Lisa Morgan Memorial Quilts

At the studio, Karen is custom quilting pieces created by Rebecca Weise, an architect and fourth-generation quilter from Colorado. Rebecca was commissioned by her friend, Mimi Sullivan, and Mimi’s niece, Sierra Morgan, to create memorial quilts for their family after the loss of Mimi’s sister and Sierra’s mother, Lisa Morgan, in July 2020. For this three-year-long project, Rebecca is piecing six quilts, six decorative pillows, and two meditation cushions, all made up of recycled fabric from Lisa’s clothes.

“A lot of people do memorial quilts with t-shirts, but once I got these clothes I felt like I had to go beyond something like that,” Rebecca said. “I use clothes as material. I don’t do anything half-ass. I always give my best. I have so much love for Mimi, [who] is so sad and so angry that her sister is gone. If I’m doing something from the heart, I’ll go above and beyond.”

To begin, Rebecca sorted all of Lisa’s clothes into stacks by color, and with fabric cut from Lisa’s clothes, created elaborate designs with layers of meaning. She designs all of her patterns herself with architectural software. When she took on the project, Rebecca asked Mimi and Sierra to tell stories about Lisa. Sierra told Rebecca how Lisa and her husband had a dream to move to a beautiful property in Cool, California, just outside of Sacramento. They sold their current home in Sacramento to purchase a little house in Cool, and after they moved, Lisa enjoyed long runs through the redwood trees on the property with her dogs, while her husband Scott played golf at a nearby golf course. The quilt Rebecca completed for Lisa’s husband, Scott, depicts the silhouette of Lisa running through a forest with her two dogs at her heels – backlit by the full moon – all in Scott’s favorite colors of red, black, and blue.

“Running Down a Dream,” pieced by Rebecca Weise, quilted by Karen McTavish. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Weise.

The quilt is named after a Tom Petty song – “Runnin Down a Dream.” Lisa was a long-distance runner and a guitarist, and knew every one of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers songs. Rebecca meticulously planned the structure of her design, placing seven trees in the foreground of the picture and 23 trees total to symbolize Scott and Lisa’s July 23rd wedding anniversary. Flaps of fabric depict leaves on the forest floor at the bottom of the quilt, and flip up to reveal some of Lisa’s favorite inspirational quotes taken from her t-shirts and pajamas.

Rebecca has also finished sewing the image of a peach tree on a quilt for Lisa’s mom, Penny Bengert. After Lisa moved to her property in Cool, she planted a peach tree in her front yard together with her mom and daughter, and Lisa’s mother named it the “Elizabeth tree.” On the quilt, the tree has twelve blonde peaches and 28 brighter peaches to symbolize Lisa’s birthday on December 28.

“The Elizabeth Tree,” pieced by Rebecca Weise, quilted by Karen McTavish. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Weise.

Rebecca has also sewn a “queen bee” quilt, named “Sullivan’s Queens,” for Lisa’s daughter Sierra, which consists of six bees surrounding a sunflower to represent the six women in Lisa’s family, including Lisa’s mom, stepmom, two sisters, and her daughter. The sunflower in the middle of the quilt was one of Lisa’s favorite t-shirts. All the gray colors surrounding the sunflower were made solely from all of Lisa’s gray shirts.

“Sullivan’s Queens,” pieced by Rebecca Weise, quilted by Karen McTavish. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Weise.

The meditation cushions are for Mimi’s husband, Koji, who introduced Lisa to the art of meditation, and Lisa, in return, got him interested in long-distance running. So, Rebecca used Lisa’s running t-shirts to make the cushions. The round cushions represent ensō – a circle drawn by hand that symbolizes imperfection.

“As humans, we can allow ourselves to let go and allow our bodies to create,” Rebecca said. “So I’m making a meditation cushion as an ensō. Lisa always told Koji to “run happy,” so on the cushion I have stitched “run happy” and “sit still” on the sides. I have Koji’s bond with his sister-in-law – and their influence on eachother – in the mediation cushions.”

Meditation cushions, pieced by Rebecca Weise, quilted by Karen McTavish. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Weise.

Rebecca is a full-time architect, and sews feverishly in her free time. Her son and her husband support her passion completely, giving her time and space to do her projects. Years ago, when Rebecca first started sewing, she had told Mimi she found her true calling.

“She never forgot I said that because she granted me this commission,” Rebecca said. Rebecca is halfway through this project, and has recently sent her first few completed pieces to Karen to quilt. Mimi’s birthday was on February 11, and Rebecca flew to San Francisco to present her with three quilts and two meditation pillows.

“I couldn’t have done this without Karen’s help,” Rebecca said. “I am so tired after sewing and designing that it is such a relief and honor to hand them over to Karen. I know she will sprinkle her magic on them. I trust her completely.”