Patchwork Quilts

Patchwork quilts are something you find in just about every home around here. Most of them were handmade by mamas, grandmamas, or beloved aunts.

We fold them over the foot of beds, the backs of couches, or hang them over the arms of chairs in our dens. They’re used as intended – to keep us warm or give us comfort. Many are worn from time, frayed, and coming apart at the seams.

When one is worn out, there’s usually a loved one ready to hand you a replacement. It’s a time-honored tradition among Southern women.

The art of quilting came to America with the first European settlers. They treated quilts as a necessity for survival. Homes weren’t insulated, and the heat provided by fireplaces and wood stoves wasn’t enough to protect them from the cold. Back then, quilts were used as warm blankets on beds or hangings to block drafty windows and doors.

Of course, those early American quilts weren’t much to look at. They were created out of need. The women who made them didn’t have the means to throw items away; instead, when a blanket became worn out, it was patched or repurposed as filler for a new quilt.

Over time quilts became elaborate works of art. It’s hard to imagine the intricate designs adorning the MET gallery walls were born out of the utilitarian view of our ancestors.

Bless the quilters and families who donated their treasures to the museums. I’m not sure I could do it. It seems to go against the very nature of patchwork quilts. I’d prefer to pass mine down to my children and grandchildren, as my grandmothers did.

Quilts are intimate creations, often containing bits of clothing and given for special occasions. I grew up with a quilt like that.

When I was little, there was an old handmade quilt in Mamaw and Papaw’s house. Papaw’s mama, Mamaw Dovie, made it decades before I was born. It wasn’t much to look at; the patches were of uncoordinated colors and textures ranging from black to electric blue and baby pink – but it was my favorite blanket. Mamaw always pulled it out for me when I wasn’t feeling good.

I don’t know what happened to that quilt, but I think about it anytime someone is under the weather.

Brandon grew up with a similar handmade quilt. His was made by his grandmother, Bert. In the early years of our relationship, we cuddled under it while watching movies. Later, I used it to snuggle Bug. Sadly, it received more love than it could handle – and fell apart before Belle was born.

The quilt I have now isn’t as comforting as the ones from my past. It’s beautiful, but it isn’t handmade and lacks the weight I expect from good patchwork quilts. Plus, it’s missing the generational love passed down from Bert and Mamaw Dovie.

My mama makes some of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever seen. When I asked if she’d make one for me, she sat me down at a sewing machine and taught me how to patchwork.

Hopefully, one day my great-grandchildren will nestle under their favorite quilt and know I thought of them long before they were born.

Did you grow up with a favorite patchwork quilt?

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