As I unpacked Ethan’s box of clothing that his mother, Shari, sent to me, I was prepared to connect with the deep grief that comes with the death of a child. I have created numerous quilts honoring the loss of young lives, and I know that I need to get myself emotionally ready as I begin to work with their materials. Laying out all of Ethan’s clothes on my table, I revisited the things Shari shared with me about him.
His tenderness. His wit.
His interest in history. His love of puzzles.
How he loved to build things and to think about how to make them in a new way.
How he had wanted to be a lawyer because he liked how lawyers need to think. How he radiated kindness and was wise beyond his years.
Shari also shared that she had recently made contact with Ethan’s biological father, a sperm donor, and that Ethan had been excited to finally meet him. He died before that was possible, but Shari received two articles of clothing from his father for the quilt. Turns out they both owned look-alike shirts (Ethan’s on the right, his father’s on the left).
Shari also gave me one of her dresses and the second garment from Ethan’s biological father. We decided that I would use these for the quilt border.
I created a few different designs all inspired by puzzles, interlocking shapes, and patterns in Lego constructions (Ethan loved Legos). Shari chose this one, which is actually quite a simple construction, but with layers of complexity added through color and fabric placement.
Ethan’s favorite colors were navy and red. Red is such a powerful color, so it made sense to put it at the center of the quilt.
The other red fabrics radiated out in four directions.
Just like any good puzzle, it’s important to keep all the pieces as organized as possible.
Here is the final quilt, followed by two details.
Ethan had these great navy shorts with little parrots on them, and the color matched Shari’s navy dress almost perfectly, so I added some parrots to the border. I also chose the hexagonal quilt stitching pattern because it reminded me of math and puzzles.
I want to thank Shari for her incredible courage in allowing me to transform Ethan’s clothing into this quilt. I never underestimate the trust I’m shown by people’s relinquishing of these keepsake materials.