Quilts and mourning have long been associated with each other ~ there’s the custom of viewing the deceased laid out on a quilt or of burying bodies in quilts when wooden coffins were unavailable. And you may have heard of the Kentucky Graveyard Quilt, or Coffin Quilt, a pre-Civil War quilt created to memorialize deaths in Elizabeth Roseberry Mitchell’s family.
Ms. Mitchell initiated this tradition when her two year-old son, John, died and was buried in Monroe County, Ohio, in 1836. Shortly after, her husband moved the family to Kentucky and, not wanting to forget John, she began a quilt that featured a fairly accurate appliqué of the graveyard where he was laid.
Surrounding her “graveyard” are eight-pointed star blocks alternating with directional calico fabric blocks. For the outer fence border, she created dark coffin shapes and embroidered on them the names and birthdates of the members of her family, placing these around the outside of the quilt. To John’s coffin she added the date of his death and appliqued it inside the graveyard. Later, a second son’s coffin and the coffins from two other relatives were moved to the center. Today, both a practice quilt top and the finished graveyard quilt are located in Kentucky museums.
Though an unusual method, the Kentucky Graveyard Quilt was Ms. Mitchell’s way of dealing with her grief. After a pretty serious illness in my family, I was looking for a quilt-related way process my own feelings and decided to build on the idea of a coffin quilt while at the same time laugh in the face of death.
I created a modern version, with blocks and layout influenced by the original, but in contemporary colors and fabrics. Instead of family, the names on my coffins were of TV characters who died on some of my favorite shows.
Even though they were on the small screen, many of these deaths touched me deeply. As the meme says…
There are certain fictional characters whose deaths I will never recover from. Ever.
Each of the names was machine embroidered by my friend, Shirley W., at Embroidery by Shirley. I cut the coffins and machine appliquéd them in similar places to the original. The surrounding fence is also machine appliquéd (although I cheated a bit and used black Quick Bias for the fence chain.)
The eight-pointed stars are done in scrappy purple fabrics with a single grey or single black depending on placement. I’m not sure if Ms. Mitchell meant to have the stars on varying light and dark backgrounds or if some of the fabrics have faded over time, but I went with layout as it now appears. My setting squares are a striped fabric, which I also carefully placed to get the same directionality as hers.
I’ve not been able to visit the Kentucky museum where the original Graveyard Quilt is located and online photos only show portions of the quilting. So I contacted Barbara Brackman, quilt historian and author. She is literally one of the most famous quilt historians on earth and I knew my chances of actually getting a reply were slim. But I did have an in – she lives in my old hometown of Lawrence, KS.
To my surprise, she graciously did respond! Although she said she hadn’t seen the quilt in person, she sent a link to a blog post she wrote about Ms. Mitchell’s quilts and suggested that, since I was doing a modern take on the old piecing to go twenty-first century with the quilting, too.
So I did. My version has double batting so the outline quilting around the coffins and stars makes them pouf up nicely. In the setting squares I matchstick quilted diamond shapes (the center of the diamond poufs up, too.) In the graveyard and the outside border, I did my classic stipple quilting – it wouldn’t be a Whimzie quilt if I left that technique out!
Even blown up, some of the names are difficult to read in these pictures, so if you are wondering, here’s the list of characters clockwise from the top left corner (see if you can guess the shows in the comments!) ~
- Trudy Monk
- Amy & Rory Pond
- Snowball I
- Snowball II
- Snowball III
- Snowball IV
- Bleeding Gums Murphy
- Mr. Hooper
- Bill McNeal
- Jadzia Dax
- Jock Ewing
- Professor Proton
- Richard Bay
- Henry Blake
- Lenny Briscoe
- Chuckles the Clown
- Susan Ross
- Joyce Summers
and in the graveyard center ~
- Tasha Yar
- Eddie LeBec
- Frank Grimes
- Sister Mary Duvall
While most of our home becomes Who-ville for the holidays, we have a separate room that is reindeer-themed. Mainly because I couldn’t stop myself from making this quilt
This year, I added to the reindeer decor with a embroidered scrappy fabric and ribbon garland, which I finished just three days before Christmas!
I’d kind of hoped that the bunting would be easy enough to make and sell in my Etsy shop (always looking for new ways to use my embroidery machine!) but it was WAY more work than I thought it would be. Worth it in the end, though!
This is my last project for the 2017 holidays; so glad to have everything Christmas-y finished and ready to go — even if it is just three days ahead of time.
