November Meetings: Modern Memory Quilts

Suzanne Paquette’s book.
An example
with pockets and buttons
An example with stains included

The November meetings were separated by almost a week due to the calendar but were both well attended as members were keen to hear our first guest speaker since before the COVID pandemic. Suzanne Paquette spoke to us about her journey into creating modern memory quilts and showed examples of her work, many retrieved from the families who commissioned them.

Suzanne first explained how she embarked upon creating these memorable quilts after a career in hat making and costume design. After working for Cirque du Soleil in the merchandising department, creating souvenirs for audience members, she heard about memory quilts and was hooked. With little experience in quilting, she made her first memory quilt with her husband’s and son’s clothing.

These quilts are all about “capturing meaningful moments”, emotion and storytelling. The fabrics she uses are steeped in memories and she spoke about the three most common reasons that people wish to create a memory quilt, joy, grief and family memories. Because so much depends on the owners reaction to the finished quilt, Suzanne spends a lot of time getting to know about the family and the story behind the desire for the quilt. She aims to put herself in the shoes of those asking for the quilt, to look at the fabrics chosen and to let that dictate the design of the quilt.

As you can imagine this can take a lot of time. Suzanne estimates that each quilt will take her between 30 to 60 hours depending on the size, design and number of fabrics included. She recommends documenting and photographing every stage of the process, including each piece of clothing before cutting. The fabric also has to be prepared by washing, pressing and cutting. It may need stabilizing with starch or a backing.

Her quilts are modern (something we learned about last month) and have many of the signature characteristics such as asymmetry, negative space, improvisational piecing and bold colours.

The main takeaways of her highly engaging presentation about creating these quilts were that empathy is the heart of design, the materials provided must come first and dictate the feel of the finished quilt and that time spent preparing the materials will save time and effort in the end. Finally she gave us some tips on how some of the sample clothing items brought by members could be prepared and used in a quilt. Many of us took the chance to buy our own signed copy of her book to provide lots of happy reading (and sewing) for the dark evenings ahead.

After the coffee break, the business part of the meeting covered news about the spring show, the DDO fundraising stall and the great success of the cross body bag workshop. The finished purses were shown in show and tell. There was no time for icebreakers and we were reminded that the December meeting will include an ornament exchange and a finger food party. Wear your holiday finery and watch out for details in the newsletter.

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