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Sometimes you want to immortalize a person, a place, or a particular day in a way that makes it tangible and tactile. This Instructable explains how to do that in the form of a quilt. Your Memory Quilt can incorporate photos of your pet or favorite movie star, an exciting vacation, or even your wedding.

Step 1: Image Transfer

The first step to create your quilt is to select and transfer images of your photos onto fabric. Use images that have good resolution when enlarged. For a 4'x5' quilt, you will need 20 images.

My images were arranged within the confines of an 8.5"x11" sized sheet of paper. Each image needs a 1/2" margin surrounding the image. For this project, I suggest two photos per sheet with a 1" border (1/2" plus 1/2" = 1") between photos.

I used PowerPoint 2010 to lay out the images on the page. First, I made sure the page margins were set to 1/2" (in PP, click Design > Page Setup). This was to build in the 1/2" margin around the image and to maximize the space available for images. I used a rectangle that was 1" wide and several inches long as a temporary spacer between images. Insert your pictures and resize them to fit on the page. Delete the spacer before printing.

There are a variety of ways to transfer an image to fabric. Some methods are more successful than others. Using iron-on transfers can be tricky and sometimes you do not get a clear transfer of the entire image. I tried using Mod Podge® photo transfer medium, but the image was a bit rubbery and didn't fare well in the wash.

In the end, I used Inkjet fabric sheets. Each 8.5"x11" sheet consists of a piece of cotton fabric with a paper backing. Load the sheets into your Inkjet printer or Inkjet copier and print away. Inkjet fabric sheets are a bit pricey ($1 to $2 per sheet), so it is a good idea to shop around and do a test run on plain paper first. Also, make sure you print on the fabric side rather than the smooth paper side of the sheet.

If you are going to the effort and expense to make photo transfers, you want the images to last. After the sheets are printed. apply two light coast of spray fixative (often used to keep pastel and chalk drawings from smearing) to the front of each printout. I used Grumbacher matt final fixative, but another brand would work. Let the fixative dry, preferably several hours or overnight. Iron the back side of each sheet. Let cool, then peel off the paper backing.

Use a ruler, rotary cutter and self-healing mat to trim a 1/2" margin around each image. These are your photo blocks. If you have never used a rotary cutter and self-healing mat, now is the time to start. It really makes the process much easier!

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Step 2: Make Quilt Blocks

The second step is to create your quilt blocks. This project consists of 20 quilt blocks that are about 12” square when finished.

Select fabric that has meaningful imagery. If your quilt is about your trip to Hawaii, select various fabrics with palm trees, pineapples, hula dancers, etc. If the subject of your quilt is a person, select fabric that reminds you of that person, their favorite books, movies and hobbies. Solid colors work well too. Mix it up. You will need at least 13” of each fabric; 13” of 45”-wide fabric will be enough to make about two quilt blocks.

Each of my images were slightly different sizes because I eye-balled them when laying them out in PowerPoint. (Much more fun that way! Everyone needs a balanced life. Be precise when you need to be and wing it the rest of the time!) This, of course, makes it more “interesting” when it came time to add the borders. I love math, but wanted to guestimate how wide to cut the boarder strips. Here goes:

  1. The quilt block should end up 13” wide. Add 2.5” (for four 5/8” seam allowances) to 13" = 15.5”
  2. Subtract the width of the photo image, not including the seam allowance, rounding down to the
    nearest inch.
  3. Divide the resulting number by 2.

In simplified form, the width of the border should be 15.5” minus the width of your photo image (rounded down to the nearest inch), divided by two. This gives you the width to cut for the two side borders. The length should be the same as the height of the image including the margins. Cut two boarder pieces. Note that the border fabric is less likely to stretch if it is cut lengthwise on the fabric (going the same direction as the selvage).

Using a 5/8” seam allowance, sew the borders you just cut to the left and right sides of the photo block you used for the calculation above. Iron on the back side of the block, pressing the seams outward from the photo block

Use the same calculation, substituting the height of your image, to calculate the width to cut for the top and bottom borders. The length should be slightly longer than 13". Cut two border pieces.

