How to Turn Your Quilt Into an Heirloom Treasure




Introduction: How to Turn Your Quilt Into an Heirloom Treasure

About: I am married with two children. Spring, summer, and fall are my very favorite times of the year. I enjoy working in the yard, sewing, cooking, quilting, gardening, and creating. I do this to keep my sanity.

Anyone who is interested in preserving family history for their progeny will benefit from this instructable. It is about how to turn any handmade quilt into an heirloom treasure but it has great tips for preserving memories and emotions that we and our children experience through our lifetime in a tangible way. It also has tips about keeping records of important dates tied to an heirloom. The inspiration behind this instructable came from a quilt that I made my sister. I wanted to make a quilt for her that would become a family heirloom that would never be forgotten. I named the quilt "The Pecos Pearl quilt".

This instructable will show you techniques to preserve the information about the quilt and things you can do to keep the emotional attachments associated with it alive and in your memory forever.

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Step 1: Materials List

This instructable has more that one item to make because they are all optional.  These memory enhancer's are ideas on how to preserve memories of an item that we have attachments to.  These are also ideas of what a quilter can include with her quilt to give to the receiver. These are all the materials I used for memory makers.

1.  Finished handmade quilt.
2.  Quality picture frame that will display several pictures.
3.  8X10 quality picture frame that will hang on the wall. 
4.  Leftover scraps from the quilt.  (optional)
5.  Journal.
6.  Quality printed picture of finished quilt.
7.  Several printed pictures of the giver, receiver, and family members. 
8.  Acid free paper should be used for pictures.
9.  Box, suitcase, or chest to store quilt.
10.  Potpourri, baby powder, ceder blocks or essential oil.
11.  Children's favorite books, stuffed animals and keepsakes.
12. Hand written letter from giver. 
13. Hand written letter from receiver.
14. Copy of the quilt's pattern and instructions if possible. 
15.  Small scraps of fabric or muslin  for sachet.
16.  Embroidery needle, thread, and small iron on transfer for the Lavender sachet.
17.  Scissors.
18. Embellishments of your choice for journal, sachet, and box.
19.  Wrapping paper, contact paper, or fabric for covering journal and box.
20.  Complete newspaper of your area to include with the quilt to show date and events.
21.  Embroidery hoop.

Step 2: Things to Consider Before Making a Quilt.

1. A complete newspaper of the area the quilter lives when the quilt is finished.
2. Embroider your name and date on a corner of the quilt.
3. Make several extra blocks that might be used to repair the quilt for ancestors.
4. Include quilt scraps for making memory enhancers or for putting scraps in picture frames for the inheritor's.
5. A picture of yourself and the quilt.
6. A copy of the pattern or a copy of a few pieces for repairing quilt when needed.
7. Name the quilt.
8.  If making a quilt for a child you might include a lock of hair and put it in a cloth bag. 
9.  Make the quilt with cotton fabrics that will survive the test of time.
10.  Instructions for washing and storing the quilt will help the receiver avoid ruining the quilt. 

A picture of a well used quilt approx. 70 years old gives you an idea why repairs might be needed. 

Step 3: Quilt's Accessories

All of these things will benefit the receiver.  My daughter loved "Daisy Dog's Wake Up Book.  I do not remember what happened to it but several years ago she mentioned that she wished she had that book.  I searched for 3 years and finally found one and bought it for her.  It was very expensive because it was out of print.  She was delighted to receive it. 

A covered box to store the quilt in along with pictures, books, journals. and other keepsakes.
Framed finished quilt block for a wall hanging.
Cedar blocks tied with jute.
Framed pictures of the quilt, quilter and receiver.
Potourri used to awaken the memory.  See picture of lavender bag for instructions.
A covered journal to record quilt stories, letters and treasured memories of the quilt. 
Favorite children's books read in early childhood.

Step 4: Letter From the Quilter

The letter from the quilter should serve as a historical record of the quilt.  The letter might include:
1. What is the relationship to the receiver?
2.  Why the quilt was made for this person.
3.  Why was this particular pattern chosen?
4.  Were the fabric choices and color  relevant?
5.  Date the quilt was in the planning process.
6.  When was the quilt in the making process?
7.  How long did it take you to make the quilt?
8.  When was the quilt given to the receiver? 
9.  Some information about the quilter, date and place of birth, a couple of addresses of some relatives and yourself if someone wanted to reach you regarding the quilt. 

Step 5: Lavender Sachet

Do you remember the cologne your parents usually wore?  The smell of your grandmothers house?  Is there a scent that you smell now that makes you remember your childhood?  When my daughter was a baby I used to always put Baby Magic on her after she was bathed and  dried off.  When my grandson was a baby I did the same thing.  My daughter had me babysit and asked if I would give my grandson the special bath that I did.  She said she loved the way he smelled after I gave him a bath.  I assume she liked it because it reminded her of her childhood. 

