Charlies’ Shirts: Thoughts on the process of making memory quilts.

She gave me six shirts, six men’s long sleeved shirts, in all different colors and patterns. Make a quilt she said. Make two I thought. But would this be enough material for two quilts? These were not colors that I would choose to put together. How was this going to work?
I had researched memory quilts. And how to make a quilt from recycled shirts… take the buttons off one said. Here is how to cut the shirt up said another… cut around the labels; discard the edges and the button holes; break down the pockets.
Take the buttons off? Why? Buttons, cuffs and collars, and pockets define a man’s shirt. It is part of the structure of shirt and part of its’ charm. I was compelled to work around these design elements.
In the beginning, I stuck with a very geometric design and added in solid fabrics to complement the colors in the shirts. (photo1) I thought I was maximizing the use of the fabric by doing this. Some of the recycled shirt blogs had snuck in to hold my creativity at bay. The first quilt was going to be the largest. This quilt will go to my bother’s wife. Even though the quilt design is a take off on a Tula Pink pattern, I had to add in a few buttons and labels. It is the most traditional of the four I would end up making.
Still I had all this fabric left and now there were more buttons and pockets and labels to play with. The second quilt was more playful and incorporated more of the shirt elements. This was a quilt for my brother’s best friend. I choose more of the blues and grays, but played with the buttons and the pockets.

Charlie's Shirts 2

Charlie’s Shirts 2

Somewhere in this conversation of quilt making, my son informs me he wants a Charlie Shirt quilt too! So off we go again – more of the greens in this one and a more playful approach to this quilt number three.

Charlie's Shirts 3

Charlie’s Shirts 3

I have the squares for a fourth cut out. I made my daughter a pillow,

Pillow on the piano.

Pillow on the piano.

my nephew will get a pillow and my grandson a scrap bear! All made out of Charlie’s Shirts. This reminds me of a marvelous children’s book called Charlie’s Shirt by Tomi de Paola. Maybe when I give these quilts to their new owners I will include this book.
In the end, the artist in me could not cut these shirts into squares and just sew them together. The buttons and the labels, the colors and the fabrics, told part of the story of who this brother was and I played with those elements. I had fun while I cried and remembered.

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