Sunday, March 23, 2014

Zilpha's Quilt

Elderly, but still loved.

          Sometimes I think of my linen closet as The Home for Geriatric Quilts. My family knows I like quilts, and so, as the old guard goes to that big quilting bee in the sky, leaving their quilts behind, I am presented with those quilts—some of them well-preserved, some of them well-used.

          The one pictured above is an example of the latter. It was made by my great-aunt for my grandfather and grandmother when they married in the early 1930s. When it retired from service covering their bed, it became their beach-picnic quilt. When my grandmother downsized her house in the 90s, it came into my possession—in sad shape. The binding looked like it had been eaten by puppies, and entire patches were gone, and sometimes the batting as well—and the backing was looking more and more theoretical.

          It really wasn't worth saving, but I like old quilts, and it was my grandmother's, and I have a soft spot for lost causes, so I put a new binding on it and undertook to patch it (no small feat), and that gave it another decade of life. At right around the decade mark, our own puppy, feeling a bit bored one day, ate a hole in the center.

          I patched it again, and it has limped along for another three years. Of course, the original fabric continues to deteriorate, and I finally had to give up trying to patch all the holes. The other day, as I snuggled under it for a nap, noticing a couple of new holes, I wondered how much longer it would be before it simply disintegrated. Casey jumped up on the bed and settled at my feet. Both of the dogs love this quilt, too.

          I wondered if I should just face the inevitable bravely and throw it away before it dissolved into a pile of lint, which I might be inclined to keep for sentimental reasons.

          But I love the faded vintage fabrics. I love the random bright pattern that the new patches make. I love that it's too busted-up to worry about trying to keep nice, and so we use it all the time. I love that the dogs love it. I love that the woman who made it was named Zilpha. I love that the naps I take under it are peaceful.

          I love it so much, this faded, battered, pockmarked quilt, that when it eventually does fall apart I will probably collect the pieces and reassemble them on a fresh backing, with new batting—even though I know the futility of trying to rejuvenate fabric this worn-out—just so I can keep on loving it.

A topography of quilt love. 


  1. Zilpha had a wonderful sense of design, probably without knowing she did! Also, I love the design of old fabrics, simple and beautiful.

    1. Leslie, it's always such a treat to read your comments. Thanks for following the blog. This pattern is one of the variations of "Underground Railroad." Each piece was cut by hand, which made patching them a bit of a nightmare.