Memories to Heirlooms
Memories to Heirlooms
On December 12, 2018, I received a message requesting that I make something from a prospective client's husband's shirts. Ideally, she wanted them by Christmas, but would be okay if that was not possible. We decided to meet on Dec. 14. I was excited, as this was the first client who was not directly referred to me, or who knew who I was. We were both surprised when we met face-to-face and Erin exclaimed, "Miss Gerdes- I should have known it was you!"
Erin and her husband Eric, who passed away in May, were both former students. It was amazing listening to this articulate, strong woman talk about all she has managed in the last few years. Her resiliency is remarkable. What I loved the most about our conversation was how she talked about their children. Kamerin, a creative and free-spirited 11-year-old who likes steampunk and follows her own path. Caroline, a 4-year-old who likes order and tidiness. Of course, we also talked about Eric. He was a hard worker who earned the respect coworkers, supervisor and the president of the Lancaster incinerator. She also spoke about his interests; his family, especially their children and the Beatles. I became committed to having these special gifts ready to open on Christmas day.
It is such a gift to get the answer to the one question teachers ask about most kids: "Where is this child headed?" This conversation not only answered that question but getting to know a client at this level really impacts the design and creation of a meaningful heirloom for them. One thing that came up several times was the bright yellow pocket of Eric's work shirt.
Erin gave me two shirts for each girl, but did not have any of Eric's work shirts. She gave me permission to contacted LCSWMA and they were happy to give me three shirts to use. From them, I made a small pocket to hold each of the Bearloom's hearts and the original pockets would hold their story starter booklets, which come with each of my creations.
Kamerin's Bearloom was designed to be a bit funky/less orderly. After researching which Beatle was George and which was John, I made sure George, Eric's favorite, was on the front. The shirts dictated the placement of the other Fab Four.
Caroline's Hareloom was designed to be symmetrical, allowing the shirts to dictate where each would be placed.
Both heirlooms were embroidered with Eric's signature and a quote from the song My Life by John Lennon; "I know I'll often stop and think about them. . ." I added three hearts over the quote to represent Erin and two girls.
From the third work shirt and remaining pieces of Eric's T-shirts, I made a pillow for Erin so that she also would have something to open on Christmas morning.
Delivering the heirlooms to Erin was so sweet. It was wonderful to see how much she loved the end product and truly a gift to me to be such a special part of their family Christmas. Eric, may you rest in peace, knowing that you live on in the memories of your wife and daughters.
As we start a new year I find a need to clean out and declutter. What's a saver to do with beautiful Christmas cards, or wind-up toys that don't work but are soooo cute that I can't throw them away? Luckily, there are three fantastic places in Lancaster County PA where I can take them so someone else can love them, and I may just be able to give other people's released treasures a home while helping out a good cause! Sound good? Then read on! (If you're not from Lancaster, I am sure there are similar places in your community.)
1. The Art of Recycle - is my newest find. Located in Ephrata, this place is full of most anything you can imagine to make art; fabric, thread, scrapbooking, wood, hardware, beakers, wreaths, doors. . . Everything in the store is donated by people like you and me and the store is run by people with great energy and enthusiasm. The organization is amazing with every bin labeled and things sorted to make it easy to find. The sheer volume of items is a bit overwhelming. My brain popped with ideas of how to use some of the items and filed others away for future reference. They have designated one large room for children of all ages to play in their puppet theater, dragon fort or to make art for free! As a retired teacher, I especially loved that the bottom floor is dedicated to supplies for educators who can shop for free with their school ID. Did I mention they also have workshops? Fabulous!!!
2. Lancaster Creative Reuse - has been a mainstay for me for a few years. It is similar to the The Art of Recycle; they take donations every imaginable craft supply, they have a craft area and workshops for kids, they are stocked with all sorts of craft supplies, and their stock is continually changing. The space is more limited and it is not nearly as orderly - which is great for people who enjoy the hunt. It's a good place to check out often.
3. Habitat for Humanity ReStore - can be a treasure trove for crafters. The store accepts donations of building supplies, including furniture. Some is used for building Habitat for Humanity's homes and the rest is sold at great prices. The proceeds benefit their mission to put people in their own homes. Win - win - win! As for me, I have found lots of treasures; tiles to do alcohol ink tiles with friends (a great no-fail project for young and old), doors I use as arbors in my garden and to make my stained glass barn door, and a sheet of linoleum to line my studio shelves and use as my chair guard to protect my wooden floors. The people who work there are lovely and helpful and there is always something new to spark the imagination.
No matter if you're cleaning out, want a great experience for your kids, or are ready to start your next project, these places are worth the trip!
