Jeanie Low Ying
Assistant Principal Educational Psychologist (retired)
I have known Karen for many years and I have always admired her creativity and craftsmanship.
This is especially true with regards to her quilts, so much so that I requested that she make one for my family and many years later it is still a treasured item in our home.
However, recently Karen has taken these skills to a new high when she showed me some of the beautiful quilts that she started making for people who had suffered a loss. In order to make these quilts from the clothes belonging to the one who had died this immediately helped the bereaved by:
having a focus as they now had a positive outcome for some of the clothes;
remembering personal and positive things that they wanted included on the quilt;
ensuring there was something to do that still involved the one they had lost.
The making of these quilts, together with Karen, also ensured a lot of talking about the lost person in order to communicate exactly what should / should not be included on the quilt.
As a retired Educational Psychologist who undertook training with school staff on Loss and Bereavement I believe that Karen’s quilts provides a unique way of helping the bereaved to move on. In many ways the whole process of making these quilts fulfils several of the strategies promoted by the Childhood Bereavement Network and the National Children’s Bureau who state that when working with bereaved children, adults should viz.;
help me keep memories alive by talking and remembering, especially on anniversaries. There will be things I need to remember and others that I will want to forget.
Let me keep something that belonged to ………………..
Give me a hug
But most of all, I feel that these beautiful quilts, so expertly crafted, help the bereaved to look forward to when they will receive their quilts and possibly for the first time they will be looking ahead to the future.
Words from Jackie Bryant
Karen is the master of all things creative: interior design, garden design, amazing photography, art & craft, expert sewing & stitching skills, scrummy baking - you name it, she excels in it. For me though, her quilt-making skills are the most amazing.
When my husband died of cancer ten years ago, Karen suggested making a memory quilt using pieces of his shirts. It is a thing of beauty that I will always treasure. It is a wonderful reminder of Tony and his life and I will always take comfort from having it.
I feel so thankful to Karen for suggesting and making her first memory quilt for me.
Karen makes beautiful things and she makes things beautiful.
Testimonial from Bridget Males
The death of my soul mate is the most profoundly painful and traumatic experience I have ever endured, it leaves a sense of loss that can never be replenished, and a heart that beats at a much slower and laboured rate for without the timekeeping of it’s spiritual mate, it lacks the necessary passion and fire to fulfil it’s true potential.
When Antz died, I knew very early on that I would not be able to part with any of his clothes amongst other things. Some bereaved people are able to overcome this hurdle, but I cannot, his clothes form part of a story, our story. Every item has a memory, and those memories are what our children and I collectively draw upon for comfort.
It was my sister who had previously told me about a friend of hers who had made quilts out of her son’s clothes for his sibling and best friend at University to provide some comfort to them, although she had found the experience of making them to be very therapeutic in dealing with the loss of her son. However, my talent for sewing is limited to that of name labels in uniform and the odd bit of darning. Not only that as a Leo, it was disappointing to discover from an early age that I lacked any real flair, imagination or creativity normally associated with such a Zodiac sign.
My search for someone to make quilts for us was extensive to say the least, many people and organisations were happy to offer advice on local quilt making classes or items to avoid using such as t-shirts, woollens etc, but no-one was actually willing to take on the task of making them for us. Even if the “elusive creativity gene” had been uncovered in me, the grief was and still is too raw for me to have coped with such a task.
At a point where I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be able to fulfil this ambition, my path crossed with another recently widowed military wife. I came home from a weekend away with a flicker of hope, all I needed to do now was hope and pray, that his lady whose name I had been given would agree to make the quilts for us.
To this day, I have not met Karen, but what I can say is that almost immediately I formed a very special bond with her. The day she agreed to make the quilts for us was probably the first day I had felt some form of elation since my husband had died. The realisation that at some point the children and I would have something that we could cherish forever and that held together the memories of our story provided immense comfort. Having seen photographs of a quilt Karen had made for the other military widow, I knew that no matter how long the waiting list, this was THE lady to have making them.
What I had totally underestimated initially, although not for long, was the incredible creative talent that is in all respects Karen Barclay. The whole quilt making process was a personal journey that Karen and I undertook together via e-mail, texts and phone calls. This is a lady who totally understands not only the emotiveness of the task that has been entrusted to her, but the importance and relevance of the detail for each quilt, details that would never have occurred to me were even possible such is her gift for imagination. Not only that she is sensitive, relaxed and very personable. From the very beginning, I knew instinctively to trust Karen with many of the decisions, and the end result was proof enough that I was right to do just that.
The day the quilts arrived, I was speechless and totally overwhelmed. They are simply stunning, friends and family have all admired them, commented on the fact that they have never seen such amazing quilts as these and fully understand why they are our most precious and highly treasured possessions. They are an exceptional source of comfort beyond any description I could convey in words.
Am I a fan of Karen Barclay? …. You bet I am, and I hope that I am fortunate enough to meet her one of these days so that I can try in some way to express the immeasurable impact both she and her quilts have had on our journey through grief and indeed continue to do so.
Testimonial from Rosie Ansell
I asked Karen to make a bespoke quilt for a baby shower gift and I was overwhelmed with the result. Karen put's as much thought and effort into the quilt as you would yourself. The quilt itself is beautiful. It was the perfect gift, so much so I asked her to do another one!
