One of my dear friends is Hank. He married a lovely lady named Virginia. Their first son is Aidan and in November 2008, their second son, Logan was born after a perfectly normal pregnancy. Logan looked as pink and cherubic as any newborn should look and the new parents were overjoyed.
However, all was not right. Logan had very poor Apgar scores and he was immediately whisked away to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Virginia began to blog about Logan's medical issues, not only as a way of voicing her very normal concerns, but also as a way of keeping friends and family informed without having to endlessly repeat the same information many times.
Logan saw many, many, many, MANY specialists and had a team of very caring doctors and nurses who were increasingly puzzled by his continuing decline. One (paraphrased) comment by Virginia has remained with me, "It's as though he simply forgets to breathe."
One month after his birth and after being educated about the several machines that Logan needed to be hooked up to, Hank and Virgina brought Logan home for Christmas. Unfortunately, Logan's condition deteriorated and he returned to the hospital after Christmas.
More extensive testing revealed what the doctors believed was Logan's diagnosis: Leigh's Disease, a particularly nasty form of Mitochondrial Disease. In a nutshell, every cell in your body produces energy for the cell, and hence your body, to thrive and grow. With Leigh's Disease, the cells simply do not produce enough energy. It's just that simple and just that tragic. There is no cure, no medication, no replacement, no surgery ... no hope. It is fatal. How fast it progresses depends on how severely affected the person is. Logan was severely affected and on April 15, 2009, he passed away quietly and peacefully in the arms of his mother and father.
On April 18, 2009, I attended Logan's funeral. Suffice it to say that it was the saddest event I have ever attended.
Virginia mentioned in a blog entry that she was finally clearing away Logan's medical equipment, clothing, etc. She would find recipients for many items but was uncertain what she should do with the little clothing that Logan had worn. I offered to make a memory quilt of Logan's sleepers, should she and Hank like me to. To my happiness, they did.
Virginia sent me one small box of stretchy, fleece sleepers. It's difficult to remember just how small newborns really are. The first order of business was to cut all the sleepers so they were flat pieces ... all the seam allowances, zippers, foot inserts, necklines were all cut away ... and a lightweight fusible interfacing was ironed to the back to stabilize them.
Then I needed to decide what layout to use. The pieces I had to work with were physically very small, so I didn't have the luxury of considering layouts that needed large pieces. I wanted a relatively simple layout because I didn't want the process to drag on (I've been known to dawdle on piecing tops) but I didn't want a boring layout. After considering Tumbling Blocks and Attic Windows, I hit upon 1000 Triangles.
The 1000 Pyramids layout (even though there may or may not actually 1000 triangles in the quilt) reminded me of the origami custom of folding 1000 cranes to have one's heart's desire come true. Although the custom is Japanese, I thought the sentiment to be universal and therefore appropriate. All of the triangles were made from Logan's sleepers. This was a pattern that I could do with freezer paper piecing, making the construction process easy (although after about what seemed to be the millionth triangle, it became somewhat boring. :-) ) The optimum size to make the triangles turned out to be 2-1/2" high by 3" at the base.
I wanted borders around the quilt but there wasn't enough solid color sleepers to make the borders, so I used blocks of soft fleece, which looked lovely with sleeper fabrics. However, my fleece was just strips, not yardage, so I couldn't just sew a length of fleece and be done with it. Some creative piecing was involved so that the final border looked like it was originally planned that way instead of what it really was ... making a silk purse out of a sow's ear. :-) I particularly liked the bump-outs in the off-white fleece pieces for the embroidery. :-)
To personalize this quilt, I found 3 perfect angel embroideries and a beautiful alphabet....
