How To: Memory Quilt

As an addendum to my post about the memory quilt, my Aunt graciously offered to describe the process for any of you who are interested in making such a quilt:

guests admiring the quilt at my cousin’s wedding

The message blocks used in the wedding quilts have been prepared as follows:

The 100% cotton fabric is pre-washed to remove sizing, then cut into 6 1/2 inch squares. These squares will “finish” at 6 inches in a completed quilt, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance all around.

For stability during printing and writing, the fabric squares are adhered to freezer paper. Standard plasticized freezer paper (from the grocery store) is cut into 6 inch squares, then centered on the fabric squares and ironed onto the fabric, shiny side against the fabric. Use a dry iron at a fairly high heat setting, pressing until the paper sticks to the cloth.

When giving family members and friends a block to sign, it is nice to print an image that relates to the event that is being celebrated. For wedding quilts, I have collected a variety of stamps with hearts, as well as stamps that had quotations mentioning love and hearts. The Internet is a good source for the stamps, as well as craft and gift stores. I have purchased most of my stamps from Addicted to Rubber Stamps. For stamping images on fabric, I use the Versatex brand Screen Printing Inks. Many colors are available and the inks can be mixed to get different shades.

I make a stamp pad by wetting a piece of felt that is somewhat larger than the largest stamp. The damp felt is put into a tray with a flat bottom. I use a foam brush to distribute the textile paint over the felt, then press the rubber stamp onto the pad, moving it around repeatedly to get even coverage. I practice a bit on scrap fabric that has been backed with freezer paper. Place the prepared fabric squares on a flat surface, print an image and set it aside to dry. Follow manufacturer’s instructions re: heat setting the paint or ink. The stamp pad will need to be “refreshed” with paint after a number of blocks have been printed.

With large stamps, a single heart image will usually be centered in the square. With smaller stamps, multiple images may be used. Creativity abounds in both the stamping and the signing of the quilt squares. My son (Miss Peppermint’s cousin) is a biker and a friend created a bicycle using 2 printed hearts for wheels. It is good to have variety in the stamped squares so individuals have choices.

Printing is a messy, time consuming process and it is good to do all of the printing in a single session. I print 30 to 40 percent more blocks that I anticipate needing, to allow for mistakes in printing or drawing. I only want to put an individual’s best work in the finished quilt. Fabric and paint are relatively cheap at this point! In estimating how many squares to prepare, note that as couples and families often elect to work on a block together, the total number of blocks required will almost certainly be fewer than the number of invited guests at a wedding.

For signatures and messages, it is important to use a permanent pen with archival ink. I use the Pigma Micron 05 pens which available from a number of sources on the Internet. These pens do not require additional heat setting. They are available in a variety of colors, and can be coordinated to match the textile paint or ink that was used in the rubber stamping. Be certain that individuals use only the special pens provided. Running or fading ink or ink with a high acidic content would ruin a beautiful keepsake quilt.

After signing, the freezer paper can be peeled off the quilt square. The fabric square is then ready to incorporate into a quilt. [The freezer paper can be reused several times in later projects.] Signature or message blocks can be collected before the actual wedding and the finished quilt then displayed at the wedding festivities. In that case, blocks can be collected at pre-wedding gatherings, such as at an engagement party, wedding shower, etc., provided that these events occur significantly in advance of the wedding. The quiltmaker, no matter how speedy, needs time to construct the quilt and – – as is more and more likely in this day and age – – arrange for machine quilting that can be completed in time for the wedding. While it might seem exciting to present the completed quilt as a surprise for the couple, I would advise keeping them informed throughout the process, so that they can make choices about color, style, etc., and can provide a list of individuals they would like to have represented on their quilt. Friends and family members who won’t be able to attend pre-wedding events or the actual wedding can be invited to participate by mail.

The mailing that solicits blocks from people should have a cover letter that describes the project and gives instructions for writing on the fabric squares. Include one or two stamped fabric squares and photocopied practice papers, a return envelope for mailing back the completed square(s), AND one of the special pens encased in bubble wrap. Participants are told to keep the pen after they’ve completed their blocks. The pens cost $2 to $3 each, and this is why it is desirable to contact as many individuals personally as possible, resorting to mail contact as a last resort. For a group gathering, it is good to have multiple pens on hand, but they can be passed from person to person.

It is also possible to collect message blocks at the wedding reception itself. One or two people can circulate among the guests and explain the process. After the wedding, family members can send out extra blocks to family and friends who were notable to attend the wedding. When the quilt’s finished, pictures of the completed quilt could be distributed to the family and friends who contributed messages.

Many settings for the message blocks are possible, but the actual construction of a similar wedding quilt could be undertaken by a beginning quilter. Local quilt shops would be a good source for advice, books, classes, fabric, and referrals to local machine quilters. Or maybe the couple already has a quiltmaker within their circle of family and friends!

Best wishes,

Miss Peppermint’s Aunt Patty


Mrs. Peppermint

LA/Palm Springs
Wedding Date:
December 2007
Marzipan Pears
Coming Soon...

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  1. Guest Icon Guest
    Linoleum, Guest @ 11:22 pm

    FMIL is an avid quilter & we decided to incorporate a quilt as our guestbook at the wedding. FMIL was so excited to do it & I’m excited to see the results. It’s a great & personal keepsake that we can actually use! We’re using a different pattern/idea…wish I could think of the name of it…

  2. Guest Icon Guest
    thea, Guest @ 11:43 pm

    ooooo… is ur aunt’s name really patty?!

    ..cuz that would make her peppermint patty! 😀

  3. Guest Icon Guest
    quilting quilts, Guest @ 11:48 pm

    Great hobby. By this you’re not only easing away the boredom yet you’re making nice creation.

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