Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Luggage Tag Quilt

Believe it or not, third grade was the first year that I went to school for an entire year in one country.

Up until that point, my family was traveling back and forth between Southern California and South America where my dad supervised the building and operation of what was, back then, the largest recording studio in Bolivia. The work was sponsored by a non-profit mission organization started by my great grandfather, and it had a huge impact on our family. My parents often reminisce about how young and naive they were as they jumped into that new adventure with two little girls, my sister so young that she was still wearing diapers. Neither of them spoke Spanish when they first arrived (my dad went through intensive language training for the first few months at a local Catholic school), and they had few people to depend on for help. Friends came from unlikely places. My dad loves to tell the story about how my sister and I spent an evening in the convent after one of the nuns at his school insisted on giving my parents a much needed date night. And every time we passed through Rio de Janiero on our way to Bolivia, a kind cab driver named Umberto was always our guide around the city to tourist spots like the Christo and Sugarloaf Mountain, both of which I absolutely adored. He even saved my life once when I accidentally started across a busy street by myself, pulling me back to the curb before I could be run down by an oncoming car.

My sister and I, sitting in front of the studio in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, with our beloved guard dog Mickey

I have a hundred memories from those days that come back at unexpected times, but somehow it's the smells I remember most: the vinyl and cigarette smoke of taxi cabs, the sausages in the butcher shop, the potatoes in the outdoor market where we bought most of our groceries. I remember that inflation was so bad in those days that the money was worth hardly anything, so my dad had to carry around a briefcase full of bills like a mobster in order to do our weekly shopping. My sister and I went to the local mission school, but it seemed like most of our time was spent in the little apartment that was built into the recording studio building where our family lived. Amy and I rode bicycles, played games, and fell madly in love with reading. I even had my tonsils out at the hospital down there, where the nurses gave me Jello in recovery instead of the ice cream I'd been promised (I always say that I've been trying to make up that ice cream deficit ever since). My parents insist that they were flying by the seat of their pants back then, trying to keep everything going, but I disagree. In their humble earnestness, I saw a daily example of perseverance, courage, faithfulness, and love that made an enormous impression on me as a child. It's one that I strive to follow even now in my own journey as a parent. 

By the time I was eight years old, I had spent more time on a plane than many people do in a lifetime, and to this day, I have a love for all things travel related, particularly vintage travel. So when I spotted Places to Go, People to See by the talented people at Kate Spade, I couldn't resist it. The photo of luggage tags stood out to me above all else -- I was sure there was a quilt in there somewhere. And when I spotted the rainbow Suzuko Koseki bundles at Sew Me a Song, I knew that I had found the perfect fabric to make that quilt a reality. I emailed Becca immediately, asking if she'd let me do a promotional project on my blog, and she was sweet enough to send me this bundle. Thus, the Lugguge Tag Quilt was born.

It was such fun to make the tag blocks for this quilt simply by sewing diagonally across squares at the top corners of a rectangle. A few of these rectangles are pieced, but mostly I wanted to see how many different designs I could come up with by carefully fussy cutting the prints. I adore Suzuko Koseki's fabrics for their vintage style and originality. Her work has so much personality to it, and I was thrilled to have an entire color spectrum of prints to choose from. With a little input from my friends on Instagram, I decided to add a suitcase to my quilt as well, using some yardage of another Koseki print that I had on hand. Quilter's Linen adds a bit of texture and makes a nice neutral background. 

The quilt backing is made entirely of scraps leftover from the original bundle. I sewed pieces together into rows and then sewed the rows together, going in color order as I went. The result is a backing that I love just as much as the front. I quilted wavy lines down the sashing strips and bound the quilt in a pink and navy floral print that I absolutely love to use for binding. It looks great around just about any patchwork quilt I've held it up to yet.

Of course, now that I've started thinking about tags, it occurs to me that a "gift tag" pillow would be absolutely perfect for Christmas. Meanwhile, so many thanks to Becca for letting me play with this gorgeous bundle, and thanks also to my sweet friends on Instagram who were so encouraging as I shared my progress. 

This lovely little quilt is now draped over the end of our couch in the family room where it will be waiting the next time my youngest daughter comes up to me and says, "Mommy, I'm your cold little Mousie. Can you snuggle me in a quilt?"


  1. Just loved your story and the quilt you sewed. Love all the fussy cutting you did with the little Luggage Tags! The quilt is beautiful. Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Thank you for the story of your childhood- I love the tag idea- it reminds me a lot of my own desire for traveling- just the feeling of posibilities when your standing at a big railwaystation or in the airport.. hope your Little mouse will ask you about your trips when she is hiding under the blanket :-)

  3. Why does your childhood sound so familiar, both for myself and for my kids!! This quilt is so perfect Heidi - are you going to release a pattern for it? xx

  4. Love the quilt and the story! No wonder you have so much courage today to pursue your dreams!

  5. What a sweet post. And a great great idea for a quilt. I think the gift tag pillow for Christmas is genius.

  6. I loved reading your story - awesome post. And the quilt is just lovely. Great idea with the luggage tags, and the suitcase is perfect!

  7. I loved hearing your story and this quilt is fantastic. What a great idea to make a meaningful and beautiful quilt.

  8. Simply beautiful from the story of your childhood to the image of your youngest be snuggled warm. Loved watching this quilt grow in Instagram too.

  9. hello there

    Just started to follow you and saw this wonderful quilt and tutorial for the tag. Are you releasing a pattern or would I be able to take your idea to make a similar quilt for my 18 year old - she recently travelled to England with her Grandma for a month and next year will move away from home to study. I thought a quilt like this would be fun to make for her. I am thinking of making it 3D with some tags tied on. Can you let me know it that is okay? Thanks. Karen

  10. What a wonderful blog subject. I too had a childhood filled with constant movement and disruption although not as romantic as yours! I love how you have collected so many wonderful memories and decided to put this into something so creative. I would love to do something similar for my daughter using some of my favorite clothes of hers !

    Sherita @ Astute Promotions


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