From Tattered Quilt to Remembrance Hearts, a tutorial

A lovely Remembrance Heart.Last year a friend gave me an old quilt, made by her grandmother. It was a workhorse of a quilt, machine stitched, with a wide variety of fabrics set in muslin. The poor quilt was worn out, torn, had been damp, and some critter had munched on it. My friend told me to toss it out if I wanted. I suspected she could not cope with the idea of throwing it in the trash herself.

Ruthlessly, I trimmed off the most stained and stinky parts, as well as the parts that had been chewed to tatters. Then I soaked the remnants in a tub with mild soap, and managed to rescue about one third of the original quilt. I wanted to find a way to preserve this last bit, and to return it to my friend as a remembrance of her grandmother.

The result was a set of lovely heart ornaments, suitable for a Christmas tree, or wall art, or just to hang on a dresser drawer knob. Enough for my friend, her siblings, and each of their children. Now I have my eye on some orphan blocks of my own. I just may revamp them into sachets or ornaments too.

Why not rummage through your collection, and make some hearts as well? Let me show you how I made these.

Tattered Vintage Quilt, Stages of Decay

Gather Your Materials (Figure 1):

Remembrance Quilted Heart Materials fig 1c

Figure 1: Materials.

  • Bits of an old quilt, or quilt up some orphan blocks. Color does not matter! For one heart you will need two pieces 6×6 inches.
  • Muslin to size. OPTIONAL: use ONLY if the backing of the vintage quilt is torn. I used one piece of muslin in the example, as only one quilt section had a hole.
  • Batting scraps or polyfil to stuff ornament.
  • Two 6×6 inch pieces of sparkly tulle with fine mesh. I used silver as this quilt had a white background, but am thinking gold would be lovely on a darker one. The tulle stabilizes the old quilt, hides tears or exposed batting, and also adds a bit of sparkle.
  • Cardboard, to cut a heart template from. I made a simple heart shape about 4 inches high and 4 inches wide. If birds or circles or some other shapes are more to your liking, go for it!
  • 14 inches of braided trim, fancy ribbon, or rick rack in a color that complements your quilt.
  • 6 inches of ribbon for hanger.
  • 2 small vintage buttons.
  • A one or two inch tassel that blends with the trim (optional, or use a few strung beads or a bell.)

Rough cut the quilt and the tulle into two squares, each six by six inches (see Figure 1). If the quilt back is not intact also cut a matching piece of muslin.

Layering the pieces for Remembrance Heart.

Figure 2: Layers for Rememberance Heart. Click any photo to enlarge.

Make a sandwich as follows, pinning the layers together in the center and at each side (Figure 2):

  • Muslin, only if needed.
  • Quilt, with pretty side facing up.
  • Two pieces of tulle.
  • Quilt piece, with pretty side facing down.
  • Muslin, only if needed.


Figure 3: Trace the heart on to the top layer.

Figure 3: Trace the heart on to the top layer.

Using the template, trace the heart on to the top of the fabric sandwich (Figure 3). DO NOT CUT. As the old quilt is fragile, and the tulle can shift easily, the excess fabric adds stability while you work. On one of the straightest sides of the heart, mark a 2.5 inch area to leave open for turning and stuffing (Figure 4).

Stitch along the heart lines, being sure to leave the marked space open for turning. I stitched it twice for strength, back-stitching at the open ends.

Stitch on heart line, leaving an open area for turning.

Figure 4. Stitch on the heart markings, leaving an open area for turning.

After stitching, trim the excess away, leaving a 1/4-1/2 inch allowance (Figure 5a). Snip the allowance to nearly the stitch line in 3 places along each curve (see Figure 5b for final trimming). Trim out a bit of seam allowance in the V at the top of the heart, as shown. Trim off the end near the point. Do not cut through the stitching (but if you do, just go run another row of stitching around inside!)

Trimming the seams before turning the Remembrance Heart.

Carefully turn out the heart so the tulle layers are now on the outside, securing the quilt layer under them (Figure 6). Do not worry if it appears irregular or lumpy, it will fill out when you stuff it. Using the opening, gently stuff the heart to the firmness you like. Be sure to get the fill into the point and all nooks and crannies! Whip-stitch the opening closed, being sure to catch the tulle firmly (Figure 7).

Turn, stuff, close the remembrance heart,  figure 6 and 7

Starting in the deep V at the top of the heart, hand-stitch the braid around the stitched edges of the heart, stitching into the quilt fabric, not just the tulle (Figure 8). When you get all the way around, trim off any excess braid. This will hide the seam, and add more stability. Hey, it is pretty too!

Adding trim to the Remembrance Heart, figure 8

Figure 8. Stitch the trim around the outside of the heart, covering the seam.

Fold the hanging ribbon in half, then knot the open end (Figure 9a). Hand-stitch the knotted end in place where the braid meets. Stitch into the heart, not just the braid (Figure 9b).

Add the hanger to the Remembrance Hearts

Buttons and a tassel complete the Remembrance Heart.

Figure 10. Buttons and a tassel complete the Remembrance Heart.

Sew the two buttons on just below where the hanger meets the fabric, one on each side. This will cover all the previous stitching, and add some flair. Stitch the tassel or strung beads on to the point of the heart, hiding your stitches in the braid (Figure 10).

