Suzanne, an alum and Mini Camp counselor who’s at camp almost every summer, recently made me a tee shirt quilt that I LOVE, and also a camp quilt for Mason when he was born, which I also LOVE. I got to thinking that other campers, staff, and alum might also like to do this idea, so I turned to her to learn more about her connection to quilt-making around the theme of camp.
My questions to her got her thinking about what she remembers as the first camp quilt, which wasn’t a T-shirt quilt. I’ll let her tell the story to help inspire you to start planning a quilt of your own.
Suzanne’s quilt story
Suzanne says that the first quilt was,
…created/made in 1980 for Dotty Garrison. This was the year she got married not long after camp — I forget what position she held but I was in Senior Camp and head of Hoppers and whatever else Cooper asked me to do.
Anyway, we made the quilt in secret — counselors each decorated a square and I put it together at Bubbles’ aunt’s house in Lewisburg on a couple days off. We tied it together rather than quilting it. I think we finished it at camp when Dotty was off settling on her new house. I have no idea if anyone has any pictures of it or not.
We later used that same technique to make quilts for some of the Mini Camp staff. Jo Yo & BA. My sister Sandy, my daughter Anne Morgan, and I sent squares to the participating counselors with specific instructions on what to do and when we needed their squares returned.
Sandy established a website to keep everyone posted on the squares, so she may still have some of those photos. When we got all the squares in, we laid them out and put fabric between them as the grid. The back for Jo’s was bought by Suki when she was in India, and the back of BA’s was fabric that Sandy tie-dyed.
I’ve done two quilts with Camp T-shirts – yours & Maddie’s. Anne Morgan is still collecting shirts and hasn’t let me cut any yet.
I’ve done lots of T-shirt quilts for graduation presents and we (Anne Morgan and I) have done some with pictures transferred to fabric and then incorporated into the quilts squares.
I’ve also made lots of other quilts. Anne Morgan got a not purple one for the start of her Junior Counselor year, followed by a purple one. She also got a yellow one when she was Start-Up mom and she made one that I think ended up in the Infirmary, decorated by the Start-Ups. Sandy has a least one that was made for her camp bed and one of the boys got one for his bed at Camp Virginia.
Needle and thread
But Suzanne is not the only Ghany quilt lover. B.A. also had Suzanne make her quilts and as she tells it,
I love that on both Maddies’ (her daughter) and my quilt each square is a story in its own right.
Years and years of Ghany memories are connected through stories, the people in them, and the events they recall. The quilt is a tangible tale of memories made with lifelong friends along the Greenbrier River!
Another Ghany quilting fan is Wynne, who had her quilt made by a company. She writes,
I was able to find a home for all of my old Alleghany tshirts, sweatpants, sweatshirts, shorts, even my Alleghany pillow and JC/Tinge beanies!
A few years ago, I decided to stop storing 25+ years of Alleghany memorabilia and make something useful out of it. I treasure my tee shirt quilt – the shirts, backing and stuffing make it the perfect weight for a warm night at Family Camp or a nap on the couch at home. I love putting it on the guest bed when Alleghany friends come to visit.
Before I sent all of my precious Alleghany memorabilia to the quilt company, I did a trial run with my high school tee shirts, then with college shirts. When those two came back perfectly, I finally parted with the Ghany shirts, Alleghany pillow, etc and ordered a king size quilt with 25 squares.
The company I used, Campus Quilts, allows the customer to make very specific design notes. For instance, I wanted the fronts and backs of all of my shirts. They found enough empty space on the back of each shirt to sew on the front pocket of the same shirt. I also had tons of shorts with the camp logo or shirts with just the front logo and a lot of white space. I asked the company to use my Ghany Girl sweatpants as a base for two of my 25 quilt squares and then sew a number of these logos on the same square.
I’ve had my quilt for three years now and it has survived multiple Family Camps. These quilts contain truly quilted stitching throughout and are not just tacked at the corners of each square.
When I placed my order on the website, they sent me a big postage paid bag to put all my shirts in as well as a pre-numbered grid with corresponding numbered stickers. I laid out all of my shirts in the pattern of the grid, for a king size quilt this was 5′ x 5′, and then put the proper numbered stickers on each tee shirt. They also include a form for all of your special instructions as well as your color choice for the quilt backing and optional sashing between squares.
If I can offer one piece of advice, it is absolutely worth putting in the time to organize and provide as many details as possible to make sure you get the quilt you want.
My quilt is dryclean only – if you include your Alleghany pillow, just remember some of the writing on your patches may not survive cleaning. Also, disassemble the pillow, remove the stuffing, and take the time to reinforce the stitching on each patch before sending it off for quilting.
Sewing fun to come
I’m sure by now you’re thinking, “I want a Ghany quilt, too!” So before you toss that old tee shirt, or pass down Ghany sweatpants that you (or your daughter) has outgrown, consider keeping those piece that you no longer wear but want to use in a quilt in some designated space — maybe an oversized bin in the basement, attic or back of a closet. An unfilled cedar chest would also make a great storage space.
So save, and save, and save your Ghany gear and then ask a relative or friend for advice on how to make the quilt. You can also find tips online, like in this excellent Youtube video on tee-shirt quilts. You could take a quilting class at a local sewing or fabric shop. And you can also hire someone — whether a friend or a company — to make it for you.
In the end, you will have a cozy, comfy blankie that not only keeps you warm with the fabric, but wrapped in the warmth of memories. I love mine and you will love yours!
–Elizabeth Dawson Shreckhise, Assistant Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls