How to Make a Panel For The Quilt

You don’t have to be an artist or sewing expert to create a moving personal tribute remembering a life lost to AIDS. It’s not as complicated as many people think. It doesn’t matter if you use paint or fine needlework, iron-on transfers or hand made appliques, or even spray paint on a sheet; any remembrance is appropriate.

You may choose to create a panel privately as a personal memorial or you may choose to follow the traditions of old-fashioned quilting bees by including friends, family, and co-workers. That choice, like virtually everything else involved in making a panel, is completely up to you.

Here in a few easy steps is how to create a panel for The Quilt:

1 - Design the panel

Include the name of the person you are remembering. Feel free to include additional information such as the dates of birth and death, hometown, special talents, etc. We ask that you please limit each panel to one individual (obvious exceptions include siblings or spouses).

2 - Choose your materials

Remember that The Quilt is folded and unfolded every time it is displayed, 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 your original piece of 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.

3 - Create the panel

In constructing your panel you might want to use some of the following techniques:

  • Applique: 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.
  • Stencils: 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).

4 - Write us a letter

Please take the time to write a letter about the person you’ve remembered. The letter might include your relationship to him or 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.

5 - 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 National AIDS Memorial depends on the support of panel makers to preserve the Quilt and keep it on display.

Gifts of any amount are welcome and greatly appreciated.

6 - Fill out the panel maker information form

7 - Send Us the Panel

Once your panel is completed there are several ways you can submit it to the National AIDS Memorial so that it becomes a part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

A. Send it to us directly:

ATTN: New Panels, AIDS Memorial Quilt, 130 Doolittle Drive, San Leandro, CA 94577 415-765-0446

Be sure to send it by registered mail or with a carrier that will track your package. We recommend panels be shipped via Federal Express or UPS. Or

B. Bring the panel to a Quilt display

Please be sure to contact the local display host first for more information on how and when they are collecting new panels (many displays accept new panels only on the last day of the event, while others are prepared to accept new panels at any time during a display). Or

C. Bring a new panel to one of our chapters

Your panel will stay in the community for up to three months, being used for education and outreach, and then will be sent to the National AIDS Memorial to be sewn into the Quilt.


No matter how you decide to turn in a new panel, please be sure to print out the panel maker information form here, fill it out and include it with the panel. This information helps us to stay in touch with you and keep you up to date on both the panel and The Quilt.

How your panel becomes part of The Quilt

When a new panel arrives at our national headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is carefully logged and examined for durability. Some panels might require hemming to adjust for size; others may need reinforcement or minor repairs. Next, new panels are sorted – some grouped geographically by region, others by theme or appearance. When eight similar panels are collected, they are sewn together to form a twelve-foot square. This is the basic building block of The Quilt, and it is usually referred to as either a “12-by-12” or “Block.”

Once sewn, each 12-by-12 is edged in canvas and given a unique number, its “Block Number,” which makes tracking the block possible. All panel, panel maker and numerical information is then stored in our Quilt databases. Once this happens, you are sent information including which block the panel you submitted has been made a part of, how to request the block for displays of The Quilt, and a current display schedule.

The entire process, from our receiving the panel to incorporating it into a 12-by-12 in The AIDS Memorial Quilt, typically takes between 90 days and six months.


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“Thousands of people have died in San Francisco, millions in the world. The point of the National AIDS Memorial Grove is to remember them, one at a time.”

– Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Marking 35 Years of Love, Activism and Legacy

On June 11-12 the Memorial will host a FREE display of 3,000 Quilt panels in San Francisco. Presented by Gilead Sciences, this event honors those who've passed and reminds us that the fight for a cure is not over.
Learn about the June 11-12 display

Interactive AIDS Quilt

The National AIDS Memorial, through a partnership with AIDS Quilt Touch, brings all 50,000 panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt to people all around the world to experience each panel’s story, beauty, and love that represents one of the largest acts of activism and social justice.

We invite you to search the Quilt, view each panel, search for a friend or loved one and share your story through our social media channels.


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Our work helps ensure that the 50,000 panels of the Quilt are cared for and protected so each name that is stitched into its fabric are cared for and their stories forever known to future generations.