This isn’t your average t-shirt memory quilt!

Unless your average day involves being a sound engineer for famous rock bands!

T-shirt Quilt Rock Bands

I make lots of memory quilts, the majority of which are memorializing loved ones who have passed away. The baby clothes quilts are always uplifting. And the beautiful emails I get from my customers are so heartwarming. But once in a while I get a really fun job like this one!

The girlfriend of a guy who does the sound engineering for rock concerts commissioned a quilt from his t-shirts. There are some big names in there (like the Rolling Stones in London.)


T-shirt Quilt Rock Bands detail 2


I know people commission work from me when they don’t want run-of-the-mill memory quilts, I don’t tell people how many shirts to send me. I don’t have a set formula for what size I am going to cut the shirt fronts. And it doesn’t end with fitting everything into a grid! I do lots of free-motion quilting outlining and highlighting the graphics on the t-shirt fronts, which makes the backs of the quilts really interesting, too.

T-shirt Quilt Rock Bands detail (back)




After seeing her final photos, my customer wrote me:

I am beyond blown away by your artistic vision. It is quite apparent you take pride in what you do! I love the black on black stitching of the front graphics on the back. It creates a simple but powerful look. Thank you for all your hard work, I’m so happy I found you and can’t wait to see it in person ūüôā

This is what makes it all worthwhile!

Wife’s Shirts Hold Warm Memories

I recently shipped a memory quilt made from women’s blouses. A sweet man from New Orleans commissioned this quilt from his wife’s clothing, telling me he remembered her wearing every single piece.

My customer’s request was “keep it simple”—he didn’t want any fancy quilting/free-motion stitching or modern styling. So I accommodated his request for simplicity with clean blocks with sashing and backing from a subtle white-on-white print.¬†

Memory quilt from old clothes

Women’s blouses are smaller than men’s shirts so, when cutting squares there are fewer creative options. Each block was going to have the button tab as no blouse was wide enough to make a block with just the pocket, for example, like I do with men’s shirts sometimes. So to add variety, I ran the button tab diagonally on a couple of the blocks. A couple of the blouses had square cut-out necklines, so I added fabric behind the cut-out.

shirt blocks

I like to include special features of clothing, so I did include the entire collar on one blouse, carefully stitched down so it wouldn’t make a dramatic shift in texture. Another blouse had pretty white collar and cuffs, so I ran a sleeve diagonally across the block and the white cuff makes a nice accent.

A couple of denim shirts with Disney embroideries were included in the box. I cut the Disney characters out and appliqued them on another denim shirt, basically combining 3 shirts in 1 block.


Upon receipt, this is what my customer wrote to me:

“It is beautiful and brings back so many good and beautiful memories. Again I thank you from the bottom of my heart. What a great job! One more time, thank you, thank you, thank you”

I’m so touched and grateful that I could bring that kind of joy to someone.


memory quilt from shirts

I’ve recently shipped out a commission for 5 colorful memory quilts. These quilts were made in memory of a man who passed leaving a wife and 3 young boys. Each of them and his parents will¬†receive a quilt to honor his memory.


The customer requested the quilts be made in Modern style and sent me a box of 80 beautiful dress shirts. I wanted to be sure to distribute the materials well throughout all 5 quilts so first I cut all the shirts apart. I saved the collars, cuffs, and button tabs for a friend who is a multi-media artist. (I just love recycling textiles!) ¬† I sorted and grouped the materials by color groups so as I work and know a color I want, I’ll know where to find it. Solid white and pale blue shirts were set aside to use on the backs of the quilts, supplemented with some other pale colors.


Depending on my mood each day I chose a set of colors to work with. This type of piecing requires lots of cutting, sewing, re-cutting, sewing again..and so on.


Working this way I created sections of unmeasured sizes, but most were 18″ – 30″ on a¬†side.¬†I do love the challenge of keeping it interesting, being imaginative.

I layered batting and backing and spent meditative hours quilting these sections. They were still pretty wonky around the edges at this point, but I leave them that way until I’m ready to put a quilt together.

Putting a quilt together is a big jigsaw puzzle—-balancing sections of shape, color and pattern with enough material to fill the requisite 55″ X 70″ (times 5, remember!) I really loved the whole process!

shirt quilt


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The Gift of Commissions

Art Quilt Pet Portrait

“Your package was¬†delivered yesterday and there are no words to describe how beautiful and perfect the dogs came out. ¬†Your web site, the photos do not capture the beauty of your work. ¬†

It is funny how things happen I found you online and just knew you would do a great job and I am totally impressed with the finish work. 

Thank you again and again.
Dog Portrait Art Quilt
I share this email referencing these art quilts because it meant so much to me. I absolutely loved working on this commission and I’m pleased with how these pet portraits came out. The most important thing, though, is how the client felt about the pieces I created.
Accepting commissions isn’t like creating pieces for art fairs or galleries where you hope someone will like it and purchase it. I’ve done that and it has its own challenges. Customers commission quilts from me because they already have an idea of what they want, they just need it made. My job is to bring their dreams or desires to life. I try to incorporate my artistic vision and expression into a piece that not only meets the desires of the customer, but exceeds them.
One of the things that continues to touch me deeply is the trust¬†my clients offer me. I’m a complete stranger from the big world of the internet. I understand that. I share these excerpts from emails not to brag, but to share my appreciation for the trust someone placed in me. I’m always grateful that someone had faith in me and absolutely delighted that they are so pleased with my work! What a wonderful way to spend my time—artistic self-expression and making dreams come true!