This is why a scented sachet would make a great memory enhancer.  Here are the instructions for making a Lavender sachet bag.  It can be placed in the box when the quilt is stored and it can be placed in the room where the quilt is used. 

Cut 2 squares of fabric 7X7.
Cut 1 strip of 2X 12 1/2 of contrasting fabric.
Find a design of embroidery stamps that you like or draw the design I have here at this link and draw it on the right side of 1 square.
 Embroider the flower.
Place right sides together of the 2 squares and sew sides and bottom making a small seam allowance. 
Turn right side out. 
Fold the 2 inch strip over right sides together and make a small seam allowance to connect the ends together.
Pin this strip to the bag at the top and sew it to the bag as shown in picture.  Make sure the seam is pinned in the center back of the bag. 
Turn down a small edge and fold it over again slightly larger and sew the finished hem as shown.
Cut 2 pieces of jute or ribbon 32 inches long. 
Cut 2 very small slits  in the top single layer of the bag,  (on the back side, at each end.)  (to pull ribbon through.) Make sure you separate the fabric so you don't cut all the way through the layers. 
Attach a safety pin to the ribbon and lace it through one hole all the way around so that the ribbon comes out the hold you first started with.
Next Lace another ribbon through the other hole so it comes out the same hold you started it in. 
You should be able to pull both sides of the string and it will close the bag.
Tie a small knot at the ends so they don't come out of the top. 
Pour your potpourri into the bag and close it. 

For a boys room the cedar blocks tied with jute is nice. 

Step 6: Why We Should Preserve Early Memories of Our Childhood.

Our ancestors preserved memories through the art of quilting and story telling. These stories were told over and over again to the children while they snuggled under the handmade quilts that their great grandmothers made. These stories about their quilts were stored in their memory forever. Parents can give their children a priceless gift by preserving early childhood memories. Pleasant memories from our childhood can be very comforting, especially when we are going through difficult times.

There is just something about chicken soup and cuddling under a hand made quilt that is so comforting. Children often get attached to a quilt in the early stages of their life. They remember mom and dad reading their favorite story while they are tucked in under their favorite quilt. Scenting their favorite quilt with just a little baby powder now and then will help keep those memories alive. You can make a scented sachet of baby powder or maybe a sachet of your favorite cologne, or cedar blocks and tape it to the lid of the box you store the quilt in. Wrap the quilt in a pillow case not plastic. Be sure to include their favorite book because the book might not always be available. Store the journal and pictures and anything connected with the quilt together so the person who inherits it will know all about its history.

Writing in the journal about the quilts story who made it, when it was made and why it was made and experiences the child has had with the quilt will be beneficial in preserving the memories associated with the quilt.

Take pictures of the child with the quilt. At bedtime on occasion read the story about the quilt to the child. Record the child's remarks about the quilt and on occasion when they are old enough have them write about their quilt in the journal.

Take pictures of the child with the quilt at least once a year until they are 12.

None of us know our destiny or the destiny of our children. Preserving memories now might later on help us in the healing process of the loss of a loved one or some tragedy.

When we are young parents our memories are very sharp. Young parents might consider journaling memories for our children because as we age our memories do fade.

Step 7: Inheriting Heirlooms Such As Quilts, Coins, and Furniture

Have you ever inherited a quilt, coin, or furniture from a relative?  Did you know any history behind these items?  I think most of us would say no.  If you received a quilt that would tell you a story of its origins and had pictures would it mean more to you?  Would you be more inclined to keep it and pass it down to your children? 

Here is a quilt that my grandmother made.  I never knew any of my grandparents because they passed away before I was born.  I would have loved to have received a quilt loaded with family history and have had the opportunity to have known my grandparents through this information. 

Step 8: Who Inherits the Treasured Quilt?

An heirloom quilt would be a treasure to inherit but,  how do you decide who to give it to,  when there are more than one family member.  Framing pictures of kids and the quilt for all the children just might satisfy everyone concerned.  One might frame a large print like what is shown and even embroider around the design and give it to each of the kids.    Framing pictures of the quilt with children is a great way to keep the memory of the quilt alive.  Place the framed picture in the children's rooms.   

Step 9: Forgotten Treasures

Here are some quilts that have been used a lot.  They must have been very loved in their time by family members.  I estimate they are at least 70 years old and are entirely hand sewn.   The last 2 are just quilt tops.  I am going to finish them.  If you have any very worn quilts and do not want them personally, I suggest you hang on to them and pass them down to your children because hand sewn quilts have much value.  It takes a lot of time to make them.  I am sure there would be an ancestor who would love to own one of these types of quilts.  The stained and worn quilts have much character and could be framed.  Some can be repaired. Someone  could make treasures out of them even if they are in bad shape with just a little imagination.

Step 10: To Use or Not to Use Your Quilt

That tough decision about should I use a quilt?  In my younger years I probably would not have used a handmade quilt but as I have gotten older I see the benefits of using them.  If you are reluctant to use them, I would suggest you use them at least on special occasions.  On family nights watching movies occasionally remove the quilt from that special box and have your children experience cuddling under it.   Tell them the story about it to establish an emotional connection so when they inherit it,  they won't sell it or give it away,  because the quilt has no history or meaning to them. 

