Orth Cleaners | Keeping A Loved One's Memory Alive Through Creative Re-use
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Keeping A Loved One's Memory Alive Through Creative Re-use
By Jennifer Szweda Jordan
Creative

When loved ones die, the clothing left behind serves as a treasured connection to those who've gone before us.

A first instinct to ease the pain of loss might be to simply dispose of all the old ties and dresses. But consider turning some of these items into keepsakes for yourself or opening up the closet to caretakers or friends who are also mourning. Even items that you might initially think are too stained or worn can have another life in a special occasion like a wedding, or everyday use.

I still have a cozy plaid flannel shirt that was my grandfather's. He died in 1984. Every fall, that button-down shirt comes out of my storage bin to warm me up and remind me of him. When my grandmothers -- both stylish women -- died, I was thrilled to be offered a few skirts and sweaters from their collection. I wore one sweater to a job interview, and attributed my success in getting the job in part to grandma's influence (it became known as my lucky sweater).

Memory quilts and blankets are a popular way to repurpose clothing. Various fabric squares can be fashioned into colorful covers. This can even be part of a community project — joining your loved one's clothing in a quilt with those who have died from similar illnesses such as AIDS or SIDS. If you'd like an individual memory quilt, but you're not a seamstress, there are companies that will do the stitching for you. Quilt Keepsake is one of these businesses. Project Repat specializes in turning T-shirts into quilts.

Creating stuffed animals, particularly teddy bears, with the fabric of a favorite print shirt, with the buttons as eyes, is a huggable reminder of the comfort you had from your special person. A number of businesses will also do this handiwork for you, including Bears with A Past.

For a simpler craft project, one woman made snowmen for each of her five children at Christmas by stuffing and cinching her husband's white socks. The snowmen's scarves came from a sweater the deceased man wore on his first date with his wife. The same family fashioned wreaths from a parent's lavender floral print housecoats that were too worn to donate.

Another family used just a piece of old clothing -- cutting a heart-shaped bit of fabric from a deceased father's shirt and sewing it to his daughter's wedding dress.

Oftentimes businessmen who pass away leave dozens of neckties. In addition to sharing these just as they are with the men in the family, the old silks and stripes can be fashioned into women's headbands, belts and woven into pillow covers.

Finally, your relationship with your loved one is unique, so consider creating something equally unique -- or working with a local crafter to help. One woman hired an artist to create framed mixed media assemblages that incorporated strips of clothing with handwritten letters.

It's never easy to say goodbye, but it's a life-giving tribute to remember a loved one through creative objects that celebrate their place in your life.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan goes by JeniferPossible on Twitter is founder / producer of UnabridgedPress.

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Long Worn Fabrics

If you want to wear some of your deceased loved ones clothing, remember that long-worn fabrics can more easily tear. Dry cleaning with Orth may be a gentler option than being laundered at home. And if clothing contains stains of unknown origin, you might consider using an iron-on appliqué over the stain, or talking to Orth about tailoring services that including patchworking to deal with spots.

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