I believe every quilt can teach us something, even if it's "I don't ever want to do THAT again".
Let me tell you a story about a simple quilt I own and how that came to be:
About 15 years ago, I was teaching a beginning class of Quiltmaking 101 at a local shop. We had reached the 6th and final class and before class began, one of the students showed this old quilt to us. I raved about it and explained how it would be difficult to determine exact age because the tiny red/white gingham check print had been made for many years--you can probably buy something like it today. I showed them the small cotton seeds visible from the back--homegrown cotton, for sure. Tiny hand quilting stitches, and many of them, are icing on the cake of this very simple quilt.
The woman who brought it said it had been given to her husband by his secretary when the secretary's mother's things were being distributed. The secretary felt sure her boss and his wife would like to have this keepsake. As I went on about what a nice, simple quilt this was, well-loved and worn in spots, she said:
"Well, if you want it, you can have it, I don't want it."
I said "OK", folded it up, put it with my belongings and said "It's time for class." The students stood there with their mouths open--what just happened here? They asked her why she didn't want it and this was her answer:
"I don't want it, it has a mistake."
I got the quilt back out and we studied it hard. It's a very simple quilt of nine patches, 4 red gingham, 5 muslin, set in large blocks, with plain muslin blocks set between:
Surely, the quiltmaker didn't run out of muslin or think she needed to make a humility block for religious reasons. I like to think she did it just to keep us guessing, these many years later. It makes me like the quilt and the maker even more. It was intentional but not a mistake.
After class, the donor left and the other students asked to see the quilt again. One of them asked "How could you take that from her?" My answer "It was easy. She didn't deserve to have it." She didn't appreciate it, seeing only the flaw, not the overall beauty.
Today, this is one of my greatest treasures. I like to think the maker is now resting in peace, as her quilt has a safe home, stored in a pillowcase in a dark closet, only coming out from time to time to teach a lesson.
LIFE LESSONS WE CAN LEARN:
1. Nothing is perfect, appreciate what is good about things.
2. Even though old and worn, there is still value and usefulness in things.
3. Not as beautiful as it once was, it is still worthy of being treasured.
4. If you look for the flaw, you will find it and it will kill the joy.
5. Simple is sometimes better than complex.
6. Be prepared, when opportunity presents itself--you may just get a treasure you weren't expecting.
Substitute "people" for "things" and the lessons are more broad, but still true.
And, Quilters, please sign, date and label your quilts. How I would love to know the who, what, when, where and why of this quilt. Don't make them guess 100 years from now.
Remember, too, as I always tell students, "There is nothing wrong with your quilt that 100 years won't solve." Today, if we see pencil marks on an old quilt, we exclaim "Look! You can see the hand of the maker!". So, be gentle on yourself, dear quilt friends, with any luck your quilts will be loved by generations yet unborn.