Let’s get real

Photo by Charity Banks.

By Kristen Banks

I currently have the daunting task of rebuilding a cherished family heirloom. I am both intimidated and intrigued by this venture. I am also acutely aware of the fact that, when I work on someone’s beloved quilt, I hold a great responsibility in my hands. The fact that what I am working on is something special, important, and precious is always forefront in my mind.

This is not just some ordinary pile of fabric fastened together with thread and seams. I know that what I am working on is a one of a kind priceless, irreplaceable, masterpiece. I feel honored that someone would trust me with such an important endeavor. That they would choose me as the one to bring their treasure back to life, is truly an honor.

When gifted a quilt, it’s always hard to decide whether to use it for its intended purpose, to provide warmth and covering, or to display it with pride but rarely ever touch it. Often times, when we receive a quilt as a gift, we are tempted to pack it away with all of the other keepsakes that you only take out once every ten years when you finally get around to cleaning out THAT closet, for fear of “ruining” it.

If you’re wondering, I fall squarely into the use it and use it often crowd.

When I create a quilt for someone it is my wish that it will be a daily pleasure to them. I imagine them passing by it every day, and remembering how much I love and care about them. I hope that as they snuggle under it while binge watching their favorite Netflix original series, that they’ll know it does not offend me at all if they accidentally spilled the whole bowl of extra butter Orville Redenbacher on it. Just pop that puppy in the washer, and don’t even worry about it! I want that quilt to become a part of their life, a daily joy, that I am privileged to get to be a small part of.

Yes, if you use your quilt often, it might get a grape jelly stain on it from a tiny set of cherobic fingers. It may also get frayed around the edges, or It may even fade over time. While it might lose some of its original vibrance, and be a little more tattered and seemingly worse for wear, it will never stop being special.

At some point it may need to be retired to a little less exciting life. It may spend a lot more time folded softly on the foot of the bed, or hanging gently on a ladder in the corner of the living room. But it can still be a part of your daily life.

And every time you look at it you’ll smile thinking of the picnic you enjoyed on it one summer day with your sweetheart, when your hair looked a lot more chestnut than sterling silver. Or you’ll enjoy the sweet sweet memories of your babies learning to crawl on a carpet of patchwork with a tear in your eye. You won’t have that same feeling for the quilt in the box, up in the closet, in the spare bedroom. True, that spare bedroom quilt is unmarred, beautiful, and flawless, even after all these years. But, it’s just not the same as the one with the singed spot, where you accidentally sat too close to the bonfire that time you all went camping and lost the dog for 24 hours.

I think sometimes we get so preoccupied with perfection, that we forget to really live. We are so afraid of being damaged, that we miss the daily warmth that others can add to our life. We fail to realize that we aren’t just some ordinary pile of cells fastened together by skin and muscles.

Life is a treasure, and we are special. You are important and precious. You are a priceless irreplaceable masterpiece. And so are your family, friends, neighbors, and that guy who cut you off in traffic this morning when you were trying not to be late for work. Yeah, he’s special and important too, although you might not feel that way right now.

We shouldn’t let the fear of being hurt or growing old stop us from really living. True, life can make a person a little more worse for wear. But scars, blemishes, missing pieces, and age spots aren’t ugly, they’re simply evidence of a life well spent.

You don’t stop being relevant, important, and beautiful when your former vibrance has faded. Your imperfections are proof that you’re real, and that you’ve loved and been loved. Life is a gift, a gift meant to be used daily, and if we treated it as such, maybe we’d all come to value more what’s really important, and find greater appreciation for each other and this amazing gift we’ve been given.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

Every Quilter has a story and we’d like to hear yours! Send us your stories, tips, and ideas to luluandhazel@yahoo.com.


  1. Carrie GANNON says:

    You are a very gifted writer Kristen…Very well said and you have a great understanding of Real Life….

  2. Kris simpson says:

    That’s beautiful, Kristen. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Lisa Banks says:

    We enjoy your articles! I just looked at all my quilts today and love every stain and imperfections my mom and gram stitched. Discovered some bindings that need repaired – but love them all just the same! Funny I did all this before I read your article. You were spot on about those quilts that are worse for the wear always being special.

  4. Ruthie Medcalf says:

    This is great, well said. It’s nice to be reminded that I am special and precious. You are a gift. My first quilt was a gift for a baby..

  5. Kristen says:

    Thank you Ruthie, I appreciate you and your friendship!