Tuesday December 29th 2015

My Quilt Story: Susan Stewart

OUR WHOLE LIFE by Susan Stewart

I know anniversary quilts are not uncommon. But this one, as my Dad tearfully described, “is our whole life.”

I made this quilt for my parents’ 50th anniversary in 2002. At the time, I was a seamstress, not a quilter, but I wanted to make something special. A book called The Collectibles Quilt by Wendy Etzel, 1995, RCW, got me started with the idea of a photo transfer bookcase quilt, and I took off from there. I managed to get photos of five generations of family, and made enough fabric photo transfers to create 52 “framed” photos on the bookshelves, including my parents’ wedding picture and their wedding invitation.

The titles of some of the “books” are the names of my grandparents, my parents, my sister and me, and our children. Other “books” are titled with where we were born, significant events, and interests in our lives. As an added touch, I machine embroidered a Peace rose, which was my maternal grandmother’s favorite flower, and added a basket with a piece of crocheted work spilling out of it. This was made by my father’s aunt, who was born deaf, but did exquisite crochet work.


When they saw the quilt, they were both speechless and teary-eyed, and my father said, “This is my whole life!” Yes!




Editor’s note: Susan Stewart is an award-winning quilter and the author of  Heirloom Machine Sewing for Quilters, available at www.AmericanQuilter.com. AQS members receive a discount. Wendy Etzel’s second book, The Collectibles Quilt II, is available from the author. Please contact Wendy at wendyetzel@verizon.net for more information.

Posted by Christine N. Brown, American Quilter magazine editor-in-chief


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24 Comments for “My Quilt Story: Susan Stewart”

  • Debbie Law says:

    I think that’s one of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen. I don’t know any of your family or you, but it brought tears to my eyes, the love it contains just fills you up!!
    Great job…I know you are very proud of it and it will hold a special place in the heart of everyone in your family. Thank you for sharing it!

  • Paula Pardue says:

    Beautiful; what a stunning tribute! You done good, kid!

  • Amy Beth says:

    This is a perfect way to use photo transfers in a memory quilt. Your quilt is gorgeous and meaningful, and doesn’t that describe all the best quilts?

  • Donna Babchuck says:

    All I can say is “WOW”!

  • Lynn S says:

    Susan, your quilt is amazing! I hope you do decide to create a pattern for this for others. I know I would be interested! I know each person’s story is different–but what a template! I showed it to my husband too–and all he could say was WoW!

  • Kathy Gordon says:

    Your quilt took me to my living room 50 years ago and Mom’ shelf with all our family pictures. Thank you for bringing those memories back to me. Marvelous quilt.

  • Pamela N. says:

    I love this. I was wondering, what dimensions did you make yours to get this many pictures on it? I found the book you mentioned to help. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful gift.

  • Karin says:

    What a fabulous idea…. Incredible !!!! Thanks for sharing

  • Dorothy says:

    Can’t believe what I am looking at this is so beautiful,takes your breath away well done

  • Donna says:

    I was stunned by the wonder and meaningfulness of this quilt. I was looking for fruit jar quilts and came across this one. My MIL will be 100 years old this summer. I think it is to ambitious for me to tackle something similar but it certainly makes me want to try. Thanks so much for sharing!!!!!

  • Linda Baird says:

    How do you get your pictures to come out so colorful? Each time I have printed photos, I try a different brand of prepared material. I get faded colors. After all the work that goes into a quilt, to have poor quality photos makes me want to cry.

  • Susan Stewart says:

    Linda, I made the quilt 12 years ago, so I can’t remember the brand of photo transfer fabric I used. Things to consider: Use a high thread count fabric for the photo transfer; set your printer for high resolution; make sure your color cartridge is full. If these don’t help, consider e-mailing or taking a flash drive with your photos to a print shop, along with the paper-backed transfer fabric, and having them do color prints. I have done this at a local print shop with very good results. Call first to see if they will do this. Also, you need to heat set the ink before removing the paper, and realize that the inks may still fade with frequent washing, so plan on a wall quilt, not a lap or bed quilt.

  • Ronda Benjamin says:

    I love this quilt idea.Thanks for sharing!

  • jenny Palmer says:

    OMG. My best friend sent me your link and I was gob smacked. I live in NSW so I have to say thank you to social media that I was able to see what you had done. I have made a quilt using a book case but had teddy bears. Have also used photos but what you have done is just so amazing aand truly a love for your parents. Thank you again jenny

  • Brenna says:

    I was wondering how you did this. Did you appliqué the photos on and then appliqué ribbon and trims around that. How did you do the vases and cloth? I am very interested in doing something like this. Thank you

  • caitrina says:

    Susan, Could you please tell me the dimensions of the shelves and background? I am working on something similar and am having some issues in sizing the books and photos and this actually looks like the size I am trying to obtain. Your help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • Angie says:

    That is the most amazing, beautiful quilt I have ever seen! All my genealogy friends are going to flip over it!! Now to find someone to help make it…..

  • Ginger says:

    I am so inspired by your beautiful bookcase quilt. I am in the planning stages of making a bookcase quilt and have been looking at tons of them online for ideas and inspiration and yours is the best by far. Awesome job you did…..

  • Angela says:

    can I order one ???

  • lang says:

    beautiful quilt!! i love it. i want to know how to do those photo. iron?

  • Christine says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I’ve made a couple photo quilts but your quilt took my breath away.

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