And now you have a lovely heart ornament, a small heirloom to treasure and display. A Remembrance Heart!

Remembrance Heart from Vintage Quilt

A Remembrance Heart made from a vintage quilt creates a lasting memory.

©2010, The Curious Quilter,,


About thecuriousquilter

Quilter, sewer, writer, gardener, mother, sister, friend, always learning, always curious.
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20 Responses to From Tattered Quilt to Remembrance Hearts, a tutorial

  1. nanayane says:

    what a wonderful idea! I have just such an over loved quilt sitting in my cedar chest waiting for an activity to save it from the dark!

  2. AliExi says:

    The tulle is a great idea! I had tried making little stuffed sachets out of an old quilt, but it tore when stretched. I will try these, and more sachets. Thanks.

  3. J. Johnson says:

    Lovely idea!

    So, did you take those photos last December, or is your Christmas Cactus already blooming? The gorgeous flowers really set the ornament off well.

  4. JennieO says:

    Love the heart, love the great instructions (your tutorials are good, thanks). I do not have any vintage quilts, but sometimes I see these shredded ones at the thrift store and wonder why on earth they sell them. Now I have to go BUY one!

  5. karen says:

    Mary – I love this. I’m debating on using a sentimental quilt for family gifts – but I don’t know if I have the heart to cut up a perfectly good quilt. . .I might have to find something else. But my Grandma’s quilt would be so special – I just have to have a glass of wine and then GRAB THE SCISSORS! 🙂 I love this post. I love this post! I think it was one of the most thoughtful things you could’ve done.
    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  6. debi says:

    What a wonderful and precious thing to do for your friend and her family. I know they will treasure the beautiful hearts.

    Thank you for sharing this tutorial, now I know what to do with the vintage quilt pieces I have. Hugs!

  7. Penny says:

    This was a wonderful post on cementing friendships and repurposing well loved items.
    I will have to bookmark this page to use at a later date. I have no old quild handy at the moment.


  8. What a wonderful idea! Such a great way to give an old, tired quilt some new life!

    Thanks for sharing this!


  9. Joy Campbell says:

    These are so pretty…I love these hearts wht a wonderful idea, now I just need to find an old quilt!

  10. Nancy says:

    Mary, I Love this Idea it is Wonderful!! Thank~You so much for sharing!!

  11. Brenda A. says:

    I love this idea! I love your cactus, I need to know your trick. I can’t seem to keep any of them alive for more then 2 yr. I am on my third one, as I love them. How often do you water the cactus? I love your site, very helpful, as I am just getting back into quilting. Thanks!

    • I have about a dozen emails about this too!

      I have 5 different varieties, and each blooms at a slightly different time between mid-November to February. One is a cutting from my mother’s, which was a cutting from an elderly neighbor, which was a cutting from her grandmothers, so it has history!

      I neglect them a lot most of the year, keep them in a north facing window, or on the covered porch in the summer. I water them at least twice a month, sometimes more in the heat of summer. Here in the Minnesota winter they rest on radiator covers, so they need more water, especially when they are blooming. Actually, the minute I see buds, I water more carefully. The rest of the year they can wilt for all I care!

      While the change in light (short days) that you hear about is a trigger, I find a good chill helps too. The section that leans on the window tends to produce the most blooms, once they set on that side I rotate them.

      One year I got obsessed with watering them. I killed two off (as well as a 40-year-old jade plant) by overwatering! Ever since, I have really made a point to cut the water back!

      Welcome back to your quilting, may it be a cheery old friend for you!

  12. Joan says:

    I had a customer bring me a tattered quilt once. We were able to get enough good fabric from it to make a teddy bear for her daughter. It was a great way for her to remember that special quilt that grandma made. These little hearts would have been perfect for the scraps that were left. I will keep them in mind for next time.

  13. Carrie P. says:

    What a great idea. I have a quilt that my husband’s grandma made and it is falling apart and there is no way a person could use it anymore but I hated to throw it away. I actually pulled it out last week and was thinking what could I do with this quilt. Well, you have given me one idea. thanks for sharing.

  14. Cassey says:

    Hi there…I linked to you through Pleasant Home’s blog but just wanted to say that this is a fantastic idea! I started quilting in Jan and the main reason was because my grandma always quilted and wanted all of her granddaughters to learn. Of course we were all to busy when she was still with us but I have made the time now that she’s gone. About 4 years ago I took an old quilt of hers (it was the first one she made) to a quilt shop to see if they would be able to repair it and of course they couldn’t because the fabrics were so old. Since then it has been stored away but I think I will pull it out and make one of these for each of my 5 cousins so that this old quilt will be put back on display like it should be! Thank you SO much for this idea! You just made my day!

  15. Pam says:

    Great tutorial. I think I have one of those types of quilts – one that I can’t bear to throw away, but is in really, really bad shape. I’ll have to see if there is enough left to do anything like that with.

  16. suzanne says:

    Mary, I love this!! What a great idea and what a great tutorial. I am glad you linked in today to Vintage Thingie Thursday…welcome!!!

  17. What a lovely idea and a wonderful gift!

  18. Pingback: Hello World, Again! My Blog Turns One. | The Curious Quilter

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