Memory Items: Sewing Unique and Personalized Projects

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Clothing is a part of everyday life. Many times we gravitate toward a particular article of clothing or type of fabric.

As a result, friends and family members may connect us to that certain fabric or garment.

With sewing skills, you now have the ability to create unique memory items from articles of clothing.

Note: This post was first published on March 25, 2020 and updated on September 15, 2020.

Why Make Memory Items

Memory items are often associated with honoring and remembering a loved one who has passed.

However, they’re also a wonderful way to capture milestones in life for yourself or others.

As life moves forward and you find yourself having to make decisions about clothing (whether it’s your own or someone else’s), I encourage you to consider if it is something you connect to a person, pet, or event that is important to you.

This type of clothing is perfect to repurpose and turn into a memory item for yourself, a friend, or family members.

Memory Items You Can Sew

Some common keepsake projects I’ve seen made from clothing are pillows, ornaments, and bears.

Over the years, members of my family who sew have worked individually and together to create a variety of unique memory items for all kinds of reasons and occasions.

Jean Pocket Throw Blanket

jean pocket throw blanket

When my son was young, my mom made a lap-sized blanket using the jean pockets from his, mine, and my husband’s old jeans.

She sewed each pocket on a different fabric square, connected all the squares, and put a 100% cotton back on it. 

It’s a fun quilt we’d use to throw over our laps as we watched TV.

We don’t use it now but every once in a while, we’ll pull it out of the blanket drawer and reminisce as we look at the small pocket that came from his Oshkosh overalls or the pocket from my chic jeans…good times!

5oth Wedding Anniversary

For my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, my mom and aunt worked together to create a keepsake quilt for them.

The wedding ring quilt made my my mom and aunt.

Aunt Karen does amazing cross-stitch and created 4 panels for the quilt.

My favorite is the yellow house. My grandpa built the house my grandparents lived in for most of their married life. It was a little yellow house with a stand-alone garage.

The other 3 cross-stitch panels my aunt made were:

  • my grandparents’ names and wedding date
  • her and my dad’s names and birthdays
  • the names and birthdays of the 6 grandkids (which include me, my brother and sister, and my aunt’s three kids)

My mom machine pieced wedding ring blocks and incorporated them with my aunt’s cross-stitch into a quilt top.

This top was quilted and the finished quilt was displayed at my grandparent’s 5oth anniversary party along with fabric pens. All guests were invited to sign the quilt.

50th anniversary wedding quilt signed by party guests
Close up of the yellow house. You can see a couple signatures on the left side of the photo.

Grandpa’s Blanket

My grandpa wore flannel shirts. (This is the same grandpa who built the yellow house.) When he was in his late 80’s he needed around the clock care and went to live in a nursing home.

My mother took his flannel shirts, cut them up into same-size squares and sewed them into a twin-sized blanket. She backed the flannel top with red flannel and machine appliqued his name on the front.

My grandfather's blanket made from his flannel shirts

The caregivers in the nursing home made sure he had it on his bed at night and over his legs when he was in his wheelchair. After he passed, the blanket was returned to my parents and mom keeps it in her quilt closet.

Quilts from Grandma’s Aprons

My grandma eventually went to live in the same nursing home as my grandpa but in the assisted living wing.

When my aunt, dad, and mom were cleaning out their home in preparation to sell the yellow house, my mom came across a plastic bag of aprons in the attic. Lots and lots of aprons.

For as long as the family could remember, Grandma always wore an apron when she was in the kitchen. The aprons that were found were the ones Grandma wore throughout the years. I think most of the family associates aprons with my grandma.

There were a LOT of aprons and many were not in good shape, but my mom thought there was enough to make quilts for my aunt and the 4 granddaughters. She chose quilt blocks that had a more vintage vibe.

A quilt made from my grandma's aprons.
Another quilt made from my grandma's aprons
A third quilt made from my grandma's aprons.
A fourth quilt made from my grandma's aprons.

