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DIY Memory Square Using My Dad’s Recycled Clothing

I lost my dad suddenly in February this year.  It was totally unexpected and a very sad and hard time for my family. 

I have a very large and very close family. When Father’s day came around, we were all very mindful of him and each of us remembered him in our own ways. 

My sister Judy had an especially poignant way of remembering dad.

She made each of us a memory square using pieces of dad’s old shirts (and shhhh don’t tell…his boxer shorts!)

DIY memory square made from recycled old shirts. See how to make yours at have it hanging in my kitchen and look at it often.  I remember most of the pieces of clothing used in the memory square and it makes me smile when I see them all stitched together.

I thought it would be nice to give details of how you could do this sentimental DIY project so that you can, perhaps, remember a gone but not forgotten member of your family.

To make the project you will need the following:

  • old shirts that were worn often
  • piece of dark colored printed material to use as edging material
  • large piece of plain colored fabric that matches the shirts to use as the border
  • piece from a striped shirt  for the heart backing with date of death
  • Light colored fabric to line the back
  • small piece of striped fabric with red hearts on it (mine were from some boxer shorts that mom bought for dad which makes them especially sweet in the corners.)
  • two 12 x 1/4 inch wooden dowels
  • light fiberfill backing
  • sewing machine
  • thread to match

Directions: (Please bear in mind that my sister made this memory square so my directions are approximate but should give you a good idea of how to make this project.)

1. Cut the shirts into even sized squares.  My sister made the squares of her project about 1 1/2 inch each when stitched so should be a bit larger when cut.  

Old shirts form squares of the memory square2. Arrange the squares so that the shirts form a large heart in the center of the bolder material. (see the pattern below the actual photo of our project)

The size of the front section before edging measures about 12 x 12 inches.   You will also need some half squares to make get the heart shape correctly.

See the close up below of the actual project and pattern below it as well.

My father's shirts formed the center of this memory square.

*Special note: The material on the bottom left of the heart has special significance.  My sister purchased it for two reasons.

There are buildings in each of the blocks (my father was a builder) and also the Eiffel Tower (dad is of French descent.) Very appropriate Judy.

3. This is the pattern my sister used for the front section:

Memory square pattern4.  Cut the dark  plain colored fabric in 12 x 1 1/2 inch pieces.  Attach a square of the striped fabric with hearts at each end of the long strips.

These are then joined to the large memory square front section to form a sleeve.   Our hearts came from boxer shorts my mother bought my father. 

How sweet to have these to place in the corners of the memory square!

Heart shaped corner piece5.  Using the light colored solid material,  cut a large square about 15 x 15″.  This will form the backing piece.  (it will be larger than the front at this stage.)

6. Place fiberfill between the front and back sections and stitch them together.  Use the dark purchased material and stitch to the front section to form the border. 

Turn it over and hand stitch it to the back after attaching the rod pockets (see below).

border of memory cloth7.  Use the sewing machine stitch two heart shapes, one on the edge of the large heart section and the other inside it. (leave enough room in the center for the heart shaped date of birth that will be stitched to the back.

It will make the third heart shape on the front after stitching.) 

**For quilters, the stitching to create the lines of the two hearts on the front is called “stitching in the ditch.” It’s when you follow exactly the edges of your blocks, in this case in a heart pattern.

front side of memory square with stitching8.  Take the small piece of striped fabric and cut it into a heart shape.

Stitch the date of your relation’s death in a darker color and attach light fiberfill to the back and stitch it on the edges using a fancy stitching on the edge so that it will not fray. 

The date of death is stiched on to heart shaped fabric.9. Stitch the small heart to the back of the memory square in the center.  It will form the third row of heart stitching on the front. 

back of the memory cloth10.  The back of the memory cloth has four rod pockets, one in each corner.  They are attached under the edges of the dark edging before hand stitching to the back.  These hold the dowels in place. 

It can be hung from these at the top and the bottom dowel will help it to lay flat on the wall and not curl.

Triangular shaped pieces hold the dowels in place.Display with pride in memory of your lost relative.  I hope that you enjoy making this project as much as my sister did. 

I will treasure mine always.

Finished memory square made from my father's recycled shirtsI have my memory square hanging in my kitchen.  So many thanks to my caring sister, Judy, for giving me this loving memory of my dad that I will always cherish!

Memory square from my dad's old shirts

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Heather @ new house new home new life

Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Carol, This is lovely. I know how much you are missing your Dad. What a sweet reminder.


Tuesday 8th of July 2014

Thanks Heather. Yes, I think of him everytime I see this square. It's a lovely reminder of him. Carol

Linda Kelly Lee

Sunday 29th of June 2014

A really beautiful quilt with such loving memories attached. Such a treasure.


Sunday 29th of June 2014

Thanks Linda. It is so special to me. Carol

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."