Meet Marnie Freeman
Marnie started quilting as a hobby in the late 1990s. She was introduced to memory quilting at an annual quilting retreat. At that time, she really only had thoughts about making a memory quilt for her sister, who was a marathon runner and triathlete. Later on, she was also inspired by a good friend that wanted all of her running T-shirts sewn together in a quilt.
Her original career path hit a major roadblock in 2015, and she was left with figuring out what to do next. After months and months of soul searching and research, she made the jump into the business of “memory quilting”. She is passionate about quilting and above all, she values customer relationships. This is emulated throughout the whole order process, from the time a quilt is in the conception stage, and until it is in her client’s hands.
The History of the Quilt
and the Introduction of Kamloops’ own Memory Quilt Company.
In the era between 1750 to 1850, quilts were originally made from scrap material and used clothing. Nothing went to waste. Quilts were hand-sewn for a purely functional purpose – a blanket. Sewing machines were introduced into the general population around 1853.
As a nation’s wealth increased and the industrial revolution was introduced, store-bought blankets began replacing quilts. The depression era of the 1930s saw a resurgence in quilting. More complex designs had become popular, as materials had changed significantly since the century before.
After World War II, quilting once again took a back seat. It wasn’t until the 1970’s that the cycle turned full circle again. By the 1990s, quilting had become a very popular hobby. T-shirt quilts appear to have surfaced in the USA, somewhere in the mid 80’s – early 90’s. This was due greatly to the fact that prices on T-shirts had dropped significantly, and event organizers of all kinds had started giving out T-shirts as part of an entry fee. In eastern Canada, T-shirt quilts have been available on the commercial level for at least four years.
At the time I came up with the idea of starting a business centered around memory quilting, I had no idea other companies were manufacturing T-shirt quilts. As a hobby quilter for fifteen years, and a former marathon runner, I just knew that friends of mine had collected dozens of event shirts over the years, and a lot of the shirts were not being worn anymore (some of them never fit, to begin with). I also knew my friends could not part with their race shirts. The memories and the journeys represented by the designs were just too great to give away.
I will never forget the day I walked into Runners Sole in Kamloops, BC, and I saw my first actual memory quilt. Something made me lookup. And on the ceiling, there it was in all its glory! I suppose the impact left me breathless. Someone had spent many, many hours cutting shirts and creating a design that was a visual representation of someone’s life.
Then there was the day I watched a news broadcast on a quilt made in honor of someone who died after a long battle with cancer. As a quilter, I was quite familiar with my local guild making quilts for someone going through a difficult life situation; but this quilt was made from the honouree’s old T-shirt collection! My heart skipped a beat that day.
Now, a quilt is not a blanket. A quilt is comprised of three layers: a quilt top (the design), a middle layer of batting, and a quilt backing fabric. All of these layers are finished with a binding along the outside edge. The layers are stitched together by various methods. Depending on the content of the batting material, the stitching or “quilting” on the quilt, needs to be 4” – 8” apart. The stitching ensures the batting does not break down in the wash, and over time. A quilt has been referred to as a “cloth sandwich”. Its name is derived from a Latin term, meaning “stuffed sack”.
I struggled with a number of challenges with the T-shirt quilt. My family and friends (and former coworkers) would tell you I am a perfectionist. I knew that if I was to manufacture and design memory quilts, then they needed to be extraordinary. After all, they had to emulate all of the memories they represented! (I would also like to tell you that I learned the hard way that perfectionism is not a healthy mental attribute; so, I choose to strive differently now and continually aim for the highest of standards.)
The traditional memory quilt patterns were made with all of the same size blocks, and designs on T-shirts came in all sizes. As an artist, the overall visual impact left something to be desired with this method. I was also very concerned about working with the abundance of technical (stretchy) fabrics that have become so popular over the years. Quilters use cotton fabrics for a very good reason!
Over a six month period, several design methods were researched. Every quilter I interviewed said that interfacing or stabilizer would need to be used on the technical fabrics. This was something I wanted to avoid, as adding the stiffener to a quilt somehow did not leave me with a soft, warm, fuzzy feeling. Remember, I said I wanted the “extraordinary”.
I struggled with how to make the quilt at least somewhat affordable. As quilting is traditionally a “labor of love”. Circles of hobby quilters everywhere make quilts for family, friends, and charitable organizations. Hours and hours, and days upon days, even weeks, are put into the finished product.
January – April 2017
A significant investment was made in an APQS Millie professional long arm quilting machine. This state of the art equipment will boost productivity, and provide a commercial quality stitch throughout the quilting process. (Good thing my husband understood that no matter what the cost, you have to have the proper tools to do the job right!)
And finally, I just got down to sewing, and after several attempts at each step along the way, I finally managed it. I have refined a method where a block is cut according to the size of the T-shirt design. This gives the pattern a “jigsaw” look and allows me to balance color throughout the quilt. I even mastered the art of sewing those technical fabrics without the use of a stabilizer!
