How can I incorporate little girl's dance recital costumes into a memory quilt?
By Frankie from Atlanta, GA
If the front upper part of the costume is pretty (and they usually are), use it. Follow any designs or trims on the front of the costume all you want (tack trims, beading, sequins, lace, or embroidery, down before cutting into it!). Cut the costume to display the prettiest parts w/out regard to shape. Then mount the costume piece onto a square/rectangle of fabric that is flattering to the costume and that you want on the quilt.
1) There won't be such a strain on the costume fabric (which is quite often satin or has netting and other delicate parts to it.)
2) By sewing the front of the costume to a square, the costume part can be any shape and still work because it is sewn onto the square shape you need (I assume). You want the memory of the lines, the shape, the best parts of the costume to stand out, which you can't do when you have to make squares of little clothes.
3) It is so cute if you can leave the necklines with any trims intact. Mounting a satin ballet costume front to a square of velvet or velour so that the neckline of the costume is accentuated would be so pretty! Be creative. My son danced as a little guy and I used his sequined vest fronts stitched intact onto squares, with the vests still open. Inside the vests the fabric squares have appliqued pictures of him dancing in those costumes!
I think you should be whimsical with the costumes. I took a shirt front from 1 of my son's costumes, strengthened it by mounting it on a square of fabric and then sewed his bow tie in place on the shirt. I used the fancy cuffs the boys' costumes often have. When he wore hats that had a band around it, I took a photo and appliqued it to a square and used the hatband like a stripe.
I'm whimsical with all my memory quilting. Little shirts my son wore that had pockets, I did things like sew a little fabric toy he loved peeking out of the pocket, or do that photo thing where you mount photo on fabric (I just call it applique) of him doing something while wearing that shirt and make it look like there's a photo sticking out of the pocket. I do all sorts of crazy things.
For instance, instead of using a large piece of clothing for a memory square I use parts of it and "scatter" these things on the quilt. Like the little sewn-on patch from his first sleeper, little ducky buttons from a tiny sweater, I dressed him in overalls a lot and I used a few straps as "stripes" on squares, all hardware intact. There is some of the small embroidery on some of his things, like the turtles from TMNT shirts he didn't want to give up, or Lilo & Stitch, another favorite of his. Those sort of decorations are scattered around, a patch spanning corners of quilt squares coming together, the little ducky buttons in a row next to his first bathing suit, a picture of Superman embroidered on his PJ top cut out and nicely mounted on a square of the blanket he insisted was his Superman cape!
I would say to have fun. Use some of the tulle skirt if the ballet costume has it. Sew it to the edge of the quilt, depending on how many costumes you have and the size of the quilt, you could go all around the outer edge of the quilt.
See if there is a way to use what she might have had in her hair for the performance. You want to see the "character" of the memory when you look at the quilt, an immediate recognition, not a square you have to think, "Hmmm... Oh, yeah! It came from that costume that had the cutest ______, but I didn't use it."
One more tip, make sure you check the trims on any costume. They weren't meant to last a long time. I make costumes, bridal items, etc. If you want the trim to hold, make sure you knot it off every 5-7 beads, pearls, or sequins. If your thread breaks in a spot, you don't have a disaster on your hands. Oh, and if I feel I need something strong (like for a quilt that might be used). I use very strong thread or dental floss tape to sew on the beads, pearls, etc.
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