Thursday, 30 January 2014

Steve's Quilt

About a year ago, my friend Berni showed me an article she'd read in The Guardian about quilter Cassandra Ellis. Cassandra had been contacted by the widow of a man who had recently died, and asked if she could make quilts for her children from her late husband's clothes. The lady wanted to be able to give her children something that would hold precious memories of their father, that they would treasure forever. The article was extremely pertinent as Berni's brother Steve had also recently died, at the tragically young age of 46. She asked me if I knew anything about quilting and if I could help her make a quilt from Steve's clothes. As you know, I'm not a quilter, but I had just finished making my first simple quilt for my son, so had a rough idea of how to go about it. The only slight obstacle was the fact that Berni had never sewn anything before. This didn't bother us at all - she was determined to make a quilt and I was more than happy to help her!


The work involved in making a quilt can appear quite daunting, so what we did was break down all of the steps into manageable chunks. We would meet up, I would demonstrate a particular step and Berni would practise it until we were both satisfied that she could do it herself. She would then go off and work on it until she was ready to move on to the next stage. It also meant I wasn't breathing down her neck the whole time and she could achieve each step at her own pace.


One of the more time consuming steps was cutting the squares out and deciding what to include. Steve's quilt is much bigger than the one I'd made - about twice the size in fact - so there was a lot more work involved. The quilt is made up of five inch squares from Steve's shirts (the checked squares) and shorts (the solid squares) as that was his signature look. Berni also managed to include a few squares that contained a pocket. This is because Steve would only wear shirts with pockets, as he needed somewhere to keep his notebook and pen!

Squares with secret pockets


I think that's what makes this quilt so special; each square holds a personal memory for Berni and will be a precious reminder of a much loved brother. Not surprisingly, the whole process was very emotional and there was barely a session without tears, but the end result is definitely worth it.


What really touches me about this project is Berni's determination. Yes, I might have shown her how to sew a few squares together and let her borrow some machine feet etc, but the work on this quilt is all hers. From never having sewn anything in her life, she's managed to sew AN ENTIRE QUILT, all by herself. Despite the unbearably sad origins, this is a phenomenal achievement, and it was an absolute privilege to have been able to help her achieve her goal. It really goes to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.


For a finishing touch, Berni sewed specially ordered labels inside each pocket. Beloved - because he was. x



52 comments:

  1. Gosh, what a touching story and what a great friend you are. The quilt is beautiful.

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  2. Thank you for sharing and recording this lovely story, Jane! I won't lie- it was moving and brought a tear to m'eye! How wonderful to hear of something so beautifully human as your shared quilt therapy sessions!

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  3. Oh Jane, what a special special thing this is.
    Thank you for sharing.
    x

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  4. What a beautiful idea - I can't help but feel so overwhelmed by it.
    It's a beautiful quilt and a lovely way to remember a person.

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  5. Beautiful, both the thought and the quilt x

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  6. Beautiful and just so touching.

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  7. that is so lovely. the family will treasure it. xxx

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  8. Berni is an inspiration and you are a marvellous friend. This is a wonderful and beautiful quilt.

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  9. That is just so lovely. The best quilts are those that contain memories and somehow tell a story, Bernie's does just that!

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  10. Beautiful. What a wonderful idea and a wonderful quilt.

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  11. How lovely, and also poignant. The finished quilt is simply beautiful and a credit to you both.

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  12. This is such a beautiful quilt and the idea behind it is lovely. I am so impressed with the attention to detail and care that went in to this quilt, Berni really put herself into this project!

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  13. That is the most lovely, touching thing... so beautiful :) Thank you for sharing :)

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  14. This is such a wonderful idea!

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  15. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story. Love is enduring and eternal. Bernie is a lovely sister and you are a wonderful friend.

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  16. This is such a beautiful post and concept, thank you for sharing.

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  17. What a lovely idea. The finished quilt looks great and is such an amazing and most personal heirloom.

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  18. What a beautiful and touching story. I love this idea. It's a wonderful way to hold dear to memories.

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  19. This is amazing. So moving, so unique, and what a great way to help your friend through her grieving process.

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  20. What a lovely story! And what a nice way to remember her brother. Really touching.

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  21. Thank you for sharing this special project. How wonderful that sewing can be used to create an item with precious memories.

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  22. Lovely quilt and great story! Thanks for sharing.

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  23. What a lovely project for your friend to undertake - such a special piece of work. Considering she couldn't really sew before the finished product is amazing (though it'd still be amazing if she could sew too of course). I can't imagine making a quilt as they are so large & time consuming.

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  24. What a meaningful provenance out of such sadness

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  25. Gosh, this post brought a tear to my eye! It's such a wonderful story, and a beautiful quilt. You are a star for helping your friend, and Berni is amazing for making this. I am in awe of her, especially because this is her first project, and one she will treasure for ever.

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  26. Such an emotional journey. Much love to Berni and thank you for sharing this.

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  27. This is such a heartwarming story out of a sad time. Quilts provide comfort and this one is amazing in every way!

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  28. I love that the pockets were used - shows that the fabric was actually shirts and given that he would only wear shirts with pockets it would have seemed a shame not to include them! Beautiful story.

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  29. What a beautiful quilt and a lovely tribute - Bernie must be very proud of her achievements, and you should be proud of your tuition and help. I made my first quilt, finishing off a quilt which must sister had started, but was unable to finish before she died very suddenly two years ago. You can see the result here -
    http://vintagerockchick-gill.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/i-can-finally-reveal-something-that-i.html
    I finished it in time to give to my niece (my late sister's daughter) just before her wedding.
    There were a few tears shed over that one too xx

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  30. This is incredibly beautiful, it actually made me tear up. All the best to Berni. It looks like she found a wonderful way to cope with this loss.

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  31. What a lovely idea and beautiful quilt.

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  32. What a beautiful thing to do and achieve. You've touched my heart.

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  33. How wonderful ! A really touching tribute.

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  34. What a beautiful and moving story. Jane, you really are the best friend any person could ask for. Beautifully told, too. I love the pocket and label details. Burst into tears.

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  35. Such a beautiful but also sad story. I'm glad you helped her through it. I don't think she could have done it alone.

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  36. Wonderful work indeed, ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

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  37. Such a wonderful story, and well done to Berni because it looks amazing.

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  38. Jane what a wonderful post and a fabulous quilt which will mean so much to the lady and all her family. Well done on helping her, she did a fabulous job of it.
    Lots of love
    Dorothy
    :-)xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  39. Such a lovely project, and a lovely quilt at the end. I hope this helped the family with their loss

    x

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  40. What a beautiful remembrance of her brother!

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  41. This is so touching Jane, thanks for sharing.

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  42. I'm moved to tears Jane, what a beautiful thing you've done for a friend. The guidance and support you gave her enabled her to create such a special keepsake and memory of her beloved brother. And Berni's determination and strength are truly admirable. The quilt is just lovely!

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  43. So beautiful - family, friends - what else is there? xox

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  44. In bits Jane. Much love to Berni and her family. Px

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  45. Good job. I am proud of her work!

    This caught my eye because I am a neophyte quilter. As a matter of fact currently working on my very first quilt! :-)

    Cheers,

    Lyric
    http://www.sewcroandquilt.wordpress.com

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  46. Thank you for posting the story of this lovely quilt. Not only is it beautiful, but it represents the love of a sister for a lost brother, and a caring friend willing to share and grieve with her. Very nicely done!

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  47. Thank you for posting the story of this lovely quilt. Not only is it beautiful, but it represents the love of a sister for a lost brother, and a caring friend willing to share and grieve with her. Very nicely done!

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