My dad smiled and spoke quickly like he had just stumbled across his next furniture restoration. In his later years, my dad restored furniture as a hobby and to help bring in a few extra dollars to his fixed income. He inevitably would come across a battered coffee table, drawer set or armoire that had seen better days. Of course, he would have found the piece from some off-the-beaten path yard sale or free along the side of the road, and work like a dog removing the stain or paint and refurbish the piece to its original glory.
This time though my dad wasn’t talking about his latest furniture find. Instead, he had a bunch of swags of fabric in his hands and was shaking them in the air like they were a winning lottery ticket. He said that my mom and him were making me a homemade quilt.
I nodded my head, thanked him, and tried to sway the conversation in another direction. My wife and I had been married for only a few weeks and I wasn’t sure what she would think if I came home one day and threw off the comforter we had bought together for some new quilt.
Heck, I wasn’t even sure what the final product would look like, an intricately made homemade Amish quilt or something that I might find on a late-night shopping channel or deep in the rear of the local Walmart. I didn’t want my dad to get his expectations too high when I had no idea if it would just sit in the corner of one of our closets.
Fortunately, my dad got my hint, and we soon were talking about something else.
The conversation that wasn’t going to go away
Of course, a few weeks later, when I called my parents to check on one thing or another, my dad was off and running again on how wonderful the quilt would be on a cold Pennsylvania night and how we as a young married couple would come to cherish it.
Now, I grew up in Amish Country and was used to seeing patchwork quilts, but it certainly wasn’t a big thing for me. It was what it was. I listened intently to my dad, trying to drum up some level of interest in my chest, but wasn’t really feeling it. I didn’t want to let him down, but I didn’t really care all that much. A blanket is a blanket, right? You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.
We soon started talking about something else, the football game on TV, the weather, anything but the blanket. Before we went our separate ways, though, he reminded me that my mom and him had all the patches together and they were sending it out to one of their friends to finish up sewing the quilt top, a layer of soft batting on the inside to provide thickness and insulation, and the layer of backing material. We’d have it on our bed in a few weeks.
“I can’t wait Dad,” I said.
A long history
The history of quilting, the stitching together of layers of padding and fabric, dates back for centuries, perhaps as far back as 3400 BCE. For much of its history, quilting was primarily a practical technique to provide physical protection and insulation. Early settlers had drafty houses, and the thick quilts helped block the icy winds and cold. However, decorative elements were often also present, and many quilts are now primarily art pieces.
Amish quilts came into existence around the 1870s. Most Amish quilts are done with patchwork, meaning that pieces of fabric are cut into shapes and formed or patched into distinct patterns.
On a cold, cold night
Skip forward to last week when temperatures outside fell to the teens over night and I felt the cold cut straight to my bones. When I got ready for bed, I pulled out that old quilt and spread it on the bed. The quilt in the traditional Amish star-pattern has a few rips and tears. It’s not as fluffy nor bright and colorful as it once was but as soon as a the house gets a little chilly, I find myself reaching for it.
Yes, my father was a bit too enthusiastic, but I’m heartened to know that our quilt was made with love. It’s gotten us through many a cold night and late-night talks. It’s a simple blanket, but made of so much more.
The only thing left to say: Thank you Mom and Dad!