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Opportunity: Hospice Memory Quilts

Sue Huntington from Carilion Hospice is starting a Memory Quilt project.   Memory quilts would be made from the clothing of a patient and presented to surviving loved ones after their death.

Star Quilters’ Board decided not to formally expand our comfort/soldier projects to include this effort, but that shouldn’t keep any of you from participating one your own.  Below you’ll find contact information for the volunteer coordinator for Carilion Hospice and a quilter who has made many of these, as well as some email excerpts from them to help you get an idea of what the project entails.

Sue Huntington’s email to Joyce Noell

“…we’d mention [this] as an option upon the patient’s admission but would be initiated and completed in most cases after the patient’s death.  In general, I’m thinking this would be a small lap quilt made from the patient’s clothing as selected by his family members.  Turn around time for producing the quilt would be set by the quilter and communicated to the family in advance.  We have a small donation fund that would reimburse the quilters for any necessary supplies – binding fabric, batting, thread, etc.  The design could be consistent for all the quilts or different per the discretion of the quilters.  This could be something the quilters work on together or individually.  The quilters could be involved in presenting the quilts to the families or hospice could present them on behalf of the quilters.”

Sue Huntington
Volunteer Coordinator
Carilion Clinic Hospice
1615 Franklin Rd
Roanoke, VA  24016
Fax 540-983-1181

Carin Kraft’s Notes

Carin Kraft ( has made many of these and is relocating to our area.  She intends to work on this with Sue Huntington.

Example Quiltmemoryquilt

” I’m attaching photos of a quilt I made last fall for the late drummer of BonJovi, Jeff Kinder.  Jeff was the original drummer when they first started, before Tico became drummer.  Jeff passed in November, 2011 at age 54 from brain cancer.   The guitar part of the t-shirt is the center of the quilt front and the back of the t-shirt is centered on the back of the quilt.  Believe it or not, there are pieces of silk ties, boxer shorts, bandanas, a pair of jeans and silk shirts in the quilt, which goes to show the huge array of clothing you get from a family.  The backing fabric was one of Jeff’s sheets.

Obtaining Clothing

The nurse of the patient gets clean clothing in good condition from the patient’s contact person.  The nurse then gives the clothing to the volunteer coordinator, who in turn contacts me and the clothing is brought to my home.  Please try to have the nurse get the contact person’s name and phone number.  Some times families have special requests and I like to touch base with the contact person.  At that time, when speaking with the contact person, they are so touched that you are taking on making memory quilts and they really do appreciate our time and efforts.  It is suggested that the clothing be what was the patient’s favorites, as the quilts will be giving comfort and memories of the patient to their family.  It is important that whatever scraps of clothing there are or leftover pieces of clothing that they be returned to the family.  I usually keep the scraps and leftover pieces of clothing in a separate bag and each quilt in it’s own bag.  In my 2+ years of making quilts, I’ve run the gamut from onesies, baby blankets, dresses everyday and fancy to bed sheets, silk ties, and a tapestry throw.

Quilts Size & Construction

36″ square is a reasonable size for a memory quilt, and sews together quickly.  Sometimes my finished quilt is a little bit larger because I get carried away and make more blocks than needed.  That happens because I try to use a piece of each garment in each quilt.  I keep the designs of the quilts easy.   Sometimes I’ll take a block from a quilt pattern and use it for the quilt design.  Some tops, fleece jackets or sweatshirts will have embroidery or some detail that stands out.  Those are always used, and one of the first things I look for when I go through the clothing.  It really is the quiltmaker’s choice, there are no set guidelines for the quilt designs.  One thing I do make sure to do is machine quilt on the diagonal or straight horizontal or vertical lines.  Clothing doesn’t allow for fancy free motion quilting, I’ve tried to do free motion quilting and found myself ripping out the stitches only to do straight line quilting.  I normally purchase batting along with fabric for the borders, binding and backing.  I submit the receipts to my volunteer coordinator who in turn reimburses me.  Normally the clothing is cotton, fleece, silk or polyester, seldom is there a fabric which would need cotton or a sew on stabilizer to make it easy to sew.

Quilts per Family

There is no limit of quilts per se, I think the original limit was 3.  Normally families want 1-3 quilts.  I had a family in 2011 that wanted 5 quilts.  That was quite the undertaking!  Yet it was gratifying to hear that one of the granddaughters used her quilt to bring her newborn daughter home from the hospital in.  Currently, the coordinator and I determine the numbers of quilts per family on a case by case basis.

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