This has been a wonderful, surprising 6 months for me/my business. The commissions began really rolling in this summer—to the point that I had to turn down commissions for Christmas beginning in August!!!¬†

The quilts I’ve been creating the last few months have run the gamut from baby clothes quilts to very creative, client-driven projects.

This quilt was created with dresses—-my client’s, her daughter’s, and her granddaughter’s! Included were all kinds of textiles including beaded dresses, velvet, knit and vintage. Lots of great memories sewn up in this one!

Crazy pieced memory quilt

















Here’s another quilt, and a very different one. This is a block-style quilt from men’s shirts. This man was a horse-shoer and see the sashing strips? Horseshoe fabric! The whole back is this fabric, also.

quilt from shirts

This batch of shirts included a number of solid shirts. The western pocket shirts had interest, the stripes looked interesting, but I thought the solid blocks needed a little something “extra”.

free-motion quilting


I did free-motion quilting on these blocks—each unique. I think this quilt is different and interesting–not too busy but not just boring blank squares, either!



free motion quiltingquilting

shirt quilt






See the heart quilted on the red block? Representing the love between these 2 folks.

New Memory Quilt from Baby Clothes
















I finished a cute memory quilt from baby clothes today. Every quilt I make is different and this one is no different. This memory quilt is a combination of baby boy clothes (from twins) and little girl clothes. I love the combination of styles and colors!


Quilt from clothing

The commission is a surprise for the mother of the children—the dad contacted me and coordinated the whole thing, including sneaking the clothes out of the house and paying via cashier’s check so she wouldn’t see a “mystery” charge in the bank statement. How awesome is this guy?!




The design of the memory quilt was left up to me. I made this one without “sashing” (strips between blocks) because there were a lot of items to include and I didn’t want to take up space with the sashing. It sort of resembles a crazy-piecing technique (only neater!)








Brian included a handmade quilt in the package to use as the backing (I used the front of that quilt showing on the back of my quilt.)



I worked to fit my design exactly to the dimensions of the other quilt, then opened up the other quilt’s pink binding and re-sewed it to bind both quilts again. That worked out nicely!


Brian’s only special request was that I include his children’s names on the quilt. To accomplish this in a creative way I found some fun fonts to use to create the names digitally. The boys’ names are in a Lego font and a train font (with an engine and caboose.) He included a t shirt with a monogram that he thought might be a nice start for the girl’s name. I found a font that I thought complimented the style.


After creating and sizing the name graphics, I applied them to the quilt with a product called Transfer Artist Paper. This is an awesome, versatile product and the results are machine washable. The names are scattered on the quilt and I thought it might be fun for the kids to hunt for their names when they look at the quilt.

I’m blessed to have a bit of a backlog of memory quilts to create from clothes. My most recent memory quilts have been from baby clothes—most of the next few will be from adult clothes and there are some very creative projects coming up!.

Photos can be combined into a beautiful art quilt!

I once had an inquiry about commission for an art quilt essentially designed by the customer. She asked if I could combine 3 images into a single picture for an art quilt. The quilt was a gift for a friend and the first image was his view from his home. Nice, huh?


The next image is a photograph of a sunset taken through a shop window so there’s lots of reflection. It’s a beautiful sunset–not sure if it was a painting or a print of some sort.

DSCN3984[1] etsy


Then she included this image of 3 horses running through a stream.



So the request for the commission was to combine these 3 images into a single image.

Here is my art quilt:

Amy Cavaness Designs art quilt of horses

I tried to replicate the outline of the mountains from the “view” photograph, with the beautiful sunset colors in the sky and mountains. I couldn’t find a fabric for the sky that I liked or thought would work, so I got creative with my watercolor pencils! They were my tenuous, early effort at fabric painting.

The horses running through the water fit nicely in the foreground. I did the whole quilt in raw edge applique. You can see in the background I used both hand-dyed and commercial print cottons. I did use a bit of watercolor pencil for shading on the horses. They weren’t large enough to do the shading with piecing.

raw-edge applique horses detail


This piece was made about 6 or 7 years ago and was one of my early landscapes.¬†The water and rocks came from “themed fabrics” that I cut up and rearranged and appliqued to mimic the picture. I’m not a big fan of using these fabrics anymore—I’m liking the challenge of creating the artwork through interpreting with fabric. It’s like a painter cutting out pictures from a magazine vs using paint to create their image. Both are fine—it just depends on what the artist wants to use. I do like how this came out, and the customer was very pleased with the finished piece—as was the recipient.

A long-term dream of mine has come true! One of my art quilts has been published in¬†Art Quilting Studio magazine! The Summer 2013¬†Stampington Press issue has just hit the news stands. “Ghosts in the Holler” is the quilt they published, with a short description of the techniques I used to create it.