In Honor of Mark

I lost a good friend about two months ago. We met 35 years ago in Italy and remained friends ever since. By happy coincidence my teaching jobs occasionally took me places near where Mark lived and we got a chance to catch up on each other’s lives more often than we could have otherwise.

I couldn’t make it to Mark’s funeral and his Memorial Service was this past Saturday on the other side of the country. So I sent a quilt.

I had asked Mark’s mom if I could have some of his shirts. Six boxes arrived, thanks to one of Mark’s friends! The T-shirts will have to wait for another time, but I took apart the others and cut out the pockets from each one. Working without a pattern, I sewed them together in strips, appliquing the plackets over some seams, and also using them to bridge gaps needed to grow rows when they were too short. (Hint: 1/4″ Steam-A-Seam tape is great for this. Fuse it to the back of the placket, then to the patches and top stitch.)

I wanted to use the pockets for visual interest and because pockets are positive. They hold things that are important. Even empty, they hold promise that something important will come along. In this case, I hope they will hold memories for Mark’s family.

I stitched the rows together and appliqued more plackets over top.  The plackets were really an excuse to use the buttons. I wanted to touch the buttons Mark touched. They also offered closure, both literally and figuratively.

I cut the left and right plackets off each shirt and buttoned them together so I could be sure to sew the buttons back onto the appropriate buttonholes later. (Again, buttons on buttonholes are more interesting than just buttons. Blue painters’ tape kept the button in position until I sewed it on the quilt top.

If the thread used to sew on the button originally was anything other than white, I wrote the color thread to use on the tape.

The tape helped me reposition the bottom and hold it in place while I sewed. Took me quite a few buttons to figure out a system as I was using a #20 applique foot, probably not made for sewing on buttons. Bernina makes a foot for sewing buttons on, and I know I have one; I just couldn’t find it!

After more than 180 buttons, I got pretty good at it.

I set the stitch to zigzag, dropped the feed dogs, lined up the button holes as best I could and manually guided the needle down the first hole by rotating the handwheel. A Bernina “heel tap” brought the needle back up again and I repeated the alignment process for the second hole (Sometimes the stitch width needed adjusting; not all buttons are the same size.)  If I made it in and out of the two holes without incident, I hit the gas. I never did break a needle.

Rotate and stitcht the other wayThen I peeled off the tape, rotated the quilt top the other way and zigzagged some more. At the end of the process, I threaded the top tails into a magic needle, drew them to the back and tied all four threads into a big knot, and clipped the tails. They would be hidden inside the quilt. Except for the buttons I forgot. Those were sewn after the quilt was quilted.

I used shirt backs for the backing and rented time on a long arm machine, making up the quilting as I went along. 

I made a tissue holder for each pocket, also out of parts of Mark’s shirts.  The quilt was displayed at the Memorial Service. People attending were invited to take a tissue holder made from Mark’s shirts with them. If they chose they could write a memory of Mark on a piece of paper and put it in one of the pockets on the quilt and I understand they did just that.  Here’s a “free pattern” for the tissue holders. Notice the quotation marks.

I have ideas for more quilts from Mark’s shirts; I have a lot of leftovers! Some will be wilder than this one, but I have a few traditional quilts in mind too.

It has been a great honor to make this quilt for Mark’s family. I hope the pieces bring them peace.
 

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78 thoughts on “In Honor of Mark

  1. This is one of the most meaningful memory quilts that I’ve seen, Ami.

    You’ve not only explained your process beautifully, but you created an entire flow of sharing, grieving, rejoicing, and remembering all at once.

    This is something I know will stick with me as one of those ideas you just want to use and pass along to others.

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  2. So sad to lose a friend. Your memorial to Mark is a treasure. I’d seen this done before with shirts, but never with the pockets and the plackets! I’m sure the tissues came in handy at the service, and what a great idea to give people a place to tuck their notes about him. If I were his mother I’d make you an honorary daughter!

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  3. So bittersweet. What a touching story and what a great idea. I’m sure that making the quilt was helpful to your grieving process, too.

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  4. My sympathy on the loss of your friend Mark. What a lovely way to remember him and help his family with their grief, as well.

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  5. What a wonderful project! I love the tissue holders. It’s great that you had time to get this ready for the memorial service. So often there’s just no time.

