Creating “Fading Memories”

Last week I wrote about creating what is probably my last quilt for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative.  I included a picture of my favorite AAQI quilt Fading Memories.   Several people asked how I made this quilt, so I thought I’d write about it, since I made it before I started blogging.

Fading Memories

Fading Memories

Both my parents served in the Navy in World War II, though they didn’t meet until after the war.  I started with portraits of them in their uniforms, and I overlaid these with photos from throughout their lives, including their children and grandchildren.  The basic technique I used was the ‘cut out’ methods of Maria Elkins and Marilyn Belford.

Here are the two portraits I started with.


And here’s the montage of photos that I put together to create the background.


Starting with the portraits, I “posterized” them in Photoshop.  This is a technique to reduce the number of colors in a photo — I reduced the photo to 4 levels.


For the next step, I printed out the posterized photo at the size I wanted for the finished quilt (about 10 by 8 inches).  I printed it as a mirror image since I’d be using the resulting pieces as templates for cutting out my fabric pieces (more on that in a bit).

I traced around the different colors in the photos and labeled them from 1 (lightest) to 4 (darkest).  The results of my cutting template are below.


To do the ‘cut-out’ method, I’d need 4 different values of fabric.  So, using my photo montage, I created 4 sepia-toned versions in 4 different values, and then printed them on fabric using my inkjet printer.

The ‘cut-out ‘ method uses the lightest fabric (#1) as the base fabric.  Then you add the next lightest fabric (#2) over the top of #1.  This is done by cutting away the #1 areas of the portraits from the #2 fabric.  I don’t have a photo of this, but the #2 fabric would look like the picture below, with the green areas cut out of the fabric.


Each layer of fabric had fusible webbing on the back so that the entire top could be fused together when everything was cut out.  I used Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 for the fusible webbing since it has a pressure-sensitive adhesive that allows for a temporary hold.  I stuck a paper copy of my cutting template onto the back of layer #2 and cut away all the layer #1 bits.

Next the #3 fabric layer is created by cutting out the #1 and #2 areas of the portraits. These cut out areas are in green below.  I also used the #3 fabric for the background of the photo (the blue areas below).


Finally, the #4 layer was created by cutting away all the #1, 2 and 3 layers (green areas below).


Here’s the quilt after all the layers were fused together.


And here’s a detail which shows the different layers of fabric.


To create more contrast between the sepia portraits and the background, I cut out the portraits and fused them to a black and white version of the photo montage.


The next step was to figure out the quilting.  First I outlined the portraits to make them stand out even more.  I wasn’t sure how to quilt the faces, and when I tried, it was almost impossible to stitch them due to the multiple layers of fabric.  In the end, I decided there was enough going on with the faces, and to not add any quilting.  However, I was a bit worried about the fused pieces staying in place without any quilting, so I covered  everything with a piece of transparent, very sheer fabric to hold it all in place.  Then I did a bit of quilting on the uniforms to give them some definition.  Here’s the partially quilted piece.  I added some quilting lines in the background to finish it.  


For the back of the quilt, I did a similar technique, but all in Photoshop.  I used the same photo montage as the front of the quilt.  I put the montage in the bottom layer, with an opacity of about 75%. The middle layer was a recent photo of my parents (100% opacity).  And the top layer was the photo montage again (25% opacity).  Here’s the result.


Marion and Charlie, about 1950:


Marion and Charlie, 2001:Mom-and-Dad-2001

Visit Nina-Marie’s blog for Off the Wall Fridays and be inspired.

Every stage of life is interesting, even this one.

Marion, 2002, and suffering from Alzheimer’s

3 thoughts on “Creating “Fading Memories”

Comments are closed.