Inventing a Teenager's Memory Quilt

A few weeks ago my nephew came down to breakfast wearing a shirt that looked like it belonged to his little brother. Short at the cuffs, tight around the neck, no big deal, right? Except my nephew doesn't have a little brother and the shirt was one I had purchased for him -- in the right size -- the week before. What my nephew does have is a teenager's body that refuses to stop growing. My sister can buy him pants on Saturday and by the following weekend, they look like capris. Did you ever read the book about the little goldfish that, when fed, keeps getting bigger and bigger? It has to be moved from its bowl to the bathtub and finally, when nothing can hold it, the police department is called. Well, he's a size away from 911. Yes, I know, this whole growing routine is a good thing. He's healthy and strong and on the move to adulthood. It's just that every six months, like some snooty Miranda Priestly, his DNA demands a new wardrobe. Do his genes care about the problems of my sister's pocketbook? No. His genes demand new jeans. Which means, of course, that some very nice, lightly worn stuff gets left behind. He has closets of perfectly-good-but-too-small t-shirts celebrating his camp's color war and high school's 2009 walkathon; shirts from snowboarding trips and homecoming games -- all cherished memories that he refuses to part with. So, being a mother who follows the "choose your battles wisely" school of child-rearing, my sister came up with a brilliant solution. She called me. Then we sat down with my nephew and cleared his closet of all those tops and pants that were too small. Anything that was stained, hole-y or had his name on it went into a second pile. The first pile was summarily bagged for donation. The second was handed over to me. I proceded to cut the hole-y t-shirts and torn shorts into large, similarly-sized squares. In the end, I had a nice stack. I used the squares to make a memory quilt. I know it sounds like work but, trust me, it's doable: I have ten thumbs and none of them like each other. For those who can't sew, don't give up; I used iron-on tape to connect the squares. (If you're a crafty person, you can use a contrasting fabric for bordering the squares. And for extra bonus points: copy photographs onto photo image paper using your printer. Then iron that image onto a fabric square. For example, a picture of a touchdown catch goes great next to the mascot t-shirt.) Once the squares were connected, I simply sewed the top layer to an old blanket. Even more recycling! (In each corner, a simple stitched knot or button can hold the quilt to the blanket.) I knew it was a hit when my nephew's friends had their mothers call for instructions. Now, when he curls up to watch a movie (that he swears is educational,) the pillows and blanket he uses are covered in some of his most beloved childhood memories. Plus, I get the satisfaction of recycling and donating. And, honestly, his parents and I love those memories of camp and school as much as he does. He was so little then. But, if he keep going like this, it's a good thing I already have 911 on speed-dial. Do you do anything crafty with outgrown clothing? photo: Mike Baird