There's nothing quite like the feel of an old patchwork quilt that was lovingly crafted by hand and worn in gently by countless generations. Anyone can go to the store and buy a quilt, but not many people ever take the time to learn the ancient art of quilt making.
A quilt is not just a bed covering. A quilt symbolizes comfort,
warmth, and security, and a quilt made by hand is cherished even more
because of the work that went into making it.
I personally have only begun attempting to learn this time-consuming art. Hand quilting is not for everyone, because it requires a lot of patience and a fine attention to detail. One of my first quilting efforts was a small doll quilt I made for my daughter when she was about 5 years old. It wasn't too bad for my first try. My daughter wasn't very impressed, however, and I was absolutely thrilled when years later our cat adopted the quilt as his favorite napping companion. I decided I'd rather see the cat enjoy the quilt then have it end up in a box somewhere to be totally forgotten (he's now having to share the quilt with our new kitten!).
I envy people who have the patience it requires to quilt. I am determined to one day make my first full-size quilt. I first became interested in quilting when I was fairly young. I had a grandmother who liked to quilt, and I will never forget a conversation I had with her one day that will stay with me forever.
My grandmother made many quilts in her day. I was never fortunate enough to receive one of them (she was my grandpa's second wife), but I was lucky enough to see some of her handiwork displayed in her home. One time when I was about 13 or 14 years old my grandmother pulled out a patchwork quilt she had been working on and asked my sister and I if we'd be interested in taking it home and finishing it. We were overwhelmed, but thrilled at the prospect of completing her work of art. She then went on to tell us where all the different scraps of fabric had originated.
"This piece is a scrap from one of my maternity dresses," she told me and my sister. A maternity dress that she had worn more than 50 years before. She had saved scraps from many different pieces of clothing she had worn over the years. Each piece had a meaning for her, and she had saved them knowing she would someday make a quilt out of them. She was, piece by piece, sewing together memories from her life. She was tired of quilting, though, and she would never make another. My sister and I took the quilt home and started adding pieces of our own fabrics to the quilt. We quickly tired of the activity, however, and the quilt ended up in a bag in the closet (where it still sits today).
Every once in awhile I pull the quilt out and look at it, thinking I really ought to finish it. I know that in time I will, and it will represent at least four generations of our family's history. I wish we could learn to live our lives in a way where every day we are striving to consciously make family memories that will stay with us forever. Whether she knew it or not, that is what my grandmother was doing, and I wish to take that idea and consciously put it into place in my daily life, as much effort as it sometimes seems. I know tomorrow I will be glad I did.
Copyright 1999. Originally published at Suite 101. Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer, mom, and owner of four home and family web sites.