    BTW, I have a low-shank machine with snap-on feet and have sewn buttons on by just taking the foot off and just using the “ankle” to hold the button. I don’t think that trick will work with a Bernina, though.

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  6. You are a super great friend! I’m sure this is something that will travel down through the ages with only kind remarks about Mark’s friend, Ami. Thanks for being such a good person and great friend!

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  7. Dear Ami,
    I’m so sorry for your loss of your friend Mark. He must have been very special to you, and how wonderful that he was a part of your life for so long. The quilt you made from his shirts is beautiful, and I’m sure it will bring comfort to his loved ones. I hope it also brought you peace as you pieced.

    I am currently in possession of 2 boxes of Tshirts that belonged to a young man who died last fall. He was the son of a coworker; when the family is ready to express what they want, they will become comfort quilts as well.

    Thank you for sharing this story with us!
    Ann Kelly, Elgin, IL

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  8. Thank you for sharing your great ideas! I will be starting (as soon as I heal from bunion surgery :-) a memory quilt for a friend who recently passed away. I plan to incorporate some of your ideas. Thanks so much!!

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  9. What a wonderful and loving tribute to a friend from a friend. His family will always treasure the quilt and your act of kindness and thoughtfulness.

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  10. This is absolutely one of the sweetest, most creative memorial quilts I have ever heard of. I love the symbolism of why you did each step that you did. Thank you for sharing this. I know his family will treasure this. It will help them to cherish memories, know that a true friend took the time to share in their grief in a very tangible way & will continue to wrap them in a hug from him when they need it the most. I hope you will share the rest of the quilts you make from his shirts. All I can say is WOW! Everyone could use a friend like you.

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  11. Ami, I’m so sorry for your loss. The quilt is a wonderful memento, full of symbolism.

    The next time you can’t find the button sew-on foot for your Bernina, try using the #9 or #24 feet. They’re free-motion/darning feet, but they work great for buttons, too.

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  12. I think this is such a wonderful quilt that you made for Mark’s family from his clothes and I am sure it will bring them some peace.

    After my husband died, I made a quilt for my son out of some of his jeans, and appliqued some photo transfers of my son and his dad onto the quilt. It took a long time for me to be ready to do it, and It was both hard and healing for me to make it for him. Still need to make one for my other son and then one for myself.

    Sorry for the loss of your good friend Mark. May all your good memories help you at this time.

    Kim

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  13. When my best friend’s Mother passed, I asked her family for some of June’s blouses that I could make a quilt from. Surprise – I got a box of T-shirts instead of cotton blouses. It took me two years to figure out how to prepare them for a quilt. I knew that I had to back them but then I didn’t know how to go about quilting.
    Recently I joined a group of ladies from my Church that make quilts for a Guatemala Boys Orphanage. They back them with fleece and tie instead of quilt. This seemed perfect! I gave “June”s Quilt” to my friend this past Mother’s Day. Of course there were tears, but so many happy mememories as well.

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  14. what a beautiful way to remember a friend;i’m sure that your labor of love brought so much comfort to his grieving family. what a great way to memorialize someone and really loved the pocket idea-both the tissue holders (which i have made lots of thanks to you) and to tuck in a memorial note. i’m blown away. (not to mention touched to tears.)

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  15. What a wonderful tribute to a lifelong friend. I’m certain the quilt will bring his family peace as well as many wonderful memories.

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  16. What a lovely way to honor your friend Mark. Time spent with him and again time spent to ease his family and friends loss of someone dear. I loved it that you kept his fun shirts in the quilt too. You definitely showed that he had a sense of humor! God Bless him.

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  17. What a wonderful tribute to your friend Mark and his family. The story of your quilt brought tears to my eyes but they were happy tears.

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  18. This is wonderful! What a great idea! I’m sure this must have been heart warming to the family! This would be a great idea for other occasions, like a graduation present, etc.
    Susan

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  19. What a beautiful story, besides being a wonderful tribute. I put that idea in my ‘maybe to do one day’ list. Who would have thought, shirts, would make such a great quilt!

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  20. What a lovely thing to do! I especially love the tissue holders on the quilt. I am sorry I did not think of this when my longest quilting friend passed last summer. I just attended the Long Beach Quilt Show where I thought of her a lot..we had been together at the show last year.
    You are such a thoughtful person Ami. I am glad to know you. God Bless….

