Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Kristen's childhood quilt, gifted to her by her beloved Aunt Sallie.

By Kristen Banks

People usually laugh at me when I say I’ve never seen an ugly quilt. They feel like I’m being disingenuous. Often times after hearing me make that statement, I will get a raised eyebrow or a “side eye.” I’m sure they are thinking, “Yeah, right!”

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally question someone’s fabric or pattern choice. But when you hear them describe with great enthusiasm and detail their best-laid plans, it’s hard not to fall in love with that quilt right along with someone. When that quilt is finally gifted to the deserving individual it was intended for, I guarantee you it matters little to the recipient that a star point is cut off or a corner doesn’t quite match up.

For the most part it is not hard to find the beauty in something that someone has put so much of their love and effort into. I have fallen in love with quilts that normally would have held no particular attraction to me just by hearing the person who made them talk about their inspiration and passion for that project.

Even in my own quilting journey I’ve found that those projects that I fussed and fretted over to make “just perfect” don’t hold anymore affection for me than the one with the crooked seam that I made with one of my best friends. Or there’s the one that I accidentally cut a hole in at the last minute that was made with such love for my Grandmother. Then there is my first quilt, full of imperfections, and not the colors that I really wanted to begin with. I had such a great sense of accomplishment and pride the day I completed that quilt. I had finally done something I had been intimidated to do for years, and didn’t think I could ever do, finish a REAL quilt.

However, the quilt that I love the most is the one made by my Great Aunt Sallie. It was the first “Lonestar Quilt” I ever remember seeing. It will forever be my favorite quilt even with the grape jelly stain on it. This is the quilt that started it all for me.

I spent a lot of time with my Aunt Sallie when I was a child. She was unmarried, lived by herself, and didn’t drive. She had a big front porch swing that I liked to play on and an ice box full of mini candy bars. When my Mom wasn’t looking I’d sneak inside and grab a handful of those tasty miniature treats. I tried to run really fast past the adults visiting in the front room hoping they wouldn’t notice my stash. With my chocolate treasure trove tucked carefully away in my fist I would make a bee line for that front porch swing.

Aunt Sallie probably noticed, but she didn’t mind a bit. If any adult would ever try to stop me and take a survey of what was in my hand she’d say, “Just leave that kid alone!” She never had any children, but she treated my cousins and I like we were her own. She passed away when I was just 8 years old, and it was the first time I had ever lost a loved one. I have very few material items aside from this one quilt left to remember her by, as she had few materal possessions to leave behind. All she really had to give us was her love and that was more than enough for me.

I don’t remember how old I was when I was given my Lonestar Quilt. I do know I was aware that it was something special. Even though I didn’t fully understand the gift, or the effort that went into making it, I knew that she had made it because she loved me and it was beautiful. I’m sure if I looked critically at that quilt today I could come up with a lot of things that should have been done differently. But I can promise you I never noticed growing up, and I wouldn’t want to start noticing now. All I see when I look at that quilt is beauty and the memory of a very special person who loved me unconditionally, and was always on my side.

Perfection doesn’t make a beautiful quilt. Don’t get me wrong there is a great sense of accomplishiment and satisfaction when you get something “just right”, but accuracy has little to do with true worth. There is nothing more special than a quilt made and given with love, and no better reciprocation than the heart that see’s and value’s that.

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  1. Janna Kelley says:

    I love your story & you are so right! The love that goes into a quilt is the true gift! Thank you for Sharing!

  2. Carrie Gannon says:

    I love reading your column..mvery good use of words…I think all quilts have Thier own character …..hppe you a great day…