How to Make a Quilt Panel

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.

To create a panel for the Quilt, follow these steps:

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:

Appliqué: 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 AIDS Memorial Quilt depends on the support of panelmakers to preserve the Quilt and keep it on display. A gift of any amount is welcome.

Send the panel to us

  1. You many contact, us either by email or by telephone (201-265-0600), to arrange presenting your panel to the NJ Chapter.
  2. Alternatively, you may mail your panel directly to the National Office: ATTN: New Panels, AIDS Memorial Quilt, 130 Doolittle Drive, San Leandro, CA 94577 415-765-0446.

This is a very personal process and we understand the reluctance to put such a piece of work in the mail. That is why we offer our local assistance to submit your panel. Once your panel is received we may keep it for up to 45 days to use in our local outreach. It will then be shipped to the main office in California where it will be finished. This process of entering the panelmaker information into the database, sewing the panel together with seven other panels to make a 12'x12' block and assigning that block a permanent number can take approximately 90 days. When the process is complete, someone from the National AIDS Memorial Quilt will notify you of your permanent block number and will provide you with other information about how your panel will be stored, maintained and used. If you have any other questions about how to turn in a finished panel, please contact us.