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  21. What a cool and thoughtful idea Ami. I’m sure the family appreciates the quilt. I remember the picture quilt the you made in remembrance of your Dad. It was hanging in the hallway of your Mother’s house. (at least I think it was the front hall) Your Mother was so proud of that quilt. I bought your book from her and made a picture quilt for my brother’s 80th birthday.

    Liz

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  22. Ami,
    What a wonderful tribute to a good friend! We always knew you were a genius at coming up witrh solutions to using important scraps!
    You did a great job and I’m very sure Mark’s famiy and friends really appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness. Love, Norma

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  23. All I can say is “Wow!” and “Wowie Wow!”

    This memory quilt is just full of good positive thoughts with the pockets to hold memories of Mark, while also helping a worthy Flint organization. Wish I’d been that creative when my brother died, or our dad……

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  24. Ami, Thanks so much for sharing this priceless and profound (touching the buttons Mark touched) gift for Mark’s family. You were so clever to do the tissue holders for the service. Glad notes were stuck in the pockets by those attending. I’ll never look at a pocket again the same way. Such a clever gal you are! Allison in Plano, Texas

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  25. What a wonderful idea for a memorial quilt. I had asked for my ex- FIL shirts and am still waiting. If they are shirts like these I hope you don’t mind if I borrow your idea. I love the idea of notes in the pockets. Even though Dad was my ex FIL he was very very special to me

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  26. Ami…..what a great quilt for your wonderful friend. I know it will have a special meaning for his family and be treasured for many years.

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  27. My condolences to you on losing an old friend. His family will treasure the memory quilt you made about him.

    Best to you,
    Judy

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  28. Dear Ami,
    You did a great job of making such a great memory quilt for Mark’s family and friends. We always knew you’re a genius at thinking up new and clever ways to make quilts of all kinds. I’m sure your wonderful workmanship and the love you stitched into the quilt touched everyone who saw it. Especially those who kept the tissue holders and left messages in Mark’s pockets. What a wonderful thing to do for a special friend.
    Love, Norma

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  29. My sincere condolences and prayers are with you and Mark’s family. I see the love for Mark in this very touching and creative tribute. How cathartic it must have been for you.

    I remember how hard it was to start on a block for the Names Project (AIDS Quilt) in tribute to my brother. We put a pocket on his too. Whenever His block is on display anywhere near us we go and add to the pocket our love notes / memories. So often we read notes from others who never new us or Pete. They are a comfort all these 18 years later.

    Your quilt will provide that same continual comfort for Mark’s family. Both of you were truly blessed by your friendship.

    Love,
    Pati

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  30. Bless you! You get more amazing all the time. I can’t think of many people who are as good as you are at showing your love for others! Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  31. Thank-you so much Ami for the heartfelt tribute. I too am an old friend of Mark’s. We grew up in Richmond, went to the University of Waterloo together and then on to Aix-en-Provence. Over the years we have stayed in contact and visited as often as we could. I was deeply saddened by his passing. But your wonderful quilt has helped ease the pain immensely. I remember some of those shirts! He certainly was an amazing friend. Thanks again. Debbie

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  32. Ami,
    Could I have some of those tissues please? I did not even know Mark and yet feel a sense of loss from this world and grieve and celebrate with you and his family.
    Surely there is ANOTHER star in your crown for this lovely, loving gift that they can wrap themselves and fond memories in.

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  33. This is such a wonderful and beautiful tribute Ami. Thank you so much for this. I never would of realized how much each shirt brings back memories and thoughts of Mark. I often helped him pick out what shirt to wear with what, etc. Oh gosh, I remember some of his “unusual” selections! haha. He liked bright colors usually, and blue always highlighted his eyes so well. And, like a lot of us, he always wanted vertical lines, to make him look, um, taller, haha. Anyways, it is beautiful, and so is your story and just the idea that you took the time and effort to make this. I hoped it brought as many good feelings to you, as it does to all of us. Take care.

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  34. As I retired clergy woman, I applaud your thoughtful gift to Mark’s family. You put your remarkable skill into a priceless treasure that is a tribute to the triumph of the human spirit to overcome grief with blessing. KBB

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  35. Wow, you are amazing – I am so sorry for your loss. You must have been truly blessed in this friendship to show your love and loss this way. Blessings.

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  36. This is wonderful. I love the idea of the tissue holders too – a little something that will be meaningful to so many people. Thank you for sharing. Take care.

