The Lessons of Grandma’s Old Quilt

At Christmas, my aunt gave me a quilt my great-grandmother made.  It’s unlike anything else I own, aside from this hundred-year-old farmhouse.  It was made at a time when quilting was different than it is now, when sewing machines were a luxury, not a necessity, and quilting by hand was a thing of beauty and pride.  I don’t think, that at the time it was considered a great thing of beauty or anything to fawn over.  I think Great-Grandma probably did what women of her generation did so well, and used the leftovers from around the house — maybe a scrap from an apron, an old dishrag, a piece from the baby’s discarded blanket.  The texture of the material is soft with age, and it’s worn in a way that seems to make it smell different.  

I had to take it off the bed the other day, because it’s time to wash it, and it’s been in my laundry room for a few days waiting patiently, brightening the room with its patchwork of oranges and reds and pinks.  I hope it doesn’t lose that smell it had from my aunt’s linen closet, a smell that took me back to my earliest childhood memories, when I was huddled under a quilt much like it, up in Great-Grandma’s upstairs, surrounded by foreign antiques and the expectation of being seen and not heard.

The quilt has a tear at one end, along the seam, and I have no idea how to fix it — and there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to fix it.  It looks like it’s been that way for a while, and I treasure this little imperfection as much as I marvel at the close stitching and the amazing handiwork the quilt is.

I look at Great-Grandma’s quilt much the way I look at my old farmhouse, wondering just how much it would cost — in time and money — to do something like that now.  I look at the imperfections, like that tear in the seam, and reflect on the many lessons a patchwork quilt can offer.

 

How many little sins have I gotten used to?  What are the things that could be mended and easily fixed by a trip to the confessional?  There’s nothing sentimental about my bad habits, and there’s nothing flattering about them either.  They might be a part of me, but they don’t have to be.  I should strive to be a beautiful arrangement of fabric, like Great-Grandma’s quilt, and not let a little tear keep me from being the soul God created me to be.

What makes Great-Grandma’s quilt such a treasure to me is knowing that her work — which must have taken hours of old-fashioned eye-straining labor — was done out of love.  She made dozens of these quilts, and they’ve weathered the years much as she did, gaining value as they aged.  Now quilts like these represent a hobby, not a need.  We of the twenty-first century can buy warm blankets far cheaper and far more easily than we can make these beautiful nineteenth century quilts, but in buying them, we don’t pour out our love in the same way.  We don’t meld our creativity with our practical passion for keeping our families warm.

How can I be more like Great-Grandma’s quilt?  How can I be true to how I have been made, to how I was designed, to what God intended for me?  How can I strengthen the stitching of those many different fabrics that are a part of me?  Maybe I’ll start by curling up on my freshly-made bed with the quilt tossed across me, inhaling the smell of wind and age, reflecting on how I can let God lead me to the greater works He has in mind.

Sarah Reinhard

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When Sarah Reinhard set off in her life as a grown-up, she had no idea it would involve horses, writing, and sparkly dress shoes. In her work as a Catholic wife, mom, writer, parish employee, and catechist, she’s learned a lot of lessons and had a lot of laughs. She’s online at snoringscholar.com and is the author of a number of books

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