See How a Quilt Design Evolves–The Many Faces of “Heartstrings” + Giveaway

Quilt-J:  Original Heart Strings Quilt

Quilt-J:  Heartstrings featured in The Quilt Life1-Giveaway IconNot so long ago I spearheaded a group project for a member of my quilting/dining group–she’d lost her mother and we wanted to give her a quilted hug. It was such a beautiful shared experience that I wrote about it for the February 2012 issue of  The Quilt Life and called the quilt Heart Strings.

 The Other Faces of Heart Strings 

Some time after that, our original SHWS quartet of Christie, Darra, Laura, and I made another version of Heart Strings for our very dear tech-savvy blog helper Michelle. She had had to say good-bye to her mother after a lengthy illness and we wanted to gather her up in a big group hug. It’s difficult to discern from a distance, but Heart Strings #2 is embellished with a stitched tree and flitting hummingbirds, the deft handiwork of long-arm quilter Marla Monson

Quilt-J:  Heart Strings hanging at Quilting in the Garden
Heart Strings #2 featured in the 2012 Quilting in the Garden exhibition, Livermore, California.

Then, just this year, as I was reading the June 2014 issue of The Quilt Life, I found a Letter to the Editor from a reader named Carol Findling who wrote about making a version of Heart Strings with her group for a friend who needed support after losing a daughter. They finished their version in three weeks to surprise her:  Heart Strings #3.

Is there more? Of course. My buddy Cyndy Rymer and I share more than a love of quilting, we also share a gynecologist:  a rare and wonderful physician who dropped the obstetrics end of the business to focus on women of a certain age. I don’t know how many locals she’s pulled from the brink of hormonal madness and other malevolent afflictions, but the numbers are legion and our admiration for her is profound and enduring.

Well, the sad news is that sometimes even healers need healing. She’s closing her practice to undergo intense cancer treatment. Cyndy and I cannot sever our connection to her without expressing our love and heartfelt wishes for her recovery. What else can we do but make her a quilt imbued with positive, healing thoughts?

Quilt-J:  Final stages neutral Heart Strings
Almost done: Heart Strings #4.

Before I stow my damp and crumpled Kleenex and finish today’s theme, I’d like to share one more thought about heartfelt quilts. Sure we make many celebration quilts, but we also make them for poignant reasons. As I tackled this post I was finally able to verbalize the reason I take on these quilts: I want that someone to know that he or she matters! How simple is that?

A Variation on the Heart Strings Theme

1.  Cyndy and I worked on the original Heart Strings and we knew it would work for us, but, to change up things, we went neutral. And, wouldn’t you know, Cyndy just happened to have a stash of unfinished neutral blocks in her UFO pile. We were halfway there without even trying!

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings

2.  Rather than a string of hearts, we opted for roses for the finishing detail. I turned to one of my own designs, Radically Ruched Roses.  This time I went for a fused spiral rose  rather than ruching bias strips to make the spirals–ruching isn’t fodder for a quickie quilt! After my recent Quilt-Along fusing frenzy it was an easy decision. Head’s up:  Radically Ruched Roses is available as free a downloadable pattern in our Pattern Library!

Quilt-J:  Madly Mod Rosie

3.  The leaves and stems also derive from Radically Ruched Roses–turns out I, too, had leftovers to donate to our cause. I pinned the strips in gentle waves and, before gluing them in place, I auditioned a layout of blossoms and leaves.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings Draft Layout

4. Did you notice that the top was layered and quilted before we added the flowers and greenery? Cyndy loaded the quilt onto her long-arm machine and chose a simple floral motif for background quilting.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings in Process

5.  Back to the stem strips:  Glue-Baste-It!  Laura recommended the product and it’s a dream for securing the applique pieces before finishing with stitches. I finished the edges with decorative stitches along the outer edges of the stems to give them a slightly thorny look. Then, Cyndy reloaded the quilt on the long-arm and stitched the leaves and roses to the top. The jury is out on whether or not that was a good idea–it wasn’t as much fun as she’d hoped. FYI:  The roses are dimensional appliqué (with an additional thin layer of batting on the back) and the spirals are top stitched.


