Our Whole Life

Mom and Dad were married on August 2, 1952, on a very hot day, in an un-air-conditioned church in St. Charles, MO. Legend has it that Mom’s veil caught fire from a candle during the photography or reception (I don’t remember; I wasn’t there!)

Marvin and Gloria 8-2-52

For their 50th wedding anniversary, in 2002, I made them a photo-transfer memory quilt.

anniversary quilt

I used ideas from the book The Collectibles Quilt by Wendy Etzel, 1995, RCW. The book got me started with the idea of a photo transfer bookcase quilt, and I took off from there. (Wendy still has copies of her book available; you can contact her at wendyetzel@verizon.net . The exact pattern for this quilt is not in the book.)

This was the second real quilt I ever made. The first was My Texas Star, half a year earlier. I think this was also the second time I tried free-motion quilting!

I managed to get photos of 5 generations of family, and made enough photo transfers to create 52 “framed” photos on the bookshelves, including my parent’s wedding picture and their wedding invitation.

Our Whole Life detail 3

The titles of some of the “books” are the names of my grandparents, my parents, my sister and me, and our children. Other “books” are titled with significant events or interests in our lives.

Our Whole Life detail 2Our Whole Life detail 1

I added a machine-embroidered a Peace rose (I don’t have a close-up of that) which was my maternal grandmother’s favorite flower, and created a basket made from woven strips of fabric, with a piece of crocheted work spilling out of it. This was made by my father’s aunt, who was born deaf, but crocheted exquisitely.

Our whole Life detail 4

(I didn’t cut up a good piece of crochet work; this was damaged, and I used the un-damaged part in the quilt.)

When they saw the quilt, Mom and Dad were both speechless and teary-eyed, and my father said, “This is my whole life!”

The quilt was hung next to some real bookcases, and causes visitors to do a double-take! It has been the backdrop for many family photos.

Sean 21bday and Annie 018 Sean 21bday and Annie 016Bird family

Yes, that’s a papier-mâché-and-feather bird head, but that’s another story…

The quilt was displayed at Dad’s memorial service. I think it’s just about the best gift I ever gave!


22 thoughts on “Our Whole Life

  1. What a wonderful daughter you are. I am sure that your parents think and thought so too. The quilt leaves me without words — it is so beautiful and poignant.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw this quilt years ago in one of your newsletters and fell in love with it then. You do such beautiful work and some of your quilts are actually breathtaking (my breath at least))! But this is my most very favorite quilt I have ever seen (that is probably not grammatically correct but it’s true). It’s just amazing and I know it is a family treasure. Thanks for sharing it again.


  3. I am VERY INTERESTED in having you make me one for my parent’s 50th anniversary which is later this month! I’ve been going through photos for this very thing, but I LOVE your design. Please contact me to let me know if you are interested in making me one and what you would charge to do so. 904-803-8505 Cell


    • I’m glad you like my memory quilt, Gwyn! It was a very personal gift, a gift of love, and even if I did custom work (which I do not), I don’t think something I did for someone else would have the same impact. If you sew and quilt, check out the book I mention in the blog post for inspiration.


      • I understand the personal touch. I do not sew or quilt but was going to have one made with all the memories and faves on the quilt similar to what you’ve done. If you know of anyone interested in assisting me with my gift to my parents, please let me know. Feel free to give them my number. But, I need to get it started very soon. Sad to hear you don’t take orders, however. You are talented and I trust it would come out very nice.


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    • Thank you, Donna. I don’t think I did any quilting inside the photo-transfer pictures (I made this over 15 years ago, and it lives at my Mom’s house, so I’m not absolutely sure.) But I remember that stitching in the printed fabric seemed to leave large needle holes, so I avoided doing that. Other photo transfer fabrics, though, may not have that problem. Also, I was not a quilter the, so my quilting was not nearly as dense and detailed as it is now.


  6. I want to make one for a dear friend of mine to honor and remember her husband, who passed away a year ago. I am a little nervous to start…any tips you can pass along that might help?


  7. I too am making my beloved sister a 50 golden years quilt. Did you free motion the background or any parts of your quilt? I just can’t decide any help would be gratefully received
    Regards Linda


    • I free-motioned almost all of it. I made it over 17 years ago. My quilting skills have improved a lot, but it’s still one of the most special quilts I have made! Don’t over-think it; the background really doesn’t matter as much as the pictures. I’m sure it will be well-loved!


  8. I have held on to a picture of this for years but was never able to find the link to the original posting until now. My mother in law is the last of our parents and she will be 90 soon and I am finally going to get one made. Can you tell me an approximate size of your quilt?


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