There are very few things sadder than losing a pet. We lost our sweet, wacky papillon Wuli two years ago, at age 17, and it still hurts. But one of the best things about being a quilter is the power to console. Once the bereaved has a little distance, a memory quilt - or, simpler, pillow - is one of the nicest things you can do for them - maybe. This is not a good surprise gift. Some people don't want vivid reminders strewn about the house. Ask before you start stitching.
Here's the memory pillow I made in honor of a dear friend's beloved shih-tzu, Jenniphur (yes, that's how she spelled it), who lived a long, happy life despite numerous health challenges. I wanted to make it a celebration, so I used upbeat conversation/novelty fabrics: dog fabrics (including one that looked a lot like my dog, at the 11 o'clock position); hearts, butterflies, angels, a fire hydrant, and, of course, Elvis (at the 3:15 position: "Ain't nuthin but a hound dog...")
Each fabric 'petal' was cut out using a Dresden Plate template. Dresden Plate quilts had their heyday in the early 20th century; learn about their past here. The 'modern' quilt movement has updated the motif in a big way (Pun intended: modern quilters like to make traditional blocks MUCH bigger, in contemporary fabrics. For example, check out this tutorial.) The American Quilters Society published a whole book of eye-popping contemporary Dresden-inspired quilts. ('Search inside' for the eye-candy.)
For my memory pillow, I used a purchased acrylic Dresden template; it's no longer being made by that particular manufacturer, but now there are others. Inquire at your local quilt shop; or google 'dresden plate templates'.. There are also free templates on the web (http://www.patternsfromhistory.com/colonial_revival/dresden-pattern.htm; click on "Dresden Plate PDF" at midpage), but you'll probably want to transfer them onto cardboard in order to make a stiff surface for tracing lots of petals.
For the central circle, I printed a photograph of Jenniphur onto treated inkjet fabric sheets (my current favorite is 'EQ Printables Premium Cotton Satin - no financial affiliation!). I backed the photograph with a fusible web, then cut out the doggie, and set her on a batiked grassy pattern. I zig-zagged the dog edges to the background using gold metallic thread, and zig-zagged over the grass with a variegated green thread. The petals are also outline-quilted with gold thread.
Finally, I couched trim around the central circle, and around the edges of the larger circle.
My friend loves it. She's got terrific manners, but says it's the only present she's ever recieved that she couldn't write a thank-you note for, because she became overwhelmed. (She thanks me in person, all the time). And it made me very happy to be helpful to her.
What memorial items have you made?