Testimonial from Gail Douglas
There are many difficult decisions and tasks to undertake when a loved one dies and clearing out their clothes is just one of them. When we lost my husband the clothes he had worn became more than just fabric. As a member of the armed forces his uniform was a part of his very being and we were more used to seeing him wearing rig than civvie clothes. Cap tallys, branch badges and deployment t-shirts all documented where he had been, what he had done and the stories relayed back to us, his family who had waited behind lovingly anticipating each and every homecoming. They were no use to anyone else, unsuitable for charitable donations and too precious to simply dispose of. But what to do with them? Lock them away in a box, store them in a drawer or a bin bag and confine them to history, mildew and moths? Then along came Karen with the solution. Quilts. Beautiful, meaningful quilts that tell the story of my husband and his life and the things that made him the man we loved. One for myself and one each for each of our three children. Every piece of fabric used has a memory attached to it that bring comfort, smiles and sometimes tears. Each quilt is individual and through discussion between myself and Karen, incorporates special connections that were unique to their relationship with their daddy.
Karen has a real talent for capturing the essence of a memory and recreating it in fabric. Our quilts are treasured works of heart that we can wrap ourselves in when we need a hug, sleep snuggled up to every night or just look at when we want to remember. They are truly beautiful.
Quilts made for Amanda
Testimonial from Helen Whitting
When my wonderful mum was diagnosed with Cancer We knew that she would be in for a hard fight. As time went by we realised that it was a fight that she was not going to win.
Her family and life long friends were always very dear to her and they were constantly in her thoughts.
Karen came up with the design of a quilt where mum would be able to have everyone with her where ever she was.
Karen made a quilt that had everyone's photos on it so that we were always there with her. When mum eventually went into the hospice she used to love the nurses and visitors commenting on her lovely quilt. Karen made a quilt that meant the world to my mum and even now has pride of place on my dad's bed at the nursing home. Where it still gets commented on by all who see it.
Karens quilts are meant to be treasured. Whether it be of a cherished memory or a life well lived.
The emotion that these quilts can stir can be ones of joy or loss but feelings that need to be expressed and I found it a comfort that I had something so special that was incredibly special to my mum. Thank you Karen.
Testimonial from Connie Copland
In my own view, quite simply, Karen has crafted two more masterpieces to add to her collection of already stunning Memory Quilts! There are no words adequate to describe the sheer joy of receiving such a beautiful and amazing piece of art and my friends would find it hard to believe that for once in my life, words really do fail me. Whatever I do say will I fear, be a repeat of the many wonderful testimonials which have gone before me and I doubt if mine will read quite as eloquently as that of my friend Bridget Males who I have to thank for putting me in touch with Karen. Whilst there are many words which will describe the visual beauty of each quilt, it is the emotion they evoke which catches you unawares.
Whilst I have never met Karen personally, I have felt extremely close to her from my very first enquiry and until the day I received my quilts she was just a text away on the odd occasion when either of us needed a question answered. Being somewhat a control freak I admit to sending Karen about 3 pages of 'information' which I thought she might find useful in creating our quilts and was somewhat relieved that she did not feel offended. That said, the artistic licence in the creation of them was always in Karen's capable hands; whilst my mother was gifted in the sewing department, this was never a gene I was blessed with so there was never going to be any great artistic thoughts coming from this quarter.
For me, the quilts tell a story of Dave's professional and personal life; with both of us serving in the RAF, they tell OUR story. The devil is in the detail. Dave was an RAF Policeman and the 'Snowdrop' depicts the name the RAF Police are known by - they wear white hats and the Snowdrop was also the flower of Remembrance before the Poppy. The thistle is the button hole Dave wore on our wedding day and it sits on the tartan which was Dave's wedding kilt. He called me Poppet and I was always pestering him for a nightly foot massage which turned into a request for a 'Foot Wickle Love'; he always obliged. Equally, the quilt for his daughter Ayla tells their story - the little girl he referred to as Tuppence and the Dad who was always her Hero and in death, will always be her Angel.
Whilst it is tragedy and grief that prompts the journey to Karen's door, I am so very glad to have met her on my journey and feel blessed to own a memory quilt which was created by such a special person. The love, passion and sensitivity in the creation of our quilts is evident. Thank you Karen for giving Ayla and I a lasting legacy which is so fitting for Dave who would have approved of the use of his most prized possessions, and in particular the tatty old Adidas sweat shirt which I threatened to bin over many years, but thankfully never did! I know it will become my constant companion in the absence of my wonderful, courageous husband - and as I snuggle under it, I can feel his arms wrap around me. He is here x
Testimonial from Julie Bond
To lose my mum was a devastating blow. Even though it was inevitable it is still an enormous shock when it happens. My mum was my best friend and I still find it unbelievable that I'll never see her again. One of the hardest things I had to do was sort out her clothes. My dad passed away 7 years ago and I found my mum had kept a few shirts of his. There was no way I could part with some of the clothes that had such happy memories attached to them. There was the dress that she brought for my daughters graduation, the apron that she always wore when she was baking and the pretty nighties she spent a lot of time in when she was constantly poorly. You can't keep everything though. I was given the idea of a memory quilt by a good friend of mine who also had a quilt made - in fact I think that one was the first that Karen ever did. I am astonished and in awe of Karen and Julie's vision of how a quilt will look. From a pile of clothes they have made a family heirloom that I hope will be cherished long after I have gone! It is a thing of beauty and in the dark days and reflective moments I can cuddle my quilt and remember all the wonderful things we did together. On my quilt I have a robin (my dads name), Angels (my mum believed in Angels), my dogs passed and present also the words Always and Forever (which we always wrote in cards to each other) and lots of hearts. I absolutely love it and I thank Karen and Julie from the bottom of my heart.