Friday, March 28, 2014

Quilting Through Loss

My daughter and my brother
It has been over 6 months since my brother died. My family misses him terribly and after a loss like this, we all know that nothing will ever be the same. We know that we just have to find a way to live on without him and deal with it however we can.  


And quilters cope by quilting.
I have bags of my brother's clothes that might become quilts. For now, most of the clothes have been sitting in bags in a closet, because the energy was just so powerful and the feelings so overwhelming that I could not even open the bags. 

Last weekend I made a little start. I washed all his shirts, even though the labels say 'dry clean' and 'do not tumble dry'. I did both of these things, because a quilt has to be washable. The shirts came out fine, but being made from 100% cotton, they did shrink some.

My brother had his dress shirts custom made when Maxwell's Clothiers came to town. They would take his measurements, and he would pick out his fabrics, shirt style (ie. cufflinks which he liked for dress shirts, or buttons) and a cuff monogram design.
Then his shirts would be taylor-made and mailed to him. They are beautifully constructed, personalized garments made from top quality cotton fabrics.

Garments that I am now cutting up into pieces, deconstructing and returning to yardage.
It's jarring, and sad, and brings back so many memories. 
The fabric on the bottom left was the shirt he wore to his first chemo treatment. He still had his hair, and still had hope that he could beat cancer.
I know the only way to deal with grief is to power through it. There is no short cut, or way around it.
This will be a project that I can only work on in small blocks of time, because it's emotionally exhausting. So, every once and a while whenever I feel strong, I will visit with his shirts, and cut up the fabrics, and put the buttons in a jar. And I will cry, and listen to his CD, and remember him. And hope that I will be able to reconstruct all these pieces into something less painful, and maybe even comforting. 
If you are interested in reading more about using quilts as part of the mourning process, you can visit one of my favorite websites - Womenfolk.

38 comments:

  1. I have just found your Blog
    I can relate to your loss and your quilt
    I lost my daughter to cancer in 2010
    I did what you are planning with her clothes
    The quilt now hangs in my home and gives me so much comfort

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  2. Kathy it is a hard process. We all manage somehow... Can't explain it. There is a lot of support through our blogs which in a way is so comforting. Whe I got rid of my sons clothes it felt like I was throwing him away. They were not suitable for quilting. Teenage boys live in t-shirts & old jeans and loose track pants. I'm sure you will find some comfort in your brothers shirts. Just touching them helps.

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  3. I so feel for you. I too lost my brother (5 yrs ago) and my father (20 yrs ago) to cancer. Such a dreadful disease. It is true that there is no escaping grief and it seems to come and engulf you completely at times. But as the years pass, the memories stay, the pain goes and the emptiness lessen. You will be able to construct a beautiful quilt out of his shirts because you have beautiful memories of him to share with everyone who will see this quilt. At this moment, I am hugging you so tight and sending you positive energy. You are not alone and please consider yourself hugged.

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  4. My Mom got rid of all my Dad's things and so wish I could have made a quilt from his shirts for my sons. So I have kept all my sons' shirts outgrown or worn and have used them as memory quilts of sorts. I too am sending you hugs and prayers as you work thru this process.

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  5. You are getting to this part pretty quick, Kathy. I guess that's good for you. I waited and waited until I even got the shirts out of the box. My brother passed almost 24 years ago from Leukemia. He needed a bone marrow transplant and I was his best shot. We didn't match. I have not made anything from his shirts yet, but I have collected all of them and stacked them out of the box now at least. Someday I will get at it, but for now, I will think about him and the quilt design. Someday...

    It's great you are getting on with your plan. It will turn those memories into hugs from that quilt you end up making! A good thing... Take care.

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  6. I felt the same feelings as I was cutting up my FIL's shirts for the quilts I made for my MIL, husband, my husband's sister and the three grandchildren last year. As I sewed, I remembered times when he wore the shirts and smiled to myself as I thought about the fun family times we had together. There were tears too but I knew as I cut up the shirts and made them into quilts, that he would have been pleased with the quilts. I could feel the warmth of his love as I worked on the quilts and it brought me a lot of comfort. May you also be blessed with comfort and wonderful memories as you work with your brother's shirts. Hugs!

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  7. passing comfort on to you - I have lost 2 of my brothers over the years one was the anniversary this month and I couldn't believe it was 39 years for other it has been 6 years. I feel the lose for both no matter how many years.

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  8. You will cherish that quilt forever. I lost my mom 2 years ago from just plain old age. She was 97 1/2 years old, so no surprise there, but she went peacefully and I got to tell her that I loved her .

    I miss her every day, but it's OK. What I miss the most is when I would complain about getting older (I'm 30 years younger than her, and no spring chicken), and she would say: "Oh Honey, you're so young." Every time I think about that, I giggle.

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  9. Sending you hugs. I feel your pain. Wish there were words that could be spoken to help ease the pain some. Alas, we must work through it. I truly wish I had some of my brother's clothes to turn into quilts. What a wonderful way to cherish his life.

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  10. Clothing from a passed loved one certainly has value. It's like we still have the person. Making a quilt when you are ready will help the healing process.

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  11. I have a trunk full of shirts from my brother, who died also. We were 11 months apart in age. I cannot do it, even yet, work with those shirts...cannot...

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  12. I did that with a quilt top my grandmother made for me, I sandwiched it and started quilting it...ton of memories flooded....so I know this will be wonderful therapy for you.

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  13. Your love for your brother is such a beautiful testimony to him Kathy! And someday you will be able to make a quilt that will blanket you in his love forever. God bless as you continue to go through this horrible time of mourning. None of us can escape it, but with God's help, we do eventually get through to the other side. Praying for you my friend.

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  14. I'm so sorry for your loss. I just started reading your blog recently so I had no idea what you were dealing with. My heart truly goes out to you and your family (((HUGS))).

    I think making a quilt from his shirts will be very therapeutic for you and will always be a warm reminder of him :)

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  15. My heart goes out to you Kathy. You are brave to start this so soon. Hugs.

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  16. I can imagine how difficult this quilt will be to make, but I am sure it will eventually give you great comfort. Sending you hugs.

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  17. His shirts, buttons and CD. One step at a time, one day at a time!Quilting is a therapy no one but a quilter understands. Wishing you hours of memories that soothe your soul not make you sadder. Sending you hugs friend!

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  18. so glad you have his wonderfully custom made shirts of such nice quality to make quilts with! What a job to make one quilt or add to your stash so your brother comes back for visits when you are piecing again :) I wish I had had quilting in my life when my husband died... I would have done so with all his shirts too... now they are gone! Thanks for sharing so personally! Kathi

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  19. Hugs and prayers to you as you go through the grief from your loss. His shirts are beautiful and I know whatever you do with them will be a wonderful keepsake for you and your family.

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  20. Oh Kathy my heart breaks for your loss, which I can't imagine. Learning to live without someone is jarring-in every way-physically, mentally, emotionally. 'Baby steps' someone told me.
    When my husband's brother died from cancer 3 years ago, I remember reading a note "cry and be sad-He was worth it." And it is true, grieving takes a long time and is hard work. Our hurry up world wants us to be all better now.
    I'm remembering your family in prayer.

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  21. It took me over 10 years to finish my granddaughter's quilt. I finally did and it is now hanging in my bedroom where I touch it everyday and smile with her. It was hard working on it. Little bits here and there. Quilting is therapy, so are tears. Hugs to you my friend.

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  22. You will have tears mingled with your stitches :(

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  23. I think you are doing well to already be working, bit by bit, on your brother's shirts. I believe it helps in the grieving to power through, as you say, but we all do it in our own time. I am impressed that you are already on your journey with the quilt--even in the beginning stages.
    I don't think I said that very well, but I hope you get the idea that I am impressed with your facing of your grief and working through it.

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  24. So much saddness happening right now. I just keep adding to my prayers every day and hope for peace for those who are hurting. Making this quilt will be therapy for you.
    It's cheaper than a Shrink, too. What pattern are you thinking of making?

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  25. ((hugs)) remember all the fun times too.

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  26. WHat a grand project, Kathy. I made some Pop Sock monkeys from Dad's clothing this Christmas for all the grandkids...
    http://stitchingfarmgirl.blogspot.co.nz/2014/01/monkeys-birds-and-hop.html
    It was very tough, especially the first few cuts into dad's clothes but so comforting and so rewarding. I hope you find the same sort of comfort with this project.

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  27. Sherri Lynn Wood does bereavement quilting over at http://daintytime.net/topics/passage-quilting/ too. It's a pretty incredible way to work through the memories. I admire you for even being able to start. I barely cut up a couple of my brothers shirts and he's been gone almost 6 yrs.

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  28. Lost my dad 7 1/2 years ago and quit quilting for several years. I piddled and bought fabric and thought about quilts but the fun was gone. I have just started feeling the full on passion for quilting in the past few months. I feel like grief drained my creating spark. So glad it is coming back.

    Blessings,
    Tracy

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  29. Kathy, what a wonderful way to keep your brother close to your heart...take care...

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  30. Kathy I've listened the CD. Braz was a great musician. May the process of making this quilt brings you some confort. It isn't easy to lost our loved ones. Braz will be alive in your memories and heart forever. Hugs

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  31. This is a spiritual and moving tribute to your brother. It must be so hard. I hope that your journey through grief is helped by your quilting.

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  32. What a beautiful, meaningful quilt that will be. Know that the thoughts of other quilters will be with you throughout that long quilting journey.

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  33. May you find comfort and peace as you work with your brother's shirts.

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  34. my thoughts are with you and your family, such a hard loss to bear, the quilts you make from his clothes will be a great comfort to you I am sure. Cancer is so terrible, I lost my Dad 30 years ago, Mum was a Marie Curie nurse and now my daughter is nursing in our local hospice, she is such a caring girl and supports the families through their tragic journey

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  35. What a moving post...and a wonderful tribute to your brother. I think making something from his shirts will be very therapeutic and he would be thrilled to see you making something to remember him. So often we keep fabric to one side because it is precious and actually it stays in the cupboard hidden and unused where as when it is crafted into a quilt it can be out on show to be loved and admired every day... ((hugs))

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  36. I lost my mom to cancer when I was 29. I think the first year is the hardest. You have to go everything without him. First Christmas without him, first birthday without him. You know what I mean. And it's so hard. The first Thanksgiving without my Mom, after the meal had been blessed, I went in the bathroom and cried and cried. After the first year, at least you've done everything once without him. And you survived. Your thoughts are a poignant testament of your love for him.

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  37. Kathy, my brother passed yesterday and I appreciate the link for memory quilts. So sorry for your loss. I'm hoping for both of us that time eases the loss. U

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