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Quilts from Ties, Handkerchiefs, and Shirts

Sandra Hatch

Quilts with Ties

Linda B. wants help. "Does anyone have a pattern for a quilt made entirely of old ties? I received a large bag full of old ties when my grandfather died, and I want to use them to make a keepsake/memory quilt. Any ideas? Thanks!"

Linda and others who are interested in this topic will be happy to know that Shirley Botsford's book, Daddy's Ties, is still available. I did a search for it and found lots of links for information. Shirley used her father's ties to create many beautiful quilts. Although published in 1994, this book is still available and well worth the purchase price. Shirley is a talented quilter/designer whose work is simply gorgeous. The quilts in her book are elegant and tasteful.

Debby has a good idea for using neckties in quilts. "Necktie quilts have become my signature item for Project Linus Quilts. I have been using them in foundation-pieced quilt tops for hospitalized children, and they are a great conversation piece. As a bonus, my mother, who is retired and lives in a different state, collects them from friends, rummage sales, etc. and sends them to me. I currently have over 700 ties to work with."

When I mentioned making quilts with ties in a past Quilt Connections, I did not mention using them in paper-pieced designs, but that is a perfect use for them. Because ties are cut on the bias, there isn't much of a straight-of-grain edge to use for regular piecing, but when paper piecing, that does not matter. The paper is not removed until the end of the sewing process, so the bias edges of any pieces would be stabilized by the paper. Thanks, Debby for sharing your use of ties in Project Linus projects using paper-piecing. This is a great way to use ties. Seven hundred ties must create quite a storage challenge!

Using Shirts & Ties

Elia shares:
"This is for Michelle on the 'Shirts and Ties Quilt.' I made a wall quilt for a friend of mine whose husband died in a car accident. She wanted a quilt made from her husband's ties. I used the wider bottom part of the ties and made a fan design on each of the four corners of the quilt (1/4 of the Dresden-Plate design).

"My husband helped me put his picture in the center of the quilt. With the narrow part of the ties I made prairie points on the border. I hope this is helpful.

"Our church's sewing circle made 54 children's quilts this past year for a home for battered women and their children in Baja, Mexico. The quilts for the children were 50" x 60", and we backed them with fleece blankets we found at a local store. It only cost $3 per back and with it being fleece, we didn't use batting.

"When the quilts were delivered to the children, pictures were taken. It was a real blessing to our group of just eight quilters to see the children with the quilts wrapped around them. Now this year we want to make adult quilts for the moms down there. Does anyone have suggestions about how to keep the cost down, but still have a nice back and batting? Thanks for any suggestions."

Marjorie has an idea for using men's plaid shirts in a quilt.
"Cut a block from the pocket area of the shirt, sized to fit blocks in your quilt. Children enjoy the 'pocket blocks' to store special small items."

Recently I made two blocks to be used in a quilt being made at our home office in Indiana for the family of Gary Richardson, our editorial director who passed away last summer. I was sent several of his shirts and ties, and was asked to make a crazy-patchwork block. I made a couple of blocks (see photo). All the while I handled and stitched the blocks, I thought about Gary. I am sure the resulting quilt will be a constant reminder of him for his wife and family.

Using Handkerchiefs in Quilts

Celia is looking for ways to use handkerchiefs in quilts: "I would like to know how I can use ladies' handkerchiefs as a decorative form in a quilt idea of some sort. Over the years I have collected several ladies' handkerchiefs and some are very special to me because they were given to me by friends who have long since gone. I receive your newsletters all the time, and I really enjoy them."

Hanky-Panky Crazy Quilts by Cindy Brick is a great book for someone wanting to make a quilt using handkerchiefs. I found this book on for $10.95. Since I already have the book, I have looked at the patterns and found some great ways to use those wonderful old handkerchiefs.

Using Shirts in Quilts

Lauri writes: "I just read my first issue of Quilt Connections. The personal touch is nice. If I don't have time to read the personal things in a list, I just skip them. Some days it's very gratifying to read about others' experiences.

"When I read Lydia's note about making a shirt quilt using her Dad's shirts, I remembered that in the Electric Quilt program there are block patterns of men's shirts. Some have ties, suspenders and pockets. It might be a nice remembrance if quilt blocks could be made resembling the look of the shirt that the fabric is from. If the quilt won't be handled too much, putting one of Dad's ties on it, or one of his handkerchiefs in a pocket would also add a personal touch. One wouldn't have to make all the blocks like shirts, just a few special ones."

Daddy's Shirts

Lydia has a good idea. "The Alzheimer's fund-raising project hit close to home. My father, who had Alzheimer's disease, passed away in January 2005, just one day after his 78th birthday. I was able to receive all of his shirts -- about 55 shirts in all. It has taken me about a year to disassemble them, and I am in the process of making a memory quilt using parts of his shirts. I have about 25 yards of fabric total from his shirts and plan on making several other quilts. I find making quilts with Daddy's shirts very therapeutic in working through his loss. When the next quilt is finished I will be able to be wrapped up in Daddy's arms again."

What a wonderful way to keep your father's memory alive, Lydia.