Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quilt #9: Irish Chain Memory Quilt

I'm catching up on blogging about the quilts I've finished this year. I thought I would do them in order, but I just finished this one and couldn't help but share it next. 

A few months ago, when I was just building up my stash, I happened up the clearance fabric at Joann for the first time. A dangerous, dangerous discovery!

The St. Patrick's Day fabric made me think of my Irish Gramma, who, at 92, is finally starting to slow down. Last year she moved into an assisted living  apartment in Wisconsin after several decades in sunny Arizona. I thought it would be fun to make her an Irish-themed memory quilt.

I was looking around Pinterest for quilt ideas that would work with photos and saw this pattern.

Image of Irish Chain Quilt Grid

When I found out that the name of this pattern was Irish Chain, I knew it was meant to be! I really liked the variety of fabrics I saw on quilts with this pattern, like this one by Tea Rose Home.

Please do NOT pin this photo from this post. Please pin from the SOURCE: Tea Rose Home.
I wanted to stay with the greens, but with a little more variety, so I just had to find a few more green fabrics. I let all my greens hang out while I finished up another project. (By the way, Ikea Grundtal towel holders are an awesome addition to any craft room!)

One thing I love about the Irish chain is that it looks a lot more complicated that it actually is. It's just alternating solid squares with nine patches (or tic-tac-toes, as my 4 year old calls them). But when it's sewn together, your eye sees the diagonal patterns. Love that.

I started by making 2.5" strips of all the fabrics, then sewing together dark-white-dark strips together. (I should mention that I'm not going to do an actual tutorial here because the one I followed by Simplicity was so descriptive. But I am going to show lots of photos of the process for my family who were so helpful to me as I decided to make this quilt for my Gramma).

I also made light-dark-light strips.

Next I cut all the three column strips into 2.5" strips.

This was the first quilt I made where I didn't know exactly where I was placing each piece. Part of the beauty of the Irish Chain is the randomness of the fabrics. When making the nine patches, I tried to make each one different.

It was really fun to see how it was coming together. I would have loved this pattern even if I would have skipped the photos and just used the white squares.

Once all the nine patches were done, I moved on to the photos. I stalled a little bit until my mom came to visit so that she could help me winnow down the choices. As far as printing the photos, I used Drintz Printed Treasures Sew On Inkjet Printable Fabric (<--Amazon affiliate link)

I opened the photos in Power Point, and added a 1/4" border around them so the full photo would be visible when they were sewn in. I love how crisp and clean the photos look. 

I decided to not put photos in every square because I wanted the Irish chain pattern to be visible. Instead, I put photos around the edges and center. 

The directions said to simply peel the backing of the photos, but I found that ironing made the backing come off MUCH easier.

One sheet > lots of little papery bits!

My original idea was to stitch the white strips above and below the photo, but I didn't like the way it looked. Instead, because I put the 1/4" border around the photo, it was easy to iron it under on the long side. I then stitched as close I as could to the edge. I left short edge as is because the border would be covered when I sewed the blocks together.

I made the photo of my gramma and I the label.

Once all the photos were all attached to the white squares, the piecing went together quickly.

I like this picture Niels took of me working on the inner border, with D sitting in my chair.

I really liked the black shamrock fabric, but it didn't work in the nine patches. But it worked perfectly for the inner border because of the way it worked with the black and white photos.

As I was ironing the top, my iron spit a little and my heart sank when I saw this.

After a good cry and freak out, I set about trying to fix it. I re-wet the whole photo but it just turned red.

After another good cry, I got out my seam ripper. 

I printed another copy of the photo and rinsed it. This one stayed black and white. I bought several packages, so I'm afraid I may have had a bum pack. Not very happy about that, but I was not about to rip apart the whole quilt at this point to replace all the photos.

At least this photo was on the edge, so it wasn't too hard to replace. 

Once I had the red photo replace, I was ready to put the outer border on the quilt.

I was stuck for a few weeks trying to figure out how to quilt it. Ultimately I decided on a simple X pattern through the nine patches, an echo around the photos and an inner echo inside the squares.

I also practiced a little free motion quilting with my signature.

For the binding, I used the black shamrocks again.

The binding on this one gave me fits, more than any other quilt that I've done. I'm not sure if it's the combination of the thick bamboo batting and soft minky, but I will be doing some research on how I can improve on future quilts.

So, full of memories and mistakes, but I think it will keep Gramma warm in both body and spirit.

I'm sending the quilt off to Gramma today. Actually, I'm going to send it to my aunt Terri who is going to deliver it in person and take pictures! I can't wait to see them!

My aunt sent me this wonderful photos of the big delivery!

First she opened the card with a letter and photos of me making the quilt.

First look.

The full reveal.

My favorite photo. She had my aunts hang the quilt on the wall so she can see it. When she called me, she said, "It's my whole life!" The photo she is touching is of her and my late grampa at my mom and dad's wedding.

This makes me laugh. She went down the hall and got all her friends (and the chef!) at her assisted living center to come see the quilt. I think she likes it!

On April 10, 2015, after a long and happy life, my gramma passed away. During her last few days, she was warmed by this quilt on her hospital bed. My mom and aunts took it down from her apartment wall after she was admitted to the hospital. They wanted the hospital staff to see the fun-loving woman she was, not the frail, listless body they saw in her bed.

My aunts and cousins packed up Gramma's apartment, completing the difficult task of determining who got what. in addition to the quilt, I received her crochet needles, a jewelry box that plays "Danny Boy," some jewelry, and one of the last scrubbies she made.

I made the quilt to comfort Gramma and it ended up comforting me.

The quilt was displayed at Gramma's funeral.

The most precious last gift I received from my gramma was her wedding ring. When she and my grampa got married, the ring contained cubic zirconium because my grampa couldn't afford a diamond. For years, Gramma only wore her slender wedding band. In the late 70s, after my mom and dad got divorced, my mom gave gramma the diamond from her engagement ring to replace the cubic zirconium in gramma's engagement ring. Her updated ring was welded to what was left of her wedding ring, and she wore it until the day she died. With five daughters, ten grandchildren, and eleven grandchildren, I am so honored to wear her ring.

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  1. I love it, Jen! What an incredibly thoughtful gift!

  2. Thanks! It sure was fun making it and learning about the stories behind the photos.

  3. That is a precious story. I'm sure that was a proud day for you & your grandma. I'm glad I ran across your story. Blessings.

  4. What a priceless gift. Your grandmother must be so happy.

  5. This is just priceless!!!!!!!!!! I got tears in my eyes reading your post and seeing the quilt gifted!!

  6. Beautiful story and a heart that is so sweet to make such a lovely gift and remembrance for another sweet soul!

  7. What a lovely story to go with a lovely quilt. I was tearing up by the end. How lucky you were to have had each other.


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