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How To Make an AIDS Quilt Panel

The following instructions are from The AIDS Memorial Quilt website.

A panelmaker is someone who has made a panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Anyone can be a panelmaker: panels are made by family members, friends, lovers, co-workers and others; working in groups or individually.

They are young and old; rich and poor; gay, straight and bisexual. They are as diverse as those affected by the epidemic, as richly unique as each panel in the Quilt itself. All it takes is fabric, a little imagination, and the desire to remember and pay tribute to a special person who has died of AIDS.

Many cultures around the world have traditions of fabric arts. The AIDS Memorial Quilt is based upon the American tradition of quilting. In the past, neighbors and relatives would gather in groups to sew old scraps of fabric together to make blankets. These blankets, called "quilts," were beautiful works of art which also provided warmth and comfort.

Working together made people feel like a community, giving them the chance to tell stories, trade gossip, sing songs, and enjoy each other's company as they sewed. Today, as people gather together to make panels for the AIDS Memorial Quilt, this tradition gives comfort in a time of grief.

All kinds of people have made panels for the Quilt, in a variety of colors, fabrics, and styles. You don't have to be an artist or a sewing expert to create a moving personal tribute. It doesn't matter if you use paint or fine needlework; any remembrance is appropriate. You may choose to create a panel privately as a personal memorial to someone you've loved, but we encourage you to follow the traditions of old-fashioned sewing and quilting bees, by including friends, family, and co-workers.

Design the panel:

Include the name of the friend or loved one you are remembering. Feel free to include additional information such as the dates of birth and death, and a hometown. Please limit each panel to one individual.

Choose your materials:

Remember that the Quilt is folded and unfolded many times, so durability is crucial. Since glue deteriorates with time, it is best to sew things to the panel. A medium-weight, non-stretch fabric such as a cotton duck or poplin works best.

Your design can be vertical or horizontal, but the finished, hemmed panel must be 3 feet by 6 feet (90 cm x 180 cm)--no more and no less! When you cut the fabric, leave an extra 2-3 inches on each side for a hem. If you can't hem it yourself, we'll do it for you. Batting for the panels is not necessary, but backing is recommended. Backing helps to keep panels clean when they are laid out on the ground. It also helps retain the shape of the fabric.

Create the panel:

To construct your panel you might want to use some of the following techniques:

  • Applique: Sew fabric, letters and small mementos onto the background fabric. Do not rely on glue. It won't last.

  • Paint: Brush on textile paint or color-fast dye, or use an indelible ink pen. Please don't use "puffy" paint; it's too sticky.

  • Stencil: Trace your design onto the fabric with a pencil, lift the stencil, then use a brush to apply textile paint or indelible markers.

  • Collage: Make sure that whatever materials you add to the panel won't tear the fabric (avoid glass and sequins for this reason), and be sure to avoid very bulky objects.

  • Photos: The best way to include photos or letters is to photocopy them onto iron-on transfers, iron them onto 100% cotton fabric and sew that fabric to the panel. You may also put the photo in clear plastic vinyl and sew it to the panel (off-center so it avoids the fold).

Write us a letter:

Please take the time to write a one-or two-page letter about the person you've remembered. The letter might include your relationship to him/her, how he or she would like to be remembered, and a favorite memory. If possible, please send us a photograph along with the letter for our archives.

Make a donation

If you are able, please make a donation to help pay for the cost of adding your panel to the Quilt. The NAMES Project Foundation depends on the support of panelmakers to preserve the Quilt and keep it on display. A gift of any amount is welcome. Gifts of $250 or more will be acknowledged in our annual report.

Fill out the panelmaker information form:

This provides us with vital information about you and your panel.Print Form

Send Us the Panel

Once your panel is completed there are several ways to turn it in to the NAMES Project, so that it becomes a part of the whole AIDS Memorial Quilt. Contact Names Project South Florida at 954-661-4269.


NAMES Project South Florida, PO Box 11294, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33339
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