Since I like to do hand applique, for my apron quilt, Mom had the idea of creating flower petals from sections of the aprons that were still intact. She cut out the petals, stems, and centers of the flowers and I appliqued them by hand. Mom connected all the appliqued blocks with sashing and quilted around the flowers. To finish it off, my mom made a personalized label with her sewing machine.

My apron quilt made with appliqued flowers.
Label made by mom.

She also made my grandma a wall hanging for her room at the assisted living home. Each little apron was made from Grandma’s aprons and house dresses.

A quilt wall hanging.

Welding Cap

My brother asked me to make a welding cap for him in October 2019 because he wanted to keep his head warm during the cold winter months in Massachusetts when bike riding and working out in his garage shop.

He didn’t have a preference for fabric and just told me to use scraps. I decided to make him three welding caps for Chrismas present. The first cap I made was practice because I wanted to make sure it fit. I made it from cotton fabric and lined it with cotton batting. It was the only cap he got for Christmas along with the promise I would make him 2 more.

It’s good I didn’t make all three welding caps at once, because the cap was a little tight around the band with a little too much fabric at the crown.

I waited until him and his family came to visit in February 2020 before I made the next one and could fit it on him.

The second one I made was from themed fabric of his favorite football team, the Pittsburg Steelers. It was made from 100% cotton, two different fabrics, and reversible.

Welding cap worn with the bill in the front and back.

The last cap was made from flannel.

Since he might actually wear it when he is working in his shop and welding, it’s important the fabric is 100% cotton just in case a spark lands on it.

Instead of buying flannel, I looked through my stash and my mother’s. She had some possible contenders that we knew were 100% cotton but they were flowers and snowflakes.

I also had some flannel shirts that used to belong to my dad (he passed away several years ago). The tags showed the flannel to be 100% cotton.

When I asked my brother if he had a preference on the flannel, he responded, “Dad’s shirt.” 

The welder’s cap out of Dad’s flannel was the third one I made. To speed up the construction process, I was able to use chain sewing and finished it much faster than the other two.

This cap was my favorite and I wanted to keep it for myself.

Welder's cap made from flannel

A Dresser Scarf

Caramel was a member of our family for 15 years. She was the perfect dog for our family. She passed away peacefully in July of 2018. We were there when she took her last breathe and have her remains in a beautiful wooden box. Her collar and dog treat bowl sit on top of it on the dresser in our bedroom.

Throughout her life, we would take her to get her bathed and groomed. When we would pick her up, she always had a bandana tied around her neck in a themed fabric connected to a holiday that would be around the same time.

We kept the bandanas in a drawer in the laundry room. Recently, I came across the bandanas and knew I wanted to repurpose them into something.

Bandannas that our dog wore.

Rediscovering string quilting, I think I’m going to use this technique to transform her bandanas into a dresser scarf that will rest under the wood box, collar, and treat bowl.

That way when I look at these items on the dresser, I’ll picture her bright eyes, perky ears, and happy smile, remembering how cute she looked with the bandanas on.

Repurpose Clothing into Memory Items

Garments are more than the fabric they’re made from. They become a way we remember people, pets, and good memories.

Sewing items from these garments bring a unique way to remember milestones and those that play(ed) an important role in our lives.

While pillows, ornaments, and bears are wonderful mementos using loved one’s clothing, consider other ways you can repurpose the garments.

Even our own clothing we love but no longer wear can be repurposed into something else we can enjoy now.

What clothing or fabric items do you connect with important people (or pets) in your life?

What special clothing items do you have tucked away in the back of your closet?

Think about how you can repurpose them into a memory item that can be used during everyday life to remember special people, pets, and memories.

Let’s Connect

My main goals are to support, empower, and inspire you to discover the joy of sewing.

Need help or have questions on this project, pattern, or tutorial? Send me an email at nicki@theruffledpurse.com and we can work together to get it figured out!

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2 Comments

  1. For my wedding (I’m Jewish) we used a chuppah that was created by sewing together 12 squares we’d given to people we loved to decorate any way they wanted. Each square was unique and all together it was like standing underneath a physical embodiment of the love of our family and friends.

    1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful project! I can almost feel the love as I imagine how beautiful this must have been.

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