In My Mother’s Garden

This is a handkerchief memory quilt. Sit back and I’ll tell you how it came to be!

It all started when my mother-in-law was cleaning out her parents’ house. During the painful process of sorting through decades of your parents lives in your childhood home, she came across a stash of handkerchiefs. MIL pulled them aside with the intention of giving them to me to be creative with. I appreciate her confidence in me. She really is wonderful!

When I saw her next, she said, “These were in Grandma’s house. Maybe you can make some kitchen curtains or something like that.” I thought that was a brilliant idea, actually. But the more I thought about it, I couldn’t bring myself to put such lovely delicate pieces in a kitchen window that receives such strong rays. I worried the handkerchiefs would quickly become sun-faded and disintegrate into fabric whisps upon a simple brush to the side. Both her kitchen and mine face the sun.

As I researched other ways to use antique handkerchiefs, I came across numerous quilts. Some quilts had intricately cut or folded the hankies. I wanted to put them all on display in their full glory. I ultimately settled on a very simple grid layout. It wasn’t complicated, but sometimes there is beauty in the simple things.

As I sorted through the handkerchiefs, I had a really hard time narrowing it down to only 16. There were more than 65! I had previously sorted them into 3 piles: floral, pattern, plain. I soon realized that I wasn’t just dealing with Grandma’s handkerchiefs, but I had a lot of Grandpa’s handkerchiefs as well. I was immediately drawn to all of the floral ones. So I figured, these were the ones I’d focus on. Maybe another quilt was on the distant horizon for the rest of them?

I picked out my favorite 16 then washed and ironed them. At this moment, I realized they weren’t al the same size. So I packed them all in my favorite bag and headed to the fabric store.

Back to the hankies!

I wanted 2 main colors, cream aaaaaaand I dunno, green? teal? pink????

Either way I needed enough cream so I could put all of the handkerchiefs onto equal sized backings. I also bought some heat ‘n bond to help put them into place so I could sew them down without making holes with pins. While I was there I spent, oh, I don’t know, 5 hours? deciding what the other color was going to be. I must have looked crazy. I asked if I could use an unoccupied cut table to display my hankies with the potential fabric choices. I would pull a few bolts, lay the hankies on top, then walk away to see what it would look like from a distance. I must have done this a dozen times. Don’t worry, I put the bolts back where I found them they belonged (because I was once a librarian… I know my way around “stacks”).

I went with the pink. It was subtle enough to not detract from the stars of the show.

Once I got home, I cut the cream to equal sized squares, heat ‘n bonded, then played with the layout. Once I was happy wit the layout, I took a picture. I’ve learned to never rely on my memory. To determine what size I cut the blocks to, I found my biggest hankie and added an inch and a half to the overall dimensions. Actually I did this BEFORE I went to the store. I multiplied this by 4 in either direction for my yardage (plus 1 extra yard).

After the layout was decided, I began to stitch the handkerchiefs down along their sides. I am going to quilt on top of them later. But I wasn’t sure what quilting pattern to do. At this point I noticed how much I liked that the cream blocks helped extend the size of the smaller hankies, and square up the rectangular ones.

I was really happy with my color choice for this quilts’ sashing. See how subtle it is? Almost invisible with just enough hint to not draw your eyes away from the beautiful hankies.

That sashing reminds me of paths. Hmm…that gives me an idea!

With the sashing and boarders added, I was happy with the overall size. I wanted it big enough for a queen sized bed.

Now for the afterquilt.

I needed something larger than the front. I pulled out the remaining cream and pink fabrics. I knew I didn’t have enough, so I scoured through my stash and found a few fabrics that were complimentary.

I sat down and made some blocks, strung them together, and added more fabric to get to the size I needed.

I’m beginning to notice that I prefer asymmetrical after quilts.

The afterquilt is the perfect place to put any extra or left over fabric from the top quilt. During the top quilt process, I don’t throw any scraps away until it is bound and labeled. I often use orphan blocks and scraps in the quilt backing. This is something I have been doing for years, but recently heard Karen Brown call it the afterquilt. I am picking up her quilting vocabulary.

Sandwich time! But I still hadn’t decided on a quilting pattern. But wait! Let’s go back to those sashes. They remind me of paths. The hankerchiefs are all floral. The sashes are like the paths through a garden…with flowerbeds! YES! What if I find a bunch of different floral outlines, size them to the blocks, and continue the floral theme? YES! YES!!

I found 16 different patterns and matched them to the block they reflected the most. It all worked out! (Take a picture!)

I used a disappearing ink pen to trace the pattern template. It disappears after a while, so if you put the project down, you might lose your way. Give it a quick spritz of water and it will reappear!

Once it was all quilted it was time to stretch the quilt to make it square. I get it damp and stretch it over some thick blankets on my carpet.

This is how I prevent anyone for trespassing on my quilts:

Hey! Do you see a sneaky little sewing bag in there? Also, that was my rocking chair as a child.

Eventually, I’ll do a post on how I stretch and block my quilts.

After everything is dried, I trim and put the binding on. I think the binding is my favorite part of the quilting process. I just find it relaxing, similar to hand quilting.

Then for the rod pocket (and label).

I’ll save the message on the label for my MIL and I to know.

This ended up being the perfect Christmas gift for her! I think she liked it!

The next year, I put it in the 2019 County Fair.

I put another quilt in the fair. You can see this one peeking from behind it in a picture from this blog.

Is that a red sticker I see?

Second place? Wow! It’s a big county!

Thanks!

*Cheers my Dears!*

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