloria had to her family, this lady embodies the feeling of hope and spirit.

This quilt combines the traditional quilt (with a split 9×3 inch block) with the art quilt – in this case the lady dancing amongst the bluebirds. About twenty different items were used to make this quilt, many of them t-shirts or knits. Also, I changed the background from sunset to sunrise so that I could mirror the night sky in the deep of the sea.

Closeups of the quilt are shown below. To enlarge the pictures, doubleclick on any picture.

Story of a Life

The quilt below is an example of my own design, revealed to the client upon completion.  This was my first bereavement quilt.

The pictures below depict the progress of a pictorial quilt I made for a mother whose vibrant 35-year-old daughter was brutally murdered. This king-size quilt was made to be hung on the wall or used on a bed.

The slideshow below takes you through the design process: first studying the clothes to get a sense of the lady who wore them, next designing the quilt using a flannel-covered wall. I usually let the clothes guide the process. The construction phase follows, and after that the top is quilted on my longarm machine, a border is added and the finished quilt produced.

This quilt depicts the daughter lying against a brown tree trunk beside another black tree trunk and looking out over the city of Anchorage and the mountains of Alaska beyond. Her house is shown on the right. A picture of her mother and her, as a toddler, astride a family horse is set against of fan of her colorful skirts. At the bottom is the familiar poem, a favorite of the mother’s, which begins: “Do not stand on my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep . . . .”  The poem is embroidered on a yellow sleeveless dress, which was the dress her daughter was wearing the last time they met. Tires are made from buttons, lace and collars are used to make roads and walkways.  Even the woodpecker’s markings come from an epaulet on a jacket.

Thirty-two illustrious red hearts against black backgrounds form the border symbolizes the daughter’s warmth, vitality, and love of animals and people. To enlarge the pictures, doubleclick on any picture.

To produce a pictorial quilt, it is necessary to learn about the loved one who wore the clothes.  My client was generous with notes and pictures to guide me through the process.