Follow some of the suggestions in this instructable by making a special box for the quilt to be stored in, or using the quilt when they are sick to comfort them.  

Step 11: Care and Storage of Your Quilt

Quilts should not be stored in plastic.
Wrap them in cotton pillow cases in a safe place away from bugs and rodents. 
Occasionally allow them to air out for a day.
Don't wash them too often, try vacuuming them with a canister vacuum using the brush attachment .
If they are very old place a nylon over the vacuum hose so you don't damage the quilts fibers. 
Don't machine wash any old fabric.
Hand wash in a tub.
Never wring them out. 
Press the water out.
Wash them when you will have several days of sunny warm weather and  lay them out on a pick- nick table or large flat surface.
You might have to lay them on several layers of towels on an unused bed. 

ALMOST FORGOT . . . .      NEVER NEVER NEVER use a handmade quilt for a pet blanket, unless you have a talking pet that can tell the quilter how much comfort and warmth they received from the quilt.  I am sure if that happened the quilter would feel that they did the dog a great favor!     Much time and work goes into a quilt.  I had a friend who makes beautiful quilts. She appliqued a  quilt with heiloom possibilities and gave it to someone, only to discover that they used it for a dog blanket.  She was so upset that she almost quilt making quilts to give away. 
If you receive a handmade quilt and do not like it, give it to someone who will love and cherish it.    

Step 12: Children's Blankies

Over the years I have known many teenagers who were still attached to their blankies.  Most of them liked the satin binding at the top.  When I make quilts I usually put a satin binding on them. I have also made satin pillowcases for people.  My son was a child that loved the satin binding.  My daughter was more attached to her stuffed doggy.  My little brother in the wagon loved blankies in general and also stuffed cotton in his ears.  We never knew why he did that and neither did he.   

Making a pocket quilt from children's clothing would be a great memory enhancer.  Use pictures when they were wearing the clothes for the memory enhancer.

Saving school papers, tickets to places you went on vacation, ribbons, store receipts, and buttons, can be useful for decorating the quilt box.

Thank you for viewing my instructable.  I hope I have encouraged you to be a builder of memory enhancers for your children and future grandchildren through the art of quilting and story telling. 

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    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I just received some quilts and quilt pieces and have been thinking of what to do with them. I thought of making a shirt with one unfinished top, but that would be short lived so now I have a much better direction to go into. I have so much to work I cant wait to get started now. I have been looking at them thinking UGGG, what to do what to do!!! Thanks for this instructable, I want to do them justice! I am grateful, because now I believe I will! I will send you a photo of some finished products you inspired, one is damaged so I know exactly what I am doing with it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks so much for this comment! I encourage you to follow through because a quilt is a treasure! Really if you have some repairs to do keep it in a small bag or tote with everything you need to work on it. You are sitting waiting somewhere for 1/2 hour or waiting to pick up the kids at school or for what ever reason. A little time here and there adds up and before you know it you are finished. I do this with my projects and in no time they are finished! It makes waiting a little more enjoyable.

    So happy you commented because I really wanted to inspire people. I would love to see pictures and ideas you received from this ible! It is fun to see other peoples creations! If you have some real old pieces to work with, I had wanted to do an instructable showing how you can make them detachable so each family member could be the proud owner of one complete quilt.

    They would attached by buttons! I did not have time to add that to this ible though. You could also do this with the damaged piece.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have some other things my aunt gave me from the 1940s and they are tatted handkerchiefs, I don't want to just put them into a plain old frame though, so I have been thinking on them too, not successfully yet. Any ideas for them, could use some? I thought about using starch and making something like a light because starch washes out and they could be put back to original condition, what do you think? Kind of like the string on balloon thing? My home is decorated in 1950's teak furniture so they would go I know the light style is 70's but hey cant think of anything else so far. I have 4 but one has stains. But the handkerchiefs are so amazing I would love to do something cool without hurting them. I love the button idea for a big family, you do need to add that somethime. ! was thinking of taking one of the damaged quilts, very damaged, and cutting off the strip that is bad and repairing the rest with the original fabric and make it a throw. One piece of the damage I am going to cut out and include into a painting because it was so torn up I had to cut all of the fabric around the picture but the picture is OK and it could make a great multimedia painting.
    Anyway I loved that you got me thinking about them again and love to hear about other people respecting these and other family art, it kills me going to thrift stores and seeing them thrown away like trash and I wonder if that is what will happen to my art? People always say stuff about regretting throwing things like that away yet they keep doing it. I hope this ible serves as a reminder they cant get them back once they are gone.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for the ideas...i wish i had more quilts from my mom


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh Sylvia! This is the best instructables ever! And the best part is it all about my quilt. Happy, happy!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I am glad you enjoyed it! It has been great fun!