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How to make a remembrance quilt with iron-on transfers

Updated on June 19, 2013

Iron on transfers aren't just for T-shirts!

The Story - A bit of background

Sadly one of our friends has been stricken with Alzheimer's Disease. This is always a hard time, but what makes it a real challenge is that he has a very young family.

We were happy to spend Christmas day with them this past year, right before R went into a facility. Once he was moved, there was a huge void and everybody could feel the loss of his presence. Although he lives still, who he once was is gone, and I struggled for a way to help his young daughter remember earlier times, and to help her get through all the new sad times.

The Quilt

I recently started playing around with iron on transfers and I thought maybe I could do something with those. It was a tough decision because I didn't want to overstep boundaries, but I had a gut feeling about this, as we are very close to the family so I just did it. It turned out to be a huge success, wrapping the family in warm memories.

It's a fairly easy hybrid quilt ( part machine quilting and part hand), although you could probably do it all by machine and have it completed in a few nights or a weekend. The sinchy thing is that you save yourself some quilting as you don't need to quilt over the photos!

This is another great way to use up scraps, I used scraps as well as a couple of 4" batik charm packs from Hawaii that I had been saving in my stash. I'll also let you in on one of my yardage discoveries.

Although this project assumes you already have some experience quilting, (I will add some links for beginners) I will also give you some non-quilting ideas too.

What you'll need

*For this project you will need a bit of sewing machine and quilting experience.

- package of iron-on transfer paper

- iron (does not need to be steam)

- fabric (quilt front, back and edge)

- a picture(s) in your computer that you want to use

- an ink jet printer

- sewing machine, or needle and thread

- batting

- scissors

- vinegar or salt, laundry soap and washing machine (for the final wash) You can put in dryer to tumble dry, but you can also hang.

Iron-On Transfer Sheets

I am in love with this product and have found lots of creative uses for it.

You can grab these for light or dark fabrics, ensure you get the correct one. The ones I used are for light fabrics.

*Note I have seen a few ideas floating around the Internet for DIY transfer sheets, but the end result will not tolerate being washed repeatedly.

The how-to part

Once you have chosen your colours and pieced together the top of your quilt, you can then either take new photos or look for some old ones to use or draw something yourself for the transfers.

The photos will have to be digital, or if they are hard-copy (regular photos on photo paper), they will need to be scanned into your computer. If you do not have a scanner, I believe you can take your photos to Staples, Kinko's, Office Depot, Mail Boxes Etc., or a similar shop that has a business centre.

Once you have your photos chosen, put the iron-on paper in your printer as per the manufacturer's instructions, and print them off.

For my photos, because I was not exactly sure where they would be placed, or even if I was going to use them, (I was going back and forth about even doing this project as the subject matter was so delicate), I ironed mine onto separate 8x10 pieces of cotton fabric, instead of right onto the quilt top itself. Afterwards, once I was sure, I made 'frames' for them and sewed them on afterwards.

So next step, choose where you will place your photos and iron them on, as per the instructions provided with your sheets. They are all very similar, they all requires a hot iron, and pressure over a certain amount of time, depending on the size of your picture.

Once on the quilt, you can finish your quilt as you normally would, just ensure you do not quilt or stitch through the transfers, as this will decrease their life expectancy and cause them to 'fray' around the holes, after repeated washings.

It's also a good idea to send laundering instructions, if your quilt is a gift, just so there is no question. Iron-on transfers can be laundered as normal, but I always add: "Warm or cold water, mild soap and hang to dry", but really they'll hold up through a lot!

One washing tip for the batik charms to be aware of, is that they are dyed so as soon as I was done I washed the quilt in white vinegar and soap in cold water. In the heat of the dryer they did 'bleed' a bit, but this probably could have been prevented if I had washed the squares in salt first, before I made the quilt!

You will definitely need one of these for these projects

My iron is so ancient, it may time time for one of these

Clover Mini Iron
Clover Mini Iron

This is super cute and I have seen them in videos, it looked really handy, have you tried one?


My tip for yardage

I am a huge proponent of up-cycling and recycling and I am always on the look out for a bargain! So what I have started doing for yardage, especially for quilts, to to peruse EBay, thrift shops and garage sales for old sheets and 'seconds' (manufacturer's flaws).

This quilt is made from a king size, expensive, designer cotton sheet that I found on EBay from a liquidator, for 11 dollars. There was nothing wrong with it that I could see. And because the quilt I made was a single, I have loads left over.

Batik charms - I always have some of these in my stash

They're great for so many things and a really economical way of collecting lots of different colours and patterns.

Final product

My quilts are never perfect, I know I rush through them, I am so happy to get them to their owners. (Here the hearts are even covering mistakes!), but I think this makes them all the more original and unique.

A good remembrance

Photo courtesy of MK

Pillow project

This project is easier than a full sized quilt, it is simply a pillow slip with some charm squares cut in half and sewed together on the corners and a few strips of red cotton around the edge.

I also sewed quite a few charms together to make the binding around the edge behind the piping. It's super easy, just sew loads together to make the length you want and the iron and sew into the final back to front pillow seem.

I bought the burgundy corduroy on Etsy for around 5 dollars, the red piping and 6 other colours for around the same cost, and used a piece of the quilt sheet from the previous project to iron the transfer onto.

For the picture, well, we love our Rat Terrier, 'Buster'. He is getting on though, and at nearly 20 years old, we are not only looking to keep him comfortable, but we also want ways to remember him too!

So for this project I just sat down with a piece of paper and a black felt pen and began drawing him in all of his moods. I am by no means an artist, but I kind of liked the result - it's kind of cartoon-y.

And again, I scanned the finished picture into the computer and printed it onto the iron-on transfer.

Once done, I sewed it onto the front of the pillow cover, sewed on the back and stuffed a regular pillow inside! So easy!

The best video on quilt edge binding and corners

Piping video

This is the one I watched to learn how to do this, it also tells how to go around corners nicely.

More DIY iron-on transfer gift ideas

For Grandparents, you could have your kids draw some pictures and transfer them to a pillow or sweatshirt, just so many creative ways to use those iron-on transfers!

Or why not try your hand at a picture of your spouse? Or your pet?

How about a favourite poem pillow for a daughter or newlywed?

Or an alphabet pillow for a new baby or toddler's first birthday?

Easy monogrammed pillow cases?

Just so many options, I've gone through an entire package of transfer sheets already!

A few more shots of the Buster pillow

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Buster doodles.Pillow in action!
Buster doodles.
Buster doodles.
Pillow in action!
Pillow in action!

I'd love to hear from you!

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