Quilts

By Joe Rector

One of the new stained glass windows made by Leslie Little reminds my wife of a quilt. The patterns on it are similar to those used for generations by women who have sewn the covers. I’ve never met a person who didn’t love quilts or who didn’t want one or more.

When we were young, Mother covered our beds with quilts that her mother or grandmother had sewn. Back then, quilts weren’t considered art. Instead, they were necessities for their families.

Cold weather arrived; money was tight; the best way to keep beds warm was to take scraps of cloth and bind them together on some kind of backing and then stuff the whole thing with some kind of material that might knock off the chill.

We all had quilts and never thought much about them. Sometimes, we would strip them from the bed and use them as mats for wrestling matches in the living room.

We also drove our toy cars across the terrain of the quilts and made believe we were in the desert or some other wild place my brother Jim wrapped himself in his quilt before slipping into a night of violent sleep where he stretched and kicked and yanked the material.

My mother made quilts for years what seemed to us to be a torturous activity provided her hours and days of entertainment. She’d spread out the batting and material and scraps and put them together while watching an episode of “Matlock.”

Her bony, crooked fingers worked needles through layers of cloth in intricately created stitches. She wore a thimble on one finger that was most in danger of being stabbed with those needles

Even in her last months, Mother sat on the enclosed porch off the kitchen. She worked on a hobnail quilt that was the most intricate pattern she’d ever tackled.

Sometimes, her shortness of breath forced her to put down the work, but she never quit for long. Many evenings Mother sewed until she was exhausted, and at that point, she’d pull the project around her, lie her head on a decorative pillow and sleep until the next morning.

By the time Mother passed, she’d made a trunkful of quilts. She made sure that each of us boys had one and that her grandchildren had the chance to choose one. They are special items to us all.

More than anything, those covers represent the love Mother had for us and the dedication she gave to making special items for us. Hours of her life poured into the making of the quilts we now have, and in some small way, they keep her a bit closer to us, even though she has been gone more than twenty years.

Today, folks shell out piles of cash to purchase a handmade quilt.

At any estate sale, the first things that are sold are those patterned bed covers.

Yes, quilts are special to most folks. They are even more important to family members who have one made by a mother or grandmother.

We probably should use them for everyday use like the one Jim did years ago. That might be the biggest compliment we can give to the maker of the quilt, but doing so might wear them out and leave us wishing we’d have preserved that special item produced by our loved ones.

So, many quilts are hung on racks for decorations or are stuffed in chests for safekeeping. I suppose the main thing is to enjoy a piece of artwork that can even be used in a utilitarian ways.

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