|To symbolize his ascent into Heaven, I machine embroidered an angel to watch over him at the top. This design came from Embroidery Garden and is still available as a freebie (there are 3 designs in the set).|
|There is a companion angel on one side. This design came from Dainty Stitchs, which sadly is no longer in existance.|
|and finally, himself as a little boy angel on the other side. This design came from Oregon Patchworks/Members Only Club, digitizer: Odile's Corner. It was a July 2007 freebie and isn't available any longer.|
|Logan's name was embroidered at the bottom with alphabet "MTA Chaucer" from Mountain Thread Arts. This alphabet is still available as a freebie to members of her Yahoo group, MountainThreadArt.|
Now that the quilt top was done, the actual quilting design needed to be decided upon. This part of the quilting process has always been difficult for me because, generally speaking, I haven't a CLUE what design(s) should be where. While I do have books for quilting designs and the internet is always available, this time I chose to ask my quilting associates on About.com's Quilting Forum. This is an incredibly talented group of (mostly) ladies, who have the most amazing abilities. After posting a picture of the top and bantering several ideas around, it was the brilliant idea of one of my quilting compatriots, VaNella of Manassas, VA, who suggested clouds. How *perfect*!
The cloud quilting design turned out to be inspired ... I sized it to be contained wholly within the center 1000 triangle portion of the quilt .. not on the borders. Although the sleeper fabric had been stabilized with fusible interfacing, it turned out to be still somewhat stretchy ... and in this case, it contributed to the three dimensional aspect of the clouds. I deliberately chose Superior's So-Fine (a very fine thread) so the quilting wouldn't distract from the sleeper fabric, but you can see the cloud design when you look at the back! (and incredible as it may seem, I obviously forgot to take a picture of the back of the quilt. What an oversight, but trust me, the design is very cloud-like. :-) ) I was simply delighted with the result!
The borders had a small 3-loop swag design with teardrops between the swags .. chosen just because they were pretty. :-)
I still had the label to make and although I was willing to use my "standard" alter-ego pirate label, I was really wanting something truly special. And there it was ... on SewForum's freebie forum. Digitizer SewJunkie created an incredibly moving poem with room for a picture. This poem is so precious, I tear up every time I read it.
It's a 6"x10" so I did have to split it for 2 hoopings, since my biggest hoop is 5"x7". The circular applique frame is *not* included in the design, but that wasn't a problem as I had an appropriately sized applique circle in my design stash.
Also in my stash I found some commercially prepared, printable fabric. I printed a picture of Logan onto the slick fabric. The picture came out incredibly crisp, clear and colorful; I was very pleased. The machine embroidered appliqued circle was so beautifully stitched. Then it occured to me that .... hmmmm ... at some point, Virginia might want to launder the quilt and I better be doggone sure that picture is washable. It would be horrendous if the picture were to vanish with the washing. And .. oh my goodness .. I'm glad that I did. After a test washing, instead of Logan's sweet picture being inside the circle, the printable fabric was absolutely *BLANK* .. as though nothing had ever been there. I was aghast.
I promptly tossed the package of printable fabric .... it was useless for quilts. I went back to my tried-and-true Bubble Jet Set process. The picture that was printed with the Bubble Jet Set, while emerging darker than I wanted (and I'm just not educated enough with graphic manipulation to lighten it sufficiently), it was "good enough". It sure wasn't anywhere near as brillant of the other (useless) fabric (I don't think even a very high thread count fabric could give that kind of result.) But I *knew* it would be washable.
That left ripping out the machine embroidered applique (which has so many more stitches than regular sewing machine applique stitches ::sigh:: ) ... it was so pretty, too. Instead of re-doing the machine embroidered applique, I decided to make a donut frame out of fabric and hand applique this new fabric frame and picture onto the label. and no one besides you, dear reader, and I will ever know. :-) As a final embellishment, I hand-embroidered a feather stitch all around the label after it was permanently stitched to the back of the quilt.
The last step was to trust the US Postal Service to safely deliver this memory quilt to Hank and Virginia. With bated breath and some anxiety, I waited until they let me know that it had arrived. I was so relieved! Both Hank and Virginia sent me lovely thank-you notes for the quilt and Virginia wrote about it in her blog. It was so thoughtful of her to do that! :-)
I am very pleased that they are happy with the memory quilt. It was my pleasure and honor to have been able to do this for them.