Remembrance gifts, decor keep loved ones close

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News
Jessica DeJager of Stitched in Prayer makes pillows, quilts and teddy bears from loved ones' clothing.

The last time I saw my late father, I made him homemade spaghetti Bolognese for dinner and headed off to a night shift at work while he and my mom babysat my two young kids. Less than 24 hours, he was gone.

I’m so grateful I told him I loved him before I left, a nonchalant, almost perfunctory goodbye. But I said it.

My son, only a toddler at the time, cried especially hard when my parents left that night, almost as if he sensed impending doom.

Eight years after his death, I still miss my dad’s hearty laugh, his rosy cheeks and how he got the biggest kick out of his own jokes. So it made sense that on St. Patrick’s Day this year, one of his favorite holidays, I wore a pin in his honor, crafted from one of his green and blue plaid ties.

A dear friend of my mom’s made the pins, one for each of his kids. Whenever I want to keep my dad close — his birthday or Father’s Day — I wear my special pin. It’s a reminder that he’s always with me.

In some ways, I wish I’d done more. My dad’s clothes have long since been passed on, but some people opt to remember loved ones with pillows or blankets made from their clothing. My mother-in-law has mittens made from one of my father-in-law’s favorite wool sweaters.

Jessica DeJager of Stitched in Prayer, who has an online store on (, makes memory pillows, quilts, and bears. They’re her best sellers. Customers mail her clothing from loved ones and in roughly a week, she’s created a sentimental gift that they won’t forget.

“Having a piece of a loved one is such a comfort to many, and my hope is that my pieces bring a bit of joy in remembering their lives,” said DeJager, who is based in Wisconsin.

Clothing isn’t the only way to incorporate a loved one’s memory into your decor. Recipe Tea Towels makes customized tea towels, featuring recipes written in your loved one’s handwriting. You simply scan the recipe in and it’s printed on a cotton tea towel.

Locally, Bloomfield Hills-based Big Hug LLC ( makes a wide variety of memorial and remembrance gifts. They have customized benches, markers and keepsake boxes.

Owner Katie Kiyo said her most popular remembrance gifts are personalized wind chimes and its line of personalized garden plaques and garden and tree dedication markers. Big Hug also makes its own line of Tree Charms and Tree Huggers, tree dedication markers that can be secured around a tree in honor of a loved one.

Kiyo said she started the company in 2011 out of personal need.

“It seemed I was always searching for a gift alternative to flowers which are beautiful, but fleeting,” said Kiyo, who Big Hug now also offers products to mark milestones and commemorate events.

DeJager of Wisconsin started making quilts two years ago. She used to make primarily baby quilts — she can make them from old baby clothes — but was asked repeatedly to make memory items. So she added them to her Etsy site (prices range from $39 each for a memory pillow to $180-280 for a memory quilt).

Memories are attached to tangible items like clothing, said DeJager.

“My hope is that I can bring a bit of comfort to a family who is hurting,” said DeJager. “If they can’t hold their loved one, holding a memory pillow that was created with their clothing may be the next best thing.”