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  37. What a labor of love and what a priceless treasure for Mark’s family.

    I love your comment/thought that pockets are “positive” …

    and tissue holders/offering to let people write notes and tuck them into the pockets, oh my . . .

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  38. This is wonderful! I cannot imagine the joy his family and loved ones will feel every time they look at (and touch!) this incredible memorial.

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  39. What a nice idea, thank you for letting us see it and telling us how you assembled it. I am sure it gave comfort to Mark’s family and friends. Sandra

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  40. Thank you for making this beautiful quilt honoring Mark.

    I know Elaine and Art were so touched by your offer to craft it, and the result, including your narrative, is remarkable.

    I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Mark as long as you, and I knew him well, through the work of The Experience workshops, of which we were both a part.

    His sudden passing still seems unbelievable.

    Again, thank you.

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  41. The question is: Which one of you cut your hair the most between those two photos? (I met Mark in Italy, too, but my hair has departed on its own, alas.)

    Great quilt, great idea – too bad we both have lost a great friend.

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  42. I too made a quilt that a granddaughter wanted from her grandfather’s shirts. I choose the “Turning Twenty” pattern and also incorporated pockets and front bands. She gave it to her father for Father’s Day. Then I took the rest of the scraps and made her a small quilt as she was expecting her first child. She wanted to know if the shirts had to be washed as some of them still smelled of her Grandfather.
    Great Memories!!

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  43. I am so glad I found this link. My husband was good friends with all 3 Woodland boys when they met in Dacca, Bangladesh. Then he visited them a number of times after they moved to Rome. I finally met Mark in 2001 at a DASS reunion in Chicago. I saw him a number of times after that, including up in Washington for his brother Dale’s burial. My husband had also flown back to Toronto for the main Memorial service there (right after 9-11). I had hoped to get to Mark’s memorial in Washington, but wasn’t able to accompany my husband up there for it. When he got home and I saw the Tissue holder he told me all about the special quilt with pockets for notes and then the tissue holders which each person could take out after they placed their note in it. He was touched and impressed by the whole creative/thoughtful idea and I’m so glad I was able to see it here and learn about the idea and the process. Thanks for all of it! I know it will mean alot to Mark’s folks. They are so sweet and have suffered more loss in this lifetime than any parent should. This quilt should help bring them some comfort and many special memories of the son that was “there for them” all thru the years.

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  44. Such a lovely tribute to Mark. I recognized one of the shirts. I have just finished reading the novel “how to make an american quilt”, so I have a whole new respect for the process. Well done.

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  45. That looks like a very nice quilt Ami. As a quilter know that you put time, thought and soul into this quitt and hopefully the recipients will realize what a great treasure it is.

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  46. Thank you for this. I have my own little piece of Mark’s shirt because of you. The idea was wonderful, and it worked so well. I am sure Mark would have been overjoyed.

    I went to high school with Mark In Rome – we were the Canadian contingent. Last I saw him was when he came to Vancouver for the Olympics. He had that perpetual smile. Next month he was gone.

    Best,

    Jaime

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  47. Ami, between your Alzheimer’s quilt project and quilts like Mark’s, you are leaving a deep and gentle footprint on the world, touching hearts one by one. Sending much love your way for all you do.
    Pat

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  48. Ami – I’m sorry that such a good friend has gone to join the angels. The pockets are a wonderful creative idea that I will ‘borrow’. I have been slowly working on a quilt from my recently departed husband and he always had a ‘hankie’ in his pocket. It sounds like Mark was a wonderful, caring and beautiful person. He will live on in our hearts.

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  49. We all know quilting brings people together. I have been blessed to hear from some wonderful people who have found out about my tissue holders through your website. Their uses for the tissue holders have been both creative and thoughtful, but I have to say, nothing has touched me like your use of putting tissue holders in the pockets of Mark’s memory quilt. What a compassionate way to share a bit of Mark with the people who loved him. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing such a creative way to make a loving keepsake.

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  50. Ami, what a beautiful gift for Mark’s family, bless you for putting it together. I was in Dale’s class in Rome and stayed in touch with Mark over the years. We recently lost my father and my sister Bobbi put together a shirt quilt that included comments written on fabric from new and old friends and family. It’s a real treasure and you both share a unique ability to translate feelings into fabric. Un abbraccio forte.

    Like

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