T-Shirt Quilts: Celebrating the Journey

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love,
the things you are,
the things you never want to lose.”
– TV show, The Wonder Years


Bill carried in a box of neatly folded t-shirts and started to lay them out on the long table. The women gathered for the Stitchers’ meeting gazed with curiosity, then moved in unison to get a better view.  Finally, one woman spoke for the group. “What are you doing, Bill?”

Wiping the sweat on his brow, Bill breathed deeply before answering. “My daughter is graduating from high school and going to college. She didn’t want to take her old t-shirts, and I didn’t want to store them.” His eyes brightened. “Then I remembered hearing about someone who made a quilt out of their sons’ sports t-shirts. In this bag,” he held up a Quilter’s Choice plastic sack, “is everything that I need.” Bill laid out the last t-shirt, rearranged the rows and smiled. The quilting club nodded their heads affirmatively. Bill dug into his tackle box for a pair of scissors.

Weeks went by. At the end of the summer, Bill spread a t-shirt quilt on the floor that documented his daughter’s high school acting career, her church mission trips, and the volleyball team she had joined. Each memory snuggled between the school colors of red and white with a “stitch in the ditch.” Bill’s gift of love to stave off nights of homesickness for “his princess.”

Photo credit: https://www.toocooltshirtquilts.com/t-shirt-quilts-with-borders

Memories Bound Together

As Terri Guillemets says, “Life is rough biography. Memories smooth out the edges.” For many, the soft fabric of t-shirts helps to cushion the recollections of the past. After all, the entirety of life should not only be lived, but celebrated. That stack of Harley-Davidson t-shirts represents long summers on the road.  A drawer full of t-shits celebrating school activities, military deployment, Boy Scouts, travel, sports, retirement, or concerts. These occasions should be displayed and remembered in a quilt. Imagine cuddling in a personalized comforter with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. A stitched visual that provides a chance to look backward for a while and remember some good times. A moment to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it ready to look into the future with dreams. A hug from the past and warmth for tomorrow.

Sewing with a Purpose

Keepsake Theme Quilts is a sewing group based in Ohio whose motto is: “You make the memories. We make the quilt”. What gives this business uniqueness is that everybody who works there knows sign language. Deaf Initiatives has teamed up with KTQ to create a work experience for Deaf or hard of hearing young adults who need to learn how to make their way in the world. Marlee Matlin, the actress, has given these young quilters a role model for success when she counsels: “I live my life like everyone else, everyone has their own obstacles. Mine is deafness.”

Every part of manufacturing and business is taught to the employees. The deaf adults who work at Keepsake Theme Quilts create quality, beautiful t-shirt quilts for customers who will treasure them for years to come. There is pride in their product. The quilters agree with Summer Cider, a recruiter for Gallaudet University, when she states: “In terms of a disability, I don’t view myself as having a disability. I function like any other hearing person can. My deafness does not deprive me of anything I want. Except maybe to sing.”

Photo credit: https://www.toocooltshirtquilts.com/t-shirt-quilts-with-borders

Comforting Sendoff

My third granddaughter is heading off to college. She has accumulated a lot of memories in a stack of t-shirts. Already, a plan is brewing. A celebration of her many accomplishments and shared events set in a background of green and white. The gift of a stroll down memory lane.

Whose celebration t-shirt quilt is in your future?

What closet or drawer needs to be cleaned?

The t-shirt quilt group noted in this blog is:

Deaf Initiatives
1563 South Dawson Avenue
Columbus, Ohio 43209
Keepsake Theme Quilts

In the novel, Second Chances, Zoey Pappas is homesick as she begins her teaching job in an urban school. The memories of life at home in rural Illinois overwhelm her. One of her new challenges is working with a deaf student who has been mainstreamed into her classroom.  Could Zoey benefit from a t-shirt quilt? Read the book and decide. Available on amazon.com.

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