Preserving the Past – Memories to Quilts


What once started out as a necessity for bed coverings and evolved into a true art form, the process of quilting continues to see new techniques, use of fabric and creative designs. Diane Ottenfeld, owner and operator of Memories to Quilts has thrusted the art to another level by taking old t-shirts and preserving them into one of a kind show pieces. “Quilting has a long history of using scraps leftover from making clothing. When quilts were made of scrap fabrics – it became a history of the clothing itself. I’m working in the opposite way by taking people’s old clothes and preserving the history of the person who wore them,” says Ottenfeld.

A Born Quilter

Coming from a long line of sewers in her family, her mother, grandmother and great aunt all taught Ottenfeld a lot of the skills she uses today. After high school, she left for college in Santa Barbara with a tent and a sewing machine where she studied photography and graphic arts. After moving to Sisters, Ottenfeld quickly learned that quilting was a part of the Central Oregon culture. She has been in the area for over 30 years. “I had been given a Folkwear pattern for a Turkish coat and it called for quilting. I decided before I make the coat I should try quilting something [else]first and I fell in love with it,” says Ottenfeld.

During the recession in 2008, she took on a second job at Quilt Works in Bend where she would stay for the next five years. During her time there, people would come in and ask for ‘odd ball’ things to be sewn. Never one to pass up an opportunity, she became the person who would repair quilts, finish existing projects and make new quilts out of people’s old t-shirts — the three elements that grew her business into what it is today.

Repair and Restore

When a quilting piece comes in for repair, Ottenfeld takes several things into consideration and after asking the customer several questions, she determines how long the project will take, what type of fabric she’ll use and how much care is needed, as most of what she does is done by hand. When t-shirts come in for a quilt project, the ten step process, is mathematical and intentional. “For my customers I have developed my own way of laying out each quilt, so it becomes a unique, one of a kind, memory [piece]. I use my background in graphic design to create a mosaic layout that keeps the eye moving from block to block,” says Ottenfeld. “My goal is to keep each row the same width and each “block” cut to the size that works best with the graphic on the shirt,” she adds. Each piece is truly exclusive, as the t-shirts all range in size, color and graphics.

Ottenfeld’s past work can be found in the gallery section of her website alongside details of her t-shirt to quilt process. Ottenfeld has a true passion to create and loves living in a place where the sense of community is strong. You can see her around the area regularly involved with the Sisters Quilt Show, a repeat blood donor to the Red Cross and volunteering for several local events.

(Photo courtesy of Memories to Quilts)


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Julie Furnas CBN Feature Writer

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