David’s 21st Birthday Quilt

I made a special quilted wall-hanging for both of my children when they celebrated their twenty-first birthdays.  Because Annie had received one almost four years earlier, David knew that I would be making one for him as well.  But, of course, he didn’t know what it would look like.


Please do not share this photo!

David was a smart, creative, loyal, and loving young man who had some deep hurts and conflicts inside him.  He had struggled with addictions for several years by then, but at the time, he was winning the battle and doing well.  So I wanted to make him a phoenix, the bird which perishes in the flames, then rises triumphant out of the ashes.  I do many things well, but drawing isn’t one of them!  I searched for an image of a phoenix that I could re-create with cloth, and found a wonderful painting by Marina Petro, who kindly gave me permission to use it for this gift.

Now, if you know my work, you know it’s not pictorial!  So I had to teach myself how to do a lot of things for the first time!  I ordered a print of the painting, then traced lines around the major color areas on tracing paper, so it looked kind of like a paint-by-number project.  I took it to my local printer, who enlarged it for me.  This was my guide for cutting the applique shapes.  I dyed the background “sky” fabric, using a shaving cream technique I read about somewhere to get the water-color effect, yet careful placement of colors that I wanted.  I found a wonderful piece of McKenna Ryan ombre fabric in my stash that helped me greatly in achieving some shading in the bird’s head and some of the feathers.  The appliques were fused onto the background, then I zigzagged around the edges with monofilament thread.


Please do not share this photo!

I sent freezer paper-backed sheets of fabric to family member and friends, and had them write “Happy Birthday, David” notes with memories of him.  These were pieced together and used for the backing.  I quilted in the ditch of the applique shapes with monofilament, quilted “flame-y” and “feather-y” shapes with variegated thread in the fire and wings, and stitched a simple horizontal line fill in the sky.

The quilt was a hit!



It, along with a table he made at a workshop in Arrowmont with his sister Annie and me, were his most prized prossessions.

Tragically, he was not able to escape the flames of addiction, and died almost two years ago.  Today would have been his twenty-eighth birthday.


Make those special gifts for the people you love the most, and treasure those special hugs…


23 thoughts on “David’s 21st Birthday Quilt

  1. Susan, your quilts are exquisite! It was great that David got to enjoy your quilt lovingly made just for him. Very sorry for your loss. Keep the positive memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The piece is so beautiful! He loved this gift from his Mother, you can see it in his expression! May God continue to give you peace and comfort for your loss”.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful quilt! I know this is very far from your normal quilt work, but it is wonderful. Pardon me now while I wipe away a tear or two I shed for David (more than ever touching since my youngest son’s name is David), and hugs and prayers for you and the rest of his family on this special day.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have heard about your son before, and it is heartbreaking as a mother to imagine. Your quilt for him is truly lovely. Savor it all. FYI…there are “widgets” you can find online to keep people from pinning or copying your photos. I have one for my blog in blogger but don’t really know what the code for wordpress would be – it may be similar. Highly suggest this as some will copy and pin regardless.


  5. Susan, you and Mark are in my prayers often. Know that you two are gathering strength from each other especially today. You have many who are keeping you all close as you remember and remind us of your special son, David.


  6. I’m so glad you posted this and let us all share in the photos of your beautiful son and beautiful quilt. Happy Birthday, David. Prayers and thoughts for happy memories for you, Sue.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You are a very inspiring person I have followed your work for a few years now and often think of you when I am feeling down and how brave you are. I love seeing what you are working on. Keep creating and inspiring all of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: King of the Backyard Jungle | SusanStewartDesigns

  9. Pingback: Heirloom Dreams | SusanStewartDesigns

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s