6.  I’ve got the label affixed, stray threads trimmed, and so I think we’re ready to send out our healing quilt.

Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture--he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He's supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.
Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture–he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He’s supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.

Giveaway Details

I happen to have full-color reprints of the Heart Strings article and pattern from The Quilt Life and I’d be happy to share 3 copies with our readers. Leave me a comment by Thursday, July 24 and I will name the winners in my Friday post. Here’s your prompt:  Have you made a heartfelt quilt? Do tune in on Friday for a special edition cuz a seasonal fave will be flying in!




40 thoughts on “See How a Quilt Design Evolves–The Many Faces of “Heartstrings” + Giveaway

  1. Thoughts and prayers for your doctor friend. Many people come through these things and live healthy, happy lives for many years. I love the quilt and would love to have the pattern. I think it would be beautiful in many colorways for many occasions.


  2. I have a sister that has Valley Fever which is a very devastating, lifelong lasting illness that eventually takes your life. (No cure for it) I have been trying to come up with a quilt idea for her. Thanks for the post…I love your ideas…


  3. I so enjoyed this post! The first Heartstrings quilt inspired me to organize my scraps by color to take to a sewing retreat. I knew it would be fun to lazily sew strips together while visiting and laughing with my stitching sistahs. I was right!


  4. A work colleague and friend was given three weeks to live. Of course Not knowing how to help her, I made a quilt and had it to her within a week. I had other colleagues sign the label. I am happy to say she was misdiagnosed and is alive and kicking 8 years later. She still expresses appreciation for the quilt.


  5. I haven’t made a “heart felt” quilt yet. I’ve been quilting for three years, and during that time I’ve had two total hip replacements, gall bladder removed and a badly broken left wrist. I’ve also been diagnosed by Psoriatic Arthritis, need both knees replaced, etc. I would love to have a “go to” pattern for a “Heart felt” quilt, so that when a friend is going through a tough time, I can just make it up as quick as possible to gift. I love this idea so much. My quilts have done more for me than any therapies I’ve done. Thank you for the wonderful post, I had to get my tissues out, it brought so many emotions to the forefront. cdahlgren (at) live (dot) com


  6. My quilt group did a fabric exchange of floral rectangles, and I used the fabric in a quilt for a dear friend’s sister who suffered a debilitating stroke. My cheerful quilt now graces her bed in her nursing home. I hope is it brightens her day.


  7. Beautiful quilt and wonderful sentiments. Would be a great way to share how much the special person is or was in your life


  8. I did make a heart felt quilt along with a friend for another friend who was quite ill at the time . I love these quilts and most especially your latest version , gorgeous .


  9. Yes, I’ve made “heart-felt quilts” sprinkled with nearly as many tears as stitches. I also made a mini-version of Jennifer’s “Heart Strings,” using the Quilt Life article, for a Guild Challenge to represent a book cover. The book I chose was “The Invisible String” by Patricia Karst, a version of a Chinese folk tale which says that a red string runs between the hearts of those who love each other. My quilt is called “All Hearts Connected,” and represents my love for grandchildren who live far away.


  10. I have not made a heartfelt quilt but I’ll put it in my idea book and when needed will make one for a dear friend in need of extra love and encouragement.


  11. Hi Jennifer,
    I have made 6 quilts that were heart-felt, for a woman’s shelter that is close to my heart. You see, I lived there for several weeks when my now 15 year old son was an infant. I latter married a very good man, so things have a way of turning around!
    Thanks so much for the giveaway,
    Jacqueline in Pitt Meadows


  12. I have made many quilts in the past for different occasions. Having lost my own daughter to cancer 8 years ago, I understand the devastation involved. Making a special token of love for someone who is struggling is a wonderful expression of caring and support.