My nephew Jed found his match in Kate. They complement each other perfectly; he grounds her and she broadens his horizons. Kate asked me to make their ring bearer pillow and gave me free reign to do what I wanted. Inspired by their invitation, I started with one of Jed’s great grandparents’ napkins. I simplified the design of the invitation so that on one side of the two hearts were 8 hearts to represent Jed’s parents and 6 siblings, and on the other side 5 for Kate’s parents and 3 brothers. In the center are two orange hearts of this amazing couple which are tacked in such a way that ribbon slid under each to tie the rings to pillow. The embroidery was a combination of machine stitching for the lines and hand-embroidered hearts.
On the back below the Moeschlin monogram I hand embroidered their names and date of their wedding. This was a special project for me due to the combination of having the freedom to create and making it for people I love, while bringing Grandma’s memory to the party.
If you would like a custom gift for a special event, we would be happy to discuss your ideas or help you come up with one! Let's Chat!
As a teacher, when asked if I had children, my answer was, “Yes, 700.” As a Family and Consumer Science Teacher, I taught every child in the building, every year. Everyday I encouraged and taught, but also fed, clothed, did the laundry or consoled. They were my kids. There was one family where I knew some of the children since they were born and to this day call me Jeangerdes (all one word). When children like this, to whom I was so connected, graduated I wanted to make something special and I wanted it to be something I could repeat for each child. Solution: an over sized graduation pillow. One side with Donegal School District green and white with the Donegal logo stitched into the middle, the other side with their college colors and the college logo. I used oversized piping, and quilted each side before stitching it together. This honored their past and present all in something that they could give a big hug when needed.
Do you have a person in your life that you want to help celebrate a turning point in THEIR life? Together we can create a meaningful gift that lets them know your support and love them. Contact me and we can get started!
To some this well loved, threadbare quilt might seem like a lost cause. It was a bit daunting when I first saw it and felt this soft, fragile, but cherished fabric.
It belongs to Cathy's son and was made by his Nanny. Cathy wanted it reworked for her grandson, Silvius, to use. We discussed several ideas and together came up with a plan of how to make a functional quilt that Silvius could use while honoring, Nanny, the original maker.
My first step was to contact a quilt expert, Susan Heydt, and ask about restoring a quilt. She educated me about sewing bridal veil netting over the quilt to hold everything in place. - the perfect technique if you simply want to preserve it. In talking to her and researching, I realized my plan was unconventional but it was the only way I could think of that had the potential of making the quilt usable again.
First I soaked the quilt in Oxyclean overnight, hoping to lift any stains and brighten the fabric. In the morning I machine washed it on gentle, handling it as little as possible because the fabric tore so easily, and hung it dry.
It hurt my heart to remove Nanna's tiny, even hand quilting but it had to be done.
Next each block was separated.
I tested both woven and fused iron-on interfacing on some of the boarder fabric to see how they would react to each other after several washings. Although both puckered a bit, the woven was chosen because it created more stability since it did not stretch. It was applied to each square.
Cathy and I had settled on the idea of printing a block for the corner. After designing it, I printed it on Tailor Sew-In Colorfast Fabric Sheets for Ink Jet Printers. The directions said to wash in cold water with no detergent and dry flat which concerned me because the quilt would need to be washable with detergent. Because I had never used this product I tested it by washing as instructed and washed it 6 more times, getting harsher each time, ending with a worst case scenario by washing it in warm water with my basement rugs. Here are the results of the test, the abused one is on the bottom and freshly printed on the top. I was pleased.
Just to be sure, I created an embroidered block, knowing it would never fade but in the end decided on the printed option. Some fading is to be expected and that will complement the original fabrics.
Each block was measure and cut individually from seven and half inches to 6 inches so I could choose the strongest fabric from each block.
The top was reassembled to match the original design while incorporating the new printed block.
Because of the interfacing, pressing the seams to one side created bulky seams so I reworked it, pressing the seams open.
Silvius's name was fused down to the top and then appliquéd by machine.
Luckily I found perfect backing fabric for this project. I layered the backing, cotton batting and top together and held them together with safety pins to make it ready for quilting. (The safety pins are designed for this. They are slightly bent so they are easy to poke through the three layers and bring back up to the top to close.)
Nanny did her quilting by hand. I used a machine but sewed in the seam as she did. This is know as "stitch in the ditch" by quilters. Kinda catchy don't you think!
Ties were replaced in each corner. Nanny used acrylic yarn but I choose wool because when wool is washed it tightens on itself, forming felt. I am hoping that the wool tassels will form cute, felted wool balls.
A photo of Silvius and his parents adorns the pocket on the back that hold his custom Story Starter booklet.
It was so much fun writing the story of his quilt for Silvius to enjoy.
I loved collaborating with Cathy on the quilt and booklet as well as testing and learning new techniques. It is such an honor to have such faith placed in me and it my hope that Silvius loves his quilt and it will be ready for another round with the next generation.
Jean is the owner and designer for Remember When Studio.