Memories to Heirlooms
Memories to Heirlooms
One year I gave my sister in-law, Jo, a quilt. This quilt became the comfort quilt for all 7 children, as they would wrap themselves in it when they were scared or sick. I repaired it until repairing was no longer an option. By this time I had started “Aunt Camp”, where the kids would come in twos overnight and do projects with me. Sewing was always on the agenda. Since they all sewed except the youngest, Trish, who was 3 or 4, it made sense to make a quilt together.
Each child drew a design and then we worked together to convert that to an appliqued patch.
Zach - the jeep
Jed - oranges (his favorite color)
Ty - the horse (he had ridden with Uncle George)
Nich - a fire truck
Noah - a cross and scripture
Luke - a man bailing hay in back of a truck
Trish - herself with a pig
For the eighth square they each traced their hand, including their dad (who had to have a wedding ring), and I appliqued them down. Because it was a surprise we did not get Jo’s hand. The final, and my favorite square, was a family portrait Trish drew (she was in her abstract period). Her brother and father were various shapes of color while Trish and her mother had hair and arms and legs. It was awesome!
The boys helped to assemble it and did some quilting. Jo was surprised to receive it at Christmas and the old comfort quilt was retired. Many years later they buried this quilt with their MeMaw in an incredibly sweet and moving gesture.
Perhaps you have saved drawings that you would like to have preserved in a quilt? Contact me and we can discuss it.
My nephew and his wife are having a baby. One of my favorite baby gifts is a quilt with the quote “Where there is great love there are always miracles” by Willa Cather. I then embroider the names of all the people who will love the baby. But knowing there were plans for at least two quilts for this child, that did not seem like a good choice. I was stumped for a gift until I learned that the baby’s name was Henry and that they had checked to be sure that was my father’s middle name (He was John Henry Gerdes). From that point on I knew I had to make a John Henry Bear! My father was a great man, unique in many ways - one of which was that later in life he wore “the uniform,” blue oxford shirt, kahki’s and clodhoppers (work boots).
I had two challenges. I no longer had any of his clothes and the bear had to be baby safe. I purchased soft flannel in all the colors I needed. The clothing became the body of the bear with all embellishments either embroidered or appliquéd. Included with her bear was a collage of pictures of Great Grandpa, John Henry in uniform and an explanation of the uniform and who he was. As I made the bear I decided to write a storybook explaining who all the Henrys were who came before. My nephew, who was about 3 when my father passed, came near the end of the baby shower and when he saw the bear he understood without any further explanation. The materials I used to make the bear were all brand new yet the memory was preserved nonetheless.
John Henry Bear needed a special Story Starter, so I wrote an interactive picture book explaining who all the Henrys were that came before him in our family! It was narrated by Annie, my mother's puppy.
This business allows me to run with an idea to wherever my creativity can take me. I would love to hear your story and see how I can tell it a way that it lives with your family. Contact me so we can get started creating a unique Story Starter for you.
Up to this point I had been working on what would become Remember When Studio; taking classes, coming up with name, setting up my studio. Now I needed a client to beta test the idea when a good friend of my sister contacted me about a bag of old ties. The ties were from her friend's father, a car salesman who always wore a tie. As we talked, I learned that this man was a wood worker and had a unique signature he put on all his work. He was kind and committed to his family. He loved to email and always signed each one to his family, “Love yaaaaaaa.” After looking at some ideas pulled from Pinterest, we settled on two table runners and 3 pillows. When she left I felt so happy to have learned about this man and humbled to be entrusted with this bag of treasured memories.
It was a long time before I touched the ties again but they were rumbling in my mind. When I was ready I laid out all 45 ties and took a picture to preserve the starting point then started the task of removing the stitches from each tie. Through this I discovered some were handmade by his sister. So cool!
I found wonderful black wool to pair with the ties and started to piece. As often happens, this project evolved. Originally the runners were going to be rectangles with the design going one way, but I decided I much preferred the points on the ends and the square in the middle. I like it so much that I made a spare pillow with it. It also gave a clear spot to highlight his Maker’s Mark (hand embroidered) and "Love yaaaa!" (machine embroidered). I placed the Remembrance on the back as a private sentiment. One of my favorite touches is the tie used to border the zipper on the back of the pillows. I came up with that when I ran short on wool fabric, a fortunate mishap that lead to a design detail I will use again.
This was the perfect beta test. It told me that there are clients who will allow me to get to know someone’s story and give me the opportunity to participate in preserving that story. Most importantly, the woman were thrilled with their heirlooms. It doesn't get better than that.
Remember When Studio is up and rolling. Use the Contact Form to start your heirloom or to ask any questions!
Years ago I got a call from a friend. She had coats from 4 generations of women in her family and wanted to know if I could make some bears from them for her kids. We got together and got busy sewing.They really were very special when done. I loved using all parts of the coats, buttons, lining, tags etc.
It was such a great idea that for Christmas that year I made a bear for myself, my mom, and my 5 siblings. Our bears were made from Dad’s Christmas sports jacket, Mom’s lamb's wool jacket (the mink collar became the ears to all the bears), Grandma’s blue church overcoat, and Grandpa’s deerskin. No two bears were alike, my brother Pat’s, the hunter, got the bullet hole of the deer skin; Chip/John, Dad’s namesake, got his monogram; my sister Lee got the label of Mom’s jacket; I got Mom’s monogram, etc. My bear sits in my dining room on top of the hutch and is a reminder of the wonderful people in my life who will always and watch over me.
Those coats Joanne brought to me were really the spark of what is now Remember When Studio. Thank you Joanne! Have an idea of something you would like to have made? Contact us and we will make something ta custom piece that tells your story.
Joanne's Bear Jean's Bear
Jean is the owner and designer for Remember When Studio.