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Encinitas quilter creates blankets of memories

Many of us have lots of old T-shirts that we don’t wear anymore, but we can’t bear to part with. One Encinitas resident knows how to put those shirts to good use.

Misty Johnson takes old T-shirts — often representing beloved memories — and stitches them into quilts.

After her son, Carter Johnson, spent his childhood playing competitive sports, Johnson was left with piles of team shirts. On the one hand, she wanted to keep them. On the other hand, she wanted to throw them away.

She compromised and put them together into her first memory quilt.

“To me, it was easy to do,” said Johnson, who started sewing at age 10. “I came upon it because my son had all these shirts, and I couldn’t get rid of one thing.”

After that, word of mouth spread, and now Johnson is coming up on 15 years doing the quilts.

Even after her son graduated from high school and moved to San Jose, Johnson kept receiving calls from mothers and fathers in the Encinitas sports community and nearby neighborhoods, inquiring about the quilts. (Johnson’s son, Carter, played baseball for Encinitas Little League and La Costa Canyon Varsity before receiving a full scholarship to pitch for the San Jose State University Spartans).

“People knew I made the quilts, so they just kept calling me, even though they knew my son was off at college,” Johnson said.

Since the initial quilt, she has sewn more than 60 for occasions such as loved ones passing away, graduations, sports retirements and college memories.

One of the first times Johnson strayed from sports-related quilting was a special request from several mothers. A friend of theirs had lost her 23-year-old son to a heroin overdose.

The mothers had heard of Johnson’s quilts, and they asked her to make one using the young man’s sports jerseys. Johnson didn’t know the family, but made the quilt.

“When she (the mother) was given the quilt, it was the most unbelievable response,” Johnson said. “Then I just thought, I want to do more of these for others to be able to share that remembrance of their loved ones.”

Another customer saw her working on a quilt and asked about it. She told Johnson she and her husband still had fraternity and sorority clothing from college. Johnson made their shirts into a quilt that the customer gave to her husband for Father’s Day. Now, her children ask about the Greek letters and the events on the shirts.

In 2015, Johnson said, she’s looking to sew a quilt a week.

She asks potential clients to bring in all the shirts they want to have stitched into the quilt. She then assesses how big or small the quilt can be.

Often, older shirts may have holes or stains. That’s OK, Johnson said.

“I like to maintain rip holes and stains because they’re not supposed to be perfect,” she said. “They’re supposed to be a memory.”

Many families have piles of old T-shirts or sports jerseys in their closets. Johnson said her quilts are a unique way to preserve those memories.

“What people tend to do is, they have their kids’ shirts from years of competitive sports and they don’t know what to do with them,” Johnson said. “But they don’t want to throw them away.”

That’s where she comes in: Working at a pingpong table in her garage, with her dogs at her feet, she pieces the shirts into quilts that families keep for years to come.

The quilts run from $200 to $300. Typically, she said, a twin quilt with backing would run around $200.

“They’re great conversation pieces,” Johnson said. “I would love to make one for everyone out there that was going through a transition.”

To order a quilt, contact Johnson at misty820@aol.com. For more information, visit quiltqueen.vpweb.com.


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