Quilting with a Purpose – Preserving Memories

I just got home from giving a Trunk Show and lecture last night. At the end of the lecture/talk I shared a couple of quilts that have the most personal meaning to me – like my Union Jack Quilt and my Gratitude Quilt. And it got me thinking, I really need to make more quilts that have meaning to record some of our family story. I have other quilts with meaning that I’ve given away – like my Irish flags quilt and other flag quilts for friends – but I need to do more for my own family.

For Keeps Quilt Book Amy Gibson

Amy Gibson has recently written a book called For Keeps: Meaningful Patchwork for Everyday Living with this very purpose in mind: creating quilts that have meaning. But that doesn’t mean they all need to be put away in a ‘safe place’ where no on touches them. She encourages us to make quilts that are used – that in Amy’s words, “soak up meaning through our times together, that become heirlooms… because of the stories they tell and the stories they inspire.” I love that!

quilting for keeps - making memory quilts

The book is full of beautiful photos and projects to inspire you to think about as well as create quilts with meaning.

photo memory quilt

There’s even a quilt made from scanned favorite photos called Filmstrip with instructions for multiple ways to put your favorite photos onto fabric for this project. I’ve had people ask me in the past about photograph quilts and haven’t really known how to help because I’ve never made one myself. So great to have a resource to share now!

For Keeps - Quilting Basics

For Keeps also has an extensive 25-page section with lots of quilt-making basics. Everything from tools, to choosing a sewing machine, cutting and piecing, sashing and borders, quilting and finishing a quilt.  So if you’re looking for a book to give to a beginner, this one is a great resource.

2015-06-26There is also a gorgeous and informative section about fabric selection, sorting and storage.


Finally, this book is just inspiring. Not only the gorgeous photographs and projects through out, but Amy (pictured above in the book with her cute twins) also has a way with words. I met Amy a few years ago at the Sewing Summit and was struck then by what a happy and genuine person she is. That personality comes through throughout the book – reading Amy’s voice as she talks about choosing fabric or what inspires her own quilts makes you feel like you’re with an encouraging friend.

Reading For Keeps has motivated me to make more quilts with meaning to my family. So many of my projects recently have been for deadlines or patterns. I want to just slow down and interject more projects that mean something to all of us.

London Fabric collectionFor example, I’ve been hoarding collecting London/British-themed prints for years now, waiting for just the right time to do something with them. I’ve decided that time is now. My family is all reminiscing a lot more about our English adventure last summer now that we’re approaching the 1-yr anniversary of the experience. I know I need to stop waiting and just start cutting into these prints to make something we can all love and use to remind us of that experience together.

Column 1 Took the Pledge Button

Amy has issued a call out to quilters to take the pledge to make more quilts with meaning. I am taking that pledge!

You can read more about what it means to make quilts for keeps on the Quilt For Keeps website where Amy is also sharing a free pattern download for those who take the pledge. Quilters can also send in blocks using this pattern to be used for charity quilts for trauma victims. Another great way to Quilt For Keeps!

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  • Reply
    June 27, 2015 at 6:55 pm

    I spent two years in England, where I met my best friend. She and I actually are from cities only 90 miles apart, but we met in England when our husbands were in the U. S. Air Force. A couple of years ago I made her a quilt using the British fabrics (some of the same that you have). It meant so much to ME to be able to share my love of quilting with someone that I love so much. She and her husband have been our friends for over 40 years. Thanks for reminding me that we need to quilt with a purpose and preserve memories.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 28, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Aww, that is the best! Quilts for friends are the best kind to make. What a dear gift to a dear friend. 🙂

  • Reply
    June 28, 2015 at 12:09 am

    Sounds like an insightful idea-filled book. I’m making two quilts mindfully right now, one for my 11 year old neighbor who has cancer, and one for my sister in law of her husband’s shirts; he died of a recurrent brain tumor three months ago. I hope that my efforts help them heal.

    • Reply
      Rosemary Bolton
      June 29, 2015 at 8:04 am

      I love your statement here. This is what I feel too.
      I also love making quilts for those with broken hearts.
      I love giving them something beautiful that will give them comfort.

  • Reply
    June 28, 2015 at 2:13 am

    What a thoughtful and lovely post. I so enjoyed looking back at the two quilts you mentioned. It will be fun to see how the British selection evolves! PS I’d have used Tomatoes twice too! Aren’t they just the best?

