Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt ~ The Gift of Clothing

For the past couple of months I have been collaborating with Rowan Edwards to make a quilt from the clothing of his grandfather, Sunny Edwards. Sunny was a rodeo cowboy from Texas. In these photos from 1950 Sunny is 30 years old.

Sunny’s fabulous western shirts, mostly Wrangler chambray, but also a few Pendleton wools and dress whites and stripes are his collaborative gift to Rowan, and the score for our improvisation.

For Rowan these starched, snap front shirts are the epitome of Sunny’s personality. He was an independent thinker who was well-respected amongst his peers.

Rowan is a designer and a shoe maker and he had the idea to make this quilt before we met. He was guided my Passage Quilts through one of his friends from art school who had heard of the bereavement work I do through improvisational process and quilt making.

Rowan wanted to take an active role in making the quilt. Rowan and I (and Sunny) meet weekly for three-hour collaborative sessions. After all it’s Sunny’s style –his fabulous western wear– that has set the course for the project. He is a partner in our collaboration.

After the initial consultation Rowan and I met to cut Sunny’s shirts apart. Acknowledging that these clothes will never be worn again by cutting them apart is often the most significant step in the bereavement quilt making processes. Did you know that the word bereavement means to tear apart?

Just as Rowan’s relationship with his grandfather has been transformed and functions differently through death, so too are Sunny’s clothes being transformed. They will no longer function as clothing but as a quilt. In Rowan’s words:

The experience of assessing, cutting, preparing pieces for a quilt that is supposed to represent a life well lived proved more complex than anticipated. How do you fully represent, honor people from your life story that offered so much in the way of legacy, integrity, quality of life, quiet sophistication and humor? Documentation is only a start. Having something concrete helps me remember and tell the tales that only hint at the value Sunny brought to those who knew him. So much more can be done. But this is a good start.

More to come…

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12 Responses to Sunny Edwards Memorial Quilt ~ The Gift of Clothing

  1. Roland says:

    Looking at these articles of clothing, I wonder what you feel when cutting them up for quilting. Creative destruction?

  2. Sheila says:

    Very cool Sherri, I look forward to seeing more! :)

  3. Melinda Johnson says:

    2 things:
    I was so happy to see your quilt at the Salt Lake City Home Quilting show. It was so nice to bump into it and know I knew it and then read the card and really know I knew it. (From blog stalking you. I’m not much of a participant.) It was awesome to see it up close and personal.

    I’ve made a very similar memorial quilt for a friend from his dad’s old wranglers’ and pendelton wool snap shirts. Well, I don’t know how similar, but same/same materials. Looks like you’re going to incorporate some of the snaps, I did as well. And a few pockets, both pants and shirts. A quilt sure makes a nice memorial. I’m sure you thought of this: but, since I was working with all wool shirts, I felted them down first, so they would be able to use and wash the quilt without further shrinkage. And the other cool thing was that I’ve used small pieces of that felted wool in other projects. And everytime I do, I get to think about how much my friend appreciated their quilt and the memory keeps on living.
    Thanks for blogging. And I’ll keep “checking you out”.

  4. patty says:

    I think just getting started and then actually cutting are the hardest part. Once the arrangement of the pieces starts the process will hopefully just flow. I look forward to hearing more about Sunny’s quilt.

  5. eli leon says:

    I’ve done a quilt of my Dad’s clothes with his picture in it.

  6. Beth says:

    My Mom died nearly 7 weeks ago. Even before her death, I’ve been feeling buried under a mountain of old clothing — she saved everything. As a lover of vintage clothing, I must choose the things to pass on for others to enjoy & the things I keep to turn into something else. Yes, torn & terribly bereaved.

  7. Barb says:

    My good friend lost her mother to cancer and has been making a quilt and a very beautiful blog http://teklamemoryquilt.blogspot.ca/2012_10_01_archive.html . I suggested she look up your passage quilts site, which helped her make the decision to make a quilt from her mom’s tshirts. I love the work you do, thank you Sherri.

  8. Peggy dlugos says:

    Love what you are doing. Keep posting on this great project.

  9. John says:

    Sherri,
    Thank ypu for sharing this. Very much look forward to reading more on this process. Its so cool in every way! I think this aspect of your many creative adventures is so important in merging life and art. I didn’t know that about “bereavement.”

    As you know, I had the intention to do a quilt using my deceased father’s clothes long ago. As you told me and your post suggests, being intellectually ready and emotionally prepared are two different things. After collecting the garments months before, the bags of clothes sat for months. At times I moved them into different rooms to begin sorting, but just never “dug in” to the project. I accepted that something in me was not fully ready to take on this process. I think internal growth is not always visible, and suspect the “process” likely began within me long ago. Only within the last two weeks, as my heart has settled from other things, and spring has arrived bringing rains, flowers, and green, and Light, have I felt right in my heart to physically begin. Even so, just the cutting and rendering of his clothes was a very profound and powerful experience for me. Challenging but restorative and healing. I have a long way to as I’ve never made a quilt, nor have I sewn anything before –but I know I’ll grow with this, and very much appreciate your inspiring example. Thank you.

  10. Gillian says:

    Thanks for posting this – I’m looking forward to following the course of this process.

  11. Diane says:

    I’m beginning one of these for a new grand baby and am using her grandfathers dress shirts. She will never know him but his daughter and her baby will have a new baby quilt made from his shirts. Most of them are solid color dress shirts and I am adding some shabby chic rose material in with the shirt material. It is an honor and at the same time, a little scary to do this. But, I’m excited

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