    1. Thank you Martie for sharing and to all of you who have left comments. And, I’m very sorry for your losses and celebrate the instances of “healing” quilted love.

      Cyndy and I dropped off the quilt to our doctor’s office today. That, plus reading all your experiences, makes me weepy. Thanks to all you for sharing and wanting to spread quilts to those in need. Writing posts and sending them off into the electronic ether can be disembodying, but then, hearing back from you is so wonderful. You are real, loving people. Blessings to quilters, we slightly obsessed folk who want to wrap up the world in quilted hugs!


  13. I just lost one of my dearest friends last Thursday and I am in the process of helping organize a celebration of her life .My dear friend was not a quilter but loved my quilts and was always there to help me when I needed a non- quilters eye. This post has inspired me and shown me a way I can celebrate her wonderful friendship.,So often I find that I sew to speak


  14. I made a special quilt for my niece who has a brain tumor. And as a newborn lay in NICU, I made him a special flannel quilt sewing in lots of prayers. He is now celebrating his second birthday and is perfectly healthy.


  15. I’d love to have this pattern! My quilting friends and I are in the process of organizing a new group to provide quilts for various local charities in Athens, AL.


  16. I love your heart string quilts and surely will make one! I have made many quilts for the Blankie project and also for personal friends with illnesses.


  17. No, I haven’t made a quilt for the purpose of comforting someone with a loss of a loved one or experiencing a major health issue. However, the project seems very worthwhile. The Heartstring quilt pattern is beautifully understated and would be much appreciated by the recipient, I’m sure. Thanks for your column today.


  18. I have never made a heart felt quilt but the ones I have made to give to others are always “heartfelt” quilts. I’m going to think about this as a way to show I care about someone who needs a quilt hug. I struggle sometimes telling people how I feel, particularly when someone has died, but I can quilt and this idea may be the best way for me to express my love. Thanks.


  19. The heartstring quilts are absolutely stunning!!! And what a thoughtful thing to do for someone to show them you care. Keep up the good work!
    Cheryl Hovey
    irishoday28 at


  20. I believe your Gynecologist is mine, too. At least the story is the same. Thank you for making this quilt for her. I know she will live it. I think of her every day.


  21. Our Friendship group has recently had three members with serious medical issues. We did prayer flags for,each of them. I love the idea of the Heartfelt Strings. The design is perfect. Hour latest innovation with neutrals sings to me.


  22. I had never seen a Heartstrings before, but they touch my heart. I have collected Hearts for almost
    50 years. Thinking I need the hug of a heartstrings quilt since my husband’s passing two years ago, hugs are hard to find. I would love to make one for my first quilt, and then make them for my
    grandchildren to have GG hugs when I am no longer here. Many women where I live are alone now, and I think even small heartstrings would hug them also.


  23. I made a quilt for my friend’s grandson who was diagnosed with a very serious illness at 16 months. He’s 3 now and seems to be on the road to recovery and I like to think that the quilt has helped him through the treatment that he is still undergoing.


  24. How beautiful a thought and quilt. My heartfelt quilt I did as therapy for myself when one of my dearest friends passed away. Her favourite flower was the yellow rose.


  25. I was not reading this blog when your heart strings commentary started. I am taking care of my mom who use to be a beautiful seamstress. Yesterday she asked me to help her to try to sew again. A sad and painful process yesterday but I decided late last night I would document with photos. Your blog is appropriate in many ways. Please let me know how to find this pattern.


  26. This is the first time I have seen a Heartstrings quilt but I love them. I would love to give one a try as a gift to let someone know that they matter. I love that thought!


  27. A group of us in my Bee have made “heart felt” quilts for members of our guild who have lost a loved one. Your string pattern would be great to make a quilted background and have on hand. Then if a friend loses a love one, only the embellishments need be added.


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