Using a 5/8” seam allowance, sew one of the borders you just cut to the top and bottom of the photo block, centering the borders along the edge. Iron the back side of the block, pressing the seams outward from the photo block

You may have noticed what appears to be an inconsistency. Your photo image has a 1/2” margin around it, but we are using a 5/8” seam allowance. The extra 1/8” is wiggle room intended to prevent the white margin around your image from showing on the front of your quilt block.

Using a ruler, rotary cutter and self-healing mat, trim the quilt block to 13"x13".

Step 3: Assemble Your Quilt

The third step is to assemble your quilt. At this point, you need two yards of fleece fabric and some high-loft quilt batting. Wash and dry the fleece fabric so it has an opportunity to shrink or bleed, or whatever else it wants to do. You really do not want the backing to shrink AFTER you complete the quilt.

Arrange the completed quilt blocks on a flat surface. Sew the blocks together to create the quilt top. Iron the back side of the quilt top, pressing the seams to one side.

Spread out the fleece fabric on the floor, right side UP. Make sure it is smooth and free of wrinkles. Lay the quit top, right side DOWN onto the fleece, making sure that there is a border of fleece around the quilt top and that both pieces are smooth. Spread a layer of quilt batting on top of the fleece and quilt top, making a sandwich of the three. At this point, you may need the help of a cat to hold down the batting. (Just kidding.) Trim the batting to slightly larger than the quilt top.

Pin the three layers together around all four sides. Use lots of pins! I inserted a strip of tissue paper on top of the quilt as I inserted pins. The tissue makes it easier to sew because the presser foot won't get stuck in the batting. Trim the fleece about a inch wider than the quilt top.

Sew the top two layers (quilt top and batting) together for about 14". This will create the opening used to turn the quilt right side out.

Starting about one inch from the end of the seam you just sewed, sew along the edges of the quilt top, making square corners, until you meet back up with the previously sewn seam. Continue sewing for 1" more. If you used tissue paper, tear it away at the seams.

Use scissors to trim the batting close to the stitching line. Trim the corners to remove excess fabric. Otherwise, your corners will be too bulky.

Put your hand in through the opening in the side of the quilt and grab a corner of the quilt. Pull the corner out through the opening. Continue until the entire quilt has been turned right side out. Put a pair of scissors or something else pointy through the opening in the side of the quilt and push in the corners to make them square. Be sure to not make a hole in the quilt.

Step 4: Finish Your Quilt

Now it is time for the finishing touches.

Using a needle and thread, sew closed the opening in the side of the quilt.

Spread out the quilt on a flat surface, such as the floor. Pin the edges of the quilt together around all four sides. Use lots of pins! Top stitch about 1/2" from the edge all the way around the quilt.

Spread out the quilt on a flat surface again. Thread a large eye needle with about a yard of yarn. Put both ends of the yarn together and pull until there is a double strand of yarn the entire length. Where four quilt squares meet at the corners, insert a needle about 1/4" from one corner. Bring the needle up about 1/4" from the opposing corner. pull the yarn through until the ends of the yarn extend out of the first hole by about 2". Tie a square knot. Trim the yarn to 1" to 1.5". Repeat until all of the corners are tied. There should be 12 knots.

Tools:

  • Computer and MS PowerPoint or a similar program (optional)
  • Inkjet printer or copier
  • Ruler
  • Rotary cutter and self-healing mat (optional)
  • Pins and needles, including a large eye needle
  • Scissors
  • Iron and ironing board (or flat surface protected with a couple layers of towels, etc.)
  • Sewing machine (optional)

Materials:

  • Photographs or photo images
  • Inkjet fabric sheets
  • Variety of print or solid fabric, each at least 13" long
  • Thread
  • Two yards of fleece fabric
  • High-loft quilt batting
  • Yarn

Step 5: Cuddle Up With Your New Quilt

I hope you enjoy your Cuddly Memory Quilt.

I love your quilt! And it's good you had kittie help. :)
Couldn't do it without her help!

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