How To Make A Memory Quilt

What Is A Memory Quilt?

A memory quilt is a beautiful way to preserve and cherish special moments, by putting together pieces of personal clothes and linens that hold important meaning. Whether you want to reminisce about your baby’s first clothes, to remember a grandparent after their passing or celebrate a particular milestone like a graduation or a retirement; there are many approaches to a memory quilt to suit such occasions. The quilt can follow a precise pattern or a more free-form approach. Whatsmore, it will be a unique keepsake for your family to treasure for years to come.

how to make a memory quilt

How Do I Prepare A Memory Quilt? 

Whilst cotton fabrics of a similar weight are ideal for quilt making, it is possible to use t-shirt jerseys, ties and vintage handkerchiefs in your project. Chances are you could have an eclectic mix of fabrics to work with and this can make a beautiful finished piece. However, just ensure to check the washing and care instructions to avoid any dry clean only materials. 

Start your project by washing and ironing all of your fabrics, bearing in mind to adjust the iron’s settings for any synthetic materials. If you are working with jersey for the first time, it is recommended to practise sewing with this fabric first. When using jersey for a quilt, apply a very light-weight fusible interfacing to the back of the fabric once cut, to stabilize the material and ensure it doesn’t stretch too much.

Once you have your memory fabric ready, decide on the pattern and size of your quilt. Can you make a large quilt with simple squares or does your memory fabric lend itself to a smaller project, such as a framed quilt or quilted cushion cover? If working with a classic square block pattern, a complementary plain cotton poplin can enhance your project by framing each block of your memory fabric. 

To prepare for your project, you will need a sewing machine, seamstress shears or rotary cutter and cutting mat, thread snips, a quilting ruler (if suitable for your pattern), seam ripper, a pale coloured quilting thread to match your fabrics, quilting pins and some low loft batting (such as our Vlieseline Low Loft Fleece 249).

how to make a memory quilt

How Do I Cut And Piece My Memory Quilt Together? 

If you need large pieces of fabric, start by deconstructing your garments by taking them apart at the seams using a seam ripper – always working away from your body. Whilst shirts and dresses can provide large pieces of flat fabric that are ideal for quilting, also bear in mind that you want to capture distinctive details of the clothing, such as trims, embroidery and logos. These unique details hold the memories of your chosen fabrics and will add charm to your finished piece.

A simple square quilt pattern can really complement this project, by neatly structuring the eclectic squares of fabric, within a grid using a sashing border. The plain border creates negative space between the mix of fabrics and by using a plain colour, helps to balance the overall aesthetic, framing the pieces like a scrapbook. If you are working with a square pattern, then cutting becomes very easy. Use a clear square quilting template, such as our 12.5” square ruler to “fussy cut” your fabrics to the exact size of your quilting block. Using a clear ruler enables you to see what you’re cutting so you don’t accidentally slice off part of a logo or piece of trim you’re fond of! Check out our templates and rulers section for our full range of patchwork templates - we have all shapes and sizes from triangles to a Jelly Monster template!

Once you have planned your quilt pattern, carefully cut your pieces of fabric to size, using a template if needed. Lay your fabric out as you cut, so you can visualize your quilt composition and choose the right pieces of fabric. This will help you to balance the mix of textures, prints and colours across your finished piece. 

If you are using a plain fabric as a sashing border or complementary colour, cut these pieces next and pin to your individual memory fabric shapes, ready for sewing. Sew your memory fabric and plain fabrics together, allowing about ¼ inch for the seam. Press the seams open and lay the blocks together on the floor to compose your quilt. Next sew each row of blocks together, allowing the same ¼ inch seam for each piece and press once completed.

Now your rows are stitched, pin the rows together to hold in place, ensuring that you carefully match up the seams. Sew the rows together, give your fabric a final press and your quilt top is finished!

How Do I Finish My Memory Quilt?

For the final step of your memory quilt, you need to create a quilt sandwich with your top fabric, batting and a complementary backing fabric.

Start by cutting your backing fabric a little larger than your quilt top, iron the fabric and then lay on the floor right side down. It can be handy to secure the backing fabric to the floor using masking tape, so that it doesn’t shift or wrinkle as you layer on the other pieces. Next cut your batting to the same size as the backing fabric and place on top. Finally remove any loose threads with thread snips from your quilt top, then place on top of your batting, right side facing up to complete your quilt sandwich. Make sure your quilt top is smooth and flat, as you start to baste your quilt by pinning the layers together. There are a great number of excellent online tuition guides you can follow if you’re new to this process.

Once you have basted your quilt, you are ready to start stitching your project. Make sure to plan your quilting pattern, so you can be absolutely accurate with your stitching. When you have completed the quilting, carefully trim your fabrics using a large square ruler to help you. To complete your memory quilt, add a frame either using bias binding or a strip of complementary fabric if you prefer a slightly wider edge. 

Finally, don’t forget to attach a quilt label to your piece for that loving finishing touch! We have a range of adorable quilt tags to choose from, or you can select a special piece of fabric and add a handwritten note using our fabric pens. Now, your memory quilt is complete and ready for your loved ones to cherish forever!

We stock a full range of quilting tools and accessories – from quilting gloves and thimbles to specialist templates, needles and much more! Check out our website for all your quilting needs in one place!

We always love seeing our customers’ handiwork, so do share your memory quilt photos with us on our Instagram page! Happy Quilting!

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