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 28, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Haha! Yes! And yet I’m a total tomato snob. Grocery store tomatoes: bleh. Fresh from the garden tomatoes: HEAVEN!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2015 at 7:26 am

    I loved all the quilts you brought to the trunk show. All of your advice was really inspiring to me. But was most inspired by the last few you showed. and so touched by their stories. I especially loved your Thanksgiving quilt. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I want to make a quilt like yours, with all the things I’m thankful for on the quilt.

    It was wonderful to meet you!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 28, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Thank you. It was so wonderful to meet you too Louise! You felt like a kindred spirit. I hope our paths cross again!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I have several pieces of a fabric line and will be watching how you do the British fabric. I like the quilting with meaning too.

  • Reply
    Judie harron
    June 28, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I have been sewing mindfully since I began making quilts. 3 quilts that stand out in my mind are the T-shirt quilt I made for my daughter’s growing family; a Christmas Star quilt that I made for a grieving family whose very young daughter died of a childhood cancer; and a specially sized Passage quilt for a local funeral home. The passage quilt is used to remove the body from a nursing home, hospital or home of the deceased person. Many families have commented on what a loving touch it provides to such a tragic and sorrowful moment in the lives of the survivors.

    I truly am uplifted by Amy Gibson’s idea and have taken the For Keeps Pledge. I will begin sewing some blocks for the Charity Block Drive very soon. Thank you Amy Smart for bringing this to our attention…well done!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 28, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      What meaningful quilts those are! I love that quilts really do provide so much tangible comfort – not just weight and warmth, but the effort to create them is such a emblem of love and emotional comfort as well.

      Beautiful. Thank you Julie!

  • Reply
    Sandra b
    June 28, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    What a great post!! Thanks for reminding us all to make quilts with meaning….I think I will make that my goal for the coming year….I can already think of several that I should do!! Thanks again for a great post!!

  • Reply
    June 28, 2015 at 4:02 pm

    I’ve had a template and patterns for a drunkards path for years. Just can’t bring myself to do it yet.

  • Reply
    Dede Bliven
    June 28, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    Wow! Like all of your posts, this was totally inspirational. I took “The Pledge” and read it to our guild today. Everyone agreed we share the best passion in the world!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 29, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Oh that’s so awesome!!

      • Reply
        Amy Gibson
        June 29, 2015 at 9:53 pm

        I love that you read the pledge to your guild!! That makes my day! XO

  • Reply
    Rosemary Bolton
    June 29, 2015 at 8:12 am

    Amy, you are a dear. I am so glad you know you.
    I love your ideas, and your inspiration

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 29, 2015 at 11:07 am

      Oh thank you so much Rosemary! Your comments meant so much!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I have always felt that quilts are to be used and loved. I remember visiting Old Sturbridge Village in MA with my kids – I loved visiting the Cooper’s shop (where they make barrels). I would look at all the work that goes into making one barrel, and think what a wonderful piece! It should be saved and used for something special. One time the person working on the barrels commented that, in that day, these barrels were used in the way we use cardboard boxes now. Hmmmmm… Perspective!

    I have made several quilts that are meant to be loved. I made two for a friend who adopted two children within a short time. She said they’d put them on the wall – I begged her to let the kids enjoy them. Each of my kids has one made from shirts that my late husband used to wear. (Mine is still in the making…) Although they are “child sized” (since they were children at the time) they all still love and use them. And recently, I made one for my now adult daughter from one of your patterns, Amy. 🙂 She chose the pattern. She was with me to select the fabrics. She approved the final layout. And now she can snuggle under it whenever she wants! Here’s to making Quilts For Keeps! I really want to make a “Gratitude” quilt for our family, and I can’t wait to see your English Adventure Quilt!!!

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      June 29, 2015 at 11:08 am

      You are one of the best I know at making quilts with meaning!

  • Reply
    Liz blois
    July 2, 2015 at 1:42 am

    this post was very inspiring, I love to have a story behind a quilt. My two favourite ‘story’ quilts are a Union Jack quilt for my son who serves in the British Army and a Stars and Stripes quilts for his fiancee who serves in the US Airforce. I presented them to them when they returned from separate tours of duty in Afghanistan. Actually she only became his fiancee when she returned as he proposed to her, on one knee, on the tarmac as she stepped off the plane still in her combats with her backpack on her back. Of course I don’t have the quilts anymore because they have them but I have some lovely photos of them wrapped up in them safely home. Thank you for encoraging us to continue with this quilty story telling.

    • Reply
      Amy Smart
      July 2, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Oh that is just the best! I love it!

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