I am hoping to finish one more (non-holiday) quilt before the end of the year. It’s still on the long-arm and I’m close having it quilted, but I might be binding right up until the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Keep your fingers crossed for me to get it done!
Warm Ho Ho Holiday wishes everyone!
I posted a picture online of the quilted Miser Brothers pillows I made for husband last year – it was seen by a woman who then contacted me to see if I could make similar Miser Brothers quilt for her son. She ultimately decided not to have the quilt made, but now my husband wants me to make the matching quilt for him!
Before I capitulate to his unreasonable demands 😀 , I decided to show off the design here in case anyone else wanted to have it custom made. It does seem like a pretty popular idea, so if you are interested, contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org for more information…
The quilt design is a mixture of piecing and appliqué. I’ve divided the quilt down the center, with Snow Miser on the left and Heat Miser on the right.
Each face would be pieced out of 4 or more fabrics, mainly blues and white for Snow and red, orange and yellow for Heat. Although I’m showing solids, I’d actually use tone-on-tone small prints or marbled fabrics in these colors to give the quilt depth and dimension.
Surrounding each face would be a large field of a dark blue or dark red. To break up the large expanse of color, I will machine applique the phrases in white and add a pieced stripe in appropriate colors above and below.
This quilt is approximately 80” x 90” (large enough to cover a full-sized bed) and would cost $775. A lap size version, at approximately 60” x 68” would be $450.
In 2016, a friend of the family mentioned she was going to be a grandmother for the first time. As all good quilters do, I got super excited about the opportunity to make a baby quilt for her and her new grand baby. Since our friend was living in San Diego, I went with a San Diego Zoo / panda baby theme and created this adorable little black, white and green quilt.
Cut to 2017 — and our friend’s just found out that her other daughter is having a baby, too! Which means, YAY!, another baby quilt!
I decided to keep the Zoo theme going and created a zebra baby quilt this time. It’s the same layout as before – a center medallion with a pieced animal, on a solid color background, surrounded by black and white borders, and featuring scrappy 3-dimensional prairie points. Because of the zebra, adding red as the main color seemed the perfect choice – it’s the classic children’s riddle (what’s black, white and red all over?) come to life!
Prairie points are always a good choice for a baby quilt since playing with them encourages hand / eye coordination (I recommend them on nearly every baby quilt I design.) Additionally, the contrast of black and white with a bright, happy third color, also helps baby’s vision development. And, well, these are just darn cute quilts, too. 😀
Our friend loves her grandkids so much (she’s shared some of the sweetest stories!) so I’m sure there will be more grand babies in her future. And I do seem to have started something here with the black and white zoo animals theme. I’m pretty sure when #3 comes around I’ll be making a penguin, but I’d love some other suggestions in the comments!
When customer Gus H. first contacted me about a quilt for his new baby’s first Christmas, he had a list of possible ideas for the theme, starting with owls and Pokemon and including “Star Trek, Star Wars’ R2D2 and LEGO.”
We were able to use most of those ideas in the quilt itself (see right) but the LEGO option stuck in my head… it noodled around in there for a while and eventually I realized LEGO would be the perfect choice for the thank you gift with purchase I had in mind — Christmas stockings!
Picking out the right color fabrics for the LEGO blocks was the most fun part of this project, though my delight at finding an embroidery font that resembled the LEGO logo was close second. The piecing was absolutely crazy – matching the color of one row of LEGOs to the row below took some real care (and a few removed stitches :D)
In the end, these came out adorably and I’m hoping Santa enjoys filling them with fantastic LEGO stocking stuffers for years to come!
I literally sold this pillow sham just on the idea alone! A longtime customer was looking for “any cute girl pillows” and I mentioned this idea I had been noodling around in my head for a while. The design wasn’t even finished, but she said “Oh that would be perfect”. We both ended up pretty happy with how it worked out!
If you think this would be the perfect cute little girl pillow sham for you, too, I’ve added a second one to my Whimzie Quiltz Etsy store — snap it up before Santa does!
Over the years, I’ve made a LOT of stockings ready to be “hung by the chimney with care”. Thought I’d offer a little photo montage to get you in the holiday spirit if you aren’t already — there’s something for everyone in this round-up of “whimzical” quilted stockings by Whimzie Quiltz…
I love making quilted stockings – giant stockings, themed stockings, traditional stockings, non-traditional stockings – all sorts of stockings. (Do you think I’ve used the “S” word enough? Stockings, stockings, stockings.)
Got a stocking idea you’d like to have me make? Order early at Whimzie Quiltz so your special stockings are ready to hang in 2018!