brave, cancer, darkness, hope, quilting, repurpose, women

Melanie’s Quilt

Toward the end of 2016 I had a previous customer call me about a couple more projects he had. He and his wife came over with two bags. One was full of baseball t-shirts to be made into a wall hanging. The other bag was crammed full of pink t-shirts. She is a breast cancer survivor and participated in several Race for the Cure walks. And, for every walk, she received two shirts – one as a participant and one as a survivor.


With every shirt I picked up and held and cut apart I thought about her strength and determination. I thought about what she had to endure in order to survive and how, even though it was probably painful and uncomfortable, it was all worth it to still be here. I’ve only met this woman briefly a few times, but in creating this quilt for her, I learned a lot about her.


When I started working on her quilt, I was also thinking about Melanie. She was diagnosed with breast cancer just before Christmas. I’ve only met Melanie once – earlier in the fall when we attended an event with Nadia Bolz-Weber. When I had dinner with Melanie and her friends that evening it was easy to connect with them because I was reminded of my mom and her friends. Women in their 60s who are confident and sassy and smart, well, they give me something to look forward as I age!

Melanie also happens to be the mother of a good friend of mine. When I heard of her diagnosis I wanted to do something – make it better somehow. I wanted my friend to be comforted, I wanted her mom to feel connected and less alone. While working on the breast cancer quilt I had an idea…

When I make t-shirt quilts, I usually only use a panel from the front and the back of the shirt. That leaves a lot of fabric remaining. Sometimes I save this fabric for future quilts. Sometimes I throw it way. Sometimes I give it away. However, this time I knew exactly what I needed to do with the extra fabric.

I cut all of the excess fabric into 5-inch squares. I ended up with enough squares to make a lap quilt Melanie could use during her chemo treatments. But, I didn’t want this to just be a quilt for her. I wanted my friend to have a hand in it as well.


For her family Christmas exchange this year everyone had to hand make a gift. This isn’t something my friend usually does, so she enlisted my help. Together we made coasters for her brother-in-law. Since she now had experience on the sewing machine, I knew she could help create this quilt for her mom.

She came over and I showed her all the squares. I gave her the freedom to design the quilt however she wanted. It’s too bad that I couldn’t keep it all straight – a few blocks got out of order! She sewed all the squares together in one evening. Later that week I completed the quilt by sewing the rows together, finishing the edges and cutting the seams to create the “rag” effect of this rag quilt.


When I gave it to my friend, she loved it and guaranteed me that her mom would too. So, this weekend, she went to visit and gave her mom the quilt. Now she’ll have it for every treatment. Anytime she looks down she’ll see the small “survivor” block and be reminded of the woman who owned the shirts – a woman who survived. The owner of the original quilt was pleased to know parts of her shirts were going to another woman – another soon-to-be survivor, another woman that needed a reminder that she’s not alone.


Isn’t that what we all want – to know we’re not alone? This quilt contains the spirit of a survivor, the daughter of a survivor and her daughter – Melanie will never be alone on this journey.


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