reflections | THE WEDDING QUILT
The Wedding Quilt Story and Photograph by Dayle Shockley
I come from a long line of Southern women who were handy with a needle and thread. Sewing, crocheting, embroidering, quilting — they could do it all. Through the years, I’ve been the lucky recipient of some of my ancestors’ creations. Delicate dresses. Intricate doilies. Embroidered pillowcases. But the quilts reign supreme as my most beloved family heirlooms. I have close to a dozen vintage quilts and until a few years ago, I had no place to display them. But while roaming the aisles at a local antique shop, I spied a tiger oak hutch with shelves and beveled glass doors. My heart skipped a beat. It was perfect. Occupying a prominent place in my home, this hutch is filled with quilts of assorted colors and patterns, all pieced together with scraps of fabric from an ancestor’s sewing basket. Next to the quilts, I’ve placed photos of the amazing women who created them, each quilt bearing the uniqueness of its maker. The oldest quilt in my collection was made by my maternal great- grandmother, a gentle woman named Edna Earl, but everyone called her Kate. She made this quilt as a gift to her son, Thomas, and his new bride, Lucille, my maternal grandparents, on the first winter following their marriage in northeast Mississippi in 1924. It was custom back then. If your child got married, you gifted the newlyweds with a quilt for their first winter together. How romantic is that? Almost 100 years old, this quilt is still in good condition. The idea of my 84 DeSoto
grandparents using it in the early years of their marriage, then wrapping it around their two children (one of them being my mother), fills me to the brim with warmth. While old quilts must be handled gently, never sat on, and always respected, my quilts aren’t just to be seen. With few exceptions, they are still being used. No matter the season, there’s always a quilt draped across the sofa, waiting to bring a bit of comfort on a rainy summer afternoon, or a chilly winter night. I always thought I’d follow in my mother’s footsteps and learn to piece together a quilt, and while I can sew a little, and embroidery and crochet, I confess to being a big, fat flop in the quilt department. I hope that doesn’t make me a failure as a Southern woman. Truth is, after I married, I became more interested in piecing together words than in fabric scraps. If you think about it, though, the two aren’t all that different — writing and quilting. Much like the words that make up a diary, old quilts hold histories of their own. They reveal the colorful lives of my ancestors, their stories there in the patterns and seams, a fabric footprint in the sands of time, if you will, a treasure for some future generation to admire and, I hope, gently wrap around them on some distant evening. A native of Lucedale, Mississippi, Dayle Shockley is an award-winning writer and the author of three books. She and her husband reside in Spring, Texas.
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