Friday, October 26, 2012

The Most Important Quilt---Blogger's Quilt Festival

T-shirts are prepared.

Working on the layout.
The finished front of the quilt.
The back of the quilt.
On display at the Memorial.

The 40th birthday quilt.
Me, my Brother and Peaty, hiking in the snow.

Blogger’s Quilt Festival Stats
Finished quilt measures : approx 80″x 90″
Special techniques used : Fused interfacing to stabilize t-shirts, wiggle quilting. 
Quilted by : Sylvia B. Lewis
Best Category : Bed Quilt, Home Machine Quilted Quilt

The most Important Quilt that I have ever made was for my Brother, Tom Borschel.  He had requested it.  He was a trail runner, snowshoe racer, bike riding, adventure seeking man.  He had a vast collection of event t-shirts and asked if I would turn some of them into a quilt.  Some of his friends had sent away for one and he thought that I could do "better".  Of course I said yes.  He brought a bag full of his favorites and we sorted through them.  I wanted to make sure to include the most desired ones in the quilt.  As we looked through the memories, the smile on his face will be forever etched in my heart.  My brother had been recently diagnosed with ALS and I knew that there would be no more t-shirts.

It was very difficult to work on this quilt.  Every time that I opened the bag of shirts I would start to cry.  Finally a friend had come over for a visit and with her there I was able cut up the shirts and get the project going.  I rough cut the designs, then fused some lightweight interfacing to stabilize the knit fabrics.  I cut the prepared shirts into sizes that were divisible by 2" plus 1/2" for a seam allowance. I had cut a bunch of strips in varying widths and colors, browns, blacks, greens, golds and whites.  I used the white strips to surround the colored shirts and the others to surround the white background shirts.  This way there was white on every block to tie them together.

I had worked on the layout at a quilt retreat in California. It was a puzzle to get all the shirts in. I used the border fabric to fill in all the spaces. I was able to get the top and back together that weekend.  A week later I was at another retreat at Ruby's Inn near Bryce National Park.  There I was able to get the machine quilting and the binding finished.  I used big chunks of various fabrics for the back.  I tried to include all kinds of novelty prints that represented things that were important to Tom.  There was one leftover t-shirt block from the Power Bar shirt, so that went on the back as well. I also made a pillowcase to put the quilt in for gifting.  It went via our sister since she lives halfway between.  The message from my brother when he saw it was that it was the most Awesome quilt!  Way better than he expected it to be. Some of his friends had been disappointed with the ones that they had ordered.

My brother died late December of 2011.  The quilt went to the hospital with him.  At the Memorial it was hung as a backdrop to some of the displays that  were set up by his wife and sons.  I had dozens of his friends come up to me and tell me how much they loved the quilt and how much my brother meant to them.  They would talk about the races that they had ran/snowshoed/biked with him that were represented in the quilt.  The small wall hanging that I had made for his 40th birthday was also on display.  

Yes, it is just a T-shirt quilt.  It will never win any ribbons or awards.  It is the most important quilt I have ever or will ever make.  And I didn't really make it.  My Brother did.  He earned those shirts.  He made those memories. I just sewed the seams.

This is my entry to the Blogger's Quilt Festival.  Check out the other entries.  It looks like it is going to be a great show!


  1. Sylvia, I am so sorry for the loss of your brother. What a great way to let him know he was loved. I like this entry.

  2. You win the prize for "The Most Important Quilt Ever." I know you look up to your brother and miss him very much. You were a great sister to him!

  3. This is such a treasured quilt. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  4. You're right - that is what's most important. Beautiful quilt, beautiful story.

  5. Such a wonderful quilt and story! How great you were able to do it for him. Sorry for your hard to lose loved ones! Thanks for sharing and have a great day

  6. Yours is definitely the most important... and this writing is such a lovely tribute to your brother! I love that he got to see it and use it and that he pronounced it AWESOME!!

    You have inspired me. My aunt has ALS. I think i will make her a quilt.

    1. I am so sorry about your aunt. It is such a horrible disease.

  7. What a lovely quilt and your story has bought tears to my eyes. Am so sorry you lost your brother so early. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Love your quilt. Brothers are special and it is hard when they are lost so early. Tears in my eyes remembering my brother.

  9. So glad your brother got to enjoy his quilt, I 'm sure it brought him comfort. I'm sorry for your loss.

  10. I was so sorry to hear about your brother. I have 3, and it would be a terrible thing to lose any one of them.

    A group of neighbors and I made a t-shirt quilt in memory of my next door neighbor's 17 year old son. We taught his mom how to sew, and the process of making the quilt was healing for her. To look at it, it is just a t-shirt quilt. But it is really much more than that.

  11. Thank you for sharing. It's amazing the similar experiences we all have though maybe in different ways. My mom was sick but didn't like doctors so she never went to get checked. I made a quilt for her 75th birthday that was small and warm on one side and bright on the other. It ended up at the hospital with her when she finally had to go. That was August 2009 I gave it, October hospital, December 2009 she passed away of cancer.

    Thank you for sharing your story and the healing power of creating for others.

  12. So sorry about your brother. It certainly is the most important quilt. I made one for my sister so she could wrap up in it and feel my arms around her before she died.

  13. Indeed, this is a most important quilt. How wonderful that you were able to finish it for him so he could enjoy it.

  14. Sylvia, so sorry for your loss. So glad your brother was comforted by this fabric manifestation of your love. If we could vote for most moving quilt-- you would win.

    Come see my entry #46 Batik Tulips, applique, hand quilt, wallhanging.
    Also antique #23


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