My first memory quilt was designed and created for my sister: a runner, triathlete, and swim coach. It utilized 21 items of clothing. I used a “Minky” backing fabric and decided that even though all of the other companies were charging extra for the soft, fuzzy back, I was going to include it as the norm.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve organized a set of Frequently Asked Questions. We hope you find this list helpful. Should you require more information, do not hesitate to Contact Us.
How long will it take to make my quilt?
Delivery time is generally 4 – 8 weeks; however, we will try to meet individual requests if the quilt is for a special occasion (i.e. birthday, anniversary etc.) Depending on our schedule, a “Rush” charge may apply.
What are the payment terms and accepted methods of payment?
We require a $250.00 non-refundable deposit at the time the order is placed. The balance is due upon receipt of your order. Currently, we accept cash, major credit cards, and email bank transfer (must be received prior to delivery).
Besides t-shirts and baby clothes, what other items can be used to make my quilt?
Other common items include technical shirts, fleece items, sweat pants, dress or work shirts, sports’ jerseys, baby blankets, and children’s wear. We can generally combine different weights of fabric in the same quilt. (If you have a memory tied to that special pair of leggings, we will include one of these items at no charge; after the first one, an additional $10.00 – $15.00 per item will apply.)
Why is a baby clothes quilt more expensive than the same size t-shirt quilt?
The cost of a memory quilt is primarily derived from labor. When you work with smaller clothes, you are working with smaller blocks of fabric. Both the cutting and sewing process takes longer in a baby clothes quilt vs. a T-shirt quilt.
What parts of the personal items don't you use?
We may use every part of your items unless it is clearly “X” out with masking tape (please do not use pins and paper). Any other special requests should be written on painter’s tape (similar to masking tape, but it will not leave residue on your items) and affixed to the relevant area on the item. *Special instructions, in general, should be written in the appropriate section on the order form.
Do you use stabilizer (interfacing) on any of the clothing items?
No, in 99% of cases we do not use interfacing. We have found a sewing method that allows us to sew even the stretchy technical fabrics together, without the use of an interfacing. This means your quilt will feel soft and cozy all over!
How do you handle stained t-shirts or clothing items?
We consider stains or fabric discolouring as part of the memories tied to your quilt. Generally, stains are just ignored if they fall around a design; if we are able to cut a smaller block and leave out the stain, we will. If you do not share our viewpoint, please use painter’s tape and identify these areas with an “X”.
Do you do custom quilting?
Yes and No If you have a memory tied to a used fabric item, and wish it to be used in a quilt top along with some new fabric, the answer is “yes”; however, at this time, we are not accepting orders for custom quilting where the materials for the quilt top are made from new fabrics off the bolt.
What are some examples where extra charges may apply?
Sew-ons are an additional $10.00 – $15.00 per item. This includes badges and lettering. This can occur sometimes when the design falls too close to a buttonhole, zipper, or neckline, etc., and it is necessary for us to perform additional cutting and sewing to create a usable block. If we encounter this situation more than once or twice, our customer is notified by email prior to us moving onto the design phase of the process. Sew-on charges also apply when we are asked to use designs from ball caps, crests, etc. .
What if I want to hang my quilt?
We suggest having us include a wall hanging sleeve on the back of your quilt for an additional $50.00. There is a selection on the order form that allows you to tell us the end use.
The sleeve allows you to insert a wooden dowel (yours to purchase) for mounting. It will be completely invisible from the front. Nails or screws can be affixed to your wall, so that the dowel may rest on top.
If you choose the wall hanging sleeve option, the backing fabric will be basic cotton, as it is a lighter weight than our standard backing fabric. Alternately, you can purchase a curtain drapery rod with hooks and ring clips (no sleeve is required).
My order is a gift. Can you provide a custom label?
Yes. For an additional $30.00, we can design a label and hand sew it to the back of your quilt.
Can you add a photo to my quilt?
Yes. The cost is $15.00 per photograph.
What do you do with the leftovers?
We re-use cotton for rags, and when the leftovers are too much for our own use, we network with other individuals and businesses so that they do not end up in the landfill. Other fabrics are cut down for stuffing material. We give the materials to other quilters who make dog beds. These are donated to our local SPCA. Upcycling and recycling are always in our minds. We are continually looking at new ways to re-use the leftover items. Please feel free to contact us if you have an idea, or would like to request some leftovers!
A Memory Quilt is Expensive, I had no idea.
The 3-layer traditional quilt, with binding, is a time-consuming process. Unless you are a quilter yourself, generally, you may not be able to fully understand all that is involved. We do offer classes for the “Do It Yourselfer” should you wish to learn. No quilting experience is required. We also have plans to offer our very own course on-line sometime in the future. If you are interested please Contact Us for more information.
Do you provide long-arming services?
Yes and No. If you have sewn together a quilt top using personal clothing items, or other used fabric, we will provide long-arming services when asked. Please Contact Us for pricing. We do not currently offer long-arming service to the vast majority of quilters that incorporate cotton fabrics in their quilt tops. We can, however, make recommendations of other